Tina K. Russell

March 15, 2008

There’s a New Sharif in Town

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 5:23 pm

Leaving Musharraf Behind – New York Times

It’s nice to be able to breathe a sigh of relief and know that Pakistan is getting back to “normal” again. But, there’s a big problem, here; though it’s nice to see Pakistan returning to quaint notions like the Constitution and rule of law after years of a leader who considered them mere inconveniences and obstacles to power, we’re settling into a situation where we’re now talking to a government that is pretty skeptical of the United States, and a populace that is similarly so. Though Benazir Bhutto boldly wrote of “reconciliation” (the name of her last book, finished days before she died) between the world of Pakistan and the world of the West, too much of Pakistan associates us deeply with the (soon-to-be-) departing President. This is pretty much squarely our fault, since we failed to hedge our bets and develop good relations with each of Pakistan’s factions, and instead considered Musharraf–a weak leader barely holding on to public support before blowing it entirely–to be the go-to guy for all things Pakistan. Now, though, we have to deal with the hand Bush dealt.

The sad thing is that when you’re carrying out sensitive anti-terrorist operations, gaining the people’s support is paramount. The US can do the most finely-honed terrorist strikes and still have casualties, which becomes a PR nightmare for NATO and a potential recruiting factor for militants… not even counting the fear and panic such strikes (from Western forces and Middle Eastern terrorists alike) cause, moving the country closer to the brink of chaos.

What I mean to say is, though such relations are a “PR” task, they’re extremely important, and Pakistan seeing us as Musharraf’s Best Buddy has put us at a serious disadvantage in this area. Let’s hope the next President of the United States, whomever he or she is, sees nuance in the issue of Pakistan, the thread by which the fate of the world currently hangs. (You do know they have nuclear weapons there, don’t you?)

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