Bhutto's assassination and our 'War on Terror'
0 comment Sunday, November 16, 2014 |
Of the commentary I've read on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, this piece by Andrew McCarthy at NRO makes the most sense -- although I disagree with his ultimate conclusion.
Benazir Bhutto Killed by the Real Pakistan
A recent CNN poll showed that 46 percent of Pakistanis approve of Osama bin Laden. Aspirants to the American presidency should hope to score so highly in the United States. In Pakistan, though, the al-Qaeda emir easily beat out that country�s current president, Pervez Musharraf, who polled at 38 percent. President George Bush, the face of a campaign to bring democracy � or, at least, some form of sharia-lite that might pass for democracy � to the Islamic world, registered nine percent. Nine!
If you want to know what to make of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto�s murder today in Pakistan, ponder that.
There is the Pakistan of our fantasy. The burgeoning democracy in whose vanguard are judges and lawyers and human rights activists using the "rule of law" as a cudgel to bring down a military junta.
In the fantasy, Bhutto, an attractive, American-educated socialist whose prominent family made common cause with Soviets and whose tenures were rife with corruption, was somehow the second coming of James Madison.
Then there is the real Pakistan: an enemy of the United States and the West.''
I agree about the 'real Pakistan' -- but I would go further: I would say 'the real Islam.'
Listening to the various presidental candidates' pronouncements on this event gives me the impression that most of them hope to use this to their political advantage; McCain beating his chest and emphasizing his 'experience' in dealing with military matters, and Giuliani grabbing another pretext for reminding us of his superior leadership after 9/11. Thompson seems to be taking a similar tone, as also Hillary Clinton. It seems that overall, the assassination will be used to try to justify even more military (and political) intervention in the Middle East and to 'destroy Al Qaeda' at whatever cost to us in human life or money.
Only Ron Paul said what seems evident to me: our interventionist policies are at least in part a factor in this assassination and the whole chaotic picture there.
In an interview from a few months ago, Benazir Bhutto herself lent some credence to that view:
Fortunately for her, the West�s urgent fear of Pakistan as a breeding ground for terrorists has given Bhutto the chance to redefine herself. During most of her exile, she was considered irrelevant by Washington. Then she hired Hillary Clinton�s image-maker, Mark Penn, and began playing up to Musharraf.
When Musharraf�s popularity dove in 2007 after his jailing of judges, lawyers and journalists, Bhutto suddenly emerged as America�s "ideal." U.S. politicians needed her�progressive, secular, female, willing to compromise�to put a face of democracy on their support for Musharraf�s autocratic rule.
True to form, Bhutto manipulated Musharraf to erase the charges against her, promising not to return to Pakistan until after national elections. She then broke that promise. But once she sensed that even her stalwarts were appalled at an arranged political marriage to a dictator, she spurned Musharraf and became her own woman again.
I sense a dark reflection in both Bhutto�s psychological history and her country�s constant turmoil�a compulsion to repeat past traumas. A prime example is the way she returned to her country on Oct. 18.
Ignoring warnings of terrorist cells plotting to kill her, Bhutto presided from atop a caravan over a parade that took 10 hours to snake through Karachi. Near midnight, the streetlights went out. The police disappeared. Her feet swollen from standing, Bhutto ducked below into a steel command center to remove her sandals. Moments later, a bomb went off. "I had a sickening, sickening feeling," she tells me. She now believes the bomb was wired to an infant that a man had been trying to hand to her. She recalls saying to the people with her, "Don�t go outside�another blast will follow." It did.
Despite the corrosion of her reputation by corruption and compromise, Bhutto appears to be America�s strongest anchor in the effort to turn back the extremist Islamic tide threatening to engulf Pakistan. What would you like to tell President Bush? I ask this riddle of a woman.
She would tell him, she replies, that propping up Musharraf�s government, which is infested with radical Islamists, is only hastening disaster. "I would say, 'Your policy of supporting dictatorship is breaking up my country.� I now think al-Qaeda can be marching on Islamabad in two to four years."
It seems to me that our policy of meddling in the affairs of Islamic countries in particular comes at too high a cost and with too small a return. How has our experiment in 'democracy' worked so far? We have no great success stories to point to. A while back we were told that the 'elections' in Iraq were a great triumph, yet we can see now that those elections were not the turning point we were assured they would be. And how many lives and how many dollars have we spent since then?
Bhutto's assassination appears to be another instance of our meddling, in the name of 'democracy' and in fighting 'Islamofascism', resulting in unforeseen complications. Some are predicting civil war in Pakistan now, and even if that civil war does not materialize, Pakistan will still be a chaotic, terror-plagued country, and an unreliable 'ally' at best.
We will see whether this event leads to more military involvement on our part, and whether the hawkish candidates make political hay of this story. I am afraid that may be the case, but it may be just as likely that the substantial portion of the American people who are fed up with our 'war on terror' will balk at the idea of an escalation of that conflict, and a deployment of more troops to the Middle East. It could go either way.
Of course, reading the commentary over at the big GOP forums, it's easy to get the impression that this event whets the appetite for more military involvement. Many of the commenters agree very much with Andrew McCarthy's concluding comments:
But we should at least stop fooling ourselves. Jihadists are not going to be wished away, rule-of-lawed into submission, or democratized out of existence.
If you really want democracy and the rule of law in places like Pakistan, you need to kill the jihadists first. Or they�ll kill you, just like, today, they killed Benazir Bhutto.''
No, I can't agree with McCarthy there, though his piece made sense until that last paragraph or so.
Leaving aside the fact that we are not waging all-out war against jihadists or anybody else, but fighting a politically correct war against a 'few extremists' who are causing all the trouble, there is still the inescapable fact that, even if we were committed to all-out war against Islamic enemies, Moslems number between 1 billion and a billion and a half worldwide. Rather a staggering number, even if we believe that nonsense about only a 'tiny minority' being pro- jihad. How many troops can we marshal against such a numerous enemy, and in so many places? It's foolishness to think we can militarily defeat or wipe out 'jihadists' singlehandedly, or even with the pitifully few allies we have in our current 'war on terror.'
Since we can't destroy them, and since hoping to convert them either to another religion or to a milder, less violent form of Islam (which does not exist, by the way) the best we can do is to minimize involvement in their affairs. They have plenty of Islamic countries in which to practice their way of life; there is no need for them to be given entree to our countries in the West, because in doing so we entangle ourselves in their affairs and we give them political power in our countries. We have to let them run their countries as they see fit; what else can we do? We are not omnipotent, nor should we try to manipulate the whole world to our advantage. Doing so only increases the resentment and animosity that many Moslems and others already feel towards us.
That is far from saying that 'we cause Islamic terrorism', a position which many people try to attribute to Ron Paul, but it is apparent that the more involvement we have with Islam, the more we welcome Moslems into our country and the more we meddle in their countries, the greater the possibility of conflict and terrorism in our countries.
And there is simply the undeniable fact that we cannot work our will around the world; we cannot, physically, impose our way of life, and more importantly our way of thinking on alien peoples. They are not like us; the foolish utopian universalists on the right who imagine that everybody is interchangeable and that 'everybody wants democracy' are living in a delusional world. And even when given 'democracy', many in the Islamic world use it to install some very tyrannical regimes. Democracy in the sense of the vote or representative rule is only a method, it is not a guarantee that a free society will result.
We need to give up our messianism or our paternalism, and leave the people in the rest of the world to do what they like as long as they don't threaten us. But as long as we invade, intervene in, and invite, the world, we will have to deal with unfortunate consequences.

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