Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Bhutto Assassination and Pakistan as an Ally

As one whose family has been intimately involved with international politics involving the US, the UN, Lebanon, and France (1 ambassador, 2 Parliamentary members, 1 national level minister and cabinet member, 1 Chief Justice, 2 assassinations, 1 attempted assassination, etc…), and as a 10 year US Army Special Forces combat veteran, I have maintained more than a keen interest in international relations and foreign policy.

Though I agree with Senator Bob Corker, Congressman Jim Cooper, and Mr. Kevin Doherty on many points, I must respectfully and strongly disagree with several of their statements and positions.

President Musharraf is dangerous and ultimately untrustworthy. Make no mistake, he is a dictator, is hostile to US interests, and has little support within his own country. Regardless of what we are told by our government, he is at most an ally of convenience and necessity in the most dangerous country in the world as far as US foreign policy is concerned.

As our State Department knows well, he is at high risk of being assassinated in the near future. Pakistan will then be run by Islamic extremists who are sympathetic to Al Queda and Taliban proponents who will have control over Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. We are one man away from a very serious problem unlike any we have ever seen. Should he be assassinated, we will be forced to ally with Iran in order to try to keep Pakistan in check as we try to prevent a hostile nuclear Pakistan from falling into terrorist hands. Russia is ahead of us here, and is likewise very concerned.

Just 3 weeks ago I spoke with Gail Sheehy who was the last journalist granted an interview with Benazir Bhutto just before she was assassinated (published in this month’s Parade magazine). Bhutto told her “I am what the terrorists most fear”. She was a force for democratic reform; however, though better than Musharraf, even she was tainted with corruption, impropriety, and less than ideal US values.

Contrary to Mr. Cooper’s opinion, we do have many Arabists - and very good ones. The problem is that this administration does not truly listen to them. Focus groups meet, people take notes, experts are consulted; but ultimately, their advice goes unheeded as we instead arrogantly proceed with our Americanized worldview devoid of other cultural paradigms and perspectives. We seem to want to colonize instead of convince by winning hearts and minds.

I agree we do need a fresh new approach that includes Palestinian autonomy (the real reason behind the Iraq war and much of the worldwide tension we now see). However, complete military disengagement “from the entire region” is a very foolish choice. It goes without saying, we do not need a “one country solution”, but need a deliberate, intentional, well thought out approach to how we interact on a global scale. Military intervention is a tool, and a powerful one – when used appropriately. We have recklessly abused it and are paying the price.

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