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December 28, 2007
Bhutto Assassination a Painful Reminder that we are at War
In our rush to claim progress in the War on Terror, we sometimes forget that the enemy has the entire globe as a potential target and can strike at any time. The Bhutto assassination is a brutal reminder that this is a shooting war and that al-Qaeda is now firmly ensconced in nuclear armed Pakistan:
Today's assassination in Pakistan of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto should be a stark reminder that terrorists are engaged in a very real war against modern civilized society. Bhutto had her own ethically questionable background; but her current public political posture was pro-Western, democratic, peaceful and against the radical Islamic terrorists who may have been responsible for her death. While the investigation must go forward, initial speculation is pointing to those radical Islamic terrorist elements operating in Pakistan, perhaps even al-Qaeda. Already, hundreds of thousands are in the streets. Many believe the government of President Pervez Musharraf is responsible for Bhutto's death. There may be more truth to that statement than even Musharraf is likely to admit. His failure to confront extremists over the last few years has now emboldened them where they may actually be ready to make a push for power - an absolutely intolerable turn of events from the point of view of the United States and the west. Among the Presidential candidates who all commented on the crisis, it appears to me that only Fred Thompson really gets it:
What happens over the next several days will be a crucial test for the Pakistani people and government. It may also indicate if this attack is part of a larger jihadist plan of action within Pakistan. Given Pakistan's supposed critical status as an ally of the US in counter-terrorism efforts, and Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, what happens inside Pakistan over the coming days and weeks should be of grave concern to America and the West.
FRED THOMPSON: It is a tragedy, of course. It reminds us that things can happen in faraway places of the world that can affect the United States. I think this should be of great concern to us. It is almost a perfect storm in a very bad sense because two forces are operating against each other that are both desirable. One is democracy: they were making progress in that regard in that country. Former prime minister Bhutto was an important part of that process. But the other is stability. Pakistan is a nuclear country, and we cannot afford to let nukes fall into the hands of dangerous Muslim radicals. We are hoping those two things can be balanced out. We can see the continued progress toward a democratic society but also maintain stability in the country, which seems to be very much in doubt right now. Thompson's statement that this is not a cops and robbers situation but rather a shooting war is spot on. And his acknowledgement that this is a world wide problem is also correct.
FAULKNER: I know you are running for the White House, so I don’t want to put you in a position to second guess the president. But I’m interested in your opinion. President Bush is due to talk with Pervez Musharraf shortly. What do you anticipate that conversation should be like?
THOMPSON: Those two things that I mention probably would be high on the agenda. What could be done to not impose martial law, to not crack down, but be mindful of the fact that there are radical elements in that country, and perhaps even within the government, that would like to see instability and chaos and see those weapons fall into the wrong hands. This is part of a bigger problem. We need to understand that this is not a criminal investigation any more – so we find the bad guys and bring them to justice – it’s a war. This proves again the mindset of the radical elements that we are dealing with. We are seeing this all across Northern Africa and various places. We’re seeing it across the Middle East and in parts of Asia including Indonesia and other places. We have to come to terms with that and do the things necessary to prevail. One of the things we need to be talking about is what Musharraf can do, additionally, to crack down on the Taliban. I think they have been insufficient in that respect.
The question then becomes at what point does Pakistan lose its status as ally and become an enemy? Time will tell whether Musharraf has the dedication - and survival instincts - to vigorously confront the extremists and defeat them. If he doesn't, then the chances of al-Qaeda and its allies coming out on top in Pakistan goes up substantially.