A False Choice Between Human Rights and Security

Even after the shocking events of recent weeks, the U.S. has brought only tepid pressure to bear on Mr. Musharraf. That Washington should think it prudent to remain allied with a man who is opposed by around 80 per cent of Pakistanis, and should justify this on the basis of fears about anti-Americanism, says all that needs to be said about the back-to-front U.S. thinking in the region.

Similar missteps and inconsistencies have occurred throughout the Middle East. In the process, they have rendered Mr. Bush’s professed belief in a new democratic dawn absurd to many people.

The U.S. correctly resisted calls to push for the postponement of Palestinian elections in early 2006, only to then expend enormous energy trying to ignore the result and isolate the winner, Hamas.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice cancelled a trip to Egypt in early 2005 in protest at the jailing of dissident Ayman Nour. Mr. Nour was later released but, toward the end of that year, jailed yet again. Ms. Rice then went back to Cairo in January 2006, did not bother uttering Mr. Nour’s name and went out of her way to praise Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

The leading ally of our freedom-loving president in the Muslim world is Saudi Arabia, which is ruled by a kleptocracy. Its judiciary distinguished itself last week by sentencing a rape victim to 200 lashes. (The woman’s ‘crime’ was being in the same car as an unrelated man. She was 19 at the time.)

Is it really a surprise, given its willingness to reach accommodations with such malevolence, that skepticism about America’s avowed values, beliefs and goals is so widespread?

The sad paradox here is simple: a large swathe of the foreign policy establishment constantly encourages the U.S. to sell out its own professed principles for the sake of stability. But the idea is self-defeating because its inherent hypocrisy only serves to encourage enmity against America, and thus breed instability.

An idealistic foreign policy is not an elixir for all ills. But its benefits are infinitely greater, and its downsides less severe, than the corrupting short-term pragmatism for which this nation has too often settled.