US Second Thoughts About Pakistan?

The violent attack upon former prime minister Benazir Bhutto during her return from exile has raised uncomfortable second thoughts in the minds of the Bush administration. It was Bush who pushed for a power-shaing deal between the Pakistan People’s Party leader, Benazir Bhutto and President Musharraf. He feared Musharraf required additional political support in order to maintain power in the face of strong opposition from fundamentalist groups. After the attack, Mrs. Bhutto made several veiled allusions to possible actions by supporters of Musharraf in carrying out the bombing attack.

During the past few years, Bush officials have courted Bhutto while she was in exile as they searched for additional support for Musharraf. They feared the return of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharifm who is an acknowledged enemy of Musharraf would leave him without sufficient support. There are reports members of the American State Department from the beginning opposed power sharing between Bhutto and Musharraf because of her volatile past and the reality large sections of the Pakistan population opposed her policies. According to southeast Asia analyst, Bruce Riedel, “Mrs. Bhutto and Mr. Musharraf detest each other and the concept that they can somehow work collaboratively is a real stretch.”

The current confusion in Pakistan is merely another example of the inept Bush approach to diplomacy. State department experts were wary of the merger of two people who lacked confidence in one another, but at that period, Colin Powell was secretary of state and his advice was usually ignored. The Bush go alone approach again may prove disastrous to American foreign policy interests.