The Washington Post finds that President Bush has sounded a sour note regarding the balance between fighting the war on terrorism and promoting democracy in Pakistan. According to a Post editorial “Democracy as Afterthought,” President Bush undid “the State Department’s effort to get that balance right” through the following comment in response to constitutional changes announced by President Musharraf: “My reaction about President Musharraf, he’s still tight with us on the war against terror, and that’s what I appreciate. . . .Obviously, to the extent our friends promote democracy, it’s important. We will continue to work with our friends and allies to promote democracy, give people a chance to express opinions in the proper way. And so we will stay in touch with President Musharraf in more ways than one.”
To my ear, no doubt less cultivated than the Post’s, this is just the proper note. But the Post warns that the President’s statement carries weight not only in Pakistan but in places such as Egypt and Palestine “where the United States claims to care about political freedom.” Good. The Egyptians, Palestinians, and others should understand that the war on terror is our number one priority.
John Kennedy once listed the three existing forms of governments in Latin America: (1) democracy, (2) non-Communist dictatorship, and (3) Communist dictatorship. He went on to explain that the U.S. preferred the first type, but was willing to tolerate the second in order to avoid the third. I wonder whether the Washington Post scolded President Kennedy for treating “democracy as afterthought.”
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