Foreign Policy Pakistan Politics The War on Terrorism

Staving off disaster in Pakistan

Buried within the Washington Post piece by Michael Abramowitz explaining how Musharraf’s close ties to Bush pose problems in the administration’s response to the current situation is this prescription for how to stave off disaster when Musharraf inevitably falls:

Wendy J. Chamberlin, who served as ambassador to Pakistan during the critical months after Sept. 11, 2001, said the administration may have been justified in standing by Musharraf – but not after his recent seizure of emergency powers. “We have to make clear that our relationship is with the people of Pakistan and not with one man, and that he is not indispensable,” said Chamberlin, president of the Middle East Institute, a Washington-based policy group.

The Pakistan situation is revealing the high costs of pursuing the kind of personal diplomacy that Bush has reveled in without building relationships across the board and between allied societies. Bush based his relationship with Great Britain on Tony Blair and with Russia on Vladmir Putin and with Pakistan on Musharraf. The British relationship remains strong despite some tensions at the top because of the many levels of our countries relations. The same cannot be said of either relations with Russia or Pakistan. Our influence on Pakistan does not quite end with Musharraf – we do have a prominent relationship with former Prime Minister Bhutto and Musharraf’s main moderate opponent (who was removed from office in 1996 on corruption charges). But aside from connections with these two leaders, our influence on Pakistan is extremely weak. This is incredible considering Pakistan’s importance in the region and in the Bush administration’s supposed generational “War on Terror”.

Our flawed Pakistan policy is yet another example of the Bush administration’s prioritizing of transient tactical advantage over longer-term strategic planning.

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