Sunday, November 4, 2007

Pakistan In Context

Another quick post about the State of Emergency in Pakistan, under which opposition activists (including the former head of Pakistani intelligence) have now been detained. Pakistan has found itself under increasing American pressure to both rein in its Islamic militants and restore some semblance of civilian democratic rule. My reading of the State of Emergency -- and I admittedly might be giving Musharraf and the generals too much credit -- is that Musharraf is clearly signalling that he can deliver one or the other, but not both. That, at least, is what he's claiming, and I don't pretend to know enough about the realities on the ground to assess whether or not it's true.

But as this clause from the Provisional Constitutional Order issued to suspend the Pakistani constitution demonstrates, it's obvious which part of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan gives way when push comes to shove:

Notwithstanding anything contained in the Proclamation of the 3rd day of November, 2007, or this Order or any other law for the time being in force all provisions of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan embodying Islamic injunctions... shall continue to be in force.

The biggest flaw in the Bush administration's response to 9/11 has been its failure to appreciate just how tight a tightrope our Muslim allies are walking. Because while the very limited cult of suicidal martyrdom represented by Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden represents no real existential threat to America, the much broader movement calling for the imposition of a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy throughout the Arab world does pose such a threat to our allies in the region. And the 20th century model of secular democracy represented by Turkey, or secular non-democratic modernism represented by Egypt and Jordan, but also Syria and Iraq under Saddam Hussein, is an increasingly obsolete alternative. Which seems to leave as the best alternative, at least for the time being, a hybrid form of theocratic-modernism, ideally with -- but predominantly without -- the trappings of democracy.

The transition to modernism has historically met fierce opposition everywhere it has taken place. So it's not surprising that the same should be true in the Islamic world. It's also impossible to speak of a universal modernism. The West modernized through hard-won democratic institutions; Russia, Japan and China through centralized totalitarian states.

By falling prey to the Clash of Civilations paradigm in the aftermath of 9/11, instead of addressing the unique challenges faced by the Islamic world in its pursuit of modernism, we've reinforced the environment of hostile conflict that in fact favors our enemies. Pakistan is just the latest symptom of that phenomenon.

Posted by Judah in:  International Relations   Pakistan   

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