The State Dept picks the wrong horse in Pakistan
It was a decidedly odd moment. On Thursday, within hours of Benazir Bhutto's assassination, State Department spokesman Tom Casey told reporters in Washington that his boss, Condoleezza Rice, had quickly made two calls. One was to Bhutto's bereaved husband, Asif Ali Zardari. Rice's other call, Casey said, was to the man he called Bhutto's "successor," Amin Fahim, the vice chairman of her Pakistan Peoples Party. Casey couldn't even quite master this obscure politician's name, but he said, "I'll leave it up to Mr. Amin Fahir—Fahim—as the new head of the Pakistan People's Party to determine how that party is going to participate in the electoral process."
The problem is, nobody but the State Department—especially not the political elites in Pakistan, even those within Bhutto's own party—sees Fahim in such a role, and certainly not so soon. Critics suggest that the administration is so eager to graft legitimacy onto President Pervez Musharraf, its ever-more-unpopular ally in the war on terror, that it is pressing too hard to move past Bhutto and continue with scheduled Jan. 8 parliamentary elections, even though riots are paralyzing the country. "They're trying to rush everything. This is a disaster," says Marvin Weinbaum, a former State Depratment official and current scholar at the Middle East Institute. "This is now our new game plan: We're working out a deal between Fahim and Musharraf after the election. They mention Fahim because they don't know any better. The fact is, she [Bhutto] didn't trust him."
This is classic Bush administration. Find someone who will cooperate in the trappings of political consensus, and elevate them regardless of the realities.
We've seen it several times with several different groups in Iraq, the elevation of Fatah and disregarding of Hamas in the Palestinian territories, the disaster of Siniora in Lebanon, and of course there's the constituentless Karzai.
How is this developmental model working out?