Dominoes: Musharraf, Malaise, & More Of The Same genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Falling Dominoes

I've got dominoes on my mind today...but unfortunately they're not the type that one would find to be entertaining. The primary domino I'm watching is the unstable situation in Pakistan...the country one might call the new Afghanistan... and the assumed home of the man George Bush occasionally tells us is irrelevant...Osama bin Laden.

A new poll suggests that Pervez Musharraf...our shaky ally in a predominantly anti-American nation which possesses nuclear capabilities...is very unpopular with the electorate. Worse yet, Musharraf assumed his position in Pakistan by virtue of a military coup; not as a result of a democratic process. Further, given the fact that Musharraf has postponed elections about as long as is feasibly possible, Pakistan may be on the verge of a sharp shift towards radicalization.

Even if Musharraf is able to hold power...and it appears that would have to be through another postponement of elections...that action would undoubtedly embolden those opposed to the imposed regime...making his hold on the government even more tenuous. Also keep in mind that he has been the target of numerous assassination attempts.

Support for Musharraf, a key U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism, has plummeted this year and almost two-thirds of respondents said he should quit, according to the poll by the International Republican Institute, a Washington-based group that has Republican lawmakers and officials among its directors and senior staff.

Another think tank, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, warned separately on Wednesday that Musharraf's apparent determination to hold onto power "at all costs" could result in spiraling violence and fuel Islamic radicalism.

According to the institute, Musharraf's approval rating those respondents who thought he was doing a good job slipped to 34 percent in June from 54 percent in a February poll. At the same time, his disapproval rating rose to 49 percent from 26 percent.

The International Republican Institute's poll found dissatisfaction with Musharraf has surged since his botched bid to fire the country's top judge, along with a strong rise in support for his political rivals.

One-third of respondents said they supported his re-election, down from half in February. Opposition to his re-election rose to 64 percent in June from 40 percent in February.

It’s important to put the current situation into context. Stepping back to 9/11, our initial response to pursue bin Laden in Afghanistan and to topple the Taliban made solid sense and it set the proper backdrop for a comprehensive effort to combat radical extremists.

Unfortunately, our flawed foray into Iraq not only short circuited our efforts in Afghanistan; it effectively dissolved our overwhelming mandate to pursue terrorists in other nations as needed. An assault on al Qaeda in Pakistan today is far more daunting and politically complex than it would have otherwise been if we had foregone our insistence to topple Hussein in advance of the full support of the United Nations and with the support of much needed allies in the Middle East.

While I would prefer to be more optimistic, the fact that we are now looking to provide Saudi Arabia with some 20 billion dollars in military aid...intended to combat the growing influence of an Iran intent on acquiring nuclear capacities...seems to be akin to throwing money at a problem whose window of opportunity has long since been slammed shut.

Instead of ratcheting down the tensions in the region through measured detente, the Bush administration's plan to fund weaponry is more likely to prime the powder keg. Saudi Arabia and other nations in the region have, as a result of our invasion of Iraq, been forced to contend with growing anti-American sentiment at a time when all of the dynamics created by 9/11 should have provided the U.S. with a unique opportunity to win the support of skeptics within the region.

In order to fully understand the implications of the Bush miscalculation, one must explore the all but certain realities that were abandoned by virtue of the choices we elected. Perhaps I'm wrong, but I feel safe to argue that the current outcome is drastically inferior to the one which could have been obtained had we remained focused on bin Laden and those perpetrators we could directly tie to 9/11.

I get this image in my head of a grade school playground. A group of children have conspired to inappropriately throw rocks at the kid who is arguably the most popular and powerful person in school. Once they carry out their assault, everyone comes to the aid of the aggrieved and they summarily condemn the actions of the accused.

Once the injured kid tends to his wounds, he sets out to avenge the attack. Initially, he finds and flogs one of the known perpetrators...but soon after, instead of finishing the task at hand, he sees the situation as an opportunity to settle the score with other students whom he has long disliked.

In short order, the other students see through the ruse and withdraw their support for the initial victim. As time goes on, some of the students who initially supported the injured kid have reconsidered their position and are now allied with the initial attackers...all hoping to bloody the nose of the powerful, though no longer popular, big kid on the block.

At the conclusion of my fictional flare-up, I look again at the current predicament confronting the United States and I wonder how anyone could fail to see that our President has acted no differently than my imaginary character. Even worse, I realize that the average grade school student has no difficulty deciphering the decent decisions from the feigned fabrications.

As we approach five years into this misguided malaise, I see the Musharraf situation, and each emerging obstacle, as the expected offshoots of relegating reason and rationality to obscurity while at the same time elevating superficial and surreptitious contrivances to certainty. The arrival of the 2008 election seems like an eternity away for those of us anxious to write our pompous protagonist out of his somber and sordid script.

Tagged as: al Qaeda, George W. Bush, Iraq, Osama bin Laden, Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, Saudi Arabia, War On Terror

Daniel DiRito | August 1, 2007 | 2:28 PM
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