Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Opinionator: A blog at the NY Times by Tobin Harshaw & Chris Suellentrop

Barack Obama’s declaration, during a foreign-policy address today, that he would be willing as president to use military force against Al Qaeda in Pakistan (“If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will”) has provoked a blogburst. (Here’s The New York Times news story on Obama’s speech.)

MyDD’s Jerome Armstrong doesn’t like the idea, calling it merely “the smarter-stick of Obama rather than the dumb-club of Bush.” Obama’s speech “is basically a continuation of the Bush-Cheney doctrine of endorsing unilateral pre-emptive military attacks abroad, lighter perhaps, but certainly not the mentality that would pull us out of the mideast quagmire,” Armstrong writes. He thinks the speech provides an opening for the other candidates, including John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, to move to Obama’s left on foreign policy.

National Review’s John Podhoretz, on the other hand, doesn’t take Obama’s rhetoric seriously. “This country is never ­ never ­ going to stage a major military action against Pakistan,” Podhoretz writes at The Corner. He adds:

What’s more, every serious person knows the United States won’t invade Pakistan, even with Special Forces ­ since the reason we cancelled the proposed action against Al Qaeda in 2005 is that it was going to take many hundreds of American troops to do it. This isn’t 15 people dropping like ninjas in the darkness. It’s an invasion, with helicopters and supply lines and routes of ingress and escape. It would have had unforseen and unforeseeable consequences, but it would have been reasonable to assume the Pakistanis would have turned violently against the United States and hurtled toward Islamic fundamentalist control.

If the evil Bushitler Cheney Rumsfeld Monster wouldn’t do it, nobody will do it. And you can bet there isn’t a single person in line to run a Democratic State Department or Democratic Defense Department who would give the idea three seconds of thought. Obama is using Pakistan to talk tough, in the full knowledge that he will never actually pull the trigger.

Drew Cline, the editorial page editor of New Hampshire’s Union Leader, notes that Obama declined to use the phrase “war on terror” in the speech. Obama used a Giuliani-like phrase in its place, Cline says at his Union Leader blog. “Instead of saying ‘war on terror,’ he said ‘al-Qaida’s war against us. . .’ and ‘the terrorists are at war with us,’ ” Clint writes. “Rudy’s coinage is “the terrorists’ war on us.” Cline continues, “Obama clearly wants the American people to know that he is not John Edwards, that he believes the terrorists are waging a war on this country, but that he would fight back differently. Smart.”

While Obama’s remarks on Pakistan are dominating the commentary so far, it’s worth flagging at least one other bit in the speech, which may have greater political significance in the end. Obama painted the members of Congress who voted for the Iraq invasion as the war’s “co-authors”: “Congress rubber-stamped the rush to war, giving the president the broad and open-ended authority he uses to this day,” Mr. Obama said. “With that vote, Congress became co-author of a catastrophic war. And we went off to fight on the wrong battlefield, with no appreciation of how many enemies we would create, and no plan for how to get out.”