A week after the initial attempt to kill Benazir Bhutto, she communicated to an American friend, Mark Siegel, that in the advent of her killing, “I would hold Musharraf responsible.” She is now dead. But, something else died with her, the final results of failed American policies toward the Musharraf government. President Bush placed all his chips on the Musharraf hand, the gamble has been a complete fiasco. Bush and Condi Rice believed they could create a Bhutto-Musharraf coalition, and the opposite took occurred. After the initial attempt on Bhutto, no American pressure was exerted on Musharraf to ensure full scale protection for his opponent.
The Bush record in Pakistan is a string of continual failures. The Taliban was crushed in Afghanistan only to have them return to the safety of their sponsors–Pakistan’s ISI. There was a moment when victory over the Taliban could have been attained, but Bush withdrew American forces because he wanted to take on Iraq. Musharraf failed to install a new security service that would be committed to an anti-terror campaign, instead the men who created the Taliban, turned their backs on doing anything about al-Qaeda or their Afghan creation. The northwest region of Pakistan is now a center of terrorism.
There is an interesting comparison between failed Bush policies toward Pakistan and what happened in Iran during the 1970s. America threw its entire support behind the Shah of Iran who stimulated the economy and fostered a birth of secular freedom for women. Today, the economic policies of Musharraf have led to the emergence of a middle class, but it also has failed to offer competition to religious fundamentalists. Musharraf depends upon religious elements even as he campaigns for secular freedoms. His martial law of last month alienated large sectors of Pakistan’s middle class, and he has lost the confidence of those who believe in a government of law. Throughout this entire fiasco, the United States stood by, watching, and, most probably unable to do much to halt the drift toward anarchy.
Lost in the story of this fiasco is the failed Bush opportunity to reach out to Iran. IN 2001-2001, the Khatami reform government of Iran offered to end support for terrorism, but their offers were flatly rejected by Bush. In losing the “Iran card,” Bush was left with the “Pakistan card.” Iran’s leaders hated the Taliban and were glad to see al-Qaeda destroyed. Instead of building on that prospect for creating a powerful anti-terrorist coalition, Bush placed all of his bets on President Musharraf. At this point, all bets are off on whether Musharraf can create a stable Pakistan.