CNN: 'The price for backing dictators' may be to box America in
Since Pakistan's President Musharraf suspended constitutional government over the weekend, the United States has been urging him to restore the rule of law but has stopped short of applying any real pressure that might force him to do so.
Pakistan's chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, who was ousted and then placed under house arrest after the Pakistani Supreme Court refused to ratify Musharraf's actions, spoke by phone to CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday, telling him that "of course" Musharraf is a dictator and that greater pressure by the United States might force him to reverse his actions.
"Musharraf isn't the first hardline leader to put Washington in a rather awkward position," Blitzer noted, turning to CNN correspondent Brian Todd for background.
"They're in a real bind here," Todd agreed. "Preaching democracy, rarely a clean proposition for American presidents."
George W. Bush promised in his second inaugural address that "all who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors." However, while Bush did describe the crackdown by the Burmese dictatorship in September as "inexcusable," he has been far more restrained in his criticism of Musharraf's actions, tempering his concerns about democracy with praise for Musharraf as "a strong fighter against extremists and radicals."
Todd pointed out that America has often supported dictators in the past, especially during the Cold War. "Donald Rumsfeld once shook hands with Saddam Hussein on behalf of Ronald Reagan. ... Americans embraced the like of Manual Noriega, the Shah of Iran, Ferdinand Marcos ... none of whom ever considered free and fair elections."
"Partnerships with strong men, some say just as necessary now as then," Todd concluded. "But some analysts say so-called realpolitik, while it serves America's immediate interests, also boxes it in."
Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation told CNN, "It's terribly hypocritical to go into this world and talk democracy as boldly and robustly as this administration did and then cozy up to a dictator now like Musharraf. President Bush can no longer go out and give a pro-democracy speech."
The following video is from CNN's Situation Room, broadcast on November 6, 2007.