Saturday, December 29, 2007

Look who loaded the gun

Today I can be angry, if not over the murder of Benazir Bhutto then over the repeated failure of US policy makers to recognise the lessons of history. US administrations consistently back an individual rather than institutions. They consistently come undone when that individual is despatched.

In the Middle East/sub-continent region go no further than Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (pictured), Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Benazir and on the negative side Saddam, Arafat and I’m sure you can all add to both lists.

The point being that, once the individual is gone so goes the whole policy ball of wax. It is a thin and fragile precept, doomed to failure as the designated individual is doomed.

It is not a matter of who pulls the trigger, it is the official US adherence to a clearly flawed approach. International politics is not Hollywood, the star quality is too fragile a concept. By not investing in sustainable institutions the US is simply lunging from one disaster to the next.

On the Bhuttos

I have long admired the murdered Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and believe he was the driving force behind Benazir’s political life. Let’s face it; she was a big spending society girl before her father was killed by a Pakistan military regime. She did not speak any of her home languages (Urdu or Sind) with any fluency and preferred the delights of London and East Coast US.

The US, in a sense, created or at least encouraged Ali to take the same steps his daughter took. He had been Pakistani ambassador to the US and a figure nearly as charismatic as Kennedy, certainly more so than Benazir.

I spoke previously of star quality and admit, as a product perhaps of an early introduction to politics, my rock stars tend to come from the ranks of politics. When the Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq military coup ousted then murdered the US backed Bhutto it left a deep and lasting impression on me.

It is easy for we mere mortals to focus on individuals, there is only so much we can devote our attention too. Administrations, on the other hand, are complex creatures with massive resources. For them to still simply focus on the individual is more than simple minded laziness it is a crime against humanity.


D.K. Raed said...

You are pointing out things we need to think about. Certainly we should understand about the flaw in individual support, rather than movements or ideals. An individual can begin a movement, can put a country on a path, but if the underlying support structure is not there, it is a house of cards. Thank you for remembering the elder Bhutto, who also met an untimely death for trying to steer his people toward a more liberal islam & his country toward more democratic ideals. And now we are looking at another martyr. This is beyond sad. I hang my head at humanity's failings.

Cartledge said...

All nations tend to personify allies and foes alike. It is an easier sell to the people. It seems US leaderships are among the few who historically believe their own propaganda.
I recall as a boy the English born parents of friends still warned them to behave or Boney would come in the night. But I doubt the British administration saw Napoleon as the only aspect of their foe. Equally Churchill was the saviour with no mention of the many who suffered under his leadership to achieve whatever salvation there was. But the people still knew it took real bodies to beat an enemy.
The problem unravelling now is that Benazir was just a pawn in the Admins game. Far better to support Benazir publicly while shoring up Musharraf in private.
As for Ali Bhutto, I have never been able to let go of his image. Like all my heroes he probably had feet of clay, but he was still a hero not to be forgotten.

enigma4ever said...

Cartledge: sadly everything you said is so true...and embarrassing....The Government leaders don;t respect or listen to History and or study and appreciate other cultures...I am lucky...I have had patients from around the world educate me on their cultures and their history ( okay I also am smart enough that I would go and read and research and learn more....) But American Govt has this way of trying to Cowboy Situations...and the world does not work that way....They are especially disrespectful of Ancestral History and Obligations and also Tribal Issues....and to some degree they don't understand how religions are woven into the History, Culture and patterns...( I think that ALL Govt leader should be required to study History, Anthropology, an Sociolgy)

I am not sure which makes the American Govt do more Damage- is it Ignorance or Arrogance - or the lethal combination?

( Have you ever seen the movie AIR AMERICA ? - it has Robert Downey Jr and Mel Gibson, but the main thing is that it is all about America screwing up , esp in Aisa, and that the Govt is arrogant and does not respect ANY cultures or History...I know it is not the same as the region of Pakistan- but the shortsided blundering of it is....)

Thank you for writing about the Bhuttos, and their legacy in way that makes sense....and explaining it so well...

Benazir Bhutto 's next book is due out in March- Harper Collins is rushing it....( her other books also showed that her interpretation of Govt and how it needs to work were very helpful....)As a family they were well aware that their country had problems...but they atleast tried to face those challenges....with some courage and some insight....

thank you..

Cartledge said...

Enigma, yes I have seen Air America – the film. Also seen some of the aftermath of the whole dumb construct. But that is another story. I still bring the issue back to US governments believing their own propaganda. I’m sure a handful of people want George W to buy the propaganda.
I wasn’t surprised to see Bilawal Bhutto Zardari anointed as PPP head. I feared it would be Asif Ali Zardari the widower. But as long as the boy stays at Oxford he fits the mould of the regional tribal head in relative safety.
The issue is that the reality of that should be understood by policy makers and a realistic plan put in place to help stabilise the region. I don’t doubt the PPP have a strong organisation, but they must either be honestly supported as an entity or told that the Bush Admin is going to continue to support the military regime regardless of democratic principles. Honest to Americans and Pakistanis.
But I don’t see why the American people should hold the blame for the shortcomings of successive administrations.