See if you can follow this logic. Barack Obama and his surrogates have been attacking Hillary Clinton, using Benazir Bhutto’s assassination as the pretext, by arguing that the war in Iraq destabilized Pakistan. Pakistan has never, in its more than half century of existence, been stable. The Iraq war is just under 5 years old. Further, Team Obama argues that Clinton’s toleration for non-democratic Pervez Musharraf contributed to Bhutto’s death. This, in spite of the fact that the premature push to democracy certainly factored heavily in her return, which in turn contributed to her death. Connected to that, they also argue that putting realpolitik in front of democracy and human rights is contributing to Pakistan’s instability. Here’s part of the story.
“Those who made the judgment that we ought to divert our attention from Afghanistan to invade Iraq and allow al-Qaeda to reconstitute and strengthen are now having to assess the wisdom of that judgment as we may be seeing yet another manifestation of al-Qaeda’s potency,” said Susan Rice, a top Obama foreign policy advisor who was an assistant secretary of State in the Clinton administration, in an interview with Politico.
She said Pakistan illustrates a difference between Obama and Clinton’s approaches to foreign policy. Clinton, in Rice’s view, is willing to tolerate authoritarian regimes – in this case the government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf – who might be useful to short-term U.S. goals. Obama, on the other hand, seeks a diplomacy that sees values and human rights than traditional realpolitik.
“Senator Clinton’s view has been closer to Bush’s, which is to see Musharraf as the linchpin but democracy as something that is desirable, but not necessarily essential to our security interests,” said Rice, “Whereas Obama feels that democracy and human rights in the context of Pakistan are essential to our security.”
So on 9-12-01, what would President Obama have done? Al Qaeda, harbored in Afghanistan in a symbiotic relationship with the Taliban, was behind the attack. The US needed access to Afghanistan, and happened to have a potential ally right next door in Pakistan. Pakistan had propped up the Taliban (under Bhutto’s regime, no less) but was also a longstanding strategic ally of the US. But that ally wasn’t led by a democratically elected leader. Would President Obama have demanded that Gen. Musharraf first hold an election before the US would consider requesting the use of Pakistani soil and airspace to conduct our war in Afghanistan? Obama’s line on the Bhutto assassination suggests that, yes, President Obama would have first made sure that Musharraf was democratically elected before the US would work with him. Which is insane.
Either that, or Team Obama is hopelessly naive about the world. That’s the way I’d bet.
Secondarily, Obama expresses his intolerance for the non-democratic ruler of Pakistan, who happens to be an imperfect ally of the US. But he would have left the non-democratic ruler of Iraq very much in place, though he had become nearly a perfect enemy of the US. Obama says he would have voted against the 2002 authorization to use force against Saddam, and constantly chides Clinton for voting for that authorization. But according to Obama’s formulation on Pakistan, his vote would have been a vote against human rights, no? He would be tolerating a non-democrat, no?
Barack Obama is an idealist, which is nice. It’s quaint and refreshing, even. But it ought to disqualify him from the presidency until he grows up a bit. His is the kind of thinking that fed the Clinton administration’s decision to ban CIA operatives from working with anyone who might have an unsavory past or negative associations: It pretty much tied the agents’ hands in the majority of countries around the world. But hey, it made the Clintonistas feel good about themselves at DC cocktail parties, and that’s…something.
The world doesn’t work according to the rules of the local community activist group, or the Illinois State Senate, or even the US Senate. Outside the US and especially in the region Obama is addressing here, there are a lot of very bad people, and many of them hold a great deal of power, and sometimes events and circumstances force us to work with them. We have no choice. It’s either work with them, or do absolutely nothing. The former was our only option when it came time to beat down the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The latter, though, seems to be closer to what a President Obama would do. That’s not acceptable.