Under Secretary of State John Negroponte delivered this tough message to Musharraf and was rebuffed, though the general agreed to step down as commander in chief by the end of the month and hold elections in January, in which he intends to run again for president.
A new Supreme Court, the previous justices having been ousted by Musharraf before they could rule against him, has declared that the general is eligible for a new five-year term.
Thus, we now have a nation of 170 million Muslims with nuclear weapons in political chaos. Tribal leaders in the border regions have been giving sanctuary and support to the Taliban, and Islamist warriors have taken over the Swat valley, 100 miles from the capital. There are reports of army and police surrendering to the Islamists, even of defections to their ranks. The roadside bomb that almost killed Bhutto and did kill and wound hundreds of her followers on her return is indicative of the insecurity in the cities. Pakistan could come apart.
What the situation in Pakistan tells us is that there are more important considerations than how leaders or governments are chosen. In the case of Pakistan, the first imperative is that the government in control of those nuclear weapons, be it autocratic or democratic, be stable, reliable and not hostile to the United States.
A pro-American general in charge of the army and nuclear weapons may be preferable to having custody of those weapons turned over to a coalition government of politicians brought to power through a plebiscite in a country where anti-Americanism is pandemic.
Indeed, given our failure to anticipate or predict election results in Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Iran, how can we be sure that Islamists will not win a share of power in Islamabad?
Not only in Pakistan, but in other Muslim nations like Egypt and Turkey, military men willing to intervene to prevent their countries from falling to Islamism are surely preferable to elected Islamists like Ahmadinejad or elected leaders who may feel compelled to bend with the prevailing radical winds.
Order comes first -- for without order, there is no true freedom.
When one considers that today Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and the sheikdoms of the Gulf are ruled by monarchs, and Iran's president was democratically elected, we ought to recognize that while free elections are nice, national interests come first.