Thursday, December 27, 2007

PAKISTAN: THE LESS-SHORT VIEW. The Bhutto assassination has already led to unfortunate side-effects, including riots, U.S. Presidential candidate reactions, and what the Pakistani dictator Musharraf, in a piquant bit of Western political usage, calls "the blame game." Al Qaeda has expectedly taken credit; Bhutto herself left a note fingering Musharraf; reporters work their sources, and pundits their traditional decoder rings, for leads.

The flames in Karachi indicate that many Pakistanis will not have patience for this sort of inside-baseball analysis. I note this recent poll showing the unpopularity of Musharraf's regime, and also the poll's interesting provenance. I suspect similar results might have been obtained without the support of John McCain and neocon apparatchiks, but the International Republican Institute's efforts to publicize the discontent in Pakistan suggest that the current (and just about any possible future) Administration would have been much happier dealing with Bhutto.

What do you suppose they think about Nawaz Sharif, who is currently playing it extremely cagey? He's been linked to Al Qaeda, but even Bhutto played footsie with the Taliban once upon a time. And the New York Times reports that our government is now reaching out to Sharif. ("The very fact that officials are even talking to backers of Mr. Sharif, who they believe has too many ties to Islamists, suggests how hard it will be to find a partner the United States fully trusts.") This certainly wouldn't be the first time the U.S. has suddenly rehabilitated a suspect foreign leader, and it's not as if we don't know how to deal with him.

Armageddon may come tomorrow, in which case you may put me down as a fool. But one of the fortunate aspects of global political corruption -- contra Dr. Paul -- is that it presents opportunities for self-correction, at least until the next, inevitable crisis. It's not the best way of doing things, of course. In fact it's pretty sad. But who among our next generation of leaders will handle it any better?

UPDATE. I should have known ol' Ralph "Blood 'n' Guts" Peters wouldn't let me down! In October he wrote a full-throated paean to the Musharraf dictatorship and denounced the infusion of Bhutto's "charisma" into the race. Today he supplies us with the Good Riddance to Bhutto post we've been waiting for:
Her country's better off without her. She may serve Pakistan better after her death than she did in life.
What good can come from even a dead Bhutto? "Her murder may galvanize Pakistanis against the Islamist extremists who've never gained great support among voters, but who nonetheless threaten the state's ability to govern." That'll be some trick, even with the Pakistan government's hilarious accidental death verdict there to help.

But Peters is not all Blood 'n' Guts today; he spares a tear for the poor, misunderstood dictator Musharraf:
But [Bhutto] always knew how to work Westerners - unlike the hapless Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who sought the best for his tormented country but never knew how to package himself.
Better get the pointy-heads on that one, General! Maybe they can engineer a fun-loving, Idi Amin persona for Musharraf. Laugh and the world laughs with you!

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