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November 21, 2007

Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

Yes.  That is what they call him in Pakistan.  And after these latest statements from the President I'd have to say they are completely justified

President Bush yesterday offered his strongest support of embattled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, saying the general "hasn't crossed the line" and "truly is somebody who believes in democracy."

Up until now, the Administration's position has been weak and uncertain.  But these latest statements represent a new low and a dramatic turn.  Essentially signaling that the United States will stand behind Musharraf and against democracy.  This sends a terrible signal to the people of Pakistan, the Muslim world and pretty much the entire international community.   All for a guy, who hasn't actually helped the United States achieve any of its strategic goals in Pakistan or the region.  I have to agree with Senator Biden:

"What exactly would it take for the president to conclude Musharraf has crossed the line? Suspend the constitution? Impose emergency law? Beat and jail his political opponents and human rights activists?" asked Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a presidential candidate. "He's already done all that. If the president sees Musharraf as a democrat, he must be wearing the same glasses he had on when he looked in Vladimir Putin's soul."

I'm sure Shadi will have much more to say on this issue.


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It's worth noting the difference between campaign message discipline, at which Bush has excelled since he entered politics, and diplomatic message discipline, at which he has never demonstrated any skill.

Message discipline in an American election campaign is chiefly about maintaining a message from the candidate on down that is clear enough for the candidate's likely supporters to understand, and that does not change over time. The accusation of inconsistency (or "flip-flopping") is dreaded by all campaign professionals, and the mst successful campaign organizations (for example, those of the Bushes and Clintons) will go to almost any lengths to avoid having to face it.

Message discipline in diplomacy is different. It is all about delivering a specific message to a foreign audience -- diplomacy conducted in public will address more than one foreign audience -- at a specific time. In a campaign, statements by subordinates and supporters must not step on the candidate's own statements. In diplomacy, the reverse is true: what matters is that statements by officials in Washington not step on the message being delivered by officials charged with managing a particular situation.

Most of what Bush said (that is, the factual statements he made) was true, or at least defensible. No analysis of President Musharraf's commitment to democratic values, for example, can properly evaluate his censorship of Pakistani media without noting that many of the media outlets he is sitting on now were able to begin operating only after he took power in 1999. Had Bush noted this and gone on to say that the course Musharraf is taking now is putting all of his earlier good work at risk, his statement would have backed up what Negroponte was saying in the region. What Bush actually said about Musharraf now being committed to democracy as he rules by emergency decree stepped on Negroponte's message and pounded it right into the dirt, leaving the impression that one level of the American government is seriously concerned about Musharraf's recent conduct, but that the level above it doesn't think it is that big a deal.

Whether Musharraf has that impression I don't know. But it is hard to imagine that Pakistanis aware of Bush's remarks could think anything else. Under the circumstances it would have been better had Bush said nothing, or had repeated verbatim what Negroponte had said earlier. He sought instead to make his own distinctive statement, consistent with what he'd said about Musharraf in the past. He screwed it up.

This just in---

Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf praised US President George Bush, describing him as a leader who has advanced democracy and “hasn’t crossed the line”.

Speaking on Pak-TV President Musharraf said: "He hasn’t crossed the line. As a matter of fact, I don't think that he will cross any lines. We didn’t necessarily agree with his decision to renew the national emergency over 9/11--that was six years ago, for heavens sakes. And the trashing of the US Constitution has definitely set democracy back. President Bush is fortunate that he has a rubber-stamp Congress and a go-along Supreme Court, which are two advantages that I don't enjoy. But I can tell you that we will continue to take the ten billion dollars a year from the US and do a lot of good things with it."

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