Wednesday, August 01, 2007

"Obama gets it"

Obama delivered a speech today on terrorism, demonstrating his clear understanding of both the situation in Iraq and the real threats we continue to face abroad. Crucially, he addressed Iraq not as something we need to fix in order to fight terrorists but rather *a significant detriment to* our anti-terrorism goals and policies.
Iraq has gone from being completely unrelated to global terrorism to a major factor in advancing its cause, and unlike the Bush administration, Obama recognizes the affirmative policies necessary. To wit:
[W]e must recognize that al Qaeda is not the primary source of violence in Iraq, and has little support -- not from Shia and Kurds who al Qaeda has targeted, or Sunni tribes hostile to foreigners. On the contrary, al Qaeda's appeal within Iraq is enhanced by our troop presence.

Ending the war will help isolate al Qaeda and give Iraqis the incentive and opportunity to take them out. It will also allow us to direct badly needed resources to Afghanistan.
He went on to stress the importance of non-military activity in Afghanistan as well. It's this kind of overall foreign policy understanding, as well as the insight to know that al Qaeda is neither the primary source of violence in Iraq nor widely supported, that makes him such an attractive candidate from a foreign policy perspective.

I was a little concerned when I heard he would address potential military action in Pakistan, but it ended up being less militaristic than I anticipated. Regarding that enigmatic nation, he said,
[L]et 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.
The pledge to use actionable intelligence in Pakistan sounds pretty tough, but it's really nothing new -- the U.S. has for some time now violated sovereignty in its counter-terror operations, and you don't hear about it much because those actions tend to be quiet, precise, and brief. They don't involve, say, massive invasions. Based on his track record on Iraq, I'm willing to give Obama the benefit of the doubt on something like this -- given that he resisted the overwhelming political pressures to be pro-war in 2003, I think he will be able to make the right judgment call on targeted attacks.

Of course, an invasion of Pakistan would be a terrible idea, and it's even risky to contemplate taking action in that nation given the precarious nature of Musharraf's handle on power. That is why it's important to have someone with good judgment in the White House, someone who we can trust to make the right decision on whether something would, overall, be good or harmful to our overall policies and security. So far, there's nothing to demonstrate that Obama doesn't have that kind of judgment.



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