Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Chronicle of a Distortion

Sometimes bad news coverage can set the tone for a story. Here's what the Associated Press wrote about Barack Obama's speech:
The Illinois senator warned Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf that he must do more to shut down terrorist operations in his country and evict foreign fighters under an Obama presidency, or Pakistan will risk a U.S. troop invasion and losing hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid.

Wow! Obama threatened to invade Pakistan! Drudge was off, Maguire was off, all the boys started ooh-ing at Barack's invasion threat. Except, of course, he said nothing of the sort:

As President, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let 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.

It's a nuanced view. It offers Pakistanis carrots and sticks in exchange for their cooperation, it favors Pakistani democrats, and it allows for the possibility of military operations on Pakistani soil.

Ah, but it was too late. J-Pod over at the Corner was off:

Obama is full of it. This country is never — never — going to stage a major military action against Pakistan. Pakistan is a nation of 170 million people that has nuclear weapons and whose admittedly problematic and troublesome regime has, to some extent, cooperated with the United States in the war against Al Qaeda both in ways we know and ways we have no idea about. The concern that this strategically vital county might become an Islamic fundamentalist state is, should be, and will be paramount in every and all discussions about how to conduct the fight against Al Qaeda.

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.

Of course, both Clinton and Bush considered military operations in Pakistan, from a cruise missile attack to a special forces snatch-and-grab. Now maybe they made the right decision to not go through with those plans, but there's no reason why a President Obama should rule out such an option, especially when the threat itself might be persuasive.

If Giuliani had said the same thing, J-Pod would be chirping happily, but when a Democrat says it, the reaction is first to distort what he says, and then to have a tantrum and protest that it's impossible to out-hawk our Dear Leader so please don't even try.

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