Tuesday, September 16, 2008

What exactly are meant by "experience" and "judgment"?

Pakistan's military has ordered its forces to open fire if U.S. troops launch another air or ground raid across the Afghan border, an army spokesman said Tuesday. The orders, which come in response to a highly unusual Sept. 3 ground attack by U.S. commandos, are certain to heighten tensions between Washington and a key ally against terrorism. Although the ground attack was rare, there have been repeated reports of U.S. drone aircraft striking militant targets, most recently on Sept. 12.(...) army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas told The Associated Press that after U.S. helicopters ferried troops into a militant stronghold in the South Waziristan tribal region, the military told field commanders to prevent any similar raids. "The orders are clear," Abbas said in an interview. "In case it happens again in this form, that there is a very significant detection, which is very definite, no ambiguity, across the border, on ground or in the air: open fire."(...) In a rare public statement last week, Kayani said Pakistan's sovereignty would be defended "at all cost." Abbas said Pakistani officials had to consider public opinion, which is skeptical of American goals in the region and harbors sympathy for rebels fighting in the name of Islam. "Please look at the public reaction to this kind of adventure or incursion," Abbas said. "The army is also an extension of the public and you can only satisfy the public when you match your words with your actions." - Associated Press
"Pakistan is an extremely dangerous and unstable country. We need to tread carefully. We need to get the Pakistanis to see this as their war. And that's going to require some major new initiatives on the American side. Commando raids and Predator strikes are not a long term solution to this problem." - Bruce O. Riedel, Brookings Institution

"Without adequate political leadership, eradicating sympathy for the Taliban may prove more difficult than eradicating their hideouts in frontier Pakistan. But as long as NATO and the United States continue unilateral strikes in Pakistan that kill civilians, the real battle - for hearts and minds - will be lost." - Mustafa Qadri, Asia Times

The United States has just invaded Cambodia. The name of Cambodia this time is Pakistan, but otherwise it’s the same story as in Indochina in 1970. An American army, deeply frustrated by its inability to defeat an anti-American insurgent movement despite years of struggle, decides that the key to victory lies in a neighboring country.(...)The eventual outcome of the American intervention in Cambodia in 1970 was Communist overthrow of the American-sponsored military government in that country, followed by genocide. The future consequences in (nuclear-armed) Pakistan await. There is every reason to think they may include civil protest and disorder in the country, political crisis, a major rise in the strength of Pakistan’s own Islamic fundamentalist movement, and conceivably, a small war between the United States and the Pakistan Army, which is the central institution in the country, has a mind of its own, and is not a negligible military force. - William Pfaff

The Democratic candidate had raised hackles in Pakistan by suggesting he would authorize U.S military incursion into Pakistan if there was information about Osama bin Laden's presence there and Islamabad did not act on the information. Administration officials and foreign policy mavens, including
Obama's current running mate Joseph Biden and John McCain, had criticized such a public utterance, preferring the policy to be unsaid. In the past week, the Bush administration has begun doing precisely what Obama recommended -- covert attacks inside Pakistan aimed at eliminating terrorists. But according to Pakistan, they are resulting only in civilian deaths. - The Times of India (emphasis mine)
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What exactly are meant by the words "experience" and "judgment"?

These words have been thrown around a lot during this campaign

The Obama camp has insisted that Obama's "judgment" trumps McCain's "experience". This gives the impression that in some way these two qualities are in conflict. In the case of the quotes above, it is obvious that the border of Pakistan is the most dangerous place in the world. American soldiers are for the first time in history attacking targets in the territory of a country armed with nuclear weapons. This in itself calls into question the judgment of anyone ordering or even suggesting such an attack.

However, at times, very dangerous things have to be undertaken. There are two basic risks when this occurs: the first is that things go very wrong and the other is that people talk about it when they do.

In the case, of attacking in Pakistan it is also very negative that people talk about a cross border attack even if it were "successful". Successful meaning, in this case, the public humiliation of the military establishment of an unstable, nuclear armed country whose cooperation is essential.

If it is questionable that such attacks are useful, what is beyond any question is that publicly advocating these actions and introducing them into the echo chamber of a presidential campaign is the height of irresponsibility and poor judgment.

It is not difficult to surmise that Bush, a wickedly foolish man, one whose judgment is poor beyond doubt, has taken these extremely dangerous actions in response to Obama's prodding.

So even before becoming president, Barack Obama has made a critical foreign policy error, one which may have unbelievably terrible knock on effects...

Even if he
isn't finally elected, he still may have left an indelible mark on American foreign policy, one that may mean the death of many thousands of human beings and the destabilization of south Asia and beyond.

The only reason that Obama could possibly give to excuse such irresponsibility and lack of judgment is... inexperience. DS


jmeasor said...


I understand your broad critique of Obama, but even in the quotes you've provided above he set parameters around such actions that the current attacks exceed. Moreover, and much more importantly, the current administration is solely responsible for its own actions. There is no explanation possible whereby a sitting head of state can so easily be absolved of actions simply because they were publicly enunciated as potential policy by a potential successor. By this logic the Bush administration could bomb Iran or Russia and you'd hold McCain responsible??


forensic economist said...

According to Sy Hersh the US is funding raids into Iran by Baluchis and Kurds, and sending in the occasional special forces commando raid. We have been bombing in Pakistan for quite some time. Now for the first time there was an American ground raid. The "intelligence" behind such raids is often supplied by one clan leader who wants us to take out the neighboring Hatfields. This is really stupid.

Apparently this is OK with Obama. He will just do it more efficiently. McCain, on the other hand, doesn't know where Iran is - he spoke of the serious situation "on the Iraq / Pakistan border". So we have a choice between say Scoop Jackson - intelligent hawk - and GW Bush - ignorant machismo.

There is no dove running.

I read Obama's "Audacity of Hope". Anyone who thinks he is a leftist either never read it or thinks that Obama didn't mean it; unfortunately a lot of his followers think the latter.

So why will I vote for him? Lesser of two evils? Palin is for creationism? Gramm (McCain's economic adviser) was the author of financial deregulation that contributed to our current crisis? Obama will be somewhat less fiscally irresponsible?

Not a ringing endorsement. I don't want to vote for a third party candidate, but it's tempting.

Stephanie said...

" So we have a choice between say Scoop Jackson - intelligent hawk - and GW Bush - ignorant machismo."

However, McCain doesn't have to prove he's tough and hawkish, unlike Obama who will be under pressure to demonstrate he's no softie. Presidents usually do this by bombing somebody.

I'm no fan of McCain but he's not as ignorant as Bush. That said, there are indeed no good Presidential choices in this election.