January 29, 2004

Indispensable Leaders Give Me the Creeps

Jay Nordlinger's Davos Journals finish up today and he spends a good bit of time talking about Musharref, naming him an indispensable leader. The idea of indispensability always worries me. In a nuclear armed nation, it positively creeps me out. It wouldn't take more than a few seconds for an average politically engaged US citizen to think of 5 americans who could run the country without being a disaster. This sort of bench strength makes assassination a somewhat stupid tactic and largely the province of the insane. There is no rational reason to kill a president if you haven't created any measurable instability if you succeed.

This basic fungibility of leadership is highly protective both of world stability and of the personal safety of political leadership. Bush gets assassinated and replaced by Cheney. And what, pray tell, will change for Al Queda? There wouldn't be very many good results at all so why bother?

In a nation that has an indispensable ruler, much less a worldwide block with such a leader, the lack of bench depth increases the utility of assassination. Musharraf goes and it's a mystery who would follow him. It's not like India who have leaders springing from recognized political blocs who will likely carry on similar policies after a leadership change. Pakistan, and Russia too for that matter, lacks a well known bench and a stable institutional base that would continue present policy. It is only when the major parties accept a basic consensus of what national interest and national policy should be that the world can breathe a bit easier.

I would love to hear of a survey of Pakistan's elite to see what is the leadership bench in Pakistan. One of Musharraf's tasks in preparing for a return to democracy would be encouraging the development of a very good, very deep bench that is willing to coalesce around a predictable core foreign policy of consensus national interest. It would be a tremendous step forward for Pakistan that would both enhance the country's international standing and its internal stability.

Posted by TMLutas at January 29, 2004 05:16 PM