The Bhutto media crush

I was talking with a friend this weekend about the Bhutto situation. He knows a little about foreign policy, though it’s neither his vocation nor his avocation, and he asked, roughly, This isn’t going to have any effect on the primaries, right? Probably not. And it ruins our Pakistan policy, but that policy was terrible to begin with? Right. Pakistan isn’t going to fall apart? No. It’s not going to affect the fact that Pakistan and Afghanistan are disasters when it comes to counter-terror? Might make it a little worse, but essentially that’s accurate. So why, he asked, why the wall-to-wall coverage and focus? The answer after the jump . . .

It’s primarily because Bhutto hits the trifecta for media attention paid to a foreigner: Westernized (attended Harvard, no less), attractive (was once named one of People’s 50 most beautiful), and female (self-evident). The media has a habit of focusing on Westernized, charming foreign leaders — and the US has a habit of backing them despite evidence that maybe we shouldn’t — and especially so when the subject is telegenic. Now, I’m not one to complain about media focus on foreign affairs, not *at all*; still, it’s worth noting the particular reasons and inclinations behind this kind of media crush. It’s interesting that now there’s some real coverage of the events in Pakistan, beyond just Bhutto herself, and that’s great — though the actual situation apparently continues to deteriorate.

If US foreign policy for a particular country or topic depends on an *individual* rather than a system or structure or process, odds are it’s a crummy policy. The very idea that our foreign policy for Pakistan could be utterly destroyed by the death of a single person, however tragically and unexpectedly, shows you how bad a policy it was in the first place.

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