Tag Archives: Pakistan

What’s getting lost?

In an interview with MSNBC on Thursday, Jesse Jackson, Jr. made a little slip, mistakenly referring to the war in Pakistan when he meant the war in Afghanistan.  He may be prescient.  There’s a lot going on in Pakistan, but in light of the crises on Wall Street, the incessant coverage of distractions on the campaign trail (think lipstick), and folks wondering where to get Sarah Palin’s shoes, the Pakistan situation is getting lost in the shuffle.

This morning, Pakistan is back in the news, albeit not front and center with the news of Bush asking for $700 billion in bailout funds, due to the bombing of the Marriott in downtown Islamabad.  Right now, the death toll stands at 40, but that number is bound to rise.  This follows suicide attacks in August at a munitions plant and a hospital and attacks in Islamabad and Karachi in July.  The State Department reported in May of this year that terrorist attacks against noncombatants in Pakistan more than doubled from 2006 to 2007.  We can’t be surprised if they issue a similar report next August for the period from 2007 to 2008. 

While attacks are increasing inside their country, the Pakistanis are concerned about statements by VP candidate Sarah Palin and Presidential candidate Barack Obama on the campaign trail about how they would act on intelligence regarding terrorists in Pakistan.  For example, here’s Sarah Palin in the Charlie Gibson interview:

GIBSON: But, Governor, I’m asking you: We have the right, in your mind, to go across the border with or without the approval of the Pakistani government.

PALIN: In order to stop Islamic extremists, those terrorists who would seek to destroy America and our allies, we must do whatever it takes and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go and even who we target.

GIBSON: And let me finish with this. I got lost in a blizzard of words there. Is that a yes? That you think we have the right to go across the border with or without the approval of the Pakistani government, to go after terrorists who are in the Waziristan area?

PALIN: I believe that America has to exercise all options in order to stop the terrorists who are hell bent on destroying America and our allies. We have got to have all options out there on the table.

In the meantime, Pakistan is denouncing U.S. cross border attacks , which the US claims, in the spirit of Gov. Palin and Sen. Obama, are made in the name of fighting terrorism.  On September 3, U.S. Special Forces made a ground assault on a Pakistani village.  This attack, which diverted from the airstrike or drone pattern of previous attacks, sent the Pakistani Government into a fury.  Far from an isolated incident, however, the attack appears to be just the first step in a growing initiative by the Bush Administration to step up attacks in Pakistan.  The initiative, approved in July, allows for US troops to enter Pakistan to conduct raids, without asking the Pakistani Government for permission.

On Tuesday, the new Pakistani President, Asif Ali Zardari, will meet with Bush in New York at the U.N.  Sure to top the agenda is the issue of these border raids.  It will be interesting to see if, in the middle of the campaign news and the Wall Street melt down, news of the meeting will make media headlines. 

The situation in Pakistan could boil over at any time and we should be paying attention.  Not only are our military forces stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving us precious few resources to divert to Pakistan, our economy simply cannot handle the strain of a third front in the “war on terror.”  We must also consider the long term damage of profoundly souring our relationship with the Pakistani government.  This is important, folks.  We shouldn’t let it get lost.   



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Taking Issue with Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic

I love it when “journalists” use their platform to spew inaccuracies.  Let’s be clear, Leon Wieseltier isn’t a journalist in the classical sense.  He’s the literary editor over at The New Republic and an author, himself.  I’ll briefly mention that he’s been accused of being a neo-con, which he denies, his defense of Scooter Libby and his defense of the war in Iraq be damned.  By all accounts, he also hates bloggers.

He had a piece out yesterday in The New Republic called, Obama’s Foreign Policy Too Homeopathic.  His main argument seems to wrapped up in the “all hope, no substance” nonsense coming at Obama a lot these days.  While he criticizes Obama for not saying enough about a lot of things, the piece makes me wonder if Wieseltier is listening at all. 

Wieseltier begins by raising the issue of Pakistan:

” I do not mean that there will be many wars, though I cannot imagine that the threat to American security from Al Qaeda and its many associates can be met without a massive and sustained military operation in western Pakistan, and I cannot imagine any Pakistani government ordering such an operation. It is not ‘the politics of fear’ to remind Obama’s legions of the blissful that, while they are watching Scarlett Johansson sway to the beat, somewhere deep inside a quasi independent territory we might call Islamistan people are making plans to blow them to bits. (Yes, they can.)” 

While Wieseltier wasn’t listening, Obama offered this much repeated quote regarding Pakistan:  “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”  And in this clipfrom the Las Vegas debate, Obama makes it clear that we must address the problem of Al-Qaeda terrorists hiding in the hills between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the cause of democracy in Pakistan, the concern over nuclear proliferation in Pakistan, and the cause of the human rights in the region. 

Wieseltier moves next to China and the effect it is having on our economy.  In the Chicago debate, Obama’s response to the question, “Which do you think (China) is, ally or adversary,” was, in part,:

“. . . we’ve got to have a president in the White House who’s negotiating to make sure that we’re looking after American workers. That means enforcing our trade agreements. It means that, if they’re manipulating their currency, that we take them to the mat on this issue. It means that we are also not running up deficits and asking China to bail us out and finance it, because it’s pretty hard to have a tough negotiation when the Chinese are our bankers.”

What happens in the White House will, of course, be interesting, as the reality of US / China relations is extremely complicated.  But don’t claim that Sen. Obama hasn’t taken a position on the issue.

Next, Wieseltier addresses Russia, Iran, Iraq, Korea, Palestine, Darfur, and Latin America in 7 sentences.  Obama has been to Russia and is concerned about nuclear proliferation in the country.  Regarding Iran, no one has been more eloquent regarding our need for both sticks and carrots with that country.  In an interview with NPR while on the campaign trail, he had this to say regarding Iran:

“I think Iran understands what military threats we pose. You know, they’re not surprised that we could strike them, and strike them hard,” Obama said. “What we haven’t suggested in any way is what advantages they would have in acting more responsibly in the region. That’s been the missing ingredient.”

Obama’s position on Iraq is clear:  he has been against the war from the beginning and recognizes the need for more diplomacy in the region.  You’d have to be deaf, blind, and dumb to have missed that one so I won’t even link the evidence.  Having lived in Korea, I can tell you that I like his position on continuing with the six party talks and sanctions, while recognizing that eventual one on one talks might be helpful. 

Look, I’ll freely admit that the Palestine situation is way too complicated and controversial for me to wade into here.  Even Wieseltier gave it only one sentence.  Moving on, let’s look at Darfur.  Obama has a sterling record on Darfur, including cosponsoring legislation in Congress.  And finally we come to Latin America.  As recently as Monday, on the campaign trail, the Latin America issue came up this way:

Obama, in a question-and-answer with supporters, said the U.S. had neglected Latin America under George W. Bush and he said he would meet Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

He said Chavez was consolidating power, had “despotic tendencies” and was using oil money to fan anti-Americanism, “but it is not enough to say `I oppose (Cuba’s Fidel) Castro and I oppose Chavez and that’s the end of it.”

He said Latin America will no longer be a junior partner in its relationship with Washington, and he will travel the region to talk to leaders about human rights, political prisoners in Cuba and hemispheric trade ties.

That was just Monday, Leon.  Guess you weren’t listening.

In a response yesterday in The American Prospect, Ezra Klein writes this,

“When Obama talks about changing “the mindset” that led us into the Iraq War, he’s talking, almost specifically, about Leon Wieseltier’s mindset; the belief that “hardness” is analogous to wisdom, that seriousness requires being “disabused” of one’s instinctual aversion to brutality, that the “hurtful’ and “traditional” stuff has worked. “One of the striking features of Obama’s victory speeches,” writes Leon, “is the absence from these exultations of any lasting allusion to the darker dimensions of our strategic predicament. He makes no applause line out of American defense.” Leon wants a leader to brings crowds to their feet with talk of war. His skepticism of the Obama campaign on these grounds is among the most powerful arguments I’ve yet heard for Obama’s candidacy.”

We’ve had a President who brought many of our citizens and Senators to their feet with talk of war.  I don’t think we need that again.

For more criticism of Wieseltier’s piece, see Spencer Ackerman in The Washington Independent: What is Leon Wieseltier Talking About?


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