Sunday, November 11, 2007


This week’s Economist lead editorial starts by saying that Pakistan is prey to a “frightening extremist fringe”. it comes closer to the truth a few paragraphs later, when it confesses that “the cancer of extremist violence has spread from the lawless tribal areas” to the rest of Pakistan and beyond.

The problem in the on-going analysis of what to do about Pakistan lies in belief in the first statement rather than the second.

When we realize that a significant majority of Pakistanis are sympathetic to fundamentalist Islam, the problem of what to do about Musharraf is resolved: either accept the will of the majority of Pakistanis, while encouraging education and development that will eventually tip the balance in favor of the minority group of Westernized citizens, or realize that the “stans” should be left to their own devices, oil or not.
If you think I am exaggerating, any country that has a lunatic fringe also has a more or less significant population that relates to it. All you have to do is consider that France’s center right parties have for decades had to campaign in such a way as to discourage their voters from voting with the extreme right. The same is true of the situation of the Republican Party vis a vis our religious fundamentalists.

But the self-induced illusions that affect the analysis of America’s dilemma have a second cause. The left having for so many decades been considered beyond the pale, the majority of Americans who are steadfastly against the war in Iraq are referred to as “the anti-war left” or at best the anti-war ‘wing’ of the Democratic Party. Since this fails to accurately describe the American public reality, congress is like a blind man stumbling in an unlit tunnel.

Democrats need to finally abandon the cushioned recliner of “liberalism” for the straight-backed chair of progressivism. The price of failure is to leave America open to the same violence we deplore among lesser-developed polities; for revolutions occur when the progressive center fails the majority. (And history shows that revolutions are invariably led by members of that group.)

Only when congress as a whole brings out of the closet the fact that the majority of Americans want us to get out of Iraq and not to invade Iran, will it be able to behave like a truly representative body: standing firmly against the President and if necessary impeaching him. The fact that polls are not taken on the subject is similar to the misnaming of progressives as “liberals”.

Being mislead by the adversary’s words is bad enough. Being mislead by our own words is abysmal.

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