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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Panic in Pakistan

The times have really changed when the President of Pakistan goes to China, hat in hand, to ask for a desperate bail out and is turned away because, according to a Chinese official, “We have done our due diligence, and it isn’t happening.”

So much for client statehood. During the latter Cold War, China propped up Pakistan, especially Pakistan’s army, as leverage against their mutual Indian rival. This rationale was lost, first with the demise of the Soviet Union and then with the entrance of both Pakistan and India into the club of nuclear weapons states. Feeding an armed rivalry in which either side could destroy large parts of the other in a matter of minutes no longer seemed to be in anyone’s interest, least of all China’s, which has bigger things to worry about these days. In any event, Pakistan’s governments have stridden the insurgent fence a bit too much for China’s liking, given the Islamist tendencies of a few radicals just up the Karakoram Highway in Xinjiang. The end of this particular alliance, then, was long overdue.

But the rejection seems more than a mere snub. Perhaps China is sending a message to other would-be supplicants: don’t take anything for granted. As to poor Pakistan, which has only enough reserves to last about two months, it must appear on its knees before the IMF and take whatever it can get. Which raises the question: aren’t there any more suitable sugar daddies out there? A few clever Indians might do well to make their neighbors a modest offer they cannot refuse.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Endorsements Galore
 
The latest campaign rumors place General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.) on the verge of announcing a presidential endorsement this coming weekend. The bets are on Obama, despite Powell’s long service to predominantly Republican administrations and his acquaintance with John McCain. In the past, Powell has said he is offering advice to both campaigns but would not endorse either one
 
What are we to take from the latest bit of coyness of this formidable careerist? Talleyrand has already speculated that Powell would accept a cabinet position, probably Secretary of Defense, in a McCain administration. It sounded far-fetched to some but it would be McCain’s most serious gesture to demonstrate his departure from the Bush years, as well as a balance against the likely prominence of Joe Lieberman and other neoconservatives in a McCain administration.

Powell, however, seems to be jumping the gun. There can be little doubt that, like his hero General George Marshall, he wants to end his public career at the Pentagon. At the very least this would redeem Powell’s disappointing tenure as Secretary of State. If he now casts his lot with Obama, can we expect a quo will follow the quid? Well, of course not—Powell is thinking only of what is best for the country, no more, no less. Far be it from this cynic to assume anything else.

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