Les Gelb, the president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, thinks that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto is hugely significant for American national security, but not for domestic politics.
“It really is a big deal,” said Gelb in a telephone interview. “I think it is a bigger deal, more dangerous for us than Iraq or Afghanistan because she [Bhutto] represented really the best chance that Pakistan had, and we had, of putting together a coalition government with the majority of Pakistani people against the extremists, and of a coalition government that had a chance of working.”
“The fact of the matter is that if Pakistan goes south,” he said, “it’s far more dangerous for us than Iraq or Afghanistan.”
Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons and has a significant and active population of extremist militants, which, Gelb said, will leave the Bush administration little alternative but to cling to Pervez Musharraf’s government.
By contrast, Gelb said today’s events would have a considerably more modest affect on American politics, especially the presidential race.
Gelb, who is not officially supporting any presidential candidate, said that Joe Biden and Chris Dodd were the two most experienced and best-qualified Democrats to deal with the Pakistan crisis, but added “they have no chance of winning the nomination.”
He didn’t think it would make much difference for the major figures in either party. Or, at least, not for the ones who running in 2008. “I think if Bush were running again it might,” he said. “It would look like another policy failure for him.”