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Barack Obama: Back to the Minors?

By Jack Kelly

Politicians often make asses of themselves, but rarely with the premeditation of Sen. Barack Obama.

Sen. Obama was stung by Sen. Hillary Clinton's description of him as "irresponsible and naive" after he said in the Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina July 23 that in his first year in office he would meet face to face, without preconditions, with virtually every anti-American dictator on the planet.

"I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes," Ms. Clinton said. "We're not going to have our president meet with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez and the president of North Korea, Iran and Syria until we know what the way forward would be."

In an apparent effort to prove he can be as tough as the girl, Sen. Obama scheduled what aides billed as a major foreign policy address at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in Washington, D.C. Aug. 1.

He acknowledged there are radical Islamists who are trying to kill us, which put Sen. Obama a step closer to reality than, say, John Edwards. But then he took a big step backwards.

Sen. Obama renewed his call for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, which he somehow thinks would inspire Iraqis to resist al Qaida more vigorously.

But what caught everyone's attention was Sen. Obama's declaration that he'd invade Pakistan if Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf doesn't do more to disrupt the safe havens al Qaida has established in the regions of his country bordering on Afghanistan.

Mucho macho. But the goal, Sen. Obama, is to sound tough, not insane. This is perhaps the most childishly irresponsible thing a major political figure has ever said.

Pakistan is a sovereign country. Pakistan is an ally in the war on terror. Though Gen. Musharraf (due chiefly to internal political concerns) hasn't done as much as we would like, Pakistan has done more than any other Muslim country to fight al Qaida. (Pakistan has turned over or ratted out hundreds of al Qaida operatives.)

And however disappointed we from time to time have been with Gen. Musharraf, people who have a cursory familiarity with current events (a group to which Sen. Obama evidently does not belong) are aware the likely alternative to him would be an Islamic fundamentalist regime.

We should be prodding Gen. Musharraf to do more (as the Bush administration is doing). But the prodding must be in private, lest public embarrassment either forces him to distance himself from the U.S., or drives him from power.

Pakistan would have to respond to an overt invasion of its territory that it did not sanction. Sen. Obama said he'd send two more brigades (about 7,000 troops) to Afghanistan. Presumably, he'd use these to invade Pakistan. Pakistan has 612,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen, and a half million more in reserve. And Pakistan has nuclear weapons.

This time Hillary Clinton didn't need to call Sen. Obama "irresponsible and naive." Others did the spadework for her:
"It is dangerous and irresponsible to leave even the impression the United States would needlessly and publicly provoke a nuclear power," said Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT). "I will not declare my intentions for specific military actions in the media in the context of a political campaign."

"It is important to reach out to moderate Muslim states and allies to ensure we do not unnecessarily inflame the Muslim world," said New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

"It's tough to criticize the Bush administration for unilateralism in Iraq, then say you'd be unilateral in Pakistan," said political analyst Stuart Rothenberg.

There was criticism even from the far, far left. "For progressive Democrats who want a more peaceful leadership in the world... (Sen. Obama's speech) fails the threshhold of getting us out of picking fights in the Mideast, and discarding the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive attacks," said Web logger Jerome Armstrong.

Sen. Obama wants to suck up to our enemies, bully our allies, and abandon our friends. This is not a good way to build strong alliances.

The day after declaring war on Pakistan, Sen. Obama went dovish again in an interview with the Associated Press. He said he would never under any circumstances use nuclear weapons in the war on terror. Ms. Clinton patiently explained to him that deterrence is effective only if our enemies are uncertain about what our response to a provocation might be.

"If presidential politics were major league baseball, some frustrated general manager would be sending Barack Obama back to the minors for more seasoning," said Web logger Dean Barnett.

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