In August, 2007, while speaking at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars *in Washington, D.C., Senator Barack Obama indicated a willingness to invade Pakistan’s sovereign territory to pursue terrorists, whose location becomes known through “actionable intelligence.” Now, running from such a brazen statement, his campaign would quickly point out that such position was conditional — *only if *the terrorists were present in the mountains along the Pakistani-Afghan border and *only if **the Pakistani government refused to pursue these terrorists, would such an aggressive action take place. Nevertheless, Obama’s position is frighteningly remarkable. First, Senator Obama and his surrogates, including most recently ABC’s Charlie Gibson, have often questioned the wisdom of President Bush’s so-called “Bush Doctrine.” The scope of this doctrine is much larger than that element typically criticized by Democrats – the notion of pre-emptive strikes to serve American national interests. You might remember that part of this doctrine also contemplated comparable American treatment, i.e. military action amongst other options, between those rogue states who promote terrorists and those states who give terrorists safe haven.
Are we to take from Senator Obama’s position that he agrees with this element of the Bush Doctrine? If so, such irony has been lost in the months of debate and discussion of Senator Obama’s foreign policy positions, which vascillate with the regularity of a metronome. Or is he, in fact, misunderstanding this element of the Bush Doctrine and, accordingly, misapplying it?
It is clearly the latter. Under no reasonable construction could the Bush Doctrine be used to justify a strike into Pakistani territory. Pakistan can hardly be viewed as a rogue state — in fact, no other Asian country, with a comparably diverse population, has done more to stand by America’s side in the war on terror. Invasion of Pakistan to chase down terrorists holed up in its rural mountains would be a perversion of the Bush Doctrine, not action authorized by it.
Most remarkable, however, about Senator Obama’s appalling naivete concerns Pakistan’s traditionally unstable political environment and its status as one of our world’s nuclear powers. When Senator Obama announced his policy position, reaction in Pakistan was swift and virolent. Senator Obama was burned in effigy and staunch anti-American sentiment was voiced from Islamabad to the very mountains in question along its border with Afghanistan. It is safe to say that his comments contributed nothing to American-Pakistani relations and, in fact, further marginalized a very tenuous position then occupied by former Pakistani President Musharraf. None other than Senator Obama’s current running mate, Senator Joe Biden, D-DE, remarked, “The last thing you want to do is telegraph to the folks in Pakistan plans that threaten their sovereignty.”
Such naivete should alarm Americans, as we head to the polls, next month — not because a candidate made a foolish statement some fourteen months ago, but because Senator Obama stands by those comments today. He has yet to provide clarity to a position which places a major Asian ally in the untenable position of supporting American foreign policy, while a potential president threatens its very borders with military action. Adding further instability to an already precarious American-Pakistani relationship does nothing to further our war on terror, does nothing to further the efforts to capture Osama Bin Laden and, more importantly, does nothing to minimize the possibility that a nuclear Pakistan becomes a prospective enemy should their nuclear arsenal fall into the wrong hands — in fact, it furthers this latter possibility.
John McCain — for the good of the current American/Pakistani relationship and to assure Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani and President Zardari that a McCain administration will respect Pakistani sovereignty — needs to make the American voter understand that Obama’s cavalier approach to American foreign policy is beyond mere ignorance, but palpably dangerous to our national security and the security of the free world. While Obama has given much fodder for such a McCain declaration, including his suggestions of unconditional discussions with Iran, Obama’s August, 2007 statement on Pakistan is as good a point as any to bring this message home.