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Another Bush Backfire

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"The step Musharraf has taken now has raised fears that the world may end up with a nuclear-armed state that is at once more fractured and host to a stronger Islamic militant force. . . .

"[F]rom the beginning, U.S. officials have acknowledged concerns that the Pakistani government was not doing enough to foster democracy and halt nuclear proliferation. And an increasing number of U.S. officials have become convinced that Musharraf's regime hasn't done enough to fight militant Islamists. . . .

"Musharraf promised Bush from the beginning that he would eventually give up his position as head of the army, Pakistan's most powerful institution, and hold free and fair elections at the risk of ending his own rule. Yet his declaration of emergency rule has been widely judged a desperate attempt to hold onto power as the Pakistani Supreme Court deliberated on the validity of his recent reelection."

White House Still Reeling

Karen DeYoung writes in The Washington Post: "The Bush administration seemed to still be reeling from Musharraf's announcement Saturday and waiting for the rapidly shifting events to settle before making any move beyond expressing strong disapproval.

"U.S. aid to Pakistan over the past six years has totaled nearly $11 billion, most of it in military hardware and budget support. Immediately after the September 2001 terrorist attacks, President Bush lifted aid sanctions imposed on Pakistan and India after both countries tested nuclear weapons in 1998. Additional sanctions set against Pakistan after Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999 were also waived."

Here's what Sen. Joseph Biden, the Delaware Democrat and presidential candidate who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Bob Schieffer on CBS's "Face the Nation" yesterday: "What I hear from the administration and the brief briefing I got last night, I don't know that they have any notion of what they're going to do right now. There's still this faint hope that this martial law will last only a day or two, but I think that is--I think we're kidding ourselves. So they're in a very tough spot. Look, as--you know, this administration has a--has a-- has a Musharraf policy, not a Pakistani policy. It's tied to Musharraf, and it's also--its hands are pretty well tied right now. And it's put itself in a very difficult position and, in turn, us in a difficult position."

Another Casualty

John D. McKinnon and Neil King Jr. write in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required): "President Bush's vaunted 'freedom agenda,' using U.S. aid, influence and example to advance political liberty around the globe, suffered one of its worst setbacks this weekend when Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan. . . .

"Mr. Musharraf's crackdown -- which appeared to catch administration officials by surprise -- has dramatically underscored how much Mr. Bush's freedom march has slowed, and in a few cases gone into retreat. . . .

"[W]ith little more than a year to go in his term, the president's once-lofty hopes for expanding world freedom increasingly are being replaced by fears over security and stability. This is true not only in Pakistan, but also in other trouble spots where the U.S. has been deeply involved, such as Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian territories."

The White House response to the Journal's thesis: "Mr. Musharraf's move was 'disappointing and discouraging, but let's see where this goes before making judgments as to the freedom agenda,' said [White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe]."

What Cheney Wrought

Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid writes in a Washington Post op-ed: "The spread of anti-Western feelings and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism have been fostered by a U.S. policy that has sought to prop up Musharraf rather than forcing him to seek political consensus and empower a representative civilian government that would have public support for attacking the extremists."

And who's most responsible for that policy? Here's what Rashid wrote in The Post in June: "Current and past U.S. officials tell me that Pakistan policy is essentially being run from Cheney's office. The vice president, they say, is close to Musharraf and refuses to brook any U.S. criticism of him. This all fits; in recent months, I'm told, Pakistani opposition politicians visiting Washington have been ushered in to meet Cheney's aides, rather than taken to the State Department.

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