Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Right on Pakistan

A little belated credit is due Barack Obama. I wrote at the time that I thought the Illinois Senator was correct, but the passage of (a few months) time has made him seem almost prescient. In a Democratic Presidential debate a few months ago, a- the- point of controversy was the effort of Obama to defend a statement he had made on August 1, 2007. From Reuters on that date:

Obama said if elected in November 2008 he would be willing to attack inside Pakistan with or without approval from the Pakistani government, a move that would likely cause anxiety in the already troubled region.

"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will," Obama said.

The reaction? As Fox News reported, from Chris Dodd, opposition: "Frankly, I am not sure what Barack is calling for in his speech this morning. But it is dangerous and irresponsible to leave even the impression the United States would needlessly and publicly provoke a nuclear power." From Bill Richardson, opposition: "My international experience tells me that we should address this problem with tough diplomacy with General Musharraf first, leaving the military as a last resort. It is important to reach out to moderate Muslim states and allies to ensure we do not unnecessarily inflame the Muslim world," said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, another 2008 Democratic presidential candidate.

ABC News reported two other candidates, both Senators, criticized Obama's comments: "I am concerned about talking about it," she (Clinton) said. "I think everyone agrees that our goal should be to capture or kill bin Laden and his lieutenants but how we do it should not be telegraphed and discussed for obvious reasons." On NPR's "Diane Rehm Show," Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Obama "naïve" and implied he wasn't experienced enough for the presidency. "Having talking points on foreign policy doesn't get you there," Biden said of Obama. (Note: Biden said also that he had recently wrotten a law conditioning aid to Pakistan on cooperation with the U.S.A. on fighting terrorists but that he first notified President Musharraf and Secretary of State Rice of his intent.)

And qualified support from former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, (who) said he would not hesitate to use force against extremists but said, "I believe we must first use maximum diplomatic and economic pressure on states like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to take all necessary actions to stop al Qaeda."

And since then: General Musharaff attempts to fire the chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court, spurring political turmoil; Benazhir Bhutto returns to the adulation of multitudes of Pakistanis and is put under house arrest; Musharraf imposes military rule.

So with the return from exile of Bhutto and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, it appears unnecessary or unwise for the Bush Administration to have placed its on the head of state and military strongman Musharraf.

So if Obama was right, with (qualified) support from that "peacenik" Edwards, and Biden seems to know something about the region, what about the guys in power: "Our approach to Pakistan is one that not only respects the sovereignty of Pakistan as a sovereign government, but is also designed to work in a way where we are working in cooperation with the local government," then-White House spokesman Tony Snow said. Let me translate: "We think Musharraf is just fine. But we don't want to criticize a Democratic candidate too much, lest we dilute our message that only we will keep you safe in a post-9/11 world because the Mommy Party wants to coddle terrorists- and, of course, not support the troops."

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