Saturday, August 04, 2007

Terrorism, Pakistan, And Obama

Let's go over a couple of the facts about Pakistan:

-in September, 2006 President Pervez Musharraf negotiated a deal with the tribal warlords of northwestern Pakistan, effectively ceding all control to them, while the Pakistani army would be removed from that region;
-Osama bin Laden is believed to be holed up in northwestern Pakistan;
-The United States pays $80 million a month to Musharraf's government, payments thus far totalling approximately $5.6 billion, presumably for anti-terrorism efforts; and
-the recently released National Intelligence Estimate argues that al-Qaeda has reconstituted itself in northwestern Pakistan and the U.S.A. (or, the "homeland" to those who share the Nazi's fondness for the term) "will face a persistent and evolving terrorist threat over the next three years" due primarily to al-Qaeda.

Thus paying attention, on August 1, Barack Obama gave a statement outlining his policy on terrorism. It included the following:

As President, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.

The following day, Obama (according to, responding to a question about use of nuclear weapons in Afghanistan or Pakistan), stated "There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons and that's not a hypothetical that I'm going to discuss."

In the Presidential debate of 6/3/07 from Manchester, New Hampshire, Senator Clinton, asked if as President she would enact a no-fly zone in Darfur: "well, but we're not going to engage in these hypotheticals"; and about a missile strike against Osama bin Laden that might kill civilians: "I don't think it's useful to be talking in these kinds of abstract hypothetical terms." So on 8/2/07 she criticized Obama's refusal to discuss a hypothetical situation by arguing that he should not be discussing a hypothetical question: "Presidents should be careful at all times in discussing the use and nonuse of nuclear weapons." (If this is incomprehensible to you, you're paying attention.) Of course, Obama's response was not that of a President discussing the use and nonuse of nuclear weapons- but rather that of a candidate, a distinction lost on a candidate who herself refuses to answer "hypotheticals."

Fortunately, Senator Clinton did not criticize Obama's readiness to strike terrorist camps in Pakistan, if necessary, by conventional means. Others,however, were not so reticent. "It is dangerous and irresponsible to leave even the impression that a President would needlessly and publicly provoke a nuclear power," intoned Senator Dodd, aghast that a Presidential candidate might actually tell the American people what he would do as President. Warning "it is important not to unnecessarily inflame the Muslim world," Governor Richardson, in his rush to split infinitives and reassure Muslims, inadvertently implied that Muslims everywhere approve of the terrorism bin Laden and the Taliban have provoked. And still auditioning for Secretary of State in the Clinton Administration, Senator Biden remarked "the way to deal with it is not to announce it but to do it," apparently forgetting that, not currently being President, the Illinois Senator cannot "do it." Obama's statement, Biden continued, puts Musharraf "in the position that makes it virtually impossible for him to do anything other than what he's done, basically cut a deal with the warlords on the border." (Which, obviously, is the situation that Obama's consideration of a strike against terrorist camps is a reasonable response to. This can get very confusing.)

Senator McCain, whose foreign policy expertise has been demonstrated by his steadfast support of Mr. Bush's counterproductive invasion of Iraq, also criticized Obama's stance against the terrorist camps in northwestern Pakistan. And Bush spokesman Tony Snow lectured "our approach to Pakistan is one that not only respects the sovereignty of Pakistan as a sovereign government..." seemingly unaware that when a sovereign government declares a portion of its territory off-limits to its own security forces, it has ceded a significant portion of its sovereignty (and usefulness to a "war on terror.")

What does Senator Obama understand that these guys don't? A "war on terror" must be more than a slogan.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree that Obama's statements were good and that they were misrepresented by other candidates and the misleading sound-bite-loving media.

I think I understand why this is happening. Obama has set himself up as the most moral and fresh candidate. He continually says that he does not take money from DC lobbyists, that he's new and fresh, that he will clean up Washington, and that he was always against Iraq. In doing this he has set himself up to be attacked by all the others.

It remains to be seen whether he has also set himself up for a big fall.

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