Archive for January, 2008

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Nabucco Pipeline and Iran

January 29, 2008

By Mark C. Partridge

29 January, 2008: In a week where violence continued to escalate in Kenya and world markets remained wary about the strength of the U.S. economy, Iran looked to score some points, both economically and diplomatically, by taking advantage of developments in the European energy market.

As I wrote last week, Russia’s recent deals in Serbia and Bulgaria have strengthened its position as the European Union’s primary supplier of natural gas. There is little doubt that the EU is the biggest loser after these events transpired as the bloc had endeavoured to diversify its energy suppliers. The greatest concern now for Brussels is how it can supply its own Nabucco pipeline project through southeast Europe.

While Russia’s Gazprom has been quick to snap up deals wherever it can – the ones last week were only the most recent examples – the Nabucco project has been mired in delays. Combine the two trends and the result is uncertainty about EU project, particularly about where the gas to supply the pipeline will come from.

Seeing an opportunity for a foreign policy coup – and a financial windfall – Tehran stepped into the fold last week saying it was prepared to supply the flagging project with gas. The Islamic Republic’s Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said: “The EU has already pointed out the need to diversify its gas supplies. One of the areas in which Iran can cooperate with Europe in the energy sector is Nabucco … What choice Europe will make depends on Europe itself.” Iran sits on natural gas reserves of at least 100 billion cubic meters – second only to Russia’s reserves.

The posturing over Europe’s supply of natural gas reveals much about the complex relationship that exists between foreign policy goals, sanction efforts, and economics.

For its part, the U.S. has been trying to tighten the sanctions on Iran, thereby further squeezing the Persian state for the latter’s efforts to develop a domestic nuclear program. Washington fears that any energy revenues will go towards funding Tehran’s nuclear efforts, which the latter contests are for civilian purposes only. However, according to a recent report released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the effectiveness of the existing sanctions, the U.S. State Department has “raised concerns about possible energy deals between Iran and potential foreign investors.” The report went on to note that since 2003 Tehran has sealed energy deals amounting $20 billion, despite the sanctions and trade restrictions that are in place. As of now, much of this money has yet to be delivered and Iran’s energy sector remains drastically under-funded, which contributes to the worsening economic picture there; currently, inflation stands at 19% in the Persian nation.

And yet, Europe desperately wants to diversify its natural gas supply. What if Tehran is the EU’s best shot at finding an alternate supplier in Central Asia – not an unreasonably assertion given Russia’s agreements with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan in December? At what point will the Brussels decide that Iranian gas is too important an asset to pass up? If this time comes, how will it affect Europe’s commitment to the ongoing sanctions efforts (in which Europe is a leading protagonist)?

In another case, despite being one of the U.S.’s largest trade partners and strongest allies, New Dehli recently reasserted its commitment to the pipeline that will carry Iranian gas through Pakistan into India – a project that had raised “concerns” in Washington, according to the GAO report. India’s booming economy and surging development must be sustained and that means Iranian gas. What other states are going to use this same calculus?

Staring down historically high energy prices, leaders around the world are being forced to make decisions that they might otherwise choose not to. The choice is between a nation’s strategic national interests or a government’s political and diplomatic aspirations? While this conundrum might not be a new one in terms of energy matters, I wonder whether rising energy prices and the slowing global economy are putting extra pressure on governments around the world. Furthermore, what might these trends mean for diplomatic negotiations in general in the coming months and years? Send us your thoughts.

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Russia and Europe’s Gas Market

January 22, 2008

By Mark C. Partridge

 

22 January 2008: Keeping up the theme of energy-related posts, OAO Gazprom’s recent pipeline deals deserve some discussion.

Last week, Gazprom, Russia’s gas monopoly, agreed to build a 550-mile pipeline, dubbed South Stream, running under the Black Sea into Bulgaria. The new pipeline, which will cost $14.7 billion to construct, will supply Europe with upwards of 1.15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas a year, and will further cement Russia’s dominant position in Europe’s energy market. Moscow currently supplies 40% of the European Union’s gas.

To make matters worse from the perspective of Brussels, Gazprom reached a provisional pact with the Serbian cabinet to buy a 51% stake in the country’s state-owned oil company, NIS, for around $600 million. The Moscow-based company also agreed to invest over $700 million in modernizing Serbia’s energy infrastructure and promised it a major role in the new South Stream system.

These two deals, coupled with an agreement signed late last year between Russia, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan, seriously undermine the Nabucco pipeline, which the EU and U.S. hoped would carry natural gas from the Caspian through Turkey and into Europe (see diagram at the bottom of the page for illustration), thoroughly diversifying its supply.

What is particularly interesting about the Serbian deal is that there was no tender process, whereby companies could make bids; Gazprom’s bid was the only bid. Indeed, Austria’s biggest energy company, OMV, had expressed interest in the Serbian company but was unable to pursue a deal for lack of a bidding process. Furthermore, according to Serbia’s Economy Minister Mladjan Dinkic, who opposed the deal, “the price could be five to eight times higher than the Russia offer” had a tender process been undertaken.

Analysts point out that the deal was rooted in politics, but what are the issues? First and foremost, the lack of a tender process was Belgrade’s revenge for the West’s position on Kosovo’s independence. It could be more though. Seeing Russia as its only strong ally in this battle-and also having significant leverage over the EU-pro-Moscow Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica is currying favor the Kremlin. By doing so, he could be calculating that the E.U., and maybe even the U.S., will think twice before recognizing Kosovo for fear of agitating the Bear.

These moves are part of a power play that is not limited to the Balkans though. At the moment, Russia and the West are trying to draw up their spheres of influence in the former Soviet Union. Following the collapse of the Iron Curtain, an emboldened West was able to dictate the terms of the relationship, expanding the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)-which Moscow sees as an avowed enemy-and the European Union to include states that were formally part of the USSR-Poland, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, etc. Yet, as energy prices have climbed and Russia’s economy has strengthened, the Kremlin has pushed back against what it sees as encroachment on its historical turf. From Ukraine’s membership in NATO to the stationing of U.S. missile defence installations in the Czech Republic and Poland, Moscow can see Washington and Brussels creeping ever closer.

In response, Moscow has been using its energy supplies-it is the world’s largest supplier of natural gas-to pull individual states away from the main bloc. Last year, Gazprom agreed to a 50-50 joint venture with Italy’s ENI SpA to build the South Stream pipeline. In the north, Russia’s gas monopoly has deals with Germany and the Netherlands that ensure it has a dominant position in Europe’s energy future. The two major pipelines-South Stream and Nord Stream-have the added benefit of taking power out of the hands of transit states like Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus. Critics fear that Moscow will use its energy monopoly, or “energy whip,” in Europe to exert political influence, as it has in the past.

Again, as I have noted before, these actions look to be well-thought out strategic moves by a shrewd player, Russian President Vladimir Putin. What is interesting about all this is that Russia’s dauphin, Dmitry Medvedev, accompanied Mr. Putin on this recent shopping spree. Indeed, he has headed Gazprom’s board of directors since 2002. So what does this mean for Russo-EU energy relations when Mr. Medvedev inevitably takes office after the presidential elections? What can the EU do to improve its negotiating stance vis-à-vis Russia? Is Nabucco dead in the water?

Send us your thoughts at editors@diplomaticourier.org.

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Bush Visit to the Middle East

January 15, 2008

By Mark C. Partridge

15 January, 2008: Much of the coverage of U.S. President George W. Bush’s jaunt to the Middle East has focused on two themes: pushing forward the Israel-Palestine peace process and further isolating Iran. Yet there are also economic issues on the agenda, not the least because of the worsening economic situation in the U.S.

At meetings with a number of leaders in the region, Mr. Bush raised the issue of ballooning energy prices, noting that high gasoline prices were lowering disposable incomes and weakening the U.S. economy. Indeed, the cost of oil increased inflationary pressure in 2007-hardly surprising given the U.S. consumes 15% of the world’s oil every day-and thus increasing speculation about a possible recession.

At least in Saudi Arabia, Mr. Bush’s request looks to have been pushed aside as the kingdom’s oil minister and de facto leader of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Ali al-Naimi, stated: “We will raise production when the market justifies it.” Mr. Naimi also fingered speculation for increasing the price of oil by $20-30 a barrel.

Keeping this in mind, think back a few weeks when I wrote about Arab countries holdings of depreciating U.S. dollars. In particular, I was interested in what might happen if central banks began to diversify their holdings away from the greenback in search of better returns and economic security. Indeed, the dollar has continued its bumpy slide as the U.S. economy has weakened and speculation about further possible interest rate cuts. At the time though, Saudi Arabia did not want to de-peg or even revalue its currency’s ties to the dollar.

Yet now, the chief economist of Saudi Arabia’s largest state bank suggested inflationary fears could lead to a shift in policy away from dollar-dominated securities towards “other types of assets across regions and in different currencies in order to maximise returns…” Mr. Alshaikh also advocated the establishment of the sovereign fund similar to the China Investment Corporation.

This statement was by no means official and certainly not a definitive shift in policy. On the other hand it does show that if (or when, depending on your point of view) the U.S. economy stumbles there will be some serious strategic decisions to be made in capitals around the world.

As I wrote in early December, if key U.S. allies decided to shift away from the dollar, “at what point would China start feeling uneasy sitting on $1.4 trillion of depreciating reserves? What about Japan with $1 trillion in reserves? Any adjustment in policy in these countries would be a serious problem for the U.S. economy, which is already suffering from high oil prices and the credit crisis.

I think that the same questions remain pertinent, and unanswered. So what do you, loyal readers, think now that the economic situation is gloomier, oil prices likely to remain high at least in the near term, and the subprime crisis still reverberating around financial markets? Send us your thoughts at editors@diplomaticourier.org.

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‘Add Women and Stir’

January 14, 2008

South Africa: Women’s Movement & the Upcoming Presidential Election

By John Bavoso 

14 January, 2008: Looking in on South Africa during the run-up to the 2008 presidential race the data regarding gender equality within South African society seems strikingly contradictory. On one hand, due to policies such as the quota system enacted by the African National Congress (ANC) following democratic transition, South Africa has one of the highest percentages of female parliamentarians in world–easily ahead of many more developed countries. On the other hand, on the individual level women remain disadvantaged economically. South Africa has one of the highest rates of reported sexual and domestic violence against women in the world. Now, as the country moves towards a change in public figures, it becomes more important to look critically at existing policies regarding gender equality and what still needs to be done to bring about real positive change.

The disconnect between the high level of female representation and gender inequality within society effectively mirrors and highlights a fundamental debate occurring within international relations scholarship–especially within the realm of feminism. The two sides of this debate have been referred to by scholars such as Shireen Hassim–professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and noted political activist–as “inclusionary” and “transformational” feminist approaches.

The inclusionary approach is generally characterized by its belief in the efficacy of the policy sometimes referred to as “add women and stir” meaning that simply adding more women to places of power will make the government more representative of the population and push gender issues to the forefront of national dialogs. South Africa’s democratic transition was a major example of the effective implementation of the inclusionary approach. When the ANC took power, the women who had worked so hard for the revolutionary movement were rewarded for their efforts with a quota system ensuring that 30% of all ANC elected parliamentarians were women. The results were undeniable: in 1994, in the first democratic elections, 111 women were elected to parliament–taking South Africa from having one of the lowest percentages of women in parliament to one of the highest in a matter of days.

The other half of the debate is made up of those who subscribe to the transformational approach. This perspective views itself not as opposed to the inclusionary approach, per se, but rather as a logical and necessary continuation of it. In this view, getting women into positions of power is important, but not the ultimate goal–it must serve as the catalyst for true societal transformation. In the transformational view, such change can only be brought about with the help of a strong women’s movement within civil society.

One may think that, given the number of women in government, a women’s movement would be obsolete. Despite the striking statistical results of such policies, the effectiveness of this approach’s attempts to bring about true improvements for South African women has been repeatedly called into question. Scholars agree that merely having women in power doesn’t guarantee that gender issues will be their priorities–especially in South Africa. South African women have many identities in addition to their gender: their race, locality, and nationality, to name a few. It is often seen as unpatriotic to focus too heavily on gender issue.

In an ironic twist of fate, the quota system has effectively taken civic leaders away from the women’s movement and put them into public office–leaving the movement for the most part devoid of leadership and cohesion. In addition to this, women have been kept outside of politics for so long that many women have needed time to adjust to their new roles. As one woman said, following her election to parliament in 1994, “I never wanted to be a Senator, because I did not know what a Senator is in the first place.” For these reasons, in addition to many others, a strong women’s movement whose sole purpose is to advocate for gender equality is desperately needed for society to be transformed.

This is not to say that there is no women’s movement in South Africa or that the women’s rights groups don’t work tirelessly. What needs to be highlighted, however, is the danger that comes with quota systems: once the inclusionary policies have been put into place, people tend to feel that parity has been reached and therefore neglect the more revolutionary measures needed to transform society. Some critics go as far as to claim that the quota systems are an appeasement tool used to stall measures aimed at transforming society and traditional attitudes towards women.

While South Africa’s history may be unique and noteworthy, it is the country’s present and future that may determine its legacy in terms of gender equality. If the 2008 presidential race is any indication, advocates for women’s rights may be in for a challenge. It has been widely reported that earlier this year Jacob Zuma won the title of ANC party leader, making him poised to become President in 2009. What has been less frequently reported on is the dismay felt by many women’s rights activists upon hearing this news.

Zuma’s own personal past with women is at best “interesting”–he has two wives and his infidelities have been well documented in the press. Last year he was charged and acquitted of rape while scandals surrounding his ex-wives have repeatedly appeared in the media.

But it is Zuma’s policies regarding gender issues which have many South Africans truly concerned. While the ANC’s National Executive Committee, a group of the top officials in the party, must have equal numbers of men and women represented, the party, under Zuma’s contol, has indicated that it does not feel that this same parity should apply the party’s top six positions. With this in mind, it becomes even more shocking that the ANC’s Women’s League officially endorsed Zuma for the ANC presidency. Critics say that this was done for reasons of in-party politics, rather than in promotion of women’s equality. This instance alone provides perhaps the strongest arguments for the need of the existence of a vigorous women’s movement within society that spans racial and political divides and unites all South African women.

Heading into the 2008 presidential race, there is an opportunity to make true strides toward significant gender equality in South Africa. However, the important lesson to be learned from South Africa in the past decade is that if a true transformation in the nature of society is to come about, it must be accomplished both by those working inside and outside of the existing government machinery. While Zuma’s eventual election to President of the country may be a forgone conclusion to some, the way in which women’s groups react during and after the election may be the true test of the vitality of the women’s movement in South Africa.

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Three Rules of Petropolitics

January 9, 2008

By Mark C. Partridge

9 January 2008:  In the May/June 2006 issue of Foreign Policy, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman coined the term the “First Law of Petropolitics” and posited that “the price of oil and the pace of freedom always move in opposite directions in oil-rich petrolist states.”

This law has become perceived wisdom and there is certainly evidence to support the stipulation. If prices hold above $90 a barrel, oil producers’ coffers will swell by hundreds of billions of dollars. The up-tick in oil and natural gas prices have already been a boon to some of the West’s least favorite and least democratic leaders. Vladimir Putin-who was named Time‘s Person of the Year for 2007-can attribute much of his own power and his country’s economic recovery to ballooning energy prices. The same can be said for Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who was recently defeated in his quest for expanded presidential powers. Even the generals in Myanmar can thank their natural gas supplies for protecting them against a stronger international response to their crackdown last fall; Following the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran, China signed a $2 billion deal with Iran. Bulging treasuries have allowed many states to pursue policies that fly in the face of Western liberal traditions and run counter the U.S. and Europe’s foreign policy ambitions.

And yet, as oil reaches $100 a barrel, there are signs that some petrolist countries are shifting away from recalcitrant anti-Americanism and anti-democratic practices. In Russia, Putin might have handpicked his successor, but he chose Dmitry Medvedev, someone who is seen as more pro-Western and more liberal. In Tehran, despite his best efforts to install his supporters in key positions, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad is losing the support of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, largely because of the economic weakness of the country. (I acknowledge that I’m writing this only a day after Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats confronted and threatened the U.S. navy in the Straits of Hormuz.) Ayatollah Khamenei last week even suggested ties might be possible with the U.S. in the future. Even in Saudi Arabia, in the words of the New York Times, “modern ideas” are taking root with the establishment of a new graduate research institute, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Kaust), where students of different genders and ethnicities will study side by side, something previously banned in the kingdom. In fact, the $12.5 billion facility would never have happened were it not for petrodollars.

So what’s the deal? Surely the reverse should be happening with further crackdowns on liberty and democracy in oil-endowed states. Surprisingly, there is evidence that Western nations are cutting the “pace of freedom” and eroding civil liberties; in a new Privacy International survey, the U.S. and Great Britain were ranked among the “endemic surveillance societies.”

It is not that Friedman’s argument is wrong per se. I would question the use of the term “law” as far too strong; there are no real “laws” when it comes to predicting foreign affairs. Rather, at the moment there are a number of other forces that are coming into play from the struggle against Islamist extremism to economic weakness.

Firstly, there are elections on the horizon in both Iran and Russia. Thus, the sanctions on Iran-which have wounded the country’s banking sector-and the NIE have strengthened moderates, while Putin is looking to continue the system that he created. Even Chavez went to the polls in search of expanded powers.

Secondly, the global economy has been hit by a strong one-two combo: high commodity prices and the sub prime crisis in financial markets. When Friedman was writing in 2006, the global economy was booming, both in emerging and established markets. It could be that oil and natural gas exporters are wary of continuingly high prices that could undermine the international economy and fuel innovations in alternative energy. Consequently, Friedman’s rule should be adjusted: the pace of freedom does not “always” have an inverse correlation with oil prices. Indeed, there may be a ceiling where petrolist states begin to feel uncomfortable with their position. And thus we can edit the original “First Law of Petropolitics” and add two new rules, or “laws” to use Friedman’s parlance.

  1. “The price of oil and the pace of freedom always move in opposite directions in oil-rich petrolist states.”
  2. The inverse relationship breaks down as the international economy weakens.
  3. The inverse relationship between freedom and the price of oil is true only as long as leaders of oil-rich petrolist states can maintain an established and certain domestic position of power.

Do you agree? What other factors are at play? Send us your thoughts at editors@diplomaticourier.org.

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Pakistan: Of Ballots and Bullets

January 8, 2008

By Kyle S. Erickson

8 January 2007: In a piece written about Pakistan and the American presidential candidates, David Remnick has reprinted a description of Benazir Bhutto taken from a profile published in October of 1993, when she began her second term as Prime Minister. “[Bhutto] is an Eastern fatalist by birth, a Western liberal by conviction, and a people-power revolutionary… She is an expensively educated product of the West who has ruled a male-dominated Islamic society of the East.” This combination of charms is perhaps why, in the wake of her ghastly assassination, everyone from Bernhard-Henri Lévy to Francis Fukuyama opened their encomia to her life and reactions to her death with anecdotes of their private interactions with this enigmatic woman. Her embrace of liberal principles flattered the Western elite, whose warm return of her embrace flattered their own liberality.

William Dalrymple and others have noted that in many ways her actions as Prime Minister cast her death as the fulfillment of some tragic destiny. While in power, Bhutto did nothing to curb the growth of violent extremism in Kashmir or the Taliban in Afghanistan, partly because many Pakistanis believed the militants to be redressing legitimate political grievances with India and the West. Her promise to lead the fight against violent Islamism upon her return to Pakistan in October of 2007 may have been consistent with her populism (since these forces now threaten the livelihood of Pakistanis), but it constituted a reversal on her toleration of extra-governmental militants.

This of course makes her death no less lamentable. It also does little to discredit the claim that, given the political exigencies in Pakistan, a Bhutto premiership coupled with a Musharraf presidency comprised the best hope a stable-and eventually prosperous-Pakistan. This political pairing would have been clumsy at best, but no worse than anything previously conceived by Washington. Before her death Bhutto was unquestionably the most popular political figure in Pakistan, capable of carrying votes not just amongst the Sindhi (her ethnic kin in the south) but throughout the country. With the backing of the military she would have been uniquely positioned to cobble together a coalition in Parliament that could enact actual reforms.

But now Benazir Bhutto is gone. Despite the availability of many qualified and capable alternatives, leadership of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has passed to her husband Asif Ali Zardari-a notorious playboy and crook-until her 19-year-old son comes of age. The irony has not been lost on many commentators that Ms. Bhutto, the supposed champion of democracy, was in fact the head of an entrenched, feudal political dynasty. Few expect Mr. Zardari to wield the kind of support enjoyed by his late wife. Her death renders the outcome of elections-pushed back from January 8 to February 18-even more difficult to predict.

There has been a general call from the international community for increasing democratization as the solution to Pakistan’s considerable problems. Had elections transpired on time and free of vote-rigging it is likely that the PPP would have sailed to victory, bolstered by a strong sympathy vote. But it is difficult to see how democracy qua democracy would have delivered any immediate practical benefit to the people of Pakistan, and even less how it would have calmed U.S. fears over regional security. A crucial but under-publicized fact about Pakistan is that it is home to a diversity of tribes and ethnicities, nations-within-nations that are in some cases traditionally hostile toward one another. Absent a unifying personality as powerful as Ms. Bhutto, it is obvious that a freely-elected Parliament would be any more effective at stopping violence and building infrastructure than has Musharraf.

Anatol Lieven of King’s College and the New America Foundation argues that Pakistan needs a government of “national unity” fronted by a “technocratic figure,” and offers a compelling reason why the Pakistani political elites might overlook their differences and work toward this goal: “if they do no work together, many of them will be assassinated separately.” There have already been multiple attacks on leading politicians from a number of parties since Ms. Bhutto’s assassination. While there has been widespread speculation that Musharraf ‘allowed’ her life to be taken it is more plausible-and more prudent-to assume that he is increasingly powerless to stop these attacks from happening.

Lieven offers two alternative outcomes to the current situation that would have decidedly less rosy implications for the West. The first scenario is that the Islamist parties in Pakistan emerge as the only group capable of pushing through serious reform in the chaotic political climate and receive enough votes to form a coalition in parliament. “Ideally,” writes Lieven, “this would lead to their transformation along moderate Turkish lines. But the presence of so many extreme elements, inflamed and strengthened by the war in neighboring Afghanistan, means there is a real threat of hugely increased unrest-even U.S. intervention and state collapse.” In short, this is the worst possible outcome for anyone who fears Pakistan’s nuclear missiles.

If Musharraf is as politically impotent as he seems, violence could increase unchecked in the run-up to the election and make this first scenario more likely. In such an event, generals in the Pakistani army may throw their support to the single most popular politician and assume power instead of risking the fragmentation that could result from an election. The most likely choice in this case is Nawaz Sharif, that other ex-exile, ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan. It was under his watch that Pakistan developed nuclear arms and made its first steps toward the imposition of strict Islamic law in Pakistan. Again, this is a decidedly unfavorable outcome for the United States.

John McCreary at Foreign Policy has no hopes whatsoever for a democratically elected civilian government. He sees only two possible outcomes: “one is a praetorian coup from within the military; the other is a popular uprising.” The bottom line here is that Musharraf has to go. He has been the centerpiece of failed U.S. policy for too long and has finally become too great a liability for everyone involved. Says McCreary, “you can bet the corps commanders of the Pakistani Army are already calculating the costs and benefits of five more years of Musharraf.”

Hassan Abbas, former Pakistani government official and research fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center confirms this hunch. “In the violent aftermath of the recent tragedy, it is likely that army will re-evaluate how far they can go with Musharraf. I am hearing that top level military leadership is weighing all options currently.” All signs point to Musharraf’s removal from power. All that remains to be determined are the circumstances.

Washington seems to be preparing for this eventuality as well. Late last week top administration officials including Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met to discuss the possibility U.S. military operations against the Taliban and Al Qaeda inside Pakistan, presumably because of growing concern over a power vacuum in Islamabad and the first tremors of nationwide violence. The Pakistani President quickly responded, insisting that no foreign troops would be permitted on Pakistani soil.

If the situation worsens in Pakistan, it is not clear how much longer the U.S. will acquiesce. A flattering profile in the New York Times of General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Musharraf’s successor as head of the army, suggests that U.S. support may already be shifting and that the democratically-elected-PM-plus-strong-man solution may be attempted again, only with different actors cast in the lead roles.

The trouble with unreflectively pushing democracy is that, while it is motivated by the right reasons, it sometimes allows the wrong people to come into power. When the stakes are as high as they are in Pakistan, this is a risk that may not be worth taking.

Democracy tout court is little more than an appeal to the popular passions of the people. Polls prove that the citizens of Pakistan are fed up with Musharraf and with U.S. interference. It is more than likely that popular government in Pakistan would pursue interests, as McCreary says, “that are inimical to American goals-be it containing nuclear proliferation, promoting peace on the subcontinent, fighting terrorism and extremism, or spreading democracy in the Muslim world.” If the U.S. hopes to keep the nuclear stockpile out of Islamist hands, it may need to continue to unapologetically sacrifice democratic principle to practical reason.

My own prediction is that the immediate future of Pakistan will be determined by whoever has the most guns and the direction in which they are pointed. Musharraf no longer has the firepower to be politically viable. If he manages to hold onto the presidency until the election, he will be forced out by ballots. If he is foolish enough to rig the election and declare victory, he will be forced out by bullets. Whoever emerges as president/prime minister/dictator will accomplish nothing without the full support of the military. The direction of this support-either against the Taliban or against U.S. interference in Pakistani affairs-will depend on how much truth there is to reports that the army and intelligence services have been compromised and are largely sympathetic to jihadists.

Ms. Bhutto’s assassination will likely usher in a new era in Pakistan. The United States may no longer have any say in what will be this era’s defining characteristics. After the tears have dried up amongst those who mourn Bhutto’s loss, the world should expect an outpouring of spirited anger, and must pray it is marshaled toward securing peace and prosperity throughout Pakistan.