PAKISTAN….A few days ago, according to the New York Times, Dick Cheney jetted into Pakistan to warn Pervez Musharraf that “the newly Democratic Congress could cut aid to his country unless his forces become far more aggressive in hunting down operatives with Al Qaeda.” Michael Currie Schaffer comments:

There’s an irony in the Bush administration — and, in particular, Cheney — making such conspicuous use of this old tactic. Ever since September 11, 2001, GOP loyalists have leaned on one simple message when it comes to the politics of security: Only Republicans have the hard-headedness and the backbone to face the menace that is Islamic terrorism.

….That message gets just a wee bit diluted when the veep pops up in Islamabad to say, more or less, that those same Democrat sissies are willing to be tougher on North Waziristan’s putative constabulary than the manly folk of the executive branch.

This reminds me of the old bromide I used to hear about the Soviet Union, namely that they liked Republican presidents better than Democrats. Sure, the Republicans hated them, but at least they were predictably nasty. Democrats might be more open to improving relationships, but they were also a wild card. Better the enemy you know etc. etc.

Of course, the real irony in this whole episode is how little grief Cheney has gotten for this. I think the reason is simple: Pakistan is the one place that’s so horrifically intractable that Democrats are willing to cut Bush a lot of slack in dealing with them. In fact, for all the talk of Iran and North Korea and al-Qaeda and whatnot, if you asked me to name the single most dangerous place on the planet it would be Pakistan. They’ve got nukes, they’ve got missiles, they’ve got a famously unstable leadership with levels of intrigue that would baffle an Ottoman Sultan, and the ISI is by a long way the world’s preeminent terrorist training organization. It’s a nightmare, and no one really knows how to deal with it.

So fine. If they want to threaten Musharraf with the specter of Nancy Pelosi cutting off his foreign aid, go ahead. If anyone has a better idea, speak up.

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