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Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Be Pakistan

By Karl Klockars in News on Aug 1, 2007 9:30PM

obama_pakistan_voa_08_01_07.pngSay you're a candidate for president. The crux of your campaign is not only that you never voted to authorize a war in Iraq, but you knew it was wrong from the get-go. So what do you do, hotshot, when a carpetbag Senator from New York calls you naive and irresponsible when it comes to foreign policy decisions?

If you're Barack Obama, you respond by threatening to start another war.

In a speech today at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Obama went all hawk on us when he said, “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.” He went on to lay out a five-point plan for reworking the war on terror to include a withdrawal from Iraq, as well as paying lip service to securing the world's nuclear weapons. But the heart of the speech was this: if the leader of a Middle Eastern Muslim nation won't root out terrorists on their own, we'll come in and do the job ourself. Now, who does that sound like?

This leads to a few questions.

First off, what does it gain Obama to make these kinds of threats? When your voting block and your constituents are notably anti-war, is it really a good idea to raise the possibility of more military entanglements and a longer time spent in the Middle East? It's hard to reconcile this morning's statements with the Obama that has perched upon the wrong war at the wrong time.

Obama has a history (short though it may be) of saying things to people that they might not want to hear. In May, for example, he got up in front of the UAW in Detroit and talked tough about fuel efficiency and the continuing dominance of foreign automakers. Some didn't like it, where others hailed his willingness to speak truth — or at least discomfort — to power. Perhaps this is something we don't particularly want to hear right now, but better to get it out on the table early. Better that than to have one more thing we don't know about Obama's policy.

In addition to Howard Dean, Dick Durbin, Rahm Emanuel, and Hillary Clinton (who's leading Obama by more than 20 points in the most recent poll), Obama is scheduled to speak Saturday at the YearlyKos convention. It'll be interesting to see the response he receives in light of his statements today. Not only that, but how does the Republican party and their Presidential candidates respond to this move? Do they decide immediately that Obama's decision would be the wrong war in the wrong place at a too-late time? Or do they (gulp) have to agree with a Democrat on an issue of national security?

Don't get us wrong — maybe this is an absolutely brilliant move, both politically and policy-wise, and we'll all be safer for it when the Obama/Edwards ticket gets inaugurated. Perhaps a world where American forces are in the mountains of Pakistan, rooting out bin Laden (if he's even still drawing breath) wherever he maybe camped out, may be the best choice. Regardless, it's somewhat disappointing to hear the same ol' chest beating and saber rattling. If this move represents the politics of hope, what are we really hoping for?

Image courtesy of the Voice of America.