Monday, October 10, 2011

The Pakistan Cauldron:Conspiracy, Assassination, and Instability

THE PAKISTAN CAULDRON: Conspiracy, Assassination & Instability (Potomac Books, Inc., Oct. 2011) explains Pakistan in the post-bin Laden era by examining its Pakistan’s leaders: A.O. Kahn, the “rock star” popular engineer of Pakistan’s nuclear program; Pervez Musharraf, the general turned politician, who skillfully deflected criticism from the secretive military in regard to nuclear proliferation; and Benazir Bhutto, the charismatic politician, whose promise for a stable enlightened country was cut short by assassination.

These leaders, despite their differences, put Pakistan first, a fact often misjudged by the American perception of Pakistan as a strategic ally. Farwell shows the dynamic of the U.S. Pakistani relationship, within the context of a political culture that breeds conspiracy theory, assassination, and a sense of betrayal. And he shows how that relationship has fared in fighting terrorism, al Qaeda and the Taliban. He also shows how our objectives would be met or not, depending on the results of Pakistan’s volatile political process.

PAKISTAN CAULDRON is the first book to assess the historical legacy of Benazir Bhutto as a champion for democratic pluralism and religious tolerance. It also looks at how Musharraf, her competitor, mishandled the aftermath of her assassinationcreating an autocrat’s “playbook” for blunders in a time of crisis—destroying his government’s credibility.

Like many people who are uninitiated into the reality of Pakistan, I have thought of the country as a confusing hypocritical place, the country that provided a haven for bin Laden then aided in his capture. The place that had a feminist star in the independent Moslem politiican Benazir Bhutto then assassinated her in a murky conspiracy, and a place supposed to be fighting the Taliban, while giving them support. Reading Jim Farwell's book, I came to understand why the US is viewed as hypocritical by Pakistan, why domestic Taliban are viewed differently than "foreign" Taliban, and why this country is an important ally to the U.S.

This book is dramatic, the personalities vivid and complex, the plot an exotic adventure, the more gripping because it's true and happening now. I now actually understand what I'm reading in the news. Disclosure for my readers--I am doing pr for this book and don't often review nonfiction. Full disclosure, I only do pr for books I enjoy that are worth the paper they are printed on, or the electrons.

SW