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Learning nothing from Iraq, Democrats charge forward to Pakistan

United States Presidential Candidate and Senator Barack Obama’s speech on August 1, 2007 at the Wilson Center, a think tank in Washington D.C., confirmed what many feared: the Democrats will continue, unabated, a war on terror that bears exact resemblance to the one waged by President Bush. The only difference: it’s going to happen in …


United States Presidential Candidate and Senator Barack Obama’s speech on August 1, 2007 at the Wilson Center, a think tank in Washington D.C., confirmed what many feared: the Democrats will continue, unabated, a war on terror that bears exact resemblance to the one waged by President Bush. The only difference: it’s going to happen in Pakistan instead of Iraq. As president, Obama’s first step will be “getting off the wrong battlefield in Iraq, and taking the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan. So watch out Pakistan, it appears the Democrats are as war savvy as the Republicans. Obama’s campaign, however, was quick to clarify the assumptions above. In correspondence on Friday, August 3, with the Senator’s campaign communication director, Robert Gibbs refuted the notion of attack: “No one is going to attack Pakistan. No one is going to invade Pakistan. It’s honestly that simple. But is it? What else could Obama have implied when he said that it was “a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005 and that if the US has “high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will ? It seems pretty clear – given the general consensus in Washington D.C. that Pakistan’s border regions are awash with Al-Qaeda – that an attack is in the making. Other Senate Democrats apparently agree with Obama’s approach. In a recent conversation with Senator Feinstein’s press secretary Phil Lavelle, the question was posed to this columnist regarding the efficacy of a military attack on Pakistan’s tribal border regions. The mere fact that this question is being tossed about the Senate is a dismal harbinger of things to come. Needless to say, this columnist’s response was that it would undoubtedly be devastating and would fail to achieve any of America’s security objectives. That Feinstein and others are possibly contemplating a military attack is not all that surprising. Her policymaking capacities seem a little out of touch with reality of late. Recently on the Senate floor, she intimated that all madrasas globally are inciting jihadism. Thankfully, her press secretary rescinded the Senator’s comment. But what is going on? Why are the Democrats so gleefully chomping at war’s bit? And if mimicking Republicans is en vogue, what will stop Democrats from mirroring comments by Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo, for example, who asserted, the same week Obama pointed towards Pakistan, that bombing holy Muslim sites will deter Islamic fundamentalists from attacks on the US? Fortunately the US State Department quickly criticized Tancredo’s comments as reprehensible, but the new standard for irrationality was set and will soon, no doubt, be followed perhaps by a Democrat. The paradox behind all this Republican and now Democratic warmongering is that all of it, from Obama to Feinstein to Tancredo, uttered in the name of fighting so-called terrorism, will only further enflame extremism and thus terrorism. In the early 20th Century, the tribal regions in Pakistan non-violently resisted the British Empire’s rule over the subcontinent, sacrificing hundreds of thousands. Now, nearly one-hundred years later, these tribal descendants will resist with equal vociferousness any perceived outside imperialist aims. Undermining tribal resistance, therefore, comes not from the barrel of a gun, or as Obama implies from the tip of a missile. Undermining resistance, if that is one’s goal, is achievable only by offering something impossible to resist. For Pakistanis, or anyone else for that matter, that means jobs, education, healthcare, adequate shelter and food, and, something President Musharraf seems unwilling to offer, a democracy. Unfortunately, US aid has been so preoccupied with military aid ($10b to Musharraf since September 11, 2001), that it forgot what Pakistanis want most: the basics, the necessities of life. Fortunately, Obama recognizes that “Pakistan needs more than F-16s to combat extremism , noting secular education and free elections as important. Yet his plan for post-F-16 policies is ill-defined and devoid of the passion embedded in his primary position: to hunt down and kill the terrorists. When Senator John Kerry, in his unsuccessful bid for US president in 2004, looked at the television camera during a debate and pointedly proclaimed that he would hunt down and kill the terrorists, it harkened a new political low for Democrats. They had succumbed to Republican rhetoric and could be relied upon for nothing new vis-à-vis the war on terror. Obama’s comments, sadly, are no different. It appears that we have learned nothing from Iraq and that a Democrat president in 2008 will merely usher in what has already (and ironically) been uttered by Obama himself in criticism of Senator Hillary Clinton: Bush-lite. Michael Shankis an analyst with the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia. This commentary was published by DAILY NEWS EGYPT with his permission.

Topics: Wael Ghonim

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