Saturday, September 27, 2008

Obama Says Bomb 'Em???

Listening to the Debate last night I heard an exchange in which sounded like Senator Obama was proposing a major escalation of the Afghanistan war by attacking into Pakistan if they did not comply with an ultmatum.

The text in question.

OBAMA: No. 3, we've got to deal with Pakistan, because al Qaeda and the Taliban have safe havens in Pakistan, across the border in the northwest regions, and although, you know, under George Bush, with the support of Senator McCain, we've been giving them $10 billion over the last seven years, they have not done what needs to be done to get rid of those safe havens.


MCCAIN:Now, on this issue of aiding Pakistan, if you're going to aim a gun at somebody, George Shultz, our great secretary of state, told me once, you'd better be prepared to pull the trigger. We've got to get the support of the people of -- of Pakistan. He said that he would launch military strikes into Pakistan.
Now, you don't do that. You don't say that out loud. If you have to do things, you have to do things, and you work with the Pakistani government.


OBAMA: Nobody talked about attacking Pakistan. Here's what I said.

. . . . . .

Now, Senator McCain is also right that it's difficult. This is not an easy situation. You've got cross-border attacks against U.S. troops.
And we've got a choice. We could allow our troops to just be on the defensive and absorb those blows again and again and again, if Pakistan is unwilling to cooperate, or we have to start making some decisions.

The text does not seem as clear in print as the way it sounded listening on the radio.

The clear impression I got from Senator Obama’s first quote above is that he was advocating unilateral military action into Pakistan to deal with Al Quaida.

Senator McCain’s response:

I'm not prepared at this time to cut off aid to Pakistan. So I'm not prepared to threaten it, as Senator Obama apparently wants to do, as he has said that he would announce military strikes into Pakistan.

was a response to what Senator Obama said.

Seantor Obama’s clarification seems to be saying that he was not talking about attacking Pakistan per se but aggressively attacking AQ and Taliban targets that happen to be in Pakistan. Which Pakistan would consider a major violation of it's soverinity, if not a causus Belli

Of course The US has been conducting very limited attacks against targets in Pakistan. Quietly with UAV launched weapons against targets that are clearly AQ, well away from Pakistan government controlled areas and according to some news reports with the knowledge and permission of the Pakistan government, which it is understood they will deny. These have increased lately as has Pakistani protests especially since there is a new Pakistani President.

The tenor of Senator Obama’s comments is that we should inform Pakistan that we expect of them as a client, not the help we need from an ally, to take complete control of that area or we will cut off aid and publicly launch a major air (and ground?) offensive to clear AQ and the Taliban from the border regions.

Some problems.

Like Senator McCain he made no mention that we are woking with NATO allies in Pakistan.

Pakistan is conducting military operations to regain control in that area. An offensive that would obtain the results he wants is probably beyond the short term ability of the Pakistani Army to say nothing of being political suicide to the Pakistani government.

We have troops in Pakistan. What will happen to them?

What happens to our relations with every country in the area if our public actions are those of dealing with a client rather than a difficult ally?

Afghanistan is a land locked country. You get their though Iran, Pakistan or the Russian dominated Confederation of Independent States. If Pakiastan drops out of the alliance for any reason our supply lines are at the whim of Russia’s Putin. We could be cut off from effective resupply unless we did things the way Russia wants them done.

Senator McCain’s comments sounded much more responsible considering the complexity of the situation. Certainly the comments of a person who is thinking ahead to the possibilty of winning the election, not basing policy proposals on focus groups.

Well, I am glad the printed text is not as serious as the way it sounded, but still he is saying we should take unilateral action without considering the probability of success or the opnion of our NATO allies and Pakistan.


Jeff Wills said...


Excellent analysis as always. In principle I agree with McCain. Although, I do think the Pakistanis are not doing all they could do. The possibly of UBL hiding out in that area is unacceptable. We need to work with the Pakistanis but also remember they supported the Taliban before we threatened to "bomb them into the stone age." I suspect their not being totally helpful in finding UBL. I support attacks on Pakistani ground if we have reason to believe it will kill al Qaeda or Taliban leaders or in self-defense. If it's to get UBL I'm for a full regiment crossing the line. We should work with the Pakistani government. I agree. But no games.

hank_F_M said...


Yes it will continue to be a maze of changing everything until we get him.

El Jefe Maximo said...

Pakistan's a mess inside of a disaster. If you want to double down in Afghanistan, the most valueless piece of real-estate on the planet, by all means take Obama's advice and bomb Pakistan -- the second most valuless piece of world real-estate. (Maybe third, we've got to account for Haiti someplace). Still, the whole idea of Obama as a war leader ought to scare anybody with an IQ over 30 or so.

LFC said...

Ideally Karzai, Singh, and Zardari (current leaders of Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan) should work out a regional agreement that would, among other things: 1) enable Pakistan and India to cooperate more on anti-terrorism activities, 2) reduce India-Pakistan tensions (thereby also reducing the independent influence of the Pakistan army and the ISI), 3) facilitate joint Afghan-Pakistan action vs Taliban/AQ in the border regions, as well as 4) humanitarian co-op in aiding the Pakistani civilian refugees that have crossed the border into Afghanistan to escape the fighting going on, esp in the Bajaur district. If the govts in the region can effectively get their act(s) together, this will possibly reduce the need for US strikes.

hank_F_M said...


That is a big IF.

I do not think the governments; especially Pakistan with regard to India can do it and remain in power.

El Jefe

You remember Kipling’s report of the old troop sergeant’s advice to “The Young British Solidier.” I think our welcome there has limits. Hopefully a missile will find bin Laden quickly and we can hand off to our NATO friends on some grounds such as it would be less provocative if we weren’t on the front line.

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