Back to previous post: Heavy weather?

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Nor are we out of it

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

January 6, 2008

Bhutto
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 09:28 PM * 66 comments

Musharraf: Bhutto to blame for her assassination

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (CNN) — Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination was her own fault, the country’s president, Pervez Musharraf, said in an interview that aired Sunday on U.S. television.

“For standing up outside the car, I think it was she to blame alone — nobody else. Responsibility is hers,” the former general told CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

Silly me! And here I thought that at the very least the guy who pulled the trigger had something to do with it….
Technorati icon
Comments on Bhutto:
#2 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:51 PM:

Jim, you keep trying to tell people about the hazards of not wearing seat belts. If she'd been properly belted in, none of this would have happened.

#3 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:58 PM:

My, my, this is a new form of the 'she was asking for it' nonsense generally used to justify rape.

Somehow, I don't think Musharraf believed one word he was saying.

#4 ::: Pfusand ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 09:59 PM:

It's [always] the woman's own fault!

Blame the victim!

Yeesh. And he could get so much more mileage out of crocodile tears and lengthy, distraught rants.

#5 ::: Elizabeth Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 10:08 PM:

>>Silly me! And here I thought that at the very least the guy who pulled the trigger had something to do with it….

Or the guy who activated the bomb. They're making a fuss over whether the bomb killed her or they bullets. Can anyone explain why they care?

#6 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 10:26 PM:

I realize the Pakistani government is spinning desperately to avoid her going into history as a martyr. (Hence, that ridiculous story about her dying because her head hit the sun roof.) However, I hope that blaming the victim doesn't do the trick for him.

If he didn't want her to be martyred, giving her the protection she had asked for would have gone a long way towards avoiding martyrdom.

#7 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 10:29 PM:

My, my, this is a new form of the 'she was asking for it' nonsense generally used to justify rape.

Somehow, I don't think Musharraf believed one word he was saying.

Oh, I differ with you on that - I think Musharraf is in full knowing political support of the proposition that women who are raped asked for it.

Leaving aside our own role in keeping him in power even after he sold nuclear technology to everyone in the Axis of Evil except Iraq, it doesn't do to forget what a spectacular stinking pig Musharraf is.

#8 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 10:36 PM:

That guy is such a shithead. I hope someone puts a bullet in his head. Which, of course, will be his own fault.

#9 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 10:56 PM:

I will reiterate. I think Musharraf's fingerprints are all over this. He's another dictator pig whom the Shrub's cohorts adore.

It sucks. It won't get better because we've spent too much dough to back out unless the situation in Pakistan deteriorates into total Taliban or al'Quaida.

Then who knows. I'm (unnaturally) being a pessimist but the whole situation in that part of the world lends itself to pessimism.

#10 ::: Sean Mater ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 11:06 PM:

Of course she is to "blame" - in the sense that she made assuring her security impossible. Musharaff's remarks must be seen in context. He didn't say she was to blame for being killed - he clearly meant that she was to blame for the failure to protect her. She left the comfort of her armored vehicle in a way that would never have been allowed by a western security agency, or by the Indians by the way, the Paks' closest neighbor.

L, t ll th whnng fmnsts hr syng sh ws klld cs sh ws wmn nd wmn r lwys blmd. Hr sx s rrlvnt ppl! Ths s pltcl/mltry ffr. Thy'd hv trd t gt hr jst th sm f sh hd bn mn.

#11 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 11:13 PM:

"whining feminists," "Her sex is irrelevant people!" Two spots filled on my bingo card.

#12 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 11:23 PM:

Xopher: I think the "first comment" might be one we can add to the card.

#13 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 11:35 PM:

I must admit that I wonder why the gunman waited until she'd exposed herself from the armoured vehicle. Was there any reason to expect her to do that?

#14 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 11:43 PM:

For a whole week, I've been blaming the damn sun-roof. Now I'm really confused.

#15 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2008, 11:55 PM:

Benazir Bhutto has already entered Heaven wearing the red martyr's crown. And if you believe that, I have here the title deeds to Karachi, and I can let them go cheap.

She was murdered. Lots of people had motive. Her father was judicially murdered, and there's no doubt who done that. Her husband (Mr Ten Percent) is a crook, but probably no worse a crook than any of the other crooks. Their party, like all the other "democratic" parties in Pakistan, is at best a manifestation of a landowning feudalist oligarchy. It is riotously corrupt, but there are worse things.

Musharref is a slimeball, but it comes with the job. He's a pretty standard military dictator, no worse than the other possibilities, maybe better than some. There are worse outcomes than military dictatorship, too.

The wild card is the jihadis, who are (without sharing their policies) somewhat in the position of the Nazis in the 1933 Reichstag or the Bolsheviks in Kerensky's republic. That is, in a minority, but utterly contemptuous of the institutions they observe, and only waiting their chance to destroy them. That chance may come, if chaos ensues or continues. They can at least guarantee public order. Boy, can they guarantee public order.

There's not much anyone can do about true liberal democracy in Pakistan, especially anyone outside the country. I know it's a cliche, but politics is the art of the possible. Really the only object of Western policy is to prevent the Taliban or equivalent from taking over. Doing nothing only (a) resigns any control over the situation whatsoever and (b) ensures that the eventual winner resents not being supported.

So it comes down to this: pick a winner out of what's available, support that one, and hedge your bets by vigilance, being polite to the others, and shifting as necessary. This, of course, will bring accusations of "supporting dictatorship", no matter which alternative is chosen. Yes. So it will.

I am open to suggestions as to what other courses are available.

#16 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 12:03 AM:

Sean Mater, I suppose you must have been hanging out in forums where remarks like that pass muster.

Here, we just think you're stupid.

#17 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 12:11 AM:

I, personally, don't think that anyone other than Musharraf himself gave the order that she be killed.

#18 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 12:24 AM:

So you're suggesting that Musharraf held the remote control for the sunroof?

#19 ::: Sylvia Li ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 01:06 AM:

Hm. Now, why do the stories out of Pakistan these days keep making me think of Murder in the Cathedral?

#20 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 01:39 AM:

Dave Luckett @ 15

Unfortunately, it may not matter a lot to the common people of Pakistan in a near-term measured in a year or two just who gets to run the country*. No matter who takes the reins, there will be at least one, possibly more, factions sufficiently opposed to him or her* that there will be violence, possibly sufficient to destablilize public order in large parts of the country. That's the real cost of the "War on Terror", that it's really a war on ordinary people by both the Islamist militants and the US and friends.

* "her" isn't likely
* I think the jihadis probably can't take over the country in less time than that, because they have to do it a piece at a time rather than from the top down.

#21 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:13 AM:

Did anyone else see Parade Magazine in the Sunday paper this morning?
NPR did
. I have to wonder: was this unavoidable process lag time, or just sheer incompetence?

#22 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 03:34 AM:

Bruce, there was a piece on "To the Best of our Knowledge" today that explained the process lag time involved. Let's face it, Parade is just a tabloid rag. The only reason The Weekly World News or The Enquirer don't get caught up is that their articles are almost never of people or events who have an immediate nature.

#23 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 09:25 AM:

Silly opposition politician, standing right in the trajectory of a hail of bullets. Clearly her fault.

This is dismayingly like all those jokes about some person dying of "natural causes," along the lines of "hey, it's only natural that if you rat on Jimmy the Weasel, you end up in cement overshoes."

#24 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 09:30 AM:

I think Parade is printed two weeks in advance; they've been caught by breaking news before.

Benazir Bhutto was famously nonchalant about her own personal safety, if you can believe some of the obituaries/tributes from people who knew her. That hardly makes her death "her fault," but I wish she'd kept herself inside that car.

#25 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:25 AM:

At the evident risk of disemvowelment: a man who was in Benazir Bhutto's position (Nawaz Sharif, leader of the other major "democratic" political party) did in fact come under fire scant hours before Bhutto's assassination, in what may well have been a coordinated attack. If so, the targeting would obviously not have much at all to do with the gender of the targets.

As for Musharraf himself... I carry no brief for the man. Before Dubya's crew blackmailed him into being our #1 ally in the War on Terra (or playing that role on the world stage), he was mainly known for two things: a military coup, and before that, for leading an invasion of Kashmir in support of Muslim separatist radicals (google for "Kargil"). But he's right at least this far: from the last photos, it's clear that whoever pulled the trigger, it was Bhutto herself, and no one else, who gave them an open shot.

#26 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:44 AM:

julia #7: I'd forgotten about that.

Something pretty nasty is spreading across south Asia, and the Bush administration is making sure that it sticks to the US.

#27 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:45 AM:

Now, where in the world might be safer than Musharraf's Pakistan?

#28 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:49 AM:

Dunno what happened. This should have been the link:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/.stm

#29 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:53 AM:

I think you have to see Musharraf's remark in context: the opposition has been saying the security services didn't do enough to protect her, and the security people are saying she exposed herself recklessly, after she'd been put in the armoured car.

I don't understand the earlier insistence that she hit her head on the sunroof. Why would they want to deny that she was shot? Anyway, surely her body was examined afterwards and if she was shot, it must have been fairly obvious.

I wouldn't automatically blame Musharraf for the assassination. After all, hadn't Bhutto done a deal to share power with with him? There are plenty of people in Pakistan, not necessarily affiliated with Musharraf, who think democracy is un-Islamic, and a female politician totally abhorrent. Suicide bombers in Pakistan are people who have been persuaded that they will be martyrs, so it looks like a religious motive, whereas a political assassination would have been a gun without a bomb, or a bomb with a mbile phone trigger (tried on Musharraf more than once).

#30 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 10:59 AM:

Charles Dodgson, why in the world would I disemvowel you?

#31 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:31 AM:

Sticking her head out of the sunroof or no, the bomb might have been enough to kill her, and the fact that an assassin got that close was either an abandonment of her security by the state, or an indication that no matter what, there was no good way to protect her. Either way, assuming he's not part of the assassination, Musharraf is working deflecting attention and criticism. What gets my notice is how badly he's doing it.

I'm guessing that Pakistan really is that incompetently run, if run is the right word. Musharraf comes off like Bush without the competent advisor's and spin team.

#32 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:41 AM:

Boy, talk about blaming your victim. Uh, I mean...

Charles Dodgson @ 25: In fact Musharraf's so-called support for our war of terror is a colossal sham, and I find it hard to believe that even the incompetents in W and Condaleeza's regime have been hoodwinked by it. A more-than-perfunctory analysis has shown that Musharraf is spending the billions we give him for anti-terror operations on aircraft and big weapons for use against India, while the troops actually fighting Islamic radicals in the provinces remain underfunded, undertrained and massively outgunned. I also recall the story of one of the Gitmo detainees who was released after a few years; he was a Pakistani political cartoonist who apparently offended someone enough that he was "anonymously" denounced for having ties to Al-Qaeda and whisked off to the Caribbean for an extended visit. Which begs the question of whether Musharraf's supposed assistance in locating terrorists is also a sham, a convenient way to dispose of political opponents.

#33 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 12:41 PM:

John @29:
Apparently -- from what I've been reading -- the reason for the official Pakistani government denial of "shooting" as a cause of death is to avoid the blame. If Bhutto died because she hit her head, then it had nothing to do with the lack of governmental protection, which was supposedly in place around her. If OTOH she was shot or died as a result of the bomb, then the full blame for her death falls upon the government.

It has apparently gone to the point of the doctors being suppressed -- they were not allowed to describe her wound(s) as related to gunshots at all.

Finally, it was well-known that Musharraf loathed and despised Bhutto; it was only after many meetings of go-betweens that he would even begin to entertain the thought of allowing her back into the country. He got into a tough situation and was losing political power, so Bhutto would have been a tool towards regaining it, in Musharraf's POV.

#34 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 01:54 PM:

"Charles" 25: I don't see anyone in this thread saying she was targeted because she was a woman; I see them saying she was blamed for her own victimization because she was a woman. AFAIK, Musharraf hasn't said Nawaz Sharif was to blame for the attack on him.

My theory is that the assassin was a government operative, and that he was given a motorcycle which he didn't know had a bomb hidden in it. After the shots were fired, other government operatives detonated the bomb, ridding themselves of a potential leak.

#35 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 01:57 PM:

OTOH, there's this

Benazir Bhutto was so fearful for her life that she tried to hire British and American security firms, including Blackwater, to protect her, but Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf refused to allow the foreign contractors to operate in Pakistan, her aides said.

"She asked to bring in trained security personnel from abroad," said Mark Siegel, her U.S. representative. "In fact, she and her husband repeatedly tried to get visas for such protection, but they were denied by the government of Pakistan."

#36 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:08 PM:

Joel #13: I must admit that I wonder why the gunman waited until she'd exposed herself from the armoured vehicle.

It could have been serendipitous -- the assassin saw an unplanned-for opportunity, and took it. Stranger things have happened.

It's possible that there was an original plan involving using bombs to stop the car, then breaking in to get her.

#37 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:14 PM:

Charles, Sean Mater lost his vowels for using an inappropriate and cliched epithet, and for being rude in his first post on Making Light.

#38 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:15 PM:

Xopher #34: I don't see anyone in this thread saying she was targeted because she was a woman; I see them saying she was blamed for her own victimization because she was a woman.

I've been reading people as saying she's being blamed in a manner reminiscent of the way that women are blamed for their own victimization.

It's pretty clear to me that Musharraf is trying to keep a bhutto-as-martyr movement from growing. I don't know if any similar movement is forming around Nawaz Sharif's death.

#39 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:18 PM:

Avram @38:
don't know if any similar movement is forming around Nawaz Sharif's death.

Sharif didn't die. Several of his supporters did, but he was not actually in the area when that attack took place.

#40 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:23 PM:

Joel #13: I must admit that I wonder why the gunman waited until she'd exposed herself from the armoured vehicle.

He had to wait till she exposed herself --otherwise, the shots would not have hit her. To say "how strangely fortuitous that there was a gunman there the moment she stood up in the car" is to reason backwards.

There was a gunman present, ready to take a shot if she exposed herself. The question I ask is how many times in the past days had a gunman been present, waiting to see if an opportunity would arise?

#41 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:42 PM:

Julia@35: That would be the same Blackwater which even our pet Iraqi "government" tried to evict after an unprovoked shooting spree, yes? There certainly were disputes with the government about her security arrangements, but if you want to play that card, it would help to say clearly what exactly her guards could have done to prevent the events that lead to her death --- particularly if (as in the event) she refused to stay in her armored car while driving through a clearly dangerous crowd. And then say why American "experts" who didn't speak any local language and didn't know the culture would have been able to do that, while the guards she had could not...

#42 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 02:47 PM:

The question I ask is how many times in the past days had a gunman been present, waiting to see if an opportunity would arise?

The answer is probably "all of them."

#43 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 03:16 PM:

One further note: it's certainly true, as Ginger@33 notes, that Musharraf is trying to avoid blame for Bhutto's death. On the other hand, it's also true that a lot of her partisans are trying to blame him for ordering the attack for reasons of their own, whether he deserves it or not. For what it's worth, Ahmed Rashid --- about as keen an observer of Pakistan as there is, and no friend of Musharraf --- wrote soon after that those charges were "extremely unlikely", and that the actual MO "bore all the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda trained Pakistani suicide squad". (In the Washington Post, he added that the government itself was "in despair"; not what you'd expect if they were responsible). Al Qaeda, as Jim Henley has recently observed, is an organization that has everything to gain from further destabilizing Pakistan, beginning with the country's nukes...

#44 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 03:33 PM:

Still not surprised about anything going on in Pakistan. This sucks Cassandra style.

#45 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 03:49 PM:

Charles Dodgson @ 41 -

I don't know if I'm so much playing a card as I am pointing out that Musharrraf's claim that she was the one who decided what security she was going to have.

Also, I would tend to agree that any sane leader would keep Blackwater out of their country, given a choice.

Musharraf hasn't

#46 ::: Bruce Purcell ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 05:22 PM:

So- in a Balkanized neighborhood you always wonder if they shot the wrong Archduke. Any paranoid speculations?
Um, God rest her soul.

#47 ::: Alya ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 05:45 PM:

Eh, my own personal theory is that Musharraf's responsible and the bomb thing is just his attempt to lay the blame on Jihadists. The latter, I think, have much more to gain from propaganda against Bhutto (and her being a woman would obviously be a major point in that propaganda), not blowing her up, which would assure martyr-dom for her. And the Jihadists, in particular, would know about the martyr-dom, since it's one of their favourite techniques.

#48 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 09:51 PM:

Elizabeth@5: if she died because of a bomb, it's easy to claim that it was a jihadi's fault. As we've seen (e.g., the notorious NYCPD case), hitting someone with a pistol is hard even when their whole body is exposed; the reported cause of death is head shots, which suggests an expert pistol shooter, who is much more likely to be a member of the notorious Pakistani security service (the one that was inter alia supporting the Taliban, and that still is reported to have many people more sympathetic to Islamic radicals than the rest of Musharraf's government does).

There are a lot of factoids, reports, etc. in the above -- but Musharraf knows that U.S. perceptions affect how much money he gets to misuse, and has obvious reasons for the CYA-looking claims he's come up with, regardless of the actual facts.

#49 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:00 PM:

Dave Luckett @ 15: "So it comes down to this: pick a winner out of what's available, support that one, and hedge your bets by vigilance, being polite to the others, and shifting as necessary. This, of course, will bring accusations of "supporting dictatorship", no matter which alternative is chosen. Yes. So it will.

I am open to suggestions as to what other courses are available."

I don't know, but here's a wild one: how about letting them make their own damn decisions, right or wrong? It's not your job, or mine, to decide the leadership for the rest of the world.

#50 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 07, 2008, 11:10 PM:

And if their decision (it won't be "their" decision for any reasonable value of "their", but let that pass) is to allow to come to power a leadership that is bound and determined to wipe you and me and anyone else who thinks like us off the face of the planet? Recalling that this leadership would have effective control of a nuclear arsenal?

You don't think we have some right to a say in this? I regret to say that I do not agree with you.

#51 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 01:50 AM:

Dave Luckett @ 50: If we're going to start running national elections with an electorate consisting of those who might reasonably live in fear of that government's foreign policy, you just expanded the American electorate by a factor of 24.

And you're missing the point, made on the previous thread re: Pakistan--not only is this not a decision that we should be making for them, it's also not one we can make for them either.

(Not the mention that the reason they want to blow us up is precisely because we keep fucking around in their politics.)

#52 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 03:20 AM:

I said: "There's not much anyone can do about true liberal democracy in Pakistan, especially anyone outside the country."

I was, of course, assuming that most people here would agree that a true liberal democracy would be much the best outcome. That doesn't appear a real possibility, but the same statement applies to any government in Pakistan: there's not much that anyone outside the country can do about it.

I was therefore not in any way implying that we, or anyone outside the country, can "make the decision" for them. But it is one thing to accept this, and quite another to decline to do anything whatsoever to influence the result. The options are narrow, but there is good reason to attempt to realise the best of them, or at least to do what can lawfully and peacefully be done to prevent the worst, which is specifically that the jihadists control Pakistan and Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

The foreign policy of all nations consists entirely and necessarily of trying to influence the decisions of other nations, and there is nothing in the slightest illegitimate about this, so long as the means are legitimate. I am not advocating anything else. And possession of a nuclear arsenal means precisely that Pakistani domestic politics are not only "their" politics, that is, their concern only. They're everyone's concern.

#53 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 03:48 AM:

I figure that if the jihadists come close enough to controlling Pakistani nukes, Israel will preemptively neutralize the problem through military action.

#54 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 09:01 AM:

Dave Luckett @ 52: "I was, of course, assuming that most people here would agree that a true liberal democracy would be much the best outcome."

Yes. What's your point?

"But it is one thing to accept this, and quite another to decline to do anything whatsoever to influence the result. The options are narrow, but there is good reason to attempt to realise the best of them, or at least to do what can lawfully and peacefully be done to prevent the worst,"

You're still attached to the idea that we can and should help nudge Pakistan in the direction that best suits us. You're ignoring the very real, and very negative effect that Western intervention has on (undertandably) Western-phobic countries like Pakistan. It strengthens the appeal of exactly the people who are most dedicated to destroy us, and taints those we hope to bolster. We've a black thumb when it comes to promoting democracy.

If your goal is really to support liberal democracy, then how does supporting the slightly more stable despot accomplish that? All you guarantee is that one of the anti-democratic forces now has bigger guns. No; the way you support liberal democracy is by supporting liberal democrats, and if there aren't any, then you don't help anyone. The biggest favor we can do for the cause of liberal democracy in the Middle East right now is to fuck off.

That's the reason we can't; here's the reason why we shouldn't: people don't learn to run their own democracies by having oh-so enlightened Westerners tell them how to do it. They learn to do it by DOING IT. Democracy only survives if the people at large are willing to fight for it, and if they aren't, then you're just wasting your time. There's something to be said for helping an actual, vibrant democratic movement overcome entrenched powers, but if the popular will isn't there, then you can't make it appear.

(And what do you mean by "legitimate options?" What intervention would you consider appropriate, beyond publically stating one's support? What foreign intervention would you consider "legitimate" in Australian politics? [You are Australian, aren't you?] How would you feel about China dropping billions of dollars in order to keep a particular Aussie political party in power? Maybe I'm weird, but it seems to me that any foreign interference in domestic politics is practically by definition illegimate.)

#55 ::: "Charles Dodgson" ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 09:53 AM:

In fact, it's not clear that we can even support liberal democrats in places where they happen to exist. After the way we've screwed up Iraq, and particularly after Abu Ghraib, one of the most potent accusations that can be levelled against local activists is that they are really our catspaws. It's a serious enough danger that Iranian dissidents are refusing to meet with the American government, to avoid the taint of our support.

As to the suggestion of Israeli military action to "neutralize" Pakistani nukes, I'm... nonplussed, particularly after the recent Israeli failure to neutralize Hezbollah in Lebanon. They're a good army, but they're not magicians. Do you have a specific military action in mind?

#56 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 11:09 AM:

"You're still attached to the idea that we can and should help nudge Pakistan in the direction that best suits us."

Why, yes. Yes I am. And I remain certain that this is an unexceptionable aim of foreign policy, if by "the direction that best suits us" you mean a direction away from a jihadist regime. If you would do me the courtesy of reading what I wrote, you would see that I never advocated anything more than that.

This is my point, since you ask: the foreign policies of any nation are the rightful concern of all nations affected by them. Those of a nuclear power are rightly the concern of the whole world. The jihadis have foreign policies that we do not have the option of ignoring. To put it in your own terms, we can't fuck off. There's nowhere to fuck off to.

And what on earth makes you think that the US government does not interfere in the domestic policies of many nations, including my own?

#57 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 11:56 AM:

Dave Luckett @ 15: "So it comes down to this: pick a winner out of what's available, support that one, and hedge your bets by vigilance, being polite to the others, and shifting as necessary."

Silly me, thinking this meant that you think that Western powers can and ought to pick a winner. (See, I did read what you said! Sadly, I was unable to read what you thought you said.)

@ 56: "This is my point, since you ask: the foreign policies of any nation are the rightful concern of all nations affected by them."

Whether or not it is a rightful concern isn't what we're discussing. I certainly agree that the world ought to keep a close eye on Pakistan. What we're discussing is whether or not interfering in the domestic politics of a foreign nation is acceptable, even when the country possesses nukes. Turn it around: does Iran get to pick Israel's leaders? Does North Korea get to pick America's? Of course not; the very idea is ridiculous. Yet you feel perfectly comfortable asserting that the inverse is acceptable, even necessary. Why is that?

All this heightened by the fact that the only reason jihadists want to blow us up in the first place is that we won't quit trying to control them.

"And what on earth makes you think that the US government does not interfere in the domestic policies of many nations, including my own?"

I'm well aware of how much the US interferes in other countries' affairs. It is, in fact, why I'm so allergic to the idea. So, how does all that interference make you feel? All warm and fuzzy towards the US?

#58 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 12:54 PM:

Gee, we sure have to stop those crazy jihadis from getting their hands on nukes.

(Actually I think we do...)

Gee, what country is the only one that has ever used nukes against a human target?

(...too bad we utterly lack moral authority.)

#59 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 01:40 PM:

Xopher: The real problem with moral authority isn't that we used them. We could point to that as an understanding of just why they shouldn't be used/spread.

No, our lack of authority comes from our allowing, even encouraging our, "friends" to have them, while railing against those whom we dislike from getting so much as, "the knowledge" of how they are made.

We gave the info to Pakistan, which Khan sold to Iran.

That's why we have no moral authority.

#60 ::: Alya ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 03:29 PM:

Earl Cooley @53: Yes, because this won't propel the entire region into war or anything. *eyeroll* Seriously, this is the way to destroy any chance at stability the Middle East could ever have.

Re: foreign intervention in Pakistan. It doesn't take a military intervention to convince people you're out to get them, you know. I've seen it in several places, I see it everyday in my own country: non-religion-based dissident groups are accused of being America's peons, not because of any American military intervention here, but because they meddle in our affairs way too often. Stating your support of a given group is fine, in theory, but the problem is, when a mega-superpower like the US starts funding people... well, they're not leaving much chance to their opponents. They're not even giving the people the chance to voice their opinion. When the power differential is too large, maybe it's best not to meddle. It goes for all countries, not just the US.

#61 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 08, 2008, 08:14 PM:

heresiarch, "pick a winner" means pick a winner. It doesn't mean "pick someone and make them into a winner". To read that meaning into even a single phrase, you needed to distort it and also ignore "(t)here's not much anyone can do about true liberal democracy in Pakistan, especially anyone outside the country" and "hedge your bets by vigilance, being polite to the others, and shifting as necessary". The passage simply doesn't bear the meaning you impute to it. You misrepresent me, and you do it in crudely sarcastic terms that I believe you mean to be insulting. I have nothing further to say to you on the subject.

Xopher, Pakistan's nukes bother me - I can't imagine anyone not being bothered by them - but they're not the only thing that does. The jihadis promise war. Given the history, I take them at their word, and with the further resources of a nation-state like Pakistan they become much more capable of waging it.

Certainly there are other threats. But the accession of an extreme militant regime in Pakistan would be a first-class disaster, and not only for the west. We may not be able to do much about it, but that doesn't mean we should do nothing.

#62 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 12:59 AM:

My sarcasm was rude, Mr. Luckett, and I apologize. I was rather insulted myself when you accused me (in your post @ 56) of having not read what you said. Accusations of poor reading comprehension are a pet peeve of mine.

I confess to being quite confused as to what exactly you are arguing for. You seem quite confident that the actions you're arguing for are perfectly appropriate, but I've no clue what specific actions you have in mind. I think we'd both agree that Operation Ajax-level interference is beyond the pale, and a statement of public support is just fine, but I have no idea where within that range you would draw the line.

Beyond the generic "this is a standard aim of foreign policy" defense, you have not addressed the fact that Western support in Middle Eastern countries has a nasty habit of backfiring against the very liberals we hope to bolster. (See "Charles Dodgson"'s and Alya's posts.) Since you seem to be taking a very realpolitik stance on this question, the actual on-the-ground effects seem quite relevant.

I am, though I've done a poor job of expressing it, genuinely interested in your answers to these questions.

#63 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 04:10 AM:

heresiarch, I accept the apology.

You have already accepted giving advocacy, verbal support, for the more enlightened possible regimes. I agree. I believe more can be done, however.

How about sponsoring education, especially women's education? Scholarships, bursaries, endowment of schools, teaching materials, textbooks in Urdu - and by that I do not mean political tracts, but mathematics and science texts. Classic literature, too, not only translations from English, but texts from other cultures, including those critical of Europe or America. Islam requires that everyone - specifically including women - should get the best education possible, and learning is much respected. Recruit and employ local teachers. Provide something better than the madrassa extremism and rote assimilation of the Koran, and include respectable, but less harsh, less misogynistic, interpretations of Islam. This certainly can be done without offending local custom or religion. Most Pakistanis are not radical, and many - I think a majority - do not despise the west.

A bank with a small-loans speciality that does not infringe on the Islamic prohibition on charging interest - for instance, by acting as a sleeping partner in the businesses it loans money to, with the provision that the loan is redeemable at any time at its original value, and can be paid off in installments, each reducing the bank's share. Western banks aren't used to that, but it can work, and it has been shown to be almost cost-neutral. (Do not make loans conditional on purchasing western goods or services. Do use the status of partner to militate against abhorrent work practices.)

Much could be done with very modest means with travelling health clinics, using locals. Inoculation programs - poliomyelitis is still a killer. Trachoma. Bilharzia.

Do these and similar things, and reach as many people as possible with them, bypassing the government where possible. Making western contact useful and profitable gives everyone a stake in retaining it.

As to the government, anyone who might form it should be aware (I'm sure this is the case already) that the US and other western powers can work with any regime that can provide civil order without wholesale brutality, and acknowledge that those who comprise the government of Pakistan is up to Pakistan alone. Nevertheless, the west cannot be expected to aid regimes whose foreign policy largely consists of making war upon it, or fostering terrorism against it. To the contrary, in fact.

Yes, the first requirement is civil order. Without it, nothing can succeed. The radicals, of course, have every reason to cause as much chaos as possible, but they are still in a minority. It's a dangerous minority, as I remarked above, so the object of policy must be to have them seen as the adversaries of peace and progress - which they are, in all truth. The whole point should be to detach them from most people's interests.

If this is interfering in the domestic affairs of the country, well, so be it.

#64 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2008, 06:52 AM:

Alya #60: Yes, because this won't propel the entire region into war or anything. *eyeroll* Seriously, this is the way to destroy any chance at stability the Middle East could ever have.

What makes you think Israel gives two flips about anything other than their own security? They've adequately demonstrated that they can take on the combined military might of all their neighbors. That kind of hair-raising military success does nothing to foster a sense of caution when dealing with real or perceived threats. Whether it is Pakistan or Iran or Syria, it's likely that the first we'll hear of any problem with Middle Eastern n-b-c assets is the after action reports of Israeli air strikes. WW3 would be icing on the cake for them, as I expect they think they'd win it, and with it, a few centuries of safety (after the US pays to recycle the glass craters into Coca-Cola bottles, of course).

#65 ::: Alya ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2008, 07:51 AM:

They've adequately demonstrated that they can take on the combined military might of all their neighbors.

Yes. Like, Hezbullah, right? You know, summer 2006? Remember that?

Regardless, I'm not discussing what Israel is able to do, I'm discussing what's best to do. And frankly, you actually sound hopeful for such a war. As a resident of the Middle East, I have to say, please do not come up with further brilliant suggestions. The region is tense enough as is.

#66 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: January 26, 2008, 12:46 PM:

Alya #65: And frankly, you actually sound hopeful for such a war.

I suppose that would be true if it weren't for the fact that you are wrong.

Anyway, this just in: Pakistan nuclear sites on alert

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="http://www.url.com">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.















(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.