S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Leadership in a very flat world

Today is the funeral day for assassinated Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. From space we cannot see people where they live and die. It is a very tragic and sad thing for her family and supporters, and certainly for her nation. But it is a sad day for us, as well, because of the flat world in which we live. The reality of her death reverberates far beyond Pakistan. Looking at the Middle East and Southwest Asia from far above reveals a two dimensional view in muted colors of sand and water. Two dimensions are flat; three dimensions reveal true perspective. When we first glimpsed the face of Benazir Bhutto, many of us instinctively held our breath, afraid to hear what was to come next.

(Aljazeera's image heads this paragraph)

Very quickly the world knew what was transpiring with this leader yesterday. Just after the Bhutto rally, the U.S. broadcast TV reports of the shooting and suicide bombing. As time passed the news got worse and worse. What we saw was coming from Aljazeera, from which I quote the beginning and ending portions of this very interesting and seemingly even-handed editorial:


Daughter of tragedy
By Kamran Rehmat (News Editor at Dawn News, an independent Pakistani television news channel).

What ever else the mind-numbing killing of Benazir Bhutto in Thursday’s suicide attack will mean for Pakistan’s future, there is little doubt that politics in this south Asian country will never be the same again.

. . . Bhutto may have been the first woman prime minister of a Muslim country but was twice ousted as premier on corruption charges, which she fought for the rest of her political life.

Ironically, it was only recently that corruption cases against her were "washed" clean courtesy of a controversial ordinance passed by Musharraf on the premise of national reconciliation but effectively seen as a means to win her support for his continued stay in power.

Regardless of what modus operandi appealed to her - and she took many that surprised even her family not to mention, her political adversaries - Bhutto remained a force to reckon with right until the end.

In her death, Pakistan may have lost its most potent political player, who remained at least for its vast moderate and secular population, their best hope.

Given the vitiated international climate vis-a-vis the war-on-terror for Islamabad, deep polarisation within the country and the institutional instability, her loss is colossal not just for Pakistan but for the rest of the world as well.

And very quickly following the news of Bhutto's death, leaders from around the world began to react. The presidents in Pakistan and the United States made statements. Leaders in the United States, and certainly other countries, made telephone calls to Pakistani leaders. And presidential candidates began to release statements or speak with the media on camera or by phone. And we instinctively knew to take the measure of their leadership capacity by how they reacted to the news of the death of this small and fierce unarmed woman halfway around our flat world.

Iowans will be meeting in caucuses in less than a week to make their choices for the POTUS. And the other primaries will quickly follow. It is entirely possible that these outcomes will be in large or small measure be influenced by the current news about the violence in Pakistan, and how the candidates behave as a result. It seems to me that the perspective provided by a reader's comment on my most recent S/SW post (12/19) on leadership -- cross-posted at at The Reaction -- is very apt for the current situation. The entire comment of "Ecophotos" follows:
Reaction: 1 Comment on "Behavior is an Indicator of Leadership Capacity"

Hi Carol,

My apologies for being late to this party, holiday diversions and all. A quick response to this post:

There is a lot of stuff being said about what we should expect from candidates with respect to comfort, character, consistency, and competitiveness.

My concern here is that most candidates repackage themselves according to the latest polls and focus group studies, and what we think we see is not always what we get. Ergo, a repeat of what we had. So I think an onus of responsibility should also be placed on voters to be more discerning. Here is a kind of inventory that voters should ask themselves:

Do you want a candidate who can govern effectively or one you can have a beer with?

Are you susceptible to propaganda, sloganeering, and sound bites, or do you read in search of veracity?

Are you swayed by artifice or authenticity?

Do you equate strength with arrogance or humility?

Voters should understand that elections are about "conquest and control" (no matter who wins); that all governments have a "primordial mean streak" and will violate their own stated principles when confronted with crisis. So the question is: Whose controls are more acceptable to you?

When I consider these criteria, I am able to narrow the field of candidates to one (not exactly one of the front-runners), but at least one in whom I have confidence. Unfortunately, we always get one based on popularity and consensus, never our first choice.

By ECOPHOTOS, at 12:09 AM

I close with some quick random thoughts. Senator Clinton's words seemed just exactly right for the moment. Senator Biden's words had a great deal of authority based on his vast knowledge. Senator Dodd's early words during a phone call with MSNBC carried a great deal of authoritative wisdom and subtlety. On the other hand, I was not impressed with John Edwards' report of a phone call directly to President Musharraf. Nor was I impressed by Senator McCain's litany of how much he knows about the situation, nor by Governor Romney's fear-mongering style of rhetoric. I plan to use Ecophotos' template for further study of all our candidates' potential for foreign policy leadership, based on their take on the current news from Pakistan.

My link to this article, "Non-violent protest has gone on line," in Common Dreams somehow seemed appropriate for today's post. It came to my notice a few weeks ago from my friend, "betmo," who always has a unique thoughts.

(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)

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