Friday, March 27, 2009

Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

Today Obama spoke about his “new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan,” which looks an awful lot like the old strategy, just with the war in Pakistan more openly acknowledged.

The justification for the war(s) isn’t exactly daisy fresh (poppy fresh?) either: “So let me be clear: Al Qaeda and its allies -- the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks -- are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. ... Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the United States homeland from its safe haven in Pakistan.” He didn’t say that they hate us for our freedoms, but you could hear the Bushian echo in the air.

Sometimes not even an echo, but a direct quote: “Al Qaeda’s offers the people of Pakistan nothing but destruction. We stand for something different.”

“So I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan...” (Also discombobulate, defenestrate and dehumidify it) “...and to prevent their return to either country in the future.” He added, “That is a cause that could not be more just.” Although curing cancer would also be a pretty good cause. Oo, and stopping global warming.

Pakistan will be thrilled to hear that Obama repeatedly lumped it in with Afghanistan, blurring the two countries together (indeed, he mentioned Richard Holbrooke’s new job is “Special Representative” for both countries) (to both countries one would have thought but Obama said “Special Representative for both countries” – a slip of the imperialist tongue?). “For the American people, this border region has become the most dangerous place in the world.” “[W]e must recognize the fundamental connection between the future of Afghanistan and Pakistan”. That future? Filled with rubble, the wails of survivors and calls for revenge.

He did reassure Pakistan: “The United States has great respect for the Pakistani people.” Predator drones being the highest form of respect.

“To avoid the mistakes of the past, we must make clear that our relationship with Pakistan is grounded in support for Pakistan’s democratic institutions and the Pakistani people.” Assuming, of course, that those democratic institutions and those people do exactly what we tell them to do: “Pakistan must demonstrate its commitment to rooting out al Qaeda and the violent extremists within its borders. And we will insist that action be taken -- one way or another -- when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets.”

He also expressed respect for Afghanistan: “We are not in Afghanistan to control that country or to dictate its future.” Scolding, however...: “Afghanistan has an elected government, but it is undermined by corruption and has difficulty delivering basic services to its people. ... We cannot turn a blind eye to the corruption that causes Afghans to lose faith in their own leaders.” It’s especially hard to turn a blind eye to corruption when you’re the one who bribed them and put them in power in the first place. He talks as an occupation lasting if more than seven years has nothing to do with the current condition of the Afghan polity.

He promised “clear metrics” for Afghanistan, although he did not say what they will be. He did not say anything about American troops returning with honor; indeed, he did not say anything about American troops returning, ever.

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