I think that what Americans should conclude from the assassination of Pakistani leader Benezir Bhutto is the firm conclusion that the Bush/Cheney War on Terror has failed.
After 6 years – 6 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, of captures and renditions, of “persuasive” interrogations, of massive electronic global eves-dropping – Jihadists can still with impunity easily kill an American protégée in a Muslim country.
Six years is a long time; long enough to win most wars. The Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea were won in less than six years. Even the Vietnam War was on its way to Viet Cong defeat inside South Vietnam by 1971 (during my watch as they say).
The money we have spent on the War on Terror has not been minimal. The Congress has once again not stinted on funding national defense when the country is under threat.
But it hasn’t worked. The Taliban are eagerly aggressive still in Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden is at large. Fundamentalist interpreters of the way of the Prophet Mohammad feel the wind in their sails; they are neither trimming nor tacking.
The Bhutto assassination in this War is a turning point for American opinion, just as the 1968 Tet Offensive was in the Vietnam War. We don’t want to lose, but we don’t want to keep throwing good money and men into a seemingly endless quagmire of conflict against intransigent, fanatical zealots.
We need to find an effective way to defeat an unacceptable fundamentalism at odds with humanity’s quest for progressive justice. The social norms of 7th century Arab tribes do not provide a sound basis for right living. And, the Qur’an itself does not endorse them.
Here is the opening we need: use the Qur’an against the Jihadists.
Just as the social policies of many intolerant fundamentalist Christians can’t be squared with the gospel teachings of Jesus, so the limited range of opinion sanctioned by the Jihadists does not square with core Qur’anic guidance for humanity.
But the Bush/Cheney team lacks strategic sophistication in its war making. They are prevented by their fixation on righteous use of power, their limited understanding of people and other cultures, and their need to rely on brute force from finding the right way to victory over the terrorists.
A Pakistani colleague told me immediately after the Bhutto assassination: “Because she was being promoted by Washington, the suicide people were drawn to her like moths to a flame.” Killing her would be a dramatic put down of American power and prestige.
And so it came to be.
So sad; such talent denied to a people in need of better leadership. Could her death have been avoided by smarter policies coming out of the White House, policies that would have the Jihadists and Al Qeada marginalized within the Muslim community and desperately clinging to the ropes of history for just a bit longer before their final eclipse?