First Petraeus, Now Kayani

There are a lot of reasons to be reassured by the Pakistani government's decision to extend Gen. Ashfaq Kayani's term as chief of staff by three years: continuity in leadership at a crucial strategic moment in Afghanistan and the Pakistan frontier, as well as a solid reputation for integrity and competence that facilitates what could otherwise be tough political sells in both ongoing wars.

The similarity to the arguments supporting the appointment of Gen. David Petraeus to lead the U.S. and NATO war effort in Afghanistan should be obvious. It's comforting to think that the two men are well-suited to work together in making the difficult decisions on the ground, including the ones that are politically unpopular back home. For the U.S., that would mean accomodating the Taliban in a post-withdrawal scenario. For Pakistan, it would mean accepting some level of Indian involvement in stabilizing Afghanistan, or at least the non-Pashtun areas of the country.

Nevertheless, both appointments also raise the same concerns -- namely, the danger of a cult of personality, and the questions they raise about the deepness of the bench. Both concerns are more acute in Pakistan, given its history of both military rule and military corruption. But the U.S. should not consider itself immune to the dynamics that have, after all, governed human history at least through recorded times. And the flagrant similarity between the two cases should serve as a warning sign about the risks that long-term military engagements present to a democracy.

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