Ali Eteraz thinks that the better analogy for Pakistan may be pre-1979 Iran – in which case we should probably start being terrified:
Dictators are incapable of eliminating extremism. A dictatorship is afflicted with the original sin of having seized power with violence, and therefore has no moral authority to speak against those who employ violence. A dictatorship is bereft of the psychological calm that comes from being popularly elected and lives life like an anxious little demon, spraying bullets wildly, without aim or purpose.
Michael Currie Schaffer, though, thinks he knows where ‘President Pervez W Busharraf’ is getting his rhetorical inspiration from.
And the ever-useful Power and Interest News Report judges:
With the November 3 decision to declare emergency rule, Musharraf has alienated the professional, political and Islamist forces in the country. His ability to remain in power comes from the support of the military, which itself appears to be divided.
The bottom line is that the United States has supported Musharraf because he has been the most stabilizing factor in the Pakistani equation. However, now that it is clear that Musharraf's rule itself has become a destabilizing force, Washington will likely seek alternatives to its policy of supporting Musharraf even though few, if any, exist.
One blood-chilling alternative is suggested by Marty Peretz. If Pakistan is indeed likelier than Iran to be the place where Islamist extremism acquires nukes, desperate measures might be required:
if Pakistan descends further into the inferno that I expect, it is the responsibility of the United States… to secure the nuclear stockpile and the manufacturing facilities and laboratories that underlay this nightmare. Does the U.S. possess a practical scenario with this as a goal?
I really doubt that it does. Pakistan is twice the size of Iraq and has six times the population. I wonder how much luck a ‘securing’ force would have in explaining its good intentions to the disparate sections of Pakistani society that have been living under a US-backed dictator.
Partition was supposed to make Pakistan a nation rather than a mere state; it increasingly seems that Pakistan is a cauldron instead. Some painful compromises are going to be needed to turn the heat down and restore first calm and order, then a more liberal democracy, and slowly, eventually, a stable national settlement.