This is what we were told. It is what many who voted for Sarah Palin believed. It is what a gentleman here in Sarasota believed enough to say to me directly a few days before the election: “Obama sympathizes with terrorists.”
On Friday, the US sent two Hellfire missiles from Afghanistan-based Predator drones into Zharki Village in Pakistan’s Waziristan region, accepted as the home of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda leadership. Eighteen people were reported killed in the two locations, locals report that the Taliban removed eight of the bodies:
Resident Allah Noor Wazir said he attended funerals for the owner of the targeted house, Din Faraz, his three sons and a guest.
“I also heard that three bodies had been taken away by Taliban. They say they belong to foreigners,” Wazir told the AP by telephone.
I feel for the innocent victims of these missile strikes (I will assume there were some family members killed who were not directly a part of the war), but from early reports it seems that the buildings they were in were valid military targets.
A senior security official in the capital, Islamabad, identified one of the slain men as a suspected al-Qaida operative called Mustafa al-Misri. He said it was unclear if the man was a significant figure.
If this is Obama “palling around with terrorists” – as the recent GOP presidential candidate from Alaska would have had us believe – then I think it’s the sort of palling that will work just fine.
Of course, there are those on the Left already commenting that it would be good to never use weapons again (it certainly would) or that Obama is just another tool of the Military Industrial Complex (he is not). No doubt there will be some on the Right who will find a way to spin this as some sort of capitulation to bin Laden (I can’t think of how, but that shouldn’t stop anyone). But the reality is that Waziristan is perhaps the most lawless place on earth with no form of government except for those two groups who specifically did attack the United States – Al Qaeda and the Taliban – and who continue to attack US and NATO troops today.
Waziristan as it exists today is the end result of seven years and billions of dollars of US support. Support that went directly into the Pakistani military – much of it diverted to support the conflict with India – and virtually none of which required any sort of oversight from the US (gosh, does that sound familiar? They deregulated military and foreign aid, for cripes’ sake…). R. Jeffrey Smith, Candace Rondeaux and Joby Warrick of the Washington Post have more:
Linking Pakistan with neighboring Afghanistan “on the front line of our global counterterrorism efforts,” Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that “we will use all the elements of our powers — diplomacy, development and defense — to work with those . . . who want to root out al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other violent extremists.” She also said those in Pakistan who do not join the effort will pay a price, adding a distinctly new element to the long-standing U.S. effort to lure Pakistan closer to the West.
But weapons aren’t everything, and used as a sole recourse they can be less than nothing. Obama has pledged to do more with Pakistan to help stabilize that country, ensuring that aid is more accountable than it has been under Bush and more productive.
A study in 2007 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that economic, humanitarian and development assistance under Bush amounted to no more than a quarter of all aid, less than in most countries.
The criticism helped provoke a group of senators who now have powerful new roles — Joseph R. Biden Jr., Clinton and Obama — to co-sponsor legislation last July requiring that more aid be targeted at political pluralism, the rule of law, human and civil rights, and schools, public health and agriculture.
Some Pakistanis have been encouraged by indications that Obama intends to increase aid to the impoverished country, said Shuja Nawaz, a Pakistani who directs the South Asia Center of the Washington-based Atlantic Council of the United States. Nawaz said Pakistanis may be willing to overlook an occasional missile lobbed at foreign terrorists if Obama makes a sincere attempt to improve conditions in Pakistan.
“He can’t just focus on military achievements; he has to win over the people,” Nawaz said. “Relying on military strikes will not do the trick.” Attaching conditions to the aid is wise, Nawaz said, because “people are more cognizant of the need for accountability — for ‘tough love.’ “
With the first use of force on his watch targeting – and by all reports hitting – Taliban leadership, it should be clear to those who saw Obama as (literally) a Traitor and a Terrorist that they were just abjectly wrong.
Now, for the rest of us the question that comes next is whether Obama will add the Carrot that has been missing from the relationship for the past seven years. The Stick is clearly where the mule can see it now.