11/08/2007 08:38 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Chickens Come Home to Roost

How's this for ceding the moral high ground?

Ahmed Raza Kasuri, a senior legal advisor to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and a guy who helped write that country's (now suspended) constitution, defends the suspension of rights in his country by saying - that's right - they learned it from us.

In response to a question from Michelle Norris on All Things Considered Wednesday, Kasuri was kind enough to remind Norris that "you have in your country a long history of a democratic tradition of values." (Remember, Pakistan is a democracy, too.)

So what does the longest-running democracy have to teach the rest of the world?

Well, according to the Pakistanis, that it's OK to suspend the constitution and dismiss the pesky Supreme Court in the name of "stability."

"After 9/11," asked Kasuri, "what have you done? You also have introduced evidence you can pick up anybody (for) detentions. ... These are some of the measures you have to adopt to maintain the stability of the country."

Forget the quagmire we've found ourselves in in Iraq. Everybody makes mistakes and, besides, surely everyone believed it was the right thing to do at the time.

No, the real lesson from our spreading democracy to parts of the world that really don't seem to be asking for it (and for other places where it's holding on tenuously) is to be learned right here at home.

It's that civil liberties are a good idea until there's a boogie man out there with some vague idea of undermining your way of life.

To maintain our purity of essence, we've got to forgo little bedrock principles like getting warrants, we've got to hold people without charge, deny them counsel or habeas corpus.

And so we're being lectured about democracy by a nominal dictator whom we've propped up despite the fact that his country is actually harboring the guy responsible for 9/11.

And the sad thing is he's right.

Our account in the bank of moral leadership is dangerously low on funds, and that's a really hard deficit to make up.