Obama: Did he just say we should send troops into Pakistan?

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.


  1. I’d say it’s questionable whether Waziristan and neighbouring areas are even part of Pakistan proper. Maybe they are now that they’re deciding to actually act as if they have some authority over them. But I’d say that if they cede authority to the Taliban, they have in effect created Talibanistan. Whether or not they SAY it’s part of Pakistan may be different from the reality of the situation. Having said that, I wouldn’t be TOO gung-ho about it. Especially since they do seem to be taking the Taliban more seriously of late. Still, I think this is the message Musharrif should probably be getting.. take care of our mutual problem so we don’t have to do it for you.

  2. …take care of our mutual problem so we don’t have to do it for you.‘ I, of course, don’t disagree in principle. But then, a lot of folks in the US would say ‘it’s questionable whether San Francisco and neighboring areas are even part of America proper’ but would never stand for another country coming in and cleaning the place out. At least not until after we’d made an honest effort to clean it up ourselves. I’m all for holding supposed allies’ feet to the fire when called for, but the Pakistan thing could go south in about two seconds and we would all be a hell of a lot worse off. I see the situation in Saudi Arabia to be very similar, with the difference not so much that the nation goes south on us but that the oil flow goes south. We can (and should) push when we can and do things under the radar when possible, but we also need to be careful that we don’t push too hard.

  3. Speaking of San Francisco, I’m reminded of my so-called ‘Invasion of Canada’ strategery: 1. Invade Canada from Detroit. 2. Fall back in the face of Canada’s counter-attack. 3. Retreat just beyond the edges of the Detroit/Flint metro area, leaving Canada in possession of the Motor City and environs. 4. Dig in and call for a cease-fire. 5. Build a wall. 6. Lay mines. 7. We win.

  4. I agree with Murdoc that the risks of Pakistan or Saudi Arabia going south are too great, especially given Pakistan’s enormous population and nuclear equipped military. In addition any interruption to Saudi oil will seal the deal for > $100 oil. Am I to take from your 2nd comment that you do not like Detroit?

  5. Oh yeah, I don’t think sending US soldiers into Pakistan would be a terribly good move right now. I’m just saying, having certain people think you might isn’t in itself such a bad thing. Also ‘hot pursuit’ would be a reasonable excuse. But send in a sizable force? That could be disastrous. Maybe if the situation gets a LOT worse (Musharrif assassinated, power vacuum, civil war, etc.) it could be justified.. right now it seems a bit crazy.

  6. What a forceful leader NOT. Here is what he said yesterday. ‘Obama said in grilling with AP reporter Thursday he would not use nuclear weapons ‘in any circumstance’… ‘I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance,’ Obama said, with a pause, ‘involving civilians’ Then he quickly added, ‘Let me scratch that. There’s been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That’s not on the table’…’ The only reason anyone would follow this looser is out of idle curiosity.

  7. I am not from Illinois so feel free to correct me if I am wrong. It seems to me that B. Hussein Obama was an unknown to the country at the start of 2004. He was a state senator who was going to run for the US Senate. Somehow the sealed divorce records of his opponent were released 6 months prior to the general election thus ensuring an almost uncontested victory. With that in mind the DNC let him give a keynote type address on national tv at the Kerry nominating convention. That was the first time I saw him and I was surprised how the media was pegging him as presidential and destined to run, etc. It seemed his greatest attribute was being of mixed race descent. He was supposed to bring us all together. His election would show the world how far we have come. With just about 2 years experience as a US Senator, this guy runs for President. He is raking in money at an unbelievable clip. I really think the LA Times article about liberal whites supporting him is correct. It makes them feel good because he is not threatening to them. His appeal to the black community surprises me. Although he is ‘African American’, he does not have a lot in common with the cohort of black Americans who are descendants of slavery. His father is from east Africa whose people were not sold into slavery in the west. They were enslaved in the muslim world, but our slave population came from west Africa. Outside of his mother’s family owning slaves, he has no connection to the historical plight of America’s black population. However, back to his qualifications. Not to insult Illinois, but anyone on this blog knows as much or more about foreign policy as an Illinois state senator. I think he is being held up to make Hillary look strong. This is a staged battle where she can defeat him and look good doing it. Gingrich thinks he might be her veep choice. If that is the case, their combined campaign fund might approach half a billion dollars. Maybe with his latest comments about Pakistan and now taking nukes off the table, people will see that this guy is just a state senator running for President.

  8. His father is from east Africa whose people were not sold into slavery in the west.’ Actually, some – a very few – did, via Madagascar. Late 18th century piracy went on in that area too, and the proceeds from that were mostly laundered via the North American colonies, which meant that this trade link stayed open. Rice reached North America that way, we know from genetic matches.

  9. Maybe a few did. If you have the facts, I won’t argue with you. However, since his father was born in Africa, he does not appear to be a descendant of our enslaved black population. In addition, he was raised in Indonesia and in Hawaii by his mother’s parents. So I don’t see much of a link to our core black population.