January 1, 2008


Two Benazir Bhuttos (Anne Applebaum, January 1, 2008, Washington Post)

[I]t is very clear that Bhutto belonged to that not-very-exclusive club of foreign politicians who are admired or respected in the West but bitterly despised by at least a portion of their fellow citizens. The late president of Egypt, Anwar Sadat; the late shah of Iran; and until recently the "moderates" of the Saudi royal family were stellar examples of this phenomenon (though none had anything in common with Bhutto). So was Mikhail Gorbachev, the last general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party.

At one level, it is obvious why we like the Bhuttos and the Gorbachevs of the world while some of their countrymen do not. Their very "Western" qualities, their excellent English or their preference for Scotch whisky, their interest in "doing business with us" (in the Saudi case) or in liberalizing, even democratizing their countries (as in the case of Bhutto) are precisely what some of their compatriots hate most about them. Any Pakistani who sympathizes with Talibani beliefs about women automatically loathed Bhutto. Any Russian who could call himself a Soviet imperialist had plenty of reasons to despise Gorbachev. Equally, any Egyptian who wanted the Israelis wiped off the map had cause to resent Sadat, the man who made peace with them.

But there are other reasons why there might be a division in Western and domestic feelings about certain politicians, particularly when that politician is associated with domestic issues that we either don't know about, don't care about or don't understand. Bhutto, despite her eloquent and sincere defense of democracy on the pages of The Post, was just as well known in Pakistan for the long-standing corruption charges against her and her husband, as well as for encouraging the birth and growth of the Taliban itself during her years as prime minister: Allegedly, she had hoped to make use of the fanatical group's military success in Afghanistan as a tool in Pakistan's long struggle with India for regional dominance. To many Pakistanis, even those who didn't want to see her murdered, these were not insignificant political errors but horrendous, unforgivable, disqualifying blunders.

The question about Ms Bhutto--never to be answered now--is whether , when it got to nut-cutting time, she'd have been as ruthless enough to establish the security that democracy requires. Thus far, General Musharraf hasn't been, which is why we ended up playing footsie with her.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 1, 2008 10:03 AM
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