Wednesday, February 20, 2008

straight talk

john mccain's attack on obama yesterday:
There are a lot of national security challenges and I know how to handle them. Senator Obama wants to bomb Pakistan without talking to the Pakistanis. I think that's dangerous.
except here's what obama actually said:
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-Qa'eda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.
just to break that last sentence down, obama said he would authorize an attack if:

(1) "we had actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets" in pakistan, and

(2) the pakistani government would not act on that intelligence itself.

the way i read that is if president obama gets information that osama bin laden is sitting in a room in waziristan, he will call up the pakistani government and demand they go after bin laden. if they refuse, obama would authorize the u.s. to take action against bin laden.

contrary to what mccain said, there's nothing in obama's statement about "bombing" (though the word "act" certainly could include bombing). obama didn't talk about attacking "pakistan", at least not in the sense of attacking the pakistani military or government as one could conclude from mccain's remarks. and obama certainly did not say he would attack "without talking to the pakistanis." indeed, i think his remarks suggest exactly the opposite. when obama says he would act only if the pakistani government refused to act it suggests to me that he would inform them of the intelligence and demand action. you can't refuse to act unless someone asks you to act first.

mccain's hardly the first to misrepresent obama's remarks on pakistan. the clinton campaign has been echoing the charge as well. i just wonder what either clinton or mccain would do if they got "actionable intelligence" of the location of a "high value terrorist target" in pakistan. would it really be any different than what obama said he would do? i keep hoping someone will ask them.