Monday, September 03, 2007

Bhutto, Bluto or Brutus?

Pakistan is the focus of a SAAG (South Asia Analysis Group) look at possible successors to Musharraf in Pakistan. It warns that Benazir Bhutto may not be the savior of Pakistan she is touted to be for several reasons:

  • Bhutto's domestic political power base is no longer as strong as it used to be. Having long been in exile she is counting largely on US support to regain power.
  • Bhutto is an double-crosser who was involved in many of the ISI's dubious schemes and AQ Khan's doubtful nuclear activities;

But the fundamental problem, according to the SAAG analysis, is any US-backed strongman will be unpopular in Pakistan because, outside of the Northwest frontier provinces, the primary grievance is against these strongmen themselves. "Today, the Neo Benazir, who denounced Nawaz and his PML in 1988 as the stooges of the Army and the ISI, is seeking the benediction of the US even before winning the elections and the support of Musharraf and his Army for her return to power and the closing of the corruption cases against her and her husband."

Nobody can find fault with the over-all US objective, but it has been going about it in the wrong way. It should have allowed genuine democracy to take its own course, even at the risk of political forces not well disposed towards the US coming to power. Instead, by giving the impression of taking sides even before the elections and by making its ill-advised preferences known before the elections, it has given rise to the strong possibility of more instability, not less, more terrorism, not less.Even if Benazir comes to power in an election rigged by the Army,she will be seen as Pakistan's Hamid Karzai, who came to power not by the will of the people, but by riding on the shoulders of the US.

Speaking of the Northwest frontier provinces, Bill Roggio's site has this report:

The Taliban insurgency in the Northwest Frontier Province intensifies as a large force of Taliban fighters captured a company of Pakistani soldiers in South Waziristan. The Taliban captured “over 100 security forces personnel after intercepting a military convoy in the Mehsud-dominated tribal area,” Dawn reported. The Taliban have claimed over 300 Pakistani soldiers were captured by a large Taliban force near Luddah, which is about 25 miles north of Wana, but the highest estimate given by Pakistani sources is 130. “The Taliban had also impounded 17 trucks which were carrying troops,” Pakistani sources told Dawn. “Nine of the hostages were reported to be officers including a colonel.”

The US approach to the instability in Pakistan provides an interesting contrast to Iraq's. While the US policy in Iraq has evolved to become a "bottom up" approach -- the much reviled "bringing democracy to the Middle East" -- that in Pakistan has strictly been from the top down. The traditional tools of diplomacy: foreign aid, political support, training etc have been used -- and are being used -- to manage the crisis in Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto is one possible path along that network.

There is now pressure to achieve a "regime change" in Pakistan by easing Musharraf out but managing the outcomes so that there is some predictability about the nature of the successor regime. However, this shakeup will not reach all the way to the bottom and the danger -- as the SAAG article correctly points out, despite whatever biases it may contain -- is that the "regime change" will simply substitute one strongman for another. The worst outcome would be a replay of the Fall of the Shah, this time involving a country with an ready nuclear arsenal. Let's see what happens.


Blogger Oengus said...

Wretchard: "The worst outcome would be a replay of the Fall of the Shah, this time involving a country with an ready nuclear arsenal. Let's see what happens."

Maybe I'm just superstitious, but I've got this gnawing feeling in my gut that our foreign policy establisment will once again manage to completely screw things up.

9/03/2007 02:22:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

I'd really like to see a little bit of proof that Pakistan's vaunted nuclear technology still exists, still works. If their Dr. Khan sold it to North Korea and Iran, then those two countries don't appear to have gotten their money's worth.

When was the last time Pakistan fired a test shot, do they have the missiles to actually shoot a bomb somewhere, would it go off once it managed to get where it was supposed to go.

Shooting an arrow a couple of hundred miles to hit India is not the same thing as having nuclear capability. Especially if we've given India anti-missile technology in the interim.

9/03/2007 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger LarryD said...

The big reason we can try a bottom up strategy in Iraq is because we have a massive military presence, engaged in operations.

Absent that in Pakistan, only the tools of the diplomats are available to us. And they, like the diplomats themselves, favor the government to government, top down approach.

9/04/2007 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

You may wish to read an editorial put out by the Frontier Post.

9/05/2007 02:08:00 PM  
Blogger TinfoilHatter said...

We need to keep the Paki military in the game at every possible cost. Right now, the FATA represent the scherpunkt against AQ.

We stay in AF at the sufference of the Pakis. If they go wobbily, then we are out of AF and AQ wins, period. This is high stakes stuff.

9/05/2007 06:53:00 PM  

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