It’s hard to know how to read the recent speech by Barak Obama, the one where he said, according to a lot of folks, that the US should send troops into Pakistan. Here’s the exciting paragraph:
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.
There’s a lot more to the speech, and you should read the whole thing before spouting off too much.
My question is this: Does Obama really think that sending troops into Pakistan to get these terrorists is worth the risk to the Pakistani government? Sure, Pakistan is a mess, but it’s a mess that’s officially on our side. For all of the shortcomings of the current arrangement, they could be a lot worse much more easily than they could be a little better.
It’s all a bit more complicated than that, and it’s a bit weird to hear the party of nuance suggesting this in this way.
Obama is absolutely right that something needs to be done about the extremists holed up in the wilderness near the Afghanistan border, but openly sending in troops probably isn’t the first choice. Sending in covert operators is a different story. Of course, we may be doing some of that already. (If so, and it becomes public, I expect that Democrats will scream and cry about George Bush’s stupidity for authorizing it…)
What about Iran and Syria? If we can’t lean on them to stop attacks on US interests, do we send in troops, as well? Is that what Obama means? I can see the logic in this, but I’m not sure I would expect such consistency from critics of our Pakistan policy.
So, how serious do you think Obama is about sending US forces after al Qaeda in Pakistan? Was he giving us a true hint of how he’d do things if he sat behind the big desk? Was he just spouting off in an attempt to score points? Or has the poor guy simply been misinterpreted?
Though defenders in comments sections argue that Obama didn’t say anything about an invasion of Pakistan, Obama seems to disagree:
When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan
And a few lines later:
The first step must be getting off the wrong battlefield in Iraq, and taking the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Seems pretty clear to me. I’ve long thought that Obama often seemed to have a simpleton’s view of foreign policy and the war, and I’m inclined to keep feeling that way after seeing this.
Also, there’s this bit:
I introduced a plan in January that would have already started bringing our troops out of Iraq, with a goal of removing all combat brigades by March 31, 2008. If the President continues to veto this plan, then ending this war will be my first priority when I take office. [emphasis Murdoc’s]
“If the President continues to veto this plan”?!? Let’s count the vetoes. Hmmm. Looks like ZERO vetoes so far.
To quote Indiana Jones:
Sallah, I said NO camels! That’s FIVE camels; can’t you count?
Did Obama miscount zero vetoes? Or is he just making stuff up?
One final thing that’s got Murdoc scratching his head is this:
Above all, I will send a clear message: we will not repeat the mistake of the past, when we turned our back on Afghanistan following Soviet withdrawal.
Now, one could argue (and I’d agree) that we turned our backs on potential allies in Iraq after the 1991 war. And that we’ve payed for if for the past 16 years and will continue to pay for it for years to come. But I don’t understand how withdrawing from Iraq before the job is done is showing that we’ve learned.
Oh, and Somalia. Just think how different things might be if we had backed those who wanted to remove Saddam Hussein from power in 1991 and 1992 and if we had not turned tail in 1993. Note that Republicans bear much of the blame, as far as pointing fingers at political parties goes.
As far as I can tell, our current campaign in Iraq shows that we have learned from the past and are willing to do something about it.
It’s hard to tell with this Obama guy. But it’s harder to imagine putting him behind the steering wheel at this point.