Initial policy implications of Bhutto assassination

The first thing to say about Bhutto’s assassination is that any kind of rush to judgment, especially along the lines of impending doom, is probably imprudent.

In terms of policy implications, this is reflective of a massive US foreign policy blunder, in that the Bush administration, in a monumentally stupid move, shoved Bhutto down the throat of Musharraf (and the rest of Pakistan) as a savior, despite her lack of broad popular support and general reputation as corrupt. In making someone who didn’t necessarily have the ability to deliver the savior for democracy in Pakistan, we simultaneously set up our own policy to fail and offered Musharraf a return to (or continued) total power in the event that our little power-sharing arrangement didn’t work. We also — though not only us — painted a big fat target on her back. Really a debacle all the way around.

I’m not sure how much today’s tragedy can be pinned on Musharraf, or even “the military” in general, other than to the extent that some military figures are working with al Qaeda and/or other extremist elements in Pakistan. There have been attacks on several of the major candidates running for office in Pakistan over the past few months, and it was really only a matter of time before one succeeded. It does appear evident that Musharraf has not helped create the proper security environment, though, obviously.

On the other hand, I’m not entirely convinced this will have as large of an impact as many might initially think. I’m curious to see how it plays out, but rarely does one lose money betting on a quick show of power followed by domestic clampdown followed by renewed centralized authority in a military dictatorship in crisis.

Just initial impressions, though; I’ll have more as this develops. Tragic, disastrous, sad . . .

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