Say what you will about the Reagan administration’s foreign policy (and, trust me, I’ve said a lot), but they at least tried to promote democracy for its own sake at times. They supported the People Power revolution in the Philippines, and pressured Pinochet, even though the Philippines and Chile were allies in the Cold War. Bush has a chance to follow in Reagan’s footsteps by pushing Musharraf to allow other presidential candidates in Pakistan’s upcoming election:
In March, [Musharraf] arbitrarily suspended Pakistan’s independent-minded chief justice, setting off protest demonstrations which have continued ever since. The suspension came as the court was preparing to hear challenges to the general’s schemes to keep himself in power — as both army commander and president — with his presidential candidacy ratified by the current, submissive Parliament, not the new one due to be elected later this year.
Members of the general’s ruling party are now urging him to reach a compromise. Some are even calling on him to open up the election to other serious contenders, including two former prime ministers, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, now living in exile. Both governments were badly stained with corruption. But there can be no meaningful return to democracy without the free participation of Pakistan’s two most popular political leaders. General Musharraf is resisting this good advice, but could change his mind if Washington added its voice to the call for free elections.
If Bush declines to lean on the General, his democracy rhetoric will officially be crock I always thought it to be.