The Corner

Obama and Pakistan

I’ve received a couple of e-mails along these lines:

I am amazed that [you continue] to spread the “Obama said he would invade Pakistan” tripe. Read the article you linked. He said that if Pakistan failed to take action against Al Qaeda in the border region, the U.S. would. This, incidentally, is our operating policy right now — for instance, it’s how we got al-Libi in late January. Any claim that Obama would support “invading” Pakistan is a deliberate misrepresentation of his position. If you have a counter-argument that holds any water, I’d love to hear it. If not, you should offer a correction.

My response is that as much as I appreciate the idea of a dead terrorist, I don’t like what we did in Pakistan, and I really don’t like the fact that we’re bragging about it, or that a presidential candidate would openly discuss it as an option. And if Obama hadn’t recommended it in August in a bid to gain political credibility, then you wouldn’t be defending it, either.

For those who missed it, my correspondent is referring to the drone-missile attack we launched at the end of last month, which killed terrorist Abu Laith al-Libi in Pakistan with two missiles. And that’s not all — here’s the Washington Post account from this month, revealing exactly what we did:

Having requested the Pakistani government’s official permission for such strikes on previous occasions, only to be put off or turned down, this time the U.S. spy agency did not seek approval. The government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was notified only as the operation was underway, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities.

Officials say the incident was a model of how Washington often scores its rare victories these days in the fight against al-Qaeda inside Pakistan’s national borders: It acts with assistance from well-paid sympathizers inside the country, but without getting the government’s formal permission beforehand.

McCain has been pleading ignorance of the attack’s details, but remarked that such an operation should at least be kept secret — we shouldn’t speak in public about bombing allies without permission, and we certainly shouldn’t brag about it after the fact.

“The one thing you want to do is not embarrass them…I would not broadcast to the world that I am going to bomb a sovereign nation in order to accomplish my goal.”

I think most people who understand the issue would agree with McCain at least far enough to say that you don’t back an ally into a corner unless you want to make an enemy. But so powerful is Obamania that liberals can now praise even George W. Bush for doing something they would oppose under any other circumstances — all because of Obama’s ill-considered comments last year. That I cannot respect.

The logic for this Pakistan operation clearly flies in the face of every argument against invading Iraq — international law, sovereignty, respect for other countries, our standing in the world, etc. What do you think it does for our standing in the world when we not only launch missiles within the borders of an ally without asking permission, but we also humiliate that ally by announcing it to the world through the Washington Post?

Perhaps someone who has attended the Kennedy School can explain to me how our operation in Pakistan was not an act of war, or how it does not create greater resentment toward the United States in the Muslim world. That Obama’s supporters would hold it up as some kind of model is deeply puzzling to me.

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