The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has brought into sharp relief what Alexander L. George called the classic security dilemma, wherein every maneuver undertaken to protect the national interest actually undermines it. The purported reason for the US partnership with Pervez Musharraf has been that Musharraf is the only person tough enough to confront the Islamist threat in his country. Even staunch Democrats promulgate this notion. And a recent policy recommendation from Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Council on Foreign Relations, also advocates this approach.
Yet the Musharraf led government of Pakistan has proved utterly incapable of meeting the challenge of radical Islam. Meanwhile, the inconvenient truth from Iraq and Afghanistan shows that the Bush administration is unwilling and unable to deliver the concentrated form of violence necessary to defeat the Islamofascists. The administration makes overtures against Iran even as it struggles to maintain its footing.
As the economic center of the world shifts from New York to Shanghai, the US is embroiled in a terminal crisis of hegemony. The US deals with China but hasn't really come to terms with it. If genuine understanding and mutual cooperation could be achieved, then the benefits would immediately accrue to our Middle East foreign policy. An East-West consensus would be less vulnerable to manipulation and criticism by opponents as another form of American domination.
The real test for the US foreign policy establishment is whether it can suggest policies that aren't merely rational but effective. In the case of Pakistan, when does continued support for Pervez Musharraf pose an unacceptable risk?