Christopher Hitchens Identifies the Candidate Stronger on Pakistan

That would be Senator Barack Obama.
First, from the text of Senator Obama’s mid-July speech on Iraq and Afghanistan.

The greatest threat to that security lies in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where terrorists train and insurgents strike into Afghanistan. We cannot tolerate a terrorist sanctuary, and as President, I won’t. We need a stronger and sustained partnership between Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO to secure the border, to take out terrorist camps, and to crack down on cross-border insurgents. We need more troops, more helicopters, more satellites, more Predator drones in the Afghan border region. And we must make it clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights.
Make no mistake: we can’t succeed in Afghanistan or secure our homeland unless we change our Pakistan policy. We must expect more of the Pakistani government, but we must offer more than a blank check to a General who has lost the confidence of his people. It’s time to strengthen stability by standing up for the aspirations of the Pakistani people.

[Side question: How does this differ from President George Bush’s policy on Iraq and his aspirations for the Iraqi people?] Now, from Hitchens’ September 15 column Fighting Words on It should be noted that the column was posted days prior to the horrendous attack on the Islamabad Marriott, an attack believed to have been carried out by the Pakistan Taleban.

Meanwhile, and on Pakistani soil and under the very noses of its army and the ISI, the city of Quetta and the so-called Federally Administered Tribal Areas are becoming the incubating ground of a reorganized and protected al-Qaida. Sen. Barack Obama has, if anything, been the more militant of the two presidential candidates in stressing the danger here and the need to act without too much sentiment about our so-called Islamabad ally. He began using this rhetoric when it was much simpler to counterpose the “good” war in Afghanistan with the “bad” one in Iraq. Never mind that now; he is committed in advance to a serious projection of American power into the heartland of our deadliest enemy. And that, I think, is another reason why so many people are reluctant to employ truthful descriptions for the emerging Afghan-Pakistan confrontation: American liberals can’t quite face the fact that if their man does win in November, and if he has meant a single serious word he’s ever said, it means more war, and more bitter and protracted war at that—not less.

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George Elbow
George Elbow
15 years ago

“How does this differ from President George Bush’s policy on Iraq and his aspirations for the Iraqi people?”
Unlike Afghanistan and Pakistan, where al-Qaida training camps run rampant, Iraq was once run by a charming, but strict, fellow who did not tolerate al-Qaida and who received almost 100% of the vote during election season (LOL).
The greatest beneficiary of our very expensive (both blood & treasure) Iraqi excursion has been the Iranians. We have exposed the limits of our military power after having scared the crap out of everyone in the first Gulf War and have stretched our resources to the point that we have limited our ability to counteract their less than cordial activities.
Imagine a scenario in which, rather than detouring into Iraq to get the fella that threatened GWB’s daddy, we instead had gone guns a blazing through Afgahanistan, right on through to Pakistan until we had Osama’s lice-filled head on a stick.
Instead, we pissed away 5 years of blood and treasure in Iraq with no end in sight, while OBL goes unchecked.
But hey, hindsight is always 20/20.
By the way, did anyone see the CNN special with the cast of former Secretaries of State (Kissenger, Christopher, Albright, Baker, Powell,…)? Powell, Baker and Kissenger all essentially said that the recent actions in Georgia, while reprehensible, were instigated by the foolish actions of those that were over-run by the Ruskies.
They also agreed that the threat of military action against the Ruskies was not the answer, suggesting that we need to be more “Strategic” and less “Tactical”.

Justin Katz
15 years ago

Weren’t there lessons from Russia’s experience in Afghanistan… I seem to recall them being mentioned a time or two.
And in what sense is OBL unchecked? Even beyond terrorists’ lack of access to the Salman Pak terrorist training facility that used to reside in Iraq.

15 years ago

Reading some of the posts, you’d think that al-Qaeda was winning!
Look, Saddam Hussein is gone. How short are people’s memories that they don’t recall Saddam was a destabilizing force in the Middle East who invaded his neighbors and used WMD’s against the Kurdish minority?
Here’s a quick memory refresher:
For some reason, the American public has bought into the need for a “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt” legalistic standard (i.e.: we couldn’t find WMD at the moment the U.S. invaded Iraq, so there isn’t enough evidence to say Saddam “possessed” WMD).
al-Qaeda has not gone “unchecked”. They’ve been severely degraded and bin Laden can not operate with anywhere near the degree of freedom with which he once was able to operate.
The U.S. failure to catch bin Laden makes the headlines, but in the end he is one individual. al Qaeda will continue to exist long after bin Laden is either captured or killed and the West will have to deal with threats from Islamic terrorism for decades to come.
We’re involved in a long war against a decentralized enemy. There will be attacks in the future, but there’s no question that we’ve been able to contain the threat since 9/11.
And if you had told me on 9/12/2001 that we would make it to 2008 without another attack on U.S. soil, I would have thought you were crazy.

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