So much information and analysis this morning, so I'll see if I can't summarize the best of what's out there.
First, you should read the entirety of the Washington Post's piece on how (and why) the US brokered Bhutto's return to Pakistan. Choice cuts:
As President Pervez Musharraf's political future began to unravel this year, Bhutto became the only politician who might help keep him in power.Another expert, somewhat prematurely I think, says:
"The U.S. came to understand that Bhutto was not a threat to stability, but was instead the only possible way that we could guarantee stability and keep the presidency of Musharraf intact," said Mark Siegel, who lobbied for Bhutto in Washington and witnessed much of the behind-the-scenes diplomacy.
Bhutto's assassination leaves Pakistan's future -- and Musharraf's -- in doubt, some experts said. "U.S. policy is in tatters. The administration was relying on Benazir Bhutto's participation in elections to legitimate Musharraf's continued power as president," said Barnett R. Rubin of New York University. "Now Musharraf is finished."Musharraf is certainly a guy with nine lives, and I'm not sure he doesn't have a couple left. But certainly his time seems much more limited than it was before. Pakistanis are clearly finished with his dictatorship, and the swirling emotions of an election hot on the heels of a political assassination make the situation there unpredictable at best.
Scarecrow at Firedoglake drops the hammer on the US policy in the region, saying in effect that we sacrificed Benazir Bhutto to save Pervez Musharraf. That's certainly one interpretation of events, and it is worth noting that this is an administration that constantly makes big gambles, often losing spectacularly. Had the election happened and Bhutto's party won a landslide, perhaps Pakistan could have transitioned away from military rule. But, you know, the moderate choice for democracy could also be shot a few times and then blown to bits by the very radicals we're trying to contain. (Or whoever. As demonstrated in the multiple-update thread, a lot of groups stand to gain from her death, including the Pakistani military, the security service, and Pervez Musharraf himself, not to mention the many extremist groups that call Pakistan home.)Al-Qaeda is trying to claim responsibility for the attack, but it's apparently not a very credible claim, at least at this point. My strictly uneducated guess is that the attack included help from several quarters, including extremist sympathizers in the military.
So where does this leave Musharraf? And where does this leave US policy in the region, and the Great & Glorious Generational Struggle/War Against Terror and Violent Jihad? Your guess is as good as mine. Here's what I know: Americans continue to be saddled with abysmally bad leadership that can't make a decent policy decision to save anybody's life. That situation will continue for another year yet, and in the meantime, the world will continue going to hell in the absence of that leadership. Perhaps I overstate our influence. But Pakistan now appears on the brink of rapid, jarring change in a region where that rarely plays out well, Afghanistan (next door) isn't exactly the paradise I had hoped for in 2002, Iran (next door) isn't exactly the WOT ally it was attempting to be in 2003, and Iraq (next door to Iran) continues to be a quagmire from which we cannot extricate the great bulk of America's combat-ready troops.
All in all, it sure seems like something just slammed hard into a fan somewhere.