Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Democrats' Plan: Actionable Intelligence and Preemptive Strikes???

Early in the Presidential debates on Saturday, January 5, 2006, Charles Gibson opened with a directed question to Obama, "And let me start with you, Senator Obama, because it was you who said in your foreign policy speech that you would go into western Pakistan if you had actionable intelligence to go after it, whether or not the Pakistani government agreed. Do you stand by that?"OBAMA: "What I said was, if they could not or would not do so, and we had actionable intelligence, then I would strike."

Fortunately, Charles Gibson caught him on the point that came immediately to my mind, "I'm going to go the others in a moment, but what you just outlined is essentially the Bush doctrine. We can attack if we want to, no matter the sovereignty of the Pakistanis."

Obama offered some reassurance, however, "No, that is not the same thing, because here we have a situation where Al Qaida, a sworn enemy of the United States, that killed 3,000 Americans and is currently plotting to do the same, is in the territory of Pakistan. We know that.

And this is not speculation. This is not a situation where we anticipate a possible threat in the future.

And my job as commander in chief will be to make sure that we strike anybody who would do America harm when we have actionable intelligence do to that." somehow Obama's actionable intelligence would be more legitimate than Bush's? "This is not speculation." How does he know that? All intelligence comes with a certain degree of subjectivity because we cannot possibly know everything so concisely that there is no question of its validity. Sorry folks, but that's just the way it is and it doesn't matter if you're Republican or Democrat, the intelligence will not be any better.

When Bush spoke about preemptive strikes and actionable intelligence somehow that was war mongering. When Obama, Clinton, and Edwards all agree that they would send missiles into Pakistan with or without the consent of the Pakistani government what do we call it? Peace keeping? Yes, we know Al Qaida is a sworn enemy of the United States...was Saddam Hussein not?

Of course, I liked Clinton's comment the best, "We did take action similar to what has been described about 10 years ago, based on what was thought to be actionable intelligence, sending in missiles to try to target bin Laden and his top leadership who were thought to be at a certain meeting place." Wait a minute... "what was thought to be actionable intelligence," doesn't that mean that we already know actionable intelligence is fallible - even when it comes from a Democrat? Then how can Edwards, Clinton, and Obama be so certain now?

But the best comment from Clinton was: "And at some point -- probably when the missiles have been launched -- the Pakistani government has to know they're on the way. Because one of the problems is the inherent paranoia about India in the region in Pakistan, so that we've got to have a plan to try to make sure we don't ignite some kind of reaction before we even know whether the action we took with the missiles has worked." Good idea, launch some missiles then get Musharraf on the phone, "Yes, hi, Musharraf? This is President know...of the United States... Yea, um, I just wanted to let you know that there are some ICBMs headed your way; it's nothing personal, we just had a little intel and wanted to keep you posted... ahh, sounds like they just made it there..."

Aside from the fact that the Democrats were peddling Bushocracy while trying to pretend that their concept is novel and in no way related, not one of them would ever preemptively launch missiles against a nuclear superpower with whom we have strained relations. The international backlash would be intolerable and the response of Pakistan would not be favorable.

While I admire Richardson for not succumbing to the peer pressure to bomb Pakistan with his presidential campaign, his approach is quite possibly more ridiculous: "And I would send a high-level envoy to ask him to step aside.

There's a provision in the Pakistani constitution for a caretaker government of technocrats. This happened when a previous prime minister died. And I would make it unmistakably clear that he had to have elections." Okay, well it's good to know that Richardson would be so effective as President that all he needs to do is tell Musharraf to step aside and have elections. The Bush administration has been trying that and Musharraf remains defiant, but maybe Bush didn't bat his eyes and say, "Pretty please?"

Interestingly, Richardson alluded to mistakes the United States has made in past history whereby an evil dictator was brought to power because of our country's influence, "Charlie, I want us to just remember history. I want us to remember history.

Years ago, we backed the shah of Iran, a dictator. We are paying for that policy today by having backed a tyrant who repressed his people -- unintended consequences." So somehow, the elections that happen at the whim of the United States, after we magically convince Musharraf to step down, will not put the next tyrant in control of Pakistan? And I'm sure any bona fide new leader who is sympathetic to the United States would never be assassinated (Benazir Bhutto's assassination was a fluke).

Look through the campaign haze and recognize political hogwash when you see it. Not one of the democratic candidates would take a different approach than Bush with respect to Pakistan. They will not convince a power hungry dictator (so called president) to step down nor will they launch strikes against a sovereign country without prior agreement. If you do vote Democrat this year, contrary to my advice, just make sure your decision to do so doesn't hinge on the empty campaign promises regarding Pakistan.

NOTE: you can view the full transcript of the debates here:

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