Monday, December 31, 2007

Bhutto Falls; who and what shall rise?

Funny, yet sad how back-to-back posts consider Pakistan. The shocking yet grimly expected murder of Benazir Bhutto cut down a larger-than-life figure. Ours may be known as the Age of Assassination - Putin putting Politskaya and Litvinenko on ice, the bombings of Rafik Hariri, Pierre Gemayel, and countless others by the Syrian mafia, and of course, now the death of Benazir. We now have mafias in charge of Russia, Syria, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia (perhaps we should throw China, Cuba, and Egypt on this list). al Qaeda is but another mafia in this rogues' gallery, funded by Saudis, increasingly manned by Pakistan, and with various links to Syria and Iran. That is the central foreign policy challenge of our time.

But let me return to Bhutto. She was flawed - her personal corruption was legendary. But her personal gifts of beauty and eloquence and knowledge of the West made her one of the precious few bridges between the West and Islam. Who killed her and why? I do not doubt the Pakistani government's assertion that al Qaeda was responsible and I do not doubt Bhutto's email from beyond the grave holding Musharraf and the government responsible. To me, there is no daylight between al Qaeda and Musharraf, and for that matter, much of his government/military/ISI. Musharraf and several of his henchmen noted by Benazir as likely suspects (Chaudhry Elahi, Ijaz Shah, and former ISI chief Hamid Gul) should receive the utmost scrutiny. As for al Qaeda, they probably provided the suicide bomber.

What to do?

There are no good solutions. The Bush administration bears responsibility for giving $10 billion to Musharraf and for sending Benazir as a weak pawn, but America is not responsible for the assassination. Our interests go beyond the security of the nuclear weapons and the sanctuary accorded to al Qaeda. We are talking about 165 million people. We must recognize we are now not only dealing with the fallout of Word War I in Iraq but now the fallout of World War II in Pakistan (the retreating British Empire leaving behind a legacy of a hateful state bound for failure in the form of Pakistan). The Pakistani provinces of Sindh and Punjab are potentially salvageable in reorienting towards joining the modern world. There NWFP, FATA, Waziristan, and possibly much of interior Baluchistan need to be separated from the rest of Pakistan - whether that occurs from a civil war or from an external invasion, that is what will happen one day. Pakistan is inherently a centrifugal state, and perhaps the one person who could have held things together for a time lies 6 feet under.


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