Attacking Al-Qaeda

ATTACKING AL-QAEDA....Last August, in the wake of news (here) that Donald Rumsfeld had called off a special ops mission intended to capture senior members of al-Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas, Barack Obama called the failure to act a "terrible mistake." He then went on to promise that in an Obama administration, "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets, and President Musharraf won't act, we will."

John McCain has criticized that speech, and over at The Corner David Freddoso joins him today. Responding to the news that we launched a drone missile attack last month against targets in Pakistan, he says:
As much as I appreciate the idea of a dead terrorist, I don't like what we did in Pakistan, and I really don't like the fact that we're bragging about it, or that a presidential candidate would openly discuss it as an option.

....But so powerful is Obamania that liberals can now praise even George W. Bush for doing something they would oppose under any other circumstances — all because of Obama's ill-considered comments last year. That I cannot respect.

The logic for this Pakistan operation clearly flies in the face of every argument against invading Iraq — international law, sovereignty, respect for other countries, our standing in the world, etc.....That Obama's supporters would hold it up as some kind of model is deeply puzzling to me.
The dynamics here are certainly turning deeply weird, aren't they? Freddoso may have a point about liberal reaction (though a drone missile attack in tribal territories is hardly comparable to a massive invasion and multi-year occupation in the heart of the Arab world), but it looks like conservatives might have the mirror opposite problem. Is McCain going to paint himself into a corner and start claiming that he opposes covert attacks just because Obama has said he supports them? And will conservatives then be forced to follow along? This is going to be one peculiar campaign if everyone starts bending themselves into a pretzel over this, with liberals defending covert strikes and conservatives trying to paint that attitude as reckless and naive. I can't wait.

And while we're on the subject, here's a data point to suggest that Obama's position hasn't led the Arab public (or the Arab elite, anyway) to become wary of him. Marc Lynch just got back from the US-Islamic World Forum in Doha and files this report: "The US elections absolutely dominated the conversations, with Obama the runaway favorite. Most of the Arab participants I talked to seemed fascinated by Obama, and frightened by McCain." Maybe the Arabs in Doha don't have a problem with the odd missile attack on Pakistan's tribal areas either.

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