"Support for consensual government is ultimately our only choice," writes Victor Davis Hanson at NRO's The Corner. Max Boot, at Commentary magazine's blog Contentions, writes: "The administration should now make clear, by holding back further aid to Pakistan if necessary, that its support for democracy is more than rhetorical." He adds: "There is at least a possibility that a more popular and more legitimate government may have more success." Gordon Chang, also writing at Contentions, goes out on the democracy limb farther still: "From all we know, free elections (in Pakistan) would produce moderate leaders."
If we think of Musharraf as the Shah with nukes, banking on "at least a possibility" that all will come right at the ballot box is a dicey way to safeguard key American interests, particularly given how badly Westernism has fared with Muslim electorates. Meanwhile, recent polls fail to indicate Pakistanis are likely to vote in a government that could reasonably be described as "moderate."
Yes, Benazir Bhutto is very popular, with findings from Terror Free Tomorrow showing her drawing more support (63 percent) than both Osama bin Laden (he gets a disturbingly large 46 percent) and President Musharraf (38 percent). But Sharia, or Islamic law, is popular, too. As Jeffrey Imm points out at The Counterterrorism Blog, the same poll and another from World Public Opinion indicate that between 60 and 76 percent of Pakistanis seek more Sharia throughout Pakistan. This is anything but "moderate." In fact, this popular desire for Sharia dovetails nicely with Taliban plans to turn Pakistan into an all-Sharia state.
Considering other popular sentiments -- for example, when asked by World Public Opinion to rank government priorities, Pakistanis listed defeating "Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other Jihadi groups" dead last -- the will of the Pakistani people looks unlikely to amount to an asset, for example, to American troops fighting in the region. And aren't troops in harm's way to protect our national security our real moral imperative?