Fri. Aug 03, 2007
The Invader Or The Nuker
Barack Obama raised a ruckus by saying that he’s in favor of killing Al Qaeda where we might find them. Like in Pakistan. You know, the ol’ “with us or against us” thing about how countries that harbor terrorists should expect visitors in US military uniforms. Well, actually, I’m distorting his quote just as much as those who are now criticizing him, claiming he plans to invade Pakistan if he’s elected. In a further distortion, I heard that Hillary responded by saying she might nuke them instead.
How did we get here in less than one news cycle? What exactly did the man say, and why is he getting so much heat for it?
Two separate questions, almost unrelated. Let’s take the first. In a time honored American tradition, the critics have seized on one sentence in a very long speech. In that one sentence Obama said: “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”
Shocking! And radically similar to a statement by Fran Townsend, the President’s homeland security adviser, appearing on FOX on July 22 (emphasis mine):
WALLACE: If our enemies are regenerating their safe haven in Pakistan, under the Bush doctrine of preemptive military action to take out any threat, why aren’t we doing everything we can â€” special operations forces, pilotless drones â€” why aren’t we doing everything we can to take out that safe haven?
TOWNSEND: Well, Chris, just because we don’t speak about things publicly doesn’t mean we’re not doing many of the things you’re talking about. First and foremost, we’re working with our…
WALLACE: Well, are we doing those things?
TOWNSEND: First and foremost, we’re working with our Pakistani allies to deny the safe haven.
But let’s remember that the federally administrated tribal area is an area of Pakistan that’s never seen the writ of the Pakistani government. It’s never extended that far.
President Musharraf has got over 80,000 Pakistani military troops in the FATA and working with us they’ve sustained hundreds of casualties in this fight.
We’re working with them, but the president has been clear. Job number one is to protect the American people, and there are no options that are off the table.
I know this is horribly unfair in our world of quick-hit partisan politics, but let’s take a look at the context of that sentence. Perhaps the entire paragraph in which it existed, and maybe even the paragraph before and after:
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.
And Pakistan needs more than F-16s to combat extremism. As the Pakistani government increases investment in secular education to counter radical madrasas, my Administration will increase America’s commitment. We must help Pakistan invest in the provinces along the Afghan border, so that the extremists’ program of hate is met with one of hope. And we must not turn a blind eye to elections that are neither free nor fair — our goal is not simply an ally in Pakistan, it is a democratic ally.BarackObama.com | Remarks of Senator Obama: The War We Need to Win
Well, with the surrounding context, it sounds like there’s a lot of “carrot and stick,” not an invasion. And there’s an aspect of what he states later in the speech: “I will make clear that the days of compromising our values are over.”
But even if you reduce it to that one sentence, I have a hard time seeing the problem. It’s a double conditional. “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets … and President Musharraf won’t act … we will.”
If you have a problem with that, I would suggest you’re going to have a problem with most any attempt to fight Al Qaeda abroad. Because almost any attempt to directly attack them will occur within the borders of some sovereign state. Furthermore, the tribal areas of Pakistan have never been under the effective control of the government. Proof comes in the form of the failed “treaties” the government entered into last fall with tribal leaders in those areas harboring extremists from the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
A strong argument can be made that Waziristan in particular is not a part of any sovereign state, though it does fall within the Western drawn border that designates where Afghanistan ends and Pakistan begins. And it’s a border largely unrecognized by the Pashtun people who live on both sides and have been there much longer than the Western drawn line.
As for Al Qaeda and that “line,” follow the very short trail of the past six years.
From Jalalabad, where bin Laden arrived in Afghanistan in 1996, travel 50-60 miles south and you are in Tora Bora, site of Al Qaeda’s “last stand” in late 2001. From Tora Bora, travel about 60-70 miles south-southwest, and you are in the area of Khost and Gardez, Paktia Province, the Taliban and Al Qaeda hotbed where Operation Anaconda was unleashed in the spring of 2002. Move another 60-70 miles south-southwest from there and you’re in Northern Waziristan, the most likely lair of remaining Al Qaeda leadership. During this 170-210 mile jaunt, you would cross the zig-zagging border three times, as Al Qaeda has for six years. As if it does not exist.
And across that border somewhere, at the very least, they’ve set up a first class propaganda operation that issues video and audio tapes pretty much at will. Depending on who you want to believe, they intend to attack us very very soon (the Bush administration and Al Qaeda currently appear to be the primary proponents of this position), and are using this safe haven to plot and execute that attack.
It is far from illiberal to think they should be squashed before they can act again. It is rational. It’s also rational to ask an allegedly willing ally to do that for us, or with us, rather than act unilaterally. But if they won’t … we should.
As for the idea that if we strike Zawahiri or bin Laden in the tribal regions, the extremists will kill or overthrow Musharraf, they’ve been trying to do that for years. He’s survived three or four assassination attempts. Then next one may get him, whether we attack in Pakistan, or all mass convert to Islam. Because no matter what we do, they want him dead really bad. We can’t change that, for better or worse.
Then, domestically, the debate turned nuclear. Literally, in response to the question, “In Afghanistan or Pakistan, is there any circumstance where you would be prepared or willing to use nuclear weapons to defeat terrorism and Osama bin Laden?” ... Obama said nukes were “not on the table.”
Immediately, Clinton pounced, trying to reclaim the peak of Dem Hawk Mountain, saying “Presidents since the Cold War have used nuclear deterrence to keep the peace. And I don’t believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or nonuse of nuclear weapons.”
And there you have your answer as to “why is he getting so much heat” for his comment. The Clinton camp likely sees Obama as the only real remaining threat to the Democratic nomination. So any time they can paint him as inexperienced in foreign affairs, too hawkish, not hawkish enough, etc. ... they will. Quickly and often.
How do I feel about the idea of nuking Al Qaeda? I’ve already told you once. Last September, in a very long article titled Accountability Is For Appeasers, I brought up an item in the news back then, that the Bush administration was considering the use of tactical nukes to attack Iran’s nuclear program.
If we’re willing to consider that option, because it might be the only way to be sure, and would save the lives of American troops, and if we were unwilling to commit more than the two dozen US SOF and CIA operators who were at Tora Bora … where was the tactical nuke option then? Where was
Dr. StrangeloveDick Cheney when we really needed him?
It was been well documented by multiple independent sources that we had bin Laden, and approximately 1,500 of his hardest core followers “trapped” in a six square mile area. Literally itching for a fight with the infidels. If the decision was made not to commit the battalion of troops repeatedly requested, well then, why didn’t we create a small mushroom cloud in one of the most remote mountain valleys on this planet?
It’s also been shown the administration went into Iraq in part because they were worried about â€œsending a messageâ€? that America had the will to respond overwhelmingly to such attacks. Well, howâ€™s that for a message … pull a 9/11 on America, and we will track you down, corner you, and nuke you.
So you can see how I am torn in my choice for President. Barack is ready to go after the bastards in their safe haven. But Hillary might nuke them.
It’s a good thing I’ve got a few more months to decide.