Power & Diplomacy Archives



Panelist View  |  July 3, 2007 12:30 PM

Putin Stays Strong, but Lacks Strategic Vision

By Masha Lipman

Vladimir Putin has every reason to regard his meeting with the U.S. president at Kennebunkport as a victory. He hasn’t budged one inch on any of the contentious issues of U.S.-Russian relations, such as Kosovo independence or U.S. missile defense plans in Central Europe. He wouldn’t put up with any criticism of Russian domestic affairs, and in recent months he has sounded fairly tough on U.S. policies -- yet, George W. Bush honored him with an invitation to spend time at his family home.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  October 15, 2007 2:59 PM

Kurds: Armenians Win, We Pay the Price

By Falah Mustafa Bakir

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is asking his country’s parliament this week to unanimously approve a "mobilization" against the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), an action that he and other Turkish leaders have signaled could include a Turkish military attack on the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Such an attack would represent the gravest challenge to Iraq since our liberation from Saddam Hussein in 2003 and would jeopardize, perhaps fatally, the success of the American mission in Iraq.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  October 19, 2007 9:59 AM

The Battle for Azerbaijan

By Karl Rahder

Vladimir Putin’s statement at this week’s Caspian Sea summit that no country in the region “should offer its territory to third powers for use of force or military aggression” has been widely and correctly seen as aimed to deter U.S. military intervention in Iran.

But this warning was directed not only at the U.S., but at Azerbaijan, the smallest of the Caspian countries and America’s chief ally in the region – and at any plans to establish a permanent U.S. base in Azerbaijan.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  October 24, 2007 11:29 AM

Déjà Vu: Musharraf and the Shah

By Gary Sick

Last Sunday’s New York Times analysis, “In Pakistan Quandary, U.S. Reviews Stance,”
fits so closely with a number of conversations that I have had over the past few weeks that it inspires a kind of déjà vu. It takes me back to the time when the Iranian revolution was brewing, when I was the desk officer for Iran on the National Security Council.

The ultimate reason for the U.S. policy failure at the time of the Iranian revolution was the fact that the U.S. had placed enormous trust and responsibility on the person of the shah of Iran. He -- and not the country or people of Iran -- was seen as the lynchpin of U.S. strategy in the Persian Gulf. Everything relied on him. There was no Plan B.

Continue »




 |  November 11, 2007 12:45 PM

Pakistan is Not a Failed State

By Fareed Zakaria

When America acts, it is blamed for the consequences. When it doesn't act, it is blamed for the consequences. In much of the Arab world, public anger is directed at the United States for "supporting" unpopular dictatorships -- by which it is meant that the U.S. does not push these regimes to open up. But were Washington to really press these governments, there would be a public hue and cry about American interference and imperialism. When you are the superpower, you can't escape the consequences of action or inaction.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  January 15, 2008 10:11 AM

Pakistan’s Paradoxes

By Haider Ali Hussein Mullick

Three major paradoxes are shaping U.S.-Pakistan relations. They must be understood before prescribing any set of U.S. policies to stop Pakistan’s continuing descent into political instability.

First, increasing anti-Americanism, caused by blank-check American support for President Pervez Musharraf and a failed pact between Musharraf and Bhutto, have made Americans wary of meddling in Pakistani politics. However, not interfering is not an option while the only predominantly Muslim country with nuclear weapons and al-Qaeda safe havens continues to implode.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  January 15, 2008 3:16 PM

How Washington Fails Colombia

Editor's Note: Readers may find it useful to refer to a Washington Post editorial on the same subject. The author references this editorial in his response to reader comments, which is posted directly below the original op-ed text.

By Mark Weisbrot

It has had the makings of a telenovela – a Latin American soap opera: hostages held for years deep in the Colombian jungle, anxious anticipation and tearful reunions, and most spectacular of all, the boy: Emmanuel. Born three and a half years ago in captivity, of a liaison between a FARC guerilla and captive Clara Rojas, his tiny arm broken at birth by a difficult Caesarean under jungle conditions, surviving leishmaniasis and dumped off on a poor rural family that transferred him to the state – he somehow survived and was found in time to reunite with his mother as she savored her long-awaited freedom.

But for those who had the time to look beyond the headlines, there were important political realities that the drama underscored. Most importantly, the Bush Administration has once again staked out a position on a long-running armed conflict that puts Washington outside the mainstream of the international community.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  January 23, 2008 9:50 AM

Kashmir for the Kashmiris

By Pranay Gupte

Some say it was al-Qaeda, others see the malevolent hand of the Taliban, and still others see shadowy forces aligned with state security services. But regardless of who was responsible for the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto last month, the tragedy once again brings the issue of regional terrorism in South Asia to the forefront.

But long before al-Qaeda and the Taliban emerged as destabilizing forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, long before indigenous Islamists began raising money to disrupt national life, there was the issue of Kashmir: the 60-year dispute with neighboring India over a mountainous region that both countries claim.

It was an issue on which Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif remained unified. And it is an issue that will be conspicuous on the agenda of a new Pakistani administration after next month's expected elections – not the least because of the resurgence of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party in India, which has won important state polls in which party leaders more than once implicitly reasserted India's claim to all of Kashmir.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  March 5, 2008 3:20 PM

A Real Kurdish Solution

By Dr. Günes Murat Tezcür

Few places symbolize state power and security challenges more than the border zone between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan. Whether this border will blossom with commerce and cultural exchange or become a transit point for tanks and militants has great implications for the future of the Middle East and the relationship between the Muslim world and the West.

For a peaceful border to become a reality, Turkey and other regional states with sizeable Kurdish populations need to extend full recognition to Kurdish demands for greater cultural and political rights. In turn, Kurdish nationalism needs to recognize the geopolitical reality by eschewing the goal of rewriting the prevailing borders and denouncing armed struggle. The United States and the European Union need to encourage reconciliation between Turkish and Kurdish politicians.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  April 18, 2008 6:35 PM

Fed Up With Mugabe

By Njoroge Wachai

On Wednesday, the Washington Post ran an editorial blasting the South African President, Thabo Mbeki, for cozying up to Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe, a totalitarian demagogue who has been hoarding the results of a presidential contest held three weeks ago, an election many believe he lost.The Post decried Mbeki’s fraternizing with Mugabe at a time when the international community is in consensus that the opposition Movement for Democratic Movement (MDC) won presidential elections three weeks ago.

What actually caught my eye was not the strong language the Post used to ridicule Mbeki – who asserted a week ago that the situation in Zimbabwe falls short of a crisis. What caught my eye were the comments the editorial generated.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  June 3, 2008 11:01 AM

Olmert's Last-Chance Dance

By Ori Nir

What Ehud Olmert should – but probably won’t - tell George Bush on Wednesday in the White House.

Thanks for seeing me, George. This may be my last meeting with you as Israel's prime minister.

I'm in a pinch, you know, and I'm fighting to save my political life. All these calls in recent days for me to resign have broadened my perspective. They have actually inspired me to speak bluntly to you.

You still have more than six months in office, time you can use to do some good in our region. The window of opportunity for peace that we both saw two years ago should not come slamming down on your fingers. It is up to you to hold the window open now.

Please, let me have your attention for just a few minutes. Please focus on these points. There are only three and they are pretty simple:

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  June 25, 2008 6:14 PM

There Are Two Pakistans

Uniting Pakistan the military state and Pakistan the nascent democracy is our generation’s calling.

By Haider Ali Hussein Mullick

There are two Pakistans. The first is stuck in an illusion of undisturbed national stability and unity through military management; the second stands on the weak shoulders of a nascent democracy, perpetually insecure and sporadically functional.

For more than sixty years, Pakistan has struggled with its split personality, brought about by its military or political parties. Historically the United States has preferred the first Pakistan – managed by the military and governed by the free market. The challenge for today's generals and politicians is to find a way to merge, secure, and present the country in a way that attracts the better of the two Pakistans, and preserves U.S. support in the war on terror.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  July 17, 2008 9:36 AM

Somalia: Time to Pay Attention

The United States has contributed to the mess in Somalia by failing to grasp the nuances of the Muslim world.

By Frankie Martin

While the world looks elsewhere, Somalia is in flames. The nation just topped a list of the world’s most unstable countries by Foreign Policy magazine, and the United Nations has declared the humanitarian situation there “worse than Darfur.”

In the next three months the number of people requiring immediate food aid will reach 3.5 million. Over one million refugees have fled their homes. Due to a raging insurgency against the current transitional government – which has support from both the West and Ethiopia – Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, has earned the nickname, “Baghdad on the sea.”

In Somalia, there are no diplomatic superstars like Condoleezza Rice or Kofi Annan, who rushed to Kenya to settle its election crisis; there are no celebrities like Mia Farrow or Jim Carrey to urge international action and awareness as they did in Sudan and Burma.

Instead, Somalia’s crisis has elicited a collective yawn of indifference. Just mentioning the country’s name is enough to cause even the most dedicated diplomat or aid worker to throw up their hands in desperation.

Ironically, unlike the above conflicts, the current crisis in Somalia has developed in part due to America’s "war on terror" and failure to grasp some of the nuances of Islam.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  August 29, 2008 11:25 AM

The Conflict We Chose

By Mark Weisbrot

Tensions between the United States and Russia have a long history, but one only need go back to the early nineties to see how our own government threw away its chance to have a better relationship with post-Communist Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

In 1992, inflation in Russia was spiraling into the triple digits and the economy was collapsing. Economist Jeffrey Sachs, who was advising the government, offered a plan to get inflation under control which centered around stabilizing the exchange rate - a key element of a potentially successful anti-inflationary policy. To do this, though, it is necessary to have a good supply of foreign exchange reserves - i.e. dollars -- and Sachs thought he might get a commitment from the United States to provide these reserves. He was wrong. He didn't get the stabilization fund, nor the immediate suspension of interest payments, debt cancellation, or other aid he was seeking from the G-7.

Looking back on those events, Sachs later noted that "Richard Cheney, then the secretary of defense, and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, were drafting the controversial Defense Planning Guidance, which aimed to ensure long-term U.S. military dominance over all rivals, including Russia. . . "

"I had supposed in 1991 and 1992 that the United States would be rooting for Russia's success as it had been rooting for Poland's. With hindsight, I doubt that this was ever the case."

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  November 13, 2008 10:06 AM

Burma's Black Hole

By Meredith Walsh

A 6-week-old girl sleeps peacefully in the delivery ward at Mae Tao Clinic, a health center in northwestern Thailand, not 2 km from the Burma border. Her mother crossed the border from Burma into Thailand to deliver her at the clinic, tested positive for HIV during delivery, and then made a decision every mother hopes never to make: she returned to Burma and left her daughter behind in Thailand. The Burmese military has destroyed health care systems to the point that there is no support or treatment for HIV-positive children or adults.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  October 31, 2008 10:12 AM

Reeling In Russia

By Lincoln A. Mitchell

PostGlobal asks: Nearly 20 years after becoming a democratic regime, Russia still faces many challenges. Domestically, this includes ensuring civil rights and civil liberties such as freedom of the press, freedom of enterprise and the freedom of religion. While internationally it has reasserted itself as a major player, it has been shunned by both Western Europe and America.

Will Russia be forced to acquiesce to the American status quo both domestically and internationally or will it be able to pursue its own goals?

Russia is not, at this time, a democracy, nor is it likely to become one anytime soon. The restriction on individual, associational and media freedoms, the close relationships between business and the government and the weakness of the rule of law are just some of the things that preclude Russia from being called a democracy. Moreover, it is inaccurate to continue to view Russia as a country in transition. The regime seems quite stable; with little real movement towards democracy. Russia is a largely consolidated illiberal semi-authoritarian regime.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  November 5, 2008 3:22 PM

Syria's Murky Motives

Based on past behavior, it is more likely than not that Syria's primary motivation is to gain increased respectability and access (diplomatic, political, economic) to France, Europe and especially the U.S. This, rather than a fundamental desire to active a real peace with Israel, is what motivates its recent diplomatic activity. Moreover, even if Assad were intent on a fundamental change of course, Iran probably has the ability to act as a spoiler, via Hezbollah or Hamas, or even by means of its assets within Syria itself.

Robert Lieber is Professor of Government and International Affairs at Georgetown University. He has written 14 books on international relations and U.S. foreign policy, including his most recent book
The American Era: Power and Strategy for the 21st Century




 |  December 4, 2008 4:19 PM

Turkish-American Relations Could Chill Come January

Perhaps the entire world has faith that Barack Obama's historic victory will redefine U.S. foreign policy and fix the blemished image of the country abroad. However, there is one nation - in fact a close NATO ally - that has reservations: Turkey.

During his visit to Columbia University in November, I got a chance to ask the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan whether he has concerns about Barack Obama's close stance to the acceptance of what Mr. Erdogan calls "the incidents of 1915" as genocide.

While congratulating Mr. Obama's victory, Mr. Erdogan sent a critical message to the president-elect. He reiterated his expectation from the new administration to pay attention to Turkish sensitivities regarding the issue, for the sake of bilateral relations.

Turkey believes that deaths resulted from inter-communal conflicts and such events were common occurrence during World War I. Therefore, the country strongly rejects the Armenian view, which claims that over a million Armenians were systematically massacred by the Ottoman Empire. Armenians commemorate the genocide every year in April, which always proves to be a difficult month for Turkish foreign policy.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  February 12, 2009 12:54 PM

Our New Russian Opportunity

By Anton Fedyashin

True to his word, President Obama has launched a new era in American foreign policy. Signals from the U.S. have been positive and encouraging. Henry Kissinger quietly visited Moscow in December. Vice President Joseph Biden spoke optimistically about cooperating with Russia at the international security conference in Munich. In his first press conference, the President mentioned non-proliferation negotiations and Russia's role in preventing other regimes in acquiring nuclear capability. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to visit Moscow in March to lay the groundwork for reestablishing the U.S.-Russia partnership. And finally, President Obama and President Medvedev will meet at the G-20 summit in April. There is a veritable thaw in the air and spring looks promising.

Moscow has welcomed this change, but has taken a wait-and-see attitude. Moscow responded by canceling plans to deploy missiles in Kaliningrad in exchange for slowdown of the missile defense shield deployment in Eastern Europe. However, foreign minister Sergei Lavrov snubbed Hilary Clinton's phone call a few weeks ago; he was busy traveling with President Medvedev in Central Asia. The Russians are expanding their influence in this region by offering Kyrgyzstan financial support. Meanwhile, Moscow has opened its airspace for the U.S. to fly non-military supplies to Afghanistan. Given the emphasis that President Obama has placed on the military operation there, Russia's cooperation will become increasingly important. Where should the State Department start to repair its relationship with its Eurasian ally? It will have to reevaluate its policy towards Russia's neighbors.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  February 13, 2009 2:55 PM

What Pakistan Doesn't Need From America

By Shuja Nawaz

During the tumult of 2008, the talk in Washington and in Islamabad turned to the need for the United States to have a relationship with the people of Pakistan rather than with any single leader or party. Indeed, only by garnering the support of a majority of Pakistanis can the United States leap over the yawning mistrust between these two countries and help Pakistan's government become stable.

Two months into 2009, we are waiting for that change to occur. President Obama has rightly focused attention on Pakistan, sending his powerful and highly favored representative Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to take on the difficult job of resolving regional differences and restoring stability to an embattled country. Ambassador Holbrooke will need help from both Washington and Islamabad to get to the roots of regional problems.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  March 18, 2009 9:18 AM

A New Dawn in Pakistan

Today is a new dawn in Pakistan - not a perfect dawn, but a dawn nonetheless. As millions celebrate the reinstatement of the twice-deposed Pakistani Chief Justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, doubts about the country's democratic experiment are being cautiously laid to rest amidst economic and security woes. Pakistan's adolescent democracy is heading toward its rite of passage. But growing up is never easy. Pakistan continues to face impervious Islamist insurgents in the north and intransigent ethnic separatists in the south, and is surrounded by domineering Indians to the east and ambivalent Americans and Afghans to the west. While its unique ways and means beckon U.S. support, Pakistan is considered a bankrupt nuclear-armed tinderbox. Will this new dawn push political parties, lawyers, students, journalists - and yes, the historically skeptical military - to reset the system and salvage Pakistan?

Yes it will; and it should. A mentor of mine in Islamabad told me recently that he had protested against dictators in the sixties and eighties, but had never imagined a day when Pakistan - at the brink of a breakup, economic collapse, and military losses - would then almost suddenly pull back and reunite in unprecedented ways. He reinforced the dictum buried deep in the Pakistani creed: dictators steal dreams, politicians steal hope, and the people steal power from both. For more than sixty years the Pakistani people have been stuck in a tug-of-war between ineffective politicians and towering generals; between democracy without governance and autocracy without law; between a state strengthening a nation and competing nations weakening it; between Islam as a unifying identity and a national identity crisis; and between countries we learn to hate (India) and countries we can't learn to love (the United States).

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  April 13, 2009 5:37 PM

Gorbachev's Great Expectations

By Anton Fedyashin

Mikhail Gorbachev came to Washington last month as part of a tour inspired by the promise of a thaw in U.S.-Russian relations. The former General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party and first Soviet President met with American academics and officials, including President Obama and Vice President Biden. Throughout his trip, he argued that the United States and Russia share three fundamental goals, all of which will be impossible to achieve without working as equal partners: controlling nuclear weapons, dealing with Islamic extremism, and cooperating on environmental issues. But finding common ground from which to negotiate won't be easy.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  April 24, 2009 2:58 PM

Defining a Future As Neighbors

The Current Discussion: Today is "Genocide Remembrance Day "in the Armenian community, a particularly strained time of year for Turkey and Armenia. What's a realistic first step forward toward reconciliation for each of these countries?

By Richard Giragosian

Armenians throughout the world are gathering today for their annual April 24th commemoration of the Armenian genocide, in a traditional ceremony of collective remembrance. Yet this year's commemoration differs greatly from previous such ceremonies, as Armenia and Turkey are now poised to forge a new and historic agreement on "normalizing" relations. After a long process of secret diplomacy that culminated in the first-ever visit to Armenia by a Turkish head of state last September, both sides now finally seem ready to reexamine their past and redefine their future.

Later today, President Barack Obama is set to issue the traditional presidential statement on the Armenian genocide, with both sides eagerly anticipating, or fearing, his choice of words to define the tragic events of 1915. Clearly, there is a substantial amount of evidence showing that the events of 1915, during which roughly 1.5 million Armenians were killed, constituted a concerted state policy of genocide. Moreover, an independent legal assessment of the applicability of the convention to the Armenian case, commissioned by the respected International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), concluded that "the events (of 1915), viewed collectively, can thus be said to include all of the elements of the crime of genocide as defined in the Convention, and legal scholars as well as historians, politicians, journalists and other people would be justified in continuing to so describe them."

But any narrow focus on only the genocide issue or President Obama's choice of wording obscures the point, as the burden for addressing Turkey's historical legacy now rests with Turkey itself, which has already embarked on a significant, and at times painful, reexamination of its past and redefinition of its identity.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  May 27, 2009 1:47 PM

Biden's Unfinished Balkan Business

By Gülnur Aybet and Florian Bieber

Vice President Joseph Biden last week paid a visit to the Balkans' troublesome triangle: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo. The visit displayed the Obama administration's reengagement with the region after it dropped from America's list of priorities after 9/11. Could the Western Balkans be catching Washington's attention once again even as Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan dominate much of the foreign policy agenda?

There is plenty of unfinished business from the early 1990s, issues significant to the U.S. and to the EU's role in the region. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe's integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions was considered essential to democratic governance, free markets and human rights. NATO and EU enlargement were seen as tandem processes in the grand design of "Europe whole and free." The Western Balkans have been struggling to keep up with this process, with only Bulgaria and Romania as members today of both organizations. Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo face a series of inter-linked obstacles to accession, which is why Biden's first visit to the region was confined to those three countries.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  May 29, 2009 12:14 PM

Israel Shouldn't Sign the NPT

By Abraham Cooper and Harold Brackman

North Korea's newest nuclear blast raises many questions, but also provides a discomfiting answer to a big one: Is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty working? The answer is no. Over the years, Pyongyang has made a mockery of U.N. and U.S. non-proliferation efforts. Neither then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's charm offensive with Kim Jong-Il nor the subsequent Bush Administration's diplomatic offensive through six-power talks have restrained North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

The newest nuclear and missile testing are an unmistakable slap at President Obama's call for broader dialogue. What's also particularly galling to U.S. officials is that Pyongyang signed the Nuclear Treaty and then proceeded to render it virtually meaningless. Meanwhile, treaty non-signatory Pakistan followed non-signatory India in unleashing the nuclear genie on the Subcontinent while doing nothing as Sir Ahmad Khan proliferated nuclear weapons technology from Tehran to Pyongyang. Today, the world is left to hold its collective breath as the Taliban nips at the gates of Islamabad--too close to Pakistan's growing nuclear arsenal.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  June 2, 2009 11:25 AM

Time for Peace in Kashmir

By Mansoor Ijaz

India's recent elections have ushered in a historic opportunity to address the issue of Kashmir. Over 417 million voters turned out to give the world's most populous democracy its most stable government ever. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the affable economist-turned-politician, should now turn Congress's election mandate into an impetus for making unprecedented decisions on national security. Kashmir should be at the top of the priority list.

Some would argue that the landslide election results mean India doesn't need to make peace with Pakistan over Kashmir. I argue the opposite. India's political maturity and growing economic power give it maneuvering room not available to Pakistan, a country besieged by Islamist insurgency, shattered confidence in institutions and a failed economy.

India defeated Pakistan twice in two wars. Pakistanis have watched India rise to regional superpower status economically, politically and militarily. In many ways, India's success fostered Pakistan's radicalization. Rather than confront its self-created demons at home, Pakistan first blusters and then begs the world to save it.

Continue »




Guest Voice  |  July 10, 2009 5:06 PM

Lessons from the Lawyers' Movement

By Ali Wyne

Although the battle in Swat has understandably captured international attention, it is more a commentary on Asif Zardari's unusual incompetence than it is a reflection of Pakistan's systemic challenges. One can better understand those challenges by considering the outcome of the lawyers' movement.

There was widespread agreement within and outside of Pakistan that Iftikhar Chaudhry's reinstatement as chief justice marked the beginning - albeit fragile and uncertain - of the country's democratization. In reality, however, it reaffirmed the need for (at least) three basic principles to inform Pakistan's political development. First, the rule of law is little more than a rhetorical construct if leaders violate it to maintain power and opponents support it to achieve power. Second, tactics matter. The lawyers' movement helped to bring Zardari to power by opposing Pervez Musharraf; now it is boosting Nawaz Sharif's clout by opposing Zardari. If it does not recalibrate, it may well continue to elevate the very opposition figures who will undermine the rule of law once they acquire power. Third, the divides that must exist for representative institutions to emerge - whether between leaders and opponents, or bureaucrats and activists - lose their meaning if those on either side are rewarded for subordinating principle to ambition.

It is useful to go back ten years in Pakistani history.

Recent events notwithstanding, Musharraf and Chaudhry were once close allies. On January 26, 2000, Chaudhry swore a new oath of office affirming Musharraf's decision to suspend Pakistan's constitution; he was subsequently appointed to the Supreme Court. Four months later, he joined the court's 11 other justices in declaring that the general's takeover through force was legal. On April 13, 2005, Chaudhry was one of only five justices to oppose petitions that challenged Musharraf's constitutional amendments and validate Musharraf's right to serve concurrently as army chief and president; less than a month later, he was appointed chief justice.

The relationship between the two soured when Chaudhry ruled against the government's privatization of Pakistan Steel Mills Corporation. Musharraf's subsequent actions - firing Chaudhry on March 9, 2007, declaring a state of emergency on November 3rd when his presidential eligibility was challenged, and sacking Chaudhry again after the Supreme Court had reinstated him - turned Pakistanis against him, thereby emboldening Zardari and Sharif. The two formed a coalition government shortly after Musharraf resigned, only to have it collapse a week later. Sharif claimed that Zardari had reneged on their agreement to restore the judges whom Musharraf had deposed during emergency rule.

Zardari did not vocally support the lawyers' movement while pressing for Musharraf's ouster, because he recognized that an independent judiciary could examine the October 5, 2007 National Reconciliation Ordinance that immunized all government officials who served between 1986 and October 12, 1999, when Musharraf took office. Nonetheless, Zardari supported the movement to the extent that it weakened the general and improved his own political prospects.

Pakistanis began pressuring him to reinstate Chaudhry shortly after he took office. Zardari heeded those calls not to advance democracy, but to maintain power (indeed, many suspect that he preconditioned his decision on receiving protection from Chaudhry's "judicial activism"): only a month into his presidency, after all, his approval rating had fallen to 19%.

Like Zardari, Sharif aligned himself strategically with the lawyers' movement, and has already accrued considerable dividends as a result. Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani invited him to join the cabinet so as to restore the image of the Pakistan People's Party, but Sharif rejected the offer, thereby enhancing his reputation as the upstanding outsider. He is also garnering support abroad. Sharif has been meeting with senior officials in the Obama administration to discuss possible mechanisms of Pakistani-American cooperation against the Taliban, cooperation that, some analysts argue, his inclination towards Islamic rule could facilitate.

Notwithstanding these endorsements, Sharif's record gives reason for pause. On November 28, 1997, hundreds of his supporters stormed the Supreme Court while it was hearing a corruption case against him. Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah was subsequently removed from office, and Sharif was exonerated of the charges that the court was considering. Less than two years later, Sharif cracked down on the Jang Group's publisher for not firing or demoting several journalists who had published exposes of his administration's corruption. The Supreme Court rendered a judgment in favor of Jang and demanded that the government allow newsprint to be sent to the group's headquarters. Sharif contested the ruling and had officials impound its newsprint supplies. Such abuses compelled many Pakistanis to embrace the coup that brought Musharraf to power.

Going forward, it would be mistaken for Pakistanis to support Sharif on account of Zardari's ineptitude - it is precisely this manner of expediency that has stunted Pakistan's advancement. Now is the time to call out all opportunists, no matter what stripes they may now be wearing.

Ali Wyne is a researcher in Washington, DC.


PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.