Pakistani Protests Against Obama

Pakistani Protests against Obama;
Clinton leaves Nukes on the Table;
Tancredo an Inspiration to the Criminally Insane that They, Too, Could run for President

I’m going to hear Senator Barack Obama on Saturday afternoon at the Yearly Kos convention. Will report back on Sunday about his remarks.

On Thursday, he said he would not use nuclear weapons against al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, then backed up and said “scratch that,” there had been no discussion of nuclear weapons.

Hillary Clinton criticized Obama for (initially?) ruling out the use of nuclear weapons, saying that a president should not take any weapon in the arsenal off the table.

I really think the Democrats are misunderstanding the mood of the American people. Is Senator Clinton saying she would entertain the option of nuking Pakistan or Afghanistan? Wouldn’t that kill a lot of innocents and spread radioactive materials around on the grass that cows eat, putting it into milk and thence into local children, increasing their chances of contracting cancer? Isn’t Obama absolutely right that this is one instance in which nukes are useless for tactical purposes?

Pakistan, by the way, is a) an ally, b) a nuclear power in its own right, c) a major Muslim country of 160 million, the population of which will soon equal that of the United States, and d) an opinion leader among other Muslim states. Most Pakistanis are not fundamentalists but rather Sufis, traditionalists, mild reformists or secularists. Or at least that is the case now. If US presidential candidates push them to the wall, they can after all decide to turn radical.

(The certifiable Tom Tancredo is talking about holding Islamic holy sites Mecca and Medina hostage to nuclear blackmail. Can’t one of Tancredo’s family members have him committed, sign the papers and get rich off his estate while he is in a padded room for a few years?)

As for the mostly sane Democrats, could we please stop talking about whether we are going to nuke our allies? I mean, I know that Obama and Clinton are afraid that their Republican rivals will talk tougher than they and will depict them as soft on terrorism. But I can’t imagine that the electorate wants to hear that nukes are on the table with regard to the tribes of northern Pakistan!

And if you were Iranian and heard the Clinton and Tancredo remarks, wouldn’t you tell your nuclear scientists to start putting in overtime? Wouldn’t such talk actually spur nuclear proliferation in the Muslim world?

Ironically, Mitt Romney and John McCain are making hay with charges that Obama is too gung ho and his remarks would interfere with US attempts to build coalitions against terror groups in the region!

It is early in the campaign, and it is not too late for Obama to recover, but it seems obvious that he made a serious error in his speech on Wednesday regarding northern Pakistan.

Reactions from Pakistan continue to roll in regarding the remarks of US Democratic presidential hopeful Obama that he would order unilateral military action in northern Pakistan if there were actionable intelligence on al-Qaeda and the Pakistani government refused to act on it.

The governor of Baluchistan province, Owais Ahmed Ghani, said that Obama’s remarks hindered the war on terror. Ghani pointed out that Pakistani troops are the ones doing the hard fighting against extremists in the north (Pakistan has captured over 700 al-Qaeda operatives, more than any other US ally). Dawn writes, ‘The governor said the Pakistanis watched their soldiers being killed in the fight against militants, and they say “if that is the sort of signal that is coming out of Washington, why bother? . . Nothing must be said or done which will undermine the vital public support that Pakistan needs, the world needs.”

Earlier, about 1,000 tribesmen rallied in Miranshah in the north, pledging to defend themselves if attacked by foreigners. “Hundreds” demonstrated in the capital, Islamabad, against Obama. A small demonstration of 150 was held in Karachi.

Pakistan’s foreign minister, Khursheed Kasuri, told AP, “It’s a very irresponsible statement, that’s all I can say . . . As the election campaign in America is heating up we would not like American candidates to fight their elections and contest elections at our expense.”

It is highly undesirable for a presidential candidate to spark this sort of reaction in a country allied with the US. In my view, the episode derives from inexperience on foreign policy and from bad advice from campaign managers and speech writers.

The question is, can Obama repair the damage or was this the moment when the Democratic grassroots decided he is not ready for prime time?

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