Thursday, August 02, 2007

Let's move on...

Updated ...to tearing your hair out and screaming.

Barak Obama, anxious to show he's "muscular" - i.e., militaristic - enough to be in charge of US foreign policy after days of being called "naive," the Chicago Tribune reports,
declared Wednesday he would use military force against Al Qaeda operatives hiding in tribal areas of Pakistan if that nation did not move more aggressively against them first.
He would, he said, be prepared to act unilaterally if Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is not aggressive enough at what we want him to do. This despite that fact that Musharraf is actually limited in what he can do and is in a "shaky position."
An attempt by the Pakistani president to dismiss the Supreme Court chief justice stirred violent riots and moved the court's full membership to over-rule the president in a politically damaging rebuff. Islamic fundamentalists took control of the capital city's Red Mosque and had to be ousted through a bloody military raid. That raid in turn prompted a series of suicide bombings against the Pakistani government.
Musharraf has also survived several assassination attempts over the years and faces challenges to his own government not only from Islamic fundamentalists but from a growing number of legal advocates and democracy proponents. None of this is to defend Musharraf, who is certainly no sweetheart, but to point out that he simply doesn't have the forces or, more importantly, the political maneuvering room to undertake the massive mission that would be required to root out al-Qaeda fighters in the mountains along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Does Obama understand any of this?
"I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges," Obama said. "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.... If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will."
In other words, "yes, I understand and I don't give a damn. I've got an election to posture for."

The Washington Post's version of the story, noting that Obama said in the same speech that he would send at least 7,000 more troops to Afghanistan, indicated that he was not just talking about things like air strikes but was proposing he would send US troops over the border to go after al-Qaeda strongholds in Pakistan.

Some folks have been defending Obama on the grounds that it has "always" been US policy that the military would strike unilaterally based on "actionable intelligence." Frankly, I don't see why I'm supposed to feel better from being told he's just like everyone who came before.

The whole notion of such a strike seemed nuts to
Teresita Schaffer, a former State Department official with responsibility for the region and now director of the South Asia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, [who] said that an overt U.S. military strike inside Pakistani territory would be a particular blow to Musharraf, who is a military leader, and could well lead to his ouster. It also would bolster leaders hostile to the United States in both the struggle for national leadership and local control of the tribal areas, she said.

"Once you have made that kind of operation, everything connected to the United States, even more than before, is believed to be the enemy," Schaffer said. "You've probably created a safe haven that works even better than before."
Obviously she is just weak and naive.

Footnote: Later on Wednesday, Hillary Clinton said in a radio interview that she would not hesitate to attack al-Qaeda targets on Pakistani territory, apparently, like Obama, without requiring the assent of the government of Pakistan. Plus ├ža change?

Another footnote: Obama also said in regard to military aid to Pakistan,
"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," Obama said.
I just wonder: If he did order the kind of attack he suggested he would and it didn't make "substantial progress" toward shutting down al-Qaeda, would he cut off military aid to the Pentagon?

Updated with the comment about people defending Obama.

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