Benazir Bhutto was a dead-woman walking the day she set foot back on Pakistani soil. It was only a matter of time, and that time came today.
While I'd like to lay at least some blame for Bhutto's assassination on Bush administration meddling in Middle East politics, I can't. Instead the blame for this latest regional bloodletting lands squarely and exclusively in the lap of what I have come to think of as "Muslimocracy" — the primacy of Islamic law, or Sharia, which is still deeply rooted in the souls and minds of the people of that ever-troubled region.
Muslimocracies view the non-Muslim world as their an enemy, and anyone within a Muslim nation who does not share that view, is viewed as a friend of their enemy. That is what got Bhutto killed today.
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I rarely agree with George W. Bush on anything, but he was right once. It was when he was running for President the first time. Back then he warned against wasting US lives and resources on "nation building" efforts abroad.
Then he got elected and embarked on the most audacious, aggressive and illogical nation building effort in modern history. As a result the world got to see the wisdom of Bush's original position and the folly of his current one.
Today, when someone criticizes Bush for trying to bring democracy to the backward Muslim nations in the Middle East, he scolds them for displaying "the soft bigotry of low expectations."
Well, sometimes low expectations are not the product of bigotry, but data. As a self-described country boy Bush surely must have heard some crusty old farmer remark, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't force it to drink."
Which brings me back to Pakistan — et al. You can lead them towards democracy but you can't make them democratic. And, in the rare instances where they apparently relent, they use democracy to enshrine Sharia law, which is to democracy a lynching is to justice. (Remember how the Palestinians embrace of democratic elections resulted in the elevation of Hamas. And, if free and open elections were held today in Egypt the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood would be swept in to power.)
As I've noted in more than one previous post, Pakistan is not our ally in the war on terror. Neither is Iraq. Nor is Egypt. And most certainly not Saudi Arabia. Those countries are our allies the same way a cobra is an ally of its snake charmer.
Unreconstructed Islam has been and remains Muslim country's kryptonite against super-power strength. The Soviets learned that the hard way when they tried to occupy Afghanistan. The US is now locked in the same futile exercise of imperial hubris in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and possibly soon in Iran and Pakistan. It was a lesson learned a century earlier by the British, as immortalized by Kipling:
to hustle the Aryan brown,
For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles
and he weareth the Christian down;
And the end of the fight is a tombstone white
with the name of the late deceased,
And the epitaph clear: "A Fool lies here,
who tried to hustle the East."
Of course somethings have changed over a century. In particular, nuclear weapons, of which Pakistan possesses as many as 100 air and missile-mounted nukes. If one or more of those active nuclear weapons falls into the hands of al Qaida we can be assured they will used it to demonstration just how much Allah hates non-Muslims. You don't have to be a Neo-con to believe that.
Which begs the question — in light of the latest democracy-farce being played out in Pakistan, how should we treat the kind real threats posed by a radicalized Muslim Middle East?
In a word: containment.
We won the Cold War largely by containing the Soviet Union's expansionist ambitions. And we won that long war without the level of bloodshed we've already experienced in Iraq, or the amount of bloodshed we will incur if we continue trying to force these people to drink from the democratic pond. Instead we told the nations of the Soviet bloc that, if they wanted communism, fine, it was all theirs. But, we made clear, don't look for any financial, political or military help from us. In essence we let them stew to death in their own dysfunctional communist pots.
The Muslim Middle East is currently addicted to its own dysfunctional social/religious philosophical code, unreconstructed Islam. And that will continue to poison almost any relationships they try to form with the non-Muslim modern world. Christianity had to re-calibrate hundreds of years ago in order to survive and coexist with scientific and social progress. Islam has yet to do so and is therefore hopelessly out of step with modernity.
In the Muslim Middle East today, half-educated Mullahs have more influence over what their people know and believe than anyone inside or outside their countries. And much of what they believe is the very reason their countries are backward, violent places. For example, half their population — women — are barred from contributing to their society's governance, commercial or even social development — a shocking waste of human capital for countries that need all the human capital they can get. But it was exactly that kind of misogynistic ignorance that played a role in Bhutto's death today.
There is only one cure for addiction, be it addiction to a substance or a crippling ideology, and that's to let the addicted hit rock bottom. The addicted must be ready to shake their addiction. Until then they are nothing but blackholes for charity, advice or other efforts to save them from their themselves. Western military and financial aid to nations like Pakistan and Iraq are like financing a saloon for alcoholics.
Instead the west should treat the nations of the nations of Muslim Middle East the same way we treated the nations of the Soviet Bloc. Those nations in the Middle East that refuse to disengage their governments, military, security forces, schools and financial institutions from the yoke of unreconstructed Islam should be held at arms length by the rest of the word. In other words, they should be contained and isolated.
Bush keeps saying that we need to believe terrorist when they say they want to destroy us. Fine, so we also need to believe them when they say they want Sharia law. Well fine, so get the hell out of the way and let them have it — let them have Sharia law in spades.
But what about those nukes in Pakistan, and maybe someday in Iran? The west has to get this one right — and the first time. The west should be ready to use its military assets, but with a kind of care and precision that's been woefully lacking of late. The only national interest the US has in that region should be defined as containment and doing whatever needs doing to insure that those nukes in Pakistan can never be used, by anyone, against anyone.
No one can say exactly what that means in what the military likes to refer to as "kinetic action." But blunt force bombing — the first choice among Bush administration hawks — must be reserved should the day ever arrive when everything else has failed. Instead the Pentagon and CIA should use some to the $60 billion a year we give them for intelligence activities to get their hands on those nukes and get their hands on the key individuals in those countries who produced and/or proliferated them. And frankly I don't give fig how they go getting that done. Because when it comes to nuclear weapons it only takes one to ruin your day, and the day of a few hundred thousand close friends and relatives.
Finally, what about oil? If we contain the nations of the Muslim Middle East we can kiss our oil supply from there goodbye. What about that? Well the day was coming when the US would have to get off Middle East oil one way or another. We could have — should have — done so slowly, methodically and in ways that did not cause widespread hardship. But we didn't, so now we will just have to bite the bullet, declare a national energy emergency and do what we have to do to get by for a while. Sorry. But sometimes there are no sacrifice-free options in the world of realpoliks.
If we haven't learned these lessons yet we surely will. The only question is how many more US troops and treasure will have to be wasted beating our heads against that Islamic wall before we figure it out. They don't want democracy, at least not yet. And they won't want it until they get an industrial dose of what they keep telling us they want, Sharia (Islamic) law.
Which is why I say to them, "bon appetite." Give us a ring when you've had a belly full.
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