The Corner

Re: Obama and Pakistan

David, with due respect, I am a hundred percent with your correspondent.  On Pakistan, Senator Obama is entirely right.  The only problem I have is that I don’t think he really means a word of it.  He is going to get tough with Pakistan about the same way Bill Clinton was going to get tough with China in ‘92 … i.e., right up til the moment he gets elected, at which point all the saber rattling will prove to be empty talk, and appeasement will be the order of the day.

This business about Pakistan being our ally is abject nonsense.  Most of the country despises us.  Musharraf and some of the military have been a fickle ally but they did at least occasionally take the fight to al Qaeda and the Taliban.  They didn’t do it with abandon, though, precisely because (a) the people of Pakistan oppose it (they are fine with having anti-Western jihadists operating from safe-havens within their country), and (b) Pakistan has always been a strong supporter of the Taliban (which Benazir Bhutto was key to establishing in Afghanistan) for both cultural and geopolitical reasons.

The Pakistan operation “clearly flies in the face of every argument against invading Iraq”?  So what?  The invasion of Iraq was patently supportable.  You can Monday-morning quarterback that it wasn’t a good idea and that the aftermath was mishandled, but the removal of the regime and the routing of terrorist cells (I refuse to refer to non-Iraqi terrorists as “insurgents”) was abundantly justified. 

More to the point, the Pakistan operation is clearly consistent with the Bush Doctrine as announced after 9/11, which holds that we will treat countries that harbor terrorists as terror regimes.  It is clearly consistent with the rationale for invading Afghanistan and overthrowing the Taliban — which not only harbored al Qaeda but made common cause with it.  Indeed, the Bush doctrine and the Afghanistan precedent would support a much more intensive operation than the one you are talking about.

Pakistan is harboring al Qaeda and the Taliban — and the “our ally Pakistan” crowd which swooned over Benazir Bhutto and continues to tut-tut Musharraf out of town can now welcome the new regime:  an amalgam of pro-jihadists and Leftists, united by their mutual legacy of corrupt governance, which has already announced that it thinks dialogue with the jihadists is the way to go.  (Hooray democracy!)  That, of course, is the very approach indulged at the end by Musharraf — under heavy political pressure from our great “ally,” the Pakistani people — which created the safe-havens that have allowed al Qaeda to regenerate.  (The nearly three-dozen paramiltary camps in the border region are estimated to have trained about a quarter-million jihadists in the past several years.)

What you, Senator McCain, and others who spout this “our ally Pakistan” drivel have to explain is this:  If the rationale for continuing American combat operations in Iraq is, principally, that we cannot allow anti-Western radicals to establish a platform from which they can launch 9/11-style operations, how can we conceivably turn a blind eye to the platform they have in fact established in Pakistan’s border region?  Try as it might, international law has not (yet) repealed the sovereign right of self-defense.  We are not required by anything so vapid as “our standing in the world” to tolerate an al Qaedastan in Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, or anyplace else.

If I thought Obama was actually serious, that would be a reason to consider voting for him.  Naturally, he’s not serious and he can’t square his Pakistan position with Iraq.  But I got news for you:  McCain can’t square his Iraq position with Pakistan — I cringe every time he mocks Obama’s stance.  What’s more, regardless of our “standing in the world,” I think the safety of the American people and their actual allies would be greatly enhanced by a very public understanding — such as the one that took hold for about ten minutes after 9/11 — that the United States will not tolerate safe havens from which radical Islam can orchestrate attacks against the West, and that either the host regime does something about it or we will.

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