27 December 2007

The Carter News Network?

CNN headlines its summary of the presidential candidates' statements on Bhutto's assassination, "Assassination shocks, outrages U.S. presidential candidates." This actually would be reminiscent of Jimmy Carter, who was shocked that the USSR would invade Afghanistan. Who would have thought they'd be capable of such thing?

To the credit of most of the candidates, only two said that they were shocked, Obama and Dodd. These are, I'm sure, the two candidates most likely to claim the mantel of Jimmy Carter.


Bret said...

It is a bit hard to believe that anyone, even Bhutto herself, was even surprised, much less shocked.

My only question was when it was going to happen. Now I have my answer.

Duck said...

So what's the next inevitable act? Does Musharraf lose his grip? Do the Waziris lead a revolution? Does Musharraf finally find the nerve to crush them?

Ali said...

I was in Pakistan for two weeks and got back to England yesterday. The rioting post-Benazir's murder wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, most people seemed too depressed to be angry. She wasn't that popular personally, but she had grace and style and even Pakistanis who disliked her thought she was good for the country's image.And nobody wanted a woman and a mother to be killed like that.

It would have been far worse if Nawaz Sharif got whacked as he had much more support in the biggest province, Punjab. We mostly stayed shut up in our house in Lahore on the 27th, 28th and 29th. Things got back to normal by the 1st but Karachi is going to be dangerous for months to come.

Most people are incredibly pissed off at Musharraf. They believe his allies in the intelligence services killed Benazir and are a little disgusted by his government's attempts to spin the situation. They've been claiming she was killed by banging her head against her car's sunroof lever and pressured the doctors at Rawalpindi General Hospital to retract their first post-mortem statement. One senior Musharraf ally is even claimimg that Benazir's husband Asif Zardari carried out the hit.

The Waziris are not going to be leading a revolution. They don't have any popular support. But politically, things are set to become much worse. The inflation in food prices is astronomical and there are constant power shortages. Real estate, financial services and telecoms have all boomed but the rest of the economy is withering. For over forty years there has been minimal investment in education and infrastructure and the chickens are coming home to roost.

The army staff are all Musharraf loyalists but they're not going to stick by him if they have to risk their necks to do so.

Harry Eagar said...

Well, at the time, I thought it was shocking (Afghanistan, I mean). It was the first, and last, time the USSR ever sent its army to a place it had not already been for a while.

I think everyone was shocked then, and I don't know anyone who has offered a plausible reason why they did it then, unless you buy that the leadership was in the grip of senile dementia, which at least fits the facts.

But since the day before Bhutto was killed, another suicide bomber had gotten through 5 cordons and was only intercepted at the last, then, no, I wasn't shocked.

My question has to do with the third generation of the army officer corps, since I see no sign that Pakistan's civilian parties or factions is about to learn how to govern.

I take it that Musharraf can be thought of as the second generation of the officer corps after independence and that that one was still under the influence of modernist ideas of the first, British-trained generation.

So, third generation? Modernist or antimodernist? (This is, to my mind, separate from whatever Musharraf's personal adroitness may amount to.)

Ali said...

The brass has it's snout firmly in the trough and is unlikely to tolerate militant yahoos who would call down US heat on it. Musharraf fired most of the pro-Taliban commanders after 9/11.

It's probable the third generation has more anti-moderns but hard to say how many, unless you have military connections. The only one I have is a great-uncle who was a colonel in Signals.

Peter Burnet said...


Is there anything cohesive you can identify as approximating what we here would term "public opinion"? Any discernible mega-trends above factionalism, especially among youth?

Ali said...

People mostly seem very disenchanted with the way things are going. Back in 2005 or so, there was some confidence that the country was on the right track and some people were even leaving their jobs in the US and England to return. That seems to have dissipated. The youth mostly seem concerned with getting out of the country as soon as they can.

Among the elite classes, there's been a distinct rise in hedonistic behaviour. Fashion magazines ape Vogue and Cosmopolitan in ways that would have been unheard of ten years ago.

Harry Eagar said...

I suppose it would be too logical for the modernizers to tell the western provinces, 'You're free to be independent'?

I'm not kidding in the abstract. In the real, I know how costly it was to split Pakistan into two.

Generally speaking, I think almost all Muslim countries would be better off divided into some sensible pieces. What was convenient administratively for European overlords probably hardly ever coincides with what 'nationalism' (whatever that means to a Muslim; probably quite a bit different from what it means to me) would suggest.

Years ago, at Bros. Judd, I suggested that the 10 states of southwest Asia should probably be at least 19.

I'd say recent years support that idea.

That the idea is counter to the dream of a reunified caliphate is gravy.

Ali said...

I agree with that. Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh should have been split along linguistic and ethnic lines, not religious ones.