Friday, February 22, 2008

Bush to Pakistan: Have democracy, but only if you vote a certain way?

We all want Democracy in the Middle East. Or do we?

You see, when people vote, there is no guarantee they are going to vote the way we want them to. Witness Hamas' electoral success. Too many, President Bush among them, seem to be under the impression that democratic elections will necessarily result in leaders more sympathetic to our way of seeing the world. Not so. People, any people, are going to vote for leaders that represent their way of thinking, and as Pakistan just demonstrated, that is often going to be the opposite of what we Americans might have in mind.

And what we absolutely positively cannot do is decide, after these countries have elections, that those elections aren't valid if they don't match with our desires. Yet this is exactly what President Bush is doing:

"The Bush administration is pressing the opposition leaders who defeated Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to allow the former general to retain his position, a move that Western diplomats and U.S. officials say could trigger the very turmoil the United States seeks to avoid. U.S. officials, from President Bush on down, said this week that they think Musharraf, a longtime U.S. ally, should continue to play a role, despite his party's rout in parliamentary elections Monday and his unpopularity in the volatile, nuclear-armed nation."

Obviously this is not going over well with the newly elected leaders:

"In principle we have agreed to stay together," Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, who leads her party, said at a news conference in Islamabad. "We have to support each other," echoed Sharif, seated beside him.

Zardari ... has not ruled out allowing Musharraf to serve out his five-year term as president. He appeared to indicate, however, that his party would not ally itself with the remnants of Musharraf's.

"We're not looking at pro-Musharraf forces" to help form a government, he said. "I don't believe pro-Musharraf forces exist."

This is a critical moment for the Bush administration, and indeed the whole world. We cannot oppose the rightfully elected leaders in a country simply because we wish someone else had won. This is especially true given our agenda of spreading democracy. If we come across as hypocrites, not only will it erode our support in Pakistan, it will make it that much more difficult to establish democracies in other nations. Like them or not, Pakistan has newly elected leaders, and our foreign policy will have to adjust to that.

No comments: