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History Repeats?

David Ignatius draws the Pakistan/Iran parallel:

The Iran analogy was made forcefully two weeks ago by Gary Sick, a Columbia professor who helped oversee Iran policy for the Carter administration during the time of the revolution. "There was no Plan B," Sick wrote in an online posting. He sees the same dynamic at work in Pakistan. "We have bet the farm on one man -- in this case Pervez Musharraf -- and we have no fall-back position, no alternative strategy in the event that does not work."

So ask yourself: What Iran policy would have made sense, in hindsight, given the ruinous consequences of the Iranian revolution? Should the United States have encouraged the shah to crack down harder against protesters and ride out the storm, as some hard-liners urged at the time? Or should it have moved more quickly to encourage a change of regime, after it became obvious the shah couldn't or wouldn't reform?

Even now, almost 30 years later, it's hard to know what we should have done. And perhaps that's the point.

I think Ignatius is mostly accurate here. It's hard to envision what we may have done differently in Iran, especially since all forms of nationalism relied upon the clerics in order to spread their agenda and win over the peasants. We sat back and watched while Muhammad Reza stifled free speech, leaving the mosques as one of the few places where the free flow of ideas could take place. This attracted nationalists, Marxists and other critics of Pahlavi rule.

If there was ever to be a freedom agenda, the support of a free (and secular) press, along with an independent and mostly secular judiciary woud need to be paramount. Musharraf has cracked down on both. In Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, you had a jurist who ruled against attempts by regional Islamists attempting to impose illegal Sharia law.

The press and the law should be the cornerstone, and it looks as if both have been tossed aside in Pakistan.

Others Blogging It:

The Heretik
Matthew Yglesias
Ezra Klein

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