West Scrambling to Stop Musharraf’s Dangerous Recipe from Boiling Over

West Scrambling to Stop Musharraf’s Dangerous Recipe from Boiling Over

As the temperature rises ever more perilously under the cauldron of Pakistan's political crisis, a nuclear-armed Muslim nation bordering Afghanistan and Iran, the West is urgently pondering what ingredients it might stir in to keep the dangerous pot from boiling over. After all, Pakistan's combustible mix could leave third-degree burns far, far beyond its borders. Now that Pakistan's dictator, its president and military chief, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has declared a state of emergency there, this new crisis could easily spread. It does not take a prophet of doom to envision truly disastrous consequences.

The choices for Washington and its allies are depressingly limited. They are all risky and unsatisfying. The West despairs of seeing the man it has lavished with cash -- and occasional high praise -- thumbing his nose at his own people and at his international supporters. But pulling the rug out from under Musharraf could make matters worse.

Pakistan may sound distant and remote, but the results of the Machiavellian maneuvers of some of its people have already transformed the world. The Pakistani security services nurtured the Taliban regime that coddled Osama Bin Laden and gave him the sanctuary he needed to hatch the 9/11 plot. A Pakistani scientist/entrepreneur, A.Q. Khan, developed and stocked a supermarket for nuclear weapons whose full reach we are still trying to come to grips with. After 9/11, Gen. Musharraf decided to throw his lot in with Washington against the Taliban and al-Qaida. In exchange, Washington gave him billions of dollars that helped him tighten his grip on power.

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