This International Herald Tribune article lambasts Musharraf and the Pakistani government, claiming that Pakistani liberals face a "mullah-military alliance" intent on restricting civil liberties and freedom of expression:

Democracy, human rights and meaningful civil liberties are anathema to a hypermilitarized state. Pakistan's voters consistently vote overwhelmingly for moderate, secular-oriented parties and reject religious extremists, so the military must rely on the most retrogressive elements in society to preserve its hold on power.

The article created a major shift in my viewpoint of Musharraf, whom I previously excused as a well-meaning moderate whose hands were tied by reactionary religious elements. The possibility that he might be just another dictator annoyed me. I could excuse his ever-lengthening term of office as patriotic zeal to continue serving his country, but a lack of a commitment to human rights cannot be overlooked.

Combined with the recent uproar surrounding the house arrest of Mukhtar Mai (Mukhtaran Bibi), events in Pakistan put me in mind of Burma, where the ruling military junta has kept Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest since May 2003. According to the BBC, this imprisonment could continue until September, assumed the junta does not decide to continue holding her. In many ways, the events that have taken place in Burma since 1990 show the world's failure to cause political change in repressive regimes. After Aung San Suu Kyi won free elections in a landslide victory, the junta invalidated the results and retained the political power they had sworn that they would give up. At various points, they have detained and imprisoned various members of the opposition that makes up the legitimate Burmese government. When Suu Kyi's husband, an Englishman, was diagnosed with cancer, the junta refused to give him a visa, and let her know that if she left the country, she would not be allowed back.

Since I had not read anything in the news about conditions in Burma since December, I was excited to see an article concerning Aung San Suu Kyi's 60th birthday (this Sunday, June 19) in today's Washington Post, penned by former Czech president Vaclav Havel. While he does not go into much detail about the situation in Burma, he does talk about human rights in general. My sole complaint would be that the nonviolent Havel seems too passive. While he seems positive that change will come to Burma and other totalitarian countries, I think human rights are too important to be left to gradual reform. Oppression should stop now!

"If only men and women like Havel and Aung San Suu Kyi were in power," I thought to myself. "Human rights would be respected, rather than just being a buzzword thrown about when convenient." Of course, even if these two and others like them were in power, the anachronistic doctrine of national sovereignty would prevent them from ensuring that fundamental human rights were respected worldwide. While Havel is correct when he states, "Abuses of human rights and freedoms have never been and will never be solely internal affairs of any country," too many world governments are willing to ignore human rights violations in order to advance their own interests. While this pattern of behavior might make sense in a realist international relations scenario where countries are represented as monolithical actors, it is not rational in the real world. As citizens, we should be concerned about who will pressure our government if it ever decides to infringe on our liberties. As members of a free country, we should realize that it is easier for our government to deal with other countries who share the same basic set of beliefs as us - including upholding basic human rights.

It is important to note that I am including a range of options under the umbrella of the term "intervention," from diplomatic censure to economic sanctions to regime change. Regardless, any action against the violation of human rights is better than the complicity that comes with silence. Instead of drowsily going about our lives, we should wake up to the reality of life under oppressive governments and take measures to change them.

Unfortunately, the current administration has shown itself to be particularly ill-suited for the mission of convincing other countries of the importance of human rights. Considering the isolationist campaign that Bush ran in 2000, it should not have come as a surprise that the vast amount of international goodwill that belonged to the United States after September 11 were frittered away in the months before the war with Iraq. A more internationalist president would have ensured that the collection of like-minded countries that made up the "Free World," whose strategic relationships had been decreasing in importance since the end of the Cold War, retained their friendship and willingness to respond to external threats. Despite its rhetoric, it is clear that the President does not care about human rights other than when it allows him to lambast the nation's enemies and provide secondary justifications for military invasions, as occurred in both Afghanistan and Iraq.