History in the news

2007-12-29

in Bombs and rockets, Daily updates, Politics

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The Bhutto assassination and the ongoing instability in Pakistan provides one of those situations where we see history unfurling hour by hour in front of us. At one level, it sharpens one’s appreciation for how one action or one individual in one situation can alter outcomes. At another, it reminds one of how dynamic history is, in broad sweeps.

Inheriting the world and beginning to understand it is one thing – having the imagination to anticipate the ways in which whole societies and groups of nations will evolve and interact is quite another.

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. January 3, 2008 at 11:05 am

The United States and NATO are engaged in a war in Afghanistan. Where the Soviets lost with 300,000 troops, the Americans and NATO are fighting with less than 50,000. Any hope of defeating the Taliban, or of reaching some sort of accommodation, depends on isolating them from Pakistan. So long as the Taliban have sanctuary and logistical support from Pakistan, transferring all coalition troops in Iraq to Afghanistan would have no effect. And withdrawing from Afghanistan would return the situation to the status quo before Sept. 11. If dealing with the Taliban and destroying al Qaeda are part of any endgame, the key lies in Pakistan.

. January 3, 2008 at 11:05 am

U.S. policy in Pakistan was to do everything possible to make certain Musharraf didn’t fall or, more precisely, to make sure the Pakistani army didn’t fragment and its leadership didn’t move into direct and open opposition to the United States. The United States understood that the more it pressed Musharraf and the more he gave, the less likely he was to survive and the less certain became the Pakistani army’s cohesion. Thus, the U.S. strategy was to press for action, but not to the point of destabilizing Pakistan beyond its natural instability. The priority was to maintain Musharraf in power, and failing that, to maintain the Pakistani army as a cohesive, non-Islamist force.

. January 3, 2008 at 11:07 am

When someone killed Benazir Bhutto they changed the entire dynamic of Pakistan. Though Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party probably would have gained a substantial number of seats, it was unlikely to sweep the election and seriously threaten the military’s hold on power. Bhutto was simply one of the many forces competing for power. As a woman, representing an essentially secular party, she was unlikely to be a decisive winner. In many ways, she reminds us of Mikhail Gorbachev, who was much more admired by Westerners than he ever was by Russians. She was highly visible and a factor in Pakistani politics, but if Musharraf were threatened, the threat would not come from her.

Therefore, her murder is a mystery. It is actually a mystery on two levels. First, it is not clear who did it. Second, it is not clear how the deed was done. The murder of a major political leader is always hard to unravel. Confusion reigns from the first bullet fired in a crowd. The first account of events always turns out to be wrong, as do the second through fifth accounts, too. That is how conspiracy theories are spawned. Getting the facts straight in any murder is tough. Getting them straight in a political assassination is even harder. Paradoxically, more people witnessing such incidents translates into greater confusion, since everyone has a different perspective and a different tale. Conspiracy theorists can have a field day picking and choosing among confused reports by shocked and untrained observers.

. January 4, 2008 at 12:48 pm

Benazir Bhutto

Jan 3rd 2008
From The Economist print edition
Benazir Bhutto, Pakistani politician, was killed on December 27th, aged 54

WHEN Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was deposed as Pakistan’s prime minister in 1977, his 24-year-old daughter, Benazir, looked on the bright side. She expected General Zia ul-Haq, the coup leader, to hold elections in a few months. “Don’t be an idiot, Pinkie,” said her father, using the nickname inspired by her rosy complexion as an infant, “Armies do not take over power to relinquish it.”

. February 8, 2008 at 3:29 pm

Despite the lack of a full post mortem, limited X-rays and other forensic material, the two British forensic investigators leading the team were able to draw reliable conclusions, the executive summary said.

The investigators also concluded that a single attacker was responsible for the gunshots fired and for the bomb blast that followed, ruling out news reports suggesting that the attack was carried out by both a gunman and a suicide bomber.

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