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If Only Bush Had Been Clearer!

Over at Slate, Lee Smith argues in favor of standing by Musharraf despite his imposition of emergency rule in Pakistan. (Next week: Dennis Eckersley defends military aid to Hosni Mubarak.) Smith is right to note that we don't really have any good options in Pakistan (for which Fred Kaplan blames the Bush administration), but he seems far too willing to give Musharraf the benefit of every doubt while exempting him from blame for all of Pakistan's problems. For instance, Smith pooh-poohs Musharraf's power grab in part on the grounds that "the Bush White House has done such a poor job of articulating what it means by democracy."

Yes, that must be the problem here. Bush has been so vague in talking about democracy, anyone could easily make a good-faith mistake and interpret it to mean "hold sham elections, suspend constitutional government, fire Supreme Court justices, arrest political dissidents, and impose martial law."

Kaplan, for his part, makes a good, if depressing, point: "One consequence of this crisis is that Bush's 'freedom agenda' is finally bankrupt. He will never again be able to invoke it, even as a rhetorical ploy, without evoking winces or laughter."

--Josh Patashnik