Thursday, December 27, 2007
Pakistan and our next President
--David Gergen, 360 Contributor

The brutal assassination of Benazir Bhutto will come as a shock but not a surprise to many leaders of U.S. national security. They have quietly worried about just this outcome since she returned to Pakistan a few months ago.

In fact, they have been deeply worried about Pakistan for a long time. A retired U.S. four-star general this past summer told a small gathering that I attended that he was concerned about Iraq but he was much more concerned about Pakistan.

What can the U.S. do? The Bush administration has it devilishly hard. Musharraf has apparently misdirected billions of our anti-terrorism dollars; he declared martial law against the fervent wishes of Condi Rice; he has allowed Islamic terrorists, probably Osama, too much of a free hand on the Afghan border; and now there will be well-justified suspicions that he failed to give Mrs. Bhutto adequate protection.

All of which is to say that Pakistan, like an immense number of other problems, will be awaiting our next president. Progress in Iraq has lulled us into a false sense in this campaign that domestic challenges outweigh those overseas. They don't.

Both will demand extraordinary leadership in the Oval Office. It would be great to have someone who is nice, likeable and yes, authentic, the qualities which everyone is talking about in Iowa. But at the end of the day, we also need someone who has the knowledge, judgment and inner steel to take on very tough times.
Posted By CNN: 11:49 AM ET
  45 Comments
David,
It seems that we have dug ourselves into a hole with Musharraf. We gave and gave only to have him back stab us! The current and future administrations are really going to have their hands full with him!! I just hope that this isn't going to get us into another war!! We deffinately don't need that!!

Cynthia, Covington, Ga.
Posted By Blogger Cindy : 12:12 PM ET
If extraordinary leadership with the qualities of nice, likeable and authentic is needed to succeed for the next president, I guess we doomed to fail. None of the candidates exhibits all the qualities listed.
Posted By Anonymous David, NY : 12:24 PM ET
If you plan on covering this story in-depth tonight, please stay away from the Peter Bergen analysis which is downright "ludicrous". As you say, Musharraf "failed to give Mrs. Bhutto adequate protection" but more than that, she was his chief political rival and he had her placed under house arrest just weeks before. Do not attempt to deceive the American people at a time of real crisis. In fact, the next American president needs to be more than someone steeped in security issues; he (not she, notice) must be so angry with the prevailing deceptions of our world, so obsessed with righteousness towards all man, that the temptations of the devil himself might not move him. All the charismatics in politics cannot create a security with minds bent on hypocrisy. "Authentic" and "inner steel" are the aspects of integrity, and we need it now, for sure.
Posted By Anonymous Elijah Nightfire, Second Life : 12:26 PM ET
There is a huge amount of repair that must be done in the international realm in the wake of Bush's disastrous presidency.

It is possible that the superficial appearance of progress in Iraq might develop into actual reconciliation between the warring factions and the formation of a functional Iraqi government. But even if that rosy scenario should actually come to pass, we still have to get back to the War on Terrorism, which has been ignored ever since we invaded Iraq.


Andrew Hummel-Schluger
Brier, WA
Posted By Anonymous Ogden_In_Seattle : 12:47 PM ET
This is the time for Bush administration to seriously revisit its 'Musharaf Specific' policies and ask themselves if supporting a dictator is the right move to curb extremism.
Posted By Anonymous Syed Shah : 12:48 PM ET
Funny that you are saying that, as if 'knowledge, judgment and inner steel' have not always been characteristica a US president SHOULD have. How did George W. Bush get away with having none of this? I guess the voters need to ask themselves this question since they voted for him TWICE. The more the US becomes an isolationist again, the bigger the problems grow elsewhere around the globe where our complete lack of leadership and neo-con weirdo views have caused nothing but despair and destruction.
Posted By OpenID MC0611TEX : 12:51 PM ET
I Couldn't agree more. In times like these we can't blindly choose our next president simply because we think/feel they are a beacon of hope and or change. The current president has changed the game - we need experienced and seasoned leaders. Bush was elected with little to no experience in foreign policy and experience - 7 years later we can look at the mess we are in. Do we need another 4 years of on the job training? I think not!

This is a serious time for serious leaders to take the lead.
Posted By OpenID carlosbernal20 : 12:51 PM ET
Why is it that no one recalls the fact that Musharraf tried to put this woman under house arrest for her own saftey only a month ago, citing the previous assassination attempt which killed 160 or so, and future assassination attempts as the reason? Yet you report that "now there will be well-justified suspicions that he failed to give Mrs. Bhutto adequate protection." Why is there no mention of her insistence to be in public areas, marches, and protests, leaving her virtually unprotectable, in order to speak to her followers? Why has CNN (And as far as I can tell every other news outlet) taken to the idea that Musharraf is responsible? Hasn't Musharraf stepped down as military leader, as we have insisted? Has he not ended the Emergency Martial Law, as we have insisted? What proof is there of any connection to terrorism or Islamic extremists? Perhaps it is because he has been a friend of the Bush administration, and any friend of George W. Bush...
Posted By Anonymous Bradleydonohue@aol.com : 12:59 PM ET
It was time and again proved that the current level of diplomacy is not working. I am not an expert on this subject, but with a broad level understanding of this issue, I guess the diplomacy should be collective and cohesive. I guess the diplomacy should mature from bilateral to multilateral; Tony Blair has already initiated this. We know that there is lot of anti-American and anti-western sentiment in the Middle East and other Islamic countries. I guess a larger, multilateral consortium of nations (composed of West and East) should negotiate with the Islamic Countries (such as Organization of Islamic Conference) and find a solution to tackle the terrorism.

May be another military attack is not the solution; the current situation in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan is a result of prolonged nurturing of the unrest in these countries by various external and internal forces. There could be indirect, long-term solution to this problem (by improving living stands etc); it could be slow but it works.
Posted By Anonymous Murali Thoota : 1:04 PM ET
Why has the U.S. not learned that supporting "strong men" like Musharaf is not in our interests nor the interests of those countries. Our leaders like to talk about democracy, but they back military generals, coup-installed presidents, hereditary monarchs, and others who have little interest in promoting a democracy that would undermine their regimes. The loss of Benazir Bhutto is tragic beyond words, but the anti-democratic actions of Musharaf deserve stern words and appropriate action.
Posted By Blogger David Hedrick Skarjune : 1:18 PM ET
There is an old adage that basically states that people who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.

The US has a history of supporting dictators when it suits our economic interests despite our assertions of seeking to spread democracy. From the Shah of Iran, to Pinochet in Chile. We supported and armed Sadam in Irag. We even supported Osama Bin Laden when he was leading the fight against Soviet occupation.

We give arms to any dictator or zealot who is willing to do business with us and invariably those arms wind up being used against our soldiers.

We make a big deal when Iraq and Iran were supposedly acquiring Nuclear technology and weapons but there was no uproar, embargo, inspections when Pakistan was becoming a nuclear power.

Consistency in policy is essential if the US is to have any credibility on the world stage. Right now we have none at all.
Posted By Anonymous apPAULed in NJ : 1:24 PM ET
The United States is trampling on legitimate Pakistani security and strategic interests in Afghanistan and the region. You have turned Afghanistan into a staging ground for destabilization inside Pakistan. The Americans are looking the other way as your allies, Karzai & the Indians are training anti-Pakistan insurgents & terrorists. U.S is stabbing Pakistan in the back. It's not the other way around.
Posted By Anonymous Ahmed Quraishi, Islamabad, Pakistan : 1:32 PM ET
David, the danger we moral relativists face in the West is from moral absolutists opposed to everything else. Musharraf is a moral relativist who rules, as he must, by something akin to absolute decree. He will be given free reign regardless of who we choose as our next president. The alternative is a moral absolutist with nuclear arms.
Posted By Anonymous Gregg : 1:35 PM ET
Why blame Musharaf? It seems to me the fact that the person blew himself and others up points more towards Islamic fundamentalists than towards the Army or Musharaf. An Army operation would go more towards a sniper or a planted bomb not a suicide bomb. There is a three way power grab going on over there at this time remember, its not just Musharaf and the lawyers going at it.
Posted By Anonymous Scott3691 : 1:37 PM ET
Hi. I think we are on the wrong side of the story. I read from some intelligence report leaked that pakistan used the billions of dollars given by us for fighting terrorism against arming themselves against India. India has been by far the most affected country in terms of terrorism by pak terrorists. So whay are we not supporting a democratic country like india that has same ideals as US and wasting our time supporting pakistanis who were responsible for almost every terrorist strike in the world including 911. Politics in washington is very bad that for our ego and personal gains. We just keep supporting the wrong people over and over again (afganistan in the soviet era) (Iraq in the iran iraq war) Saudia arabia, pakistan always and we supply these people with arms that they later use against us and in case of pakistan they are running an underwqorld market for nuclear weapons.So when will we learn to support the right people and democratic countries rather than dictators or radical countries.
Posted By Anonymous Tony An : 1:50 PM ET
This should serve as a wake-up call to voters. I agree this highlights the fact that we need a President with foreign policy experience. We need someone "who has the knowledge, judgment and inner steel".
But the question is, will it sway enough voters? Voters sure didn't pay attention to international experience and knowledge when they elected our current President.
I will be in Iowa this weekend. It will be interesting to hear what is being said on this subject.
Posted By Anonymous Phil in KC : 2:30 PM ET
To Ahmed Qureshi.

I am from india and am deeply sadedned by the loss in pakistan today.

But do not make unsubstantiated allegations. Pakistan is fighting this war for its good. It is asking for 2million$ a day for this and other unspecified military hardware. There is documented proof that this money is being misdirected and abused towards neighbours.

That apart, your govt's have been sponsoring violence as a state tool. It is bound to backfire. Had you chosen to fight this war on principles and taken soft loans towards social and poverty alleviation programs then no one will be accusing your govt back stabbing : : but only not strong in its convictions. Once you take a fee for a task, take it for granted the deliverables will be monitored and managed.

Again, she was widely respected in south asia and no human deserves to die like it. We share your sorrow but dont use to through ridiculous charges
Posted By Anonymous Prasad : 2:32 PM ET
The best to keep Pakistan Under control from the extremists is to install Democracy with the help of big player India without which we can not succeed in the South Asian region. But before doing that, USA should establish credibility with India as India looks at USA with Coldwar era suspicions.
Posted By Anonymous kris : 2:38 PM ET
It is worthy to reflect that when recently asked which one country they are most worried about, most presidential candidates (inlcuding all Republicans) gave the overly hyped-up answer of Iran. Only Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden knew best to answer Pakistan.
Posted By Anonymous Chris W., San Diego, CA : 2:38 PM ET
Although I'm shock by this development, I cannot say that it was wholly unexpected. Suspicion will inevitably fall on the goverment of President Pervez Musharraf. Clearly the security Ms. Bhutto was provided was sorely lacking to have allowed assains access to her. I belive that President Musharraf was complicit in this assination if not directly, indirectly by his failure to provide Ms. Bhutto with adequate security. He is unprepared to share power with her as she represented the greatest threat to his retnetion of the Presidency.
Posted By Anonymous Terrence Duncan : 2:38 PM ET
what most people don't seem to know is that actually Pakistan is paying a hefty price for it's support of the war on terror, with bomb blasts occurring every other day. our politicians, soldiers and citizens are also dying everyday and this war has taken a massive toll on my country and my people. so please don't think the people of Pakistan are taking your money and then stabbing you in the back. we are in a crisis that i hope no country has to ever face. furthermore the populace of Pakistan is facing much more fear and uncertainty then any other ally especially America.
Posted By Blogger ali : 2:47 PM ET
May she find the peace she spent her life seeking.
Posted By Anonymous Doc Elvish : 2:55 PM ET
Dear Readers.

Think about this scenario now, falling of Pakistan nuke weapons in militant n's hand. This is worst case, and world should be ready for this. I think first thing, Mushraff should be asked to liquidate all the nukes so in case he falls nukes dont reach in militant's hand and if he doesnt agree, pre-emptive strikes are totally justified here. Take help of India, Good luck.
Posted By Blogger Manish Maheshwari : 2:56 PM ET
I have always thought that the current Bush mid-east policy, especially allowing Pakistan to do their own thing, when in fact they are the catalyst of so many of the region's problems, is in essence to bolster and continue the GOP's fear-mongering to help win future elections. As long as there is a menace facing the US, be it Osama Bin Laden, Al Qaeda, a nuclear Pakistan, the fear mongers will always have a carrot shaped like a mushroom cloud to wave in the face of the voter. If these threats are removed, the cloud blows away, and reveals the GOP's core incompetence - no viable economic, domestic or foreign policy. Only fear.
Posted By Anonymous Zbindch PA : 2:57 PM ET
Putting our faith in this batch of Presidential Candidates is asking too much.

As long as the Pakistani Military Generals remain allies with the US there is no need to worry too much.
Posted By Anonymous Bryan, CA : 3:00 PM ET
Its the loony liberal bloggers like this author who are responsible for the tragedy in Pakistan. Keep your bloody democracy to yourself.

People who preached elections in Pakistan because of their jaundiced boardroom views, instead of realizing the complex ground realities, will stand stupid right now and blame others. But its the much hated military leadership in Pakistan that has to rescue the country from this media/condi inflicted tragedy on Pakistan.

For heaven's sake guys, simply because you have some education, do you think you guys are smarter than Saddam Husseins, Ayatollahs and Musharrafs in those lands. If bookish free advice from the media houses were enough to restore order in the world, this planet won't be called Earth. It would be called Utopia.
Posted By Anonymous Balaji : 3:14 PM ET
There is lot of hatred for US and its policies in the world around and is continuously growing on for some wrong reasons. US leaders need to set the perspective right by discussing with various nations specially in Midwest Asia and the Muslim countries and work for a collective effort Let the diplomatic discussions be initiated by US as started by UK in Afghanistan and get the extremist into the political mainstream.
Also the future President of US need to be a more liberal and acceptable leader across the world.
May Benazir Bhutto's soul live in peace and her dreams for a democratic Pakistan come true.
Posted By Anonymous Shub, MA : 3:18 PM ET
I am shocked, but not surprised by the assassination of Ms. Buttho. Since she was seen as a key ally in the "War on Terror", will Bush send himself, Cheney, or Rice to attend her funeral as a "show of solidarity"? I think not. They were probably anticipating Buttho's martyrdom to expand the "War on Terror" into Pakistan after a possible coup against Musharraf. This is a tense moment in Pakistan's history. Extreme actions always lead to extreme reactions- the next few weeks in Pakistan should be interesting.
The US military will boost its presence near Pakistan waiting for the right moment to step in.
Posted By Anonymous Politik : 3:18 PM ET
It seems that The Nation never wanted Democracy. All along the Persons/Leaders who were elected by the People, by whatever means and howsoever Corrupt they were, looks like, the Power and Authority lies in the Power Hungry Military as opposed to Power Hungry Politicians. The USA, should revisit its foreign Policy on Musharraf's Administration. At this point of time it does not look as critical a key Ally in the War Xst Terrorism. His Administration has to clean up his Country.
Posted By Anonymous Sri : 3:24 PM ET
There is lot of hatred for US and its policies in the world around and is continuously growing on for some wrong reasons. US leaders need to set the perspective right by discussing with various nations specially in Midwest Asia and the Muslim countries and work for a collective effort Let the diplomatic discussions be initiated by US as started by UK in Afghanistan and get the extremist into the political mainstream.
Also the future President of US need to be a more liberal and acceptable leader across the world.
May Benazir Bhutto's soul live in peace and her dreams for a democratic Pakistan come true.
Posted By Anonymous Shub, MA : 3:27 PM ET
You reap what you sow.

For years, Pakistani leadership have been formenting 'jihadists' within its borders. Its no surprise that when the same leadership is not favouring them, they have decided to use terror to destabilize the entire nation.
Posted By Anonymous Hari : 3:31 PM ET
There is lot of hatred for US and its policies in the world around and is continuously growing on for some wrong reasons. US leaders need to set the perspective right by discussing with various nations specially in Midwest Asia and the Muslim countries and work for a collective effort Let the diplomatic discussions be initiated by US as started by UK in Afghanistan and get the extremist into the political mainstream.
Also the future President of US need to be a more liberal and acceptable leader across the world.
May Benazir Bhutto's soul live in peace and her dreams for a democratic Pakistan come true.
Posted By Anonymous Shub, MA : 3:33 PM ET
So sad that Pakistan lost a good leader.I felt she is the last hope for democracy in Pakistan.But the extremists gun which was supplied money and artillery back fired.
There are two options left for next president
1) To raise war againest terrorist as they did in Afganistan,which is not possible because unlike Afganistan Pakistan is a nuclear powered country
2) It should stop working for Pakistan anymore.That is America should stop supplying pakistan with Arms and money which It did till now to establish it's army base close to China.
Posted By Anonymous Rajesh : 3:42 PM ET
So sad that Pakistan lost a good leader.I felt she is the last hope for democracy in Pakistan.But the extremists gun which was supplied money and artillery back fired.
There are two options left for next president
1) To raise war againest terrorist as they did in Afganistan,which is not possible because unlike Afganistan Pakistan is a nuclear powered country
2) It should stop working for Pakistan anymore.That is America should stop supplying pakistan with Arms and money which It did till now to establish it's army base close to China.
Posted By Anonymous Rajesh : 3:42 PM ET
I seem to remember Obama being called naive for critisizing Musharraf for not doing enough to bring about stability in Pakistan, and saying he would send troops to take out Osama or other viable threat if he knew about it without waiting for Pak's approval. Is he still seen as naive for trying to put pressure on a so called "ally" to put their house in order?

I think the nice, likable guy is also the one with knowledge and good judgement.
Posted By Anonymous HM : 3:45 PM ET
Loss of life is always sad. May all those who have lost their lives in this tragedy rest in peace.

It is also sad to see the treatment Pakistan is been provided after all the sacrifices to control brain child of America (U.S. created Osama bin Laden during Afghan war). I'd suggest that Pakistan should seriously consider pulling out of helping U.S. and look into self interest first.

Waqas Mir
Canada
Posted By Anonymous Waqas Mir, Canada : 3:46 PM ET
David - You have written the Job Description for the next President and in doing so eliminated most of the field. Authenticity with knowledge, judgement and inner steel as well as solid foreign policy experience are clearly, yes clearly needed to navigate America's and the West's interests in the world for the next 8 years and beyond. So let's be really honest with ourselves. Based on this criteria Biden's at #1 followed by Dodd, then Clinton. On the other side you have McCain and the rest of the Republican pack. In Biden Vs McCain you have two really, really strong foreign policy leaders who command respect at home and around the world. Sadly the reality is that money, connections, special interests, TV ratings and upbringing will dictate the outcome. This is a popularity contest not a serious interview for president of the United States and the world's democratic leader. Bhutto's death is a tragedy but the bigger tragedy is the quagmire our country is in and it doesn't look like it is going to improve anytime soon.
Posted By Blogger Stewart : 4:09 PM ET
Currently Pakistan is the Dangerous spot on Earth, even North Korea or Iran are much less dangerous then Current Pakistan unless there is drastic changes in that Country Policies there is every change of Nuclear arms falling in wrong hands... God save the World.
Posted By Anonymous Timothy Edwards : 4:12 PM ET
Let us not forget the 3 Ghandi murders- this is the same old thing. Nothing will come of it. Pakistan will continue to be Pakistan. India will continue to be India. The Mideast will contiune to be the Mideast.They are all very foreign and very different from us.We are a small part of the world. we must be careful of our attempts to influence others.
Posted By Anonymous mark : 4:14 PM ET
I think we were all in some sort expecting this to happen. no one was just 100% sure when it was going to happen! But, why do we always blame bad things that happen in other countries on either terrorist attack, or people in the gov. of that country? Lets not forget what USA did to the Shah of Iran... should i remind you all? they exhiled him because he was becoming too powerfull, in many ways... so they put an ayatollah who eventually backstabbed USA... and we see the results now... now this might be far fetched, but i'm pretty sure some people will agree with me on this that the U.S. Gov. have a big hand in the killing of Bhutto...too many things point in that direction!

Brn. Sean Lieven di Livani
Posted By Blogger Sean : 4:20 PM ET
It is the worst day in the history of my nation. With Musharraf aka “the dictator” making decisions for the fate of my countrymen and religious fanatics supporting him in a fake war against terror, Bhutto was the last ray of hope for ani-fundamentalism, democracy, human rights & rule of law in Pakistan. Bhutto and Sharif were, perhaps, only forces left who could have negated terror in its face. The global community will be nothing but dysfunctional in helping 165 million Pakistanis if they will, once again, bank on Musharraf to bring Bhutto’s murderers to justice. He bullied all of us with his counterfeit war against terror. We will be happy to be fools, once again.
Posted By Blogger Muhammad Qasim : 4:28 PM ET
Who among us did not see this coming. This has been the destiny for Ms. Bhutto from the moment she set foot back onto Pakastani soil. Unfortunately, there are some other destinies for Pakistan which will have world wide impact. I don't believe we can do anything about them, either, unless we get the strength and resolve to stand up to "all" terrorism around the world, not just the battles that are convenient for us to fight.
Posted By Blogger Dan Campbell : 4:38 PM ET
The persons responsible for the murder of Benazir Bhutto must be brought to justice.

This is a task too large for the local police to handle.

There needs to be an International Policing Task Force directed by the United Nations, assigned to solving crimes like this.

These Criminals have been getting off easy, by hiding behind the Mask of Terrorism.

These people are Murderers.

They exploit gullible people, whom they use as weapons.

The only way to end this kind of violence is to solve each outbreak, as we would solve an outbreak of disease.

Quarantine effected areas and then remove all Terrorists.

A United Nations Policing Task Force should handle this kind of investigation.

Laura Corbeil
Toronto, Canada
Posted By Anonymous Laura Corbeil, Toronto, Canada : 6:21 PM ET
As Pakistan grows more dangerous each day it would be instructive to hear how each current candidate would handle the problems we face in foreign affairs. The time as come for the candidates to actually talk about issues of substance rather than hope and authenticity and platitudes. I have not heard one candidate explain their stand on all the issues we face as a nation whether it is domestic or foreign.

You are right David - we need a strong leader with vision and the wisdom to steer through the rocky shoals of foreign affairs we now face. I have always thought in the past when the country needed a great leader one was provided - Washington, Lincoln, FDR. We need one now and I look over the current candidates and the aura of greatness and vision does not seem to be there.

Bhutto's death was a tragedy for Pakistan and everyone in the world who loves democracy. Our lack of effective visionary leadership and our current cowboy politics will only compound that tragedy.

Annie Kate
Birmingham AL
Posted By Blogger Annie Kate : 8:55 PM ET
I think america may need to a pay huge price as they are supporting the non democratic goverment. Musaraf one day will not support if any thing against him no matters it is right or wrong. And then fighting will be one mans will, against the american economy.

Vasanth
Posted By Anonymous vasanth : 12:41 PM ET
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