February 20, 2008


A democratic surprise (Greg Sheridan, February 21, 2008, The Australian)

In this week of momentous events it is worth reflecting on the quality and purpose of American influence in the world.

Kosovo is a newly independent, Muslim-majority nation that won its independence from nominally Christian Serbia. Its independence, and the avoidance by its population of ethnic cleansing or genocide, are a result entirely of US military power.

Yet, isn't the US on a crusade against Islam?

In Cuba, the chief non-Islamic voice of anti-Americanism over the past 50 years, Fidel Castro, has, in the way of socialist dynasties throughout the world, handed over power to his brother. Thus, five decades of one-man Stalinist rule ends only because of ill health and involves power being retained by the royal family of Cuban communism.

So American influence means limits on dictators, elections, self-determination and independence, and anti-American radical chic means 50 years of Stalinism and poverty.

The result in Pakistan is hopeful on many fronts. Pakistan is still in a world of pain and prospects are bleak in many ways, but with Pakistan you take your good days whenever they come, and this election represented the best day in Pakistan in a long, long time.

First of all, and amazingly, the election was relatively peaceful despite dreadful bloodshed, including the assassination of Bhutto, in the lead-up to the poll.

Secondly, the results seem credible, broadly genuine.

Undoubtedly there was some vote-rigging, but the anti-Musharraf vote was obviously so overwhelming that even the regime could not rig the vote enough to change the basic result.

The party backing Musharraf, the PML-Q, was trounced, with many of its leaders losing their seats. Its parliamentary leaders and Musharraf have accepted the results. This in itself is a very good sign.

The biggest winner was Bhutto's PPP. The second biggest party was Nawaz Sharif's PML-N.

But the biggest loser of all was the overtly Islamist alliance of parties, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, which had been the third biggest force in parliament but lost nearly 50 seats. It has been all but wiped out in the new parliament.

This is an extraordinary result and on its face perhaps the single most important part of the election results. Most Pakistanis hate what has happened to their country, the rise of extremist violence and suicide bombings throughout Pakistan.

Musharraf did not lose support because he fought extremism but because he so obviously walked both sides of the street at once, and because he often connived with the extremists he claimed to be fighting.

In allying themselves with us, such dictators accept our values and routinely end up having themselves voted out of office. The Left always sees this as a defeat, though it means that the Crusade has worked.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 20, 2008 6:57 PM
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