There’s no keener observer of the situation in Pakistan than Lahore-based Ahmed Rashid. In a piece in the Sunday Washington Post, Rashid says that America’s arrangement with Musharraf has been a gross miscalculation and it’s going down in flames right now. And guess where the epicenter of that policy is? You got it, Dick Cheney:
The problem is exacerbated by a dramatic drop-off in U.S. expertise on Pakistan. Retired American officials say that, for the first time in U.S. history, nobody with serious Pakistan experience is working in the South Asia bureau of the State Department, on State’s policy planning staff, on the National Security Council staff or even in Vice President Cheney’s office. Anne W. Patterson, the new U.S. ambassador to Islamabad, is an expert on Latin American “drugs and thugs”; Richard A. Boucher, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, is a former department spokesman who served three tours in Hong Kong and China but never was posted in South Asia. “They know nothing of Pakistan,” a former senior U.S. diplomat said.
Current and past U.S. officials tell me that Pakistan policy is essentially being run from Cheney’s office. The vice president, they say, is close to Musharraf and refuses to brook any U.S. criticism of him. This all fits; in recent months, I’m told, Pakistani opposition politicians visiting Washington have been ushered in to meet Cheney’s aides, rather than taken to the State Department.
Rashid says “Cheney is in charge” and “Condoleezza Rice is being eclipsed.” He misses the neopotism angle of that policy – the Cheney family axis that runs from the White House to the Department of State, where his eldest daughter Elizabeth Cheney is Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State For Near Eastern Affairs. Other journalists report a fierce power struggle over how to manage the deteriorating situation relating to Iran. I wish that the confident statements emanating from State about a “unified foreign policy” under Rice were correct. But quite obviously they’re not. And there’s no greater cause for worry in foreign affairs than this.