President Obama extends a hand towards many clenched fists

I note that many editorials in newspapers this morning quote from or allude to one paragraph of President Barack Obama’s inaugural speech:

“To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West: Know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” [emphasis added mine]

President Obama intentionally lumped together “the Muslim world” with “leaders … who seek to sow conflict” and “the silencing of dissent.” Editors and commentators believing that he can convince the 57 Muslim nations to become less autocratic seems the epitome of naiveté; within them, secular democracy is the wrong side of history, immodest, and threatening.

Pakistan, Lebanon, Indonesia, and Egypt all allow dissent and Islamic radicalism continues to rise in those nations. There are no signs that dissidents here in America mistakenly believe he was redressing petro-rich Arab nations for using vasts sums to support the spread of sharia law. If he was appealing to dissidents in Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush and Pakistan’s tribal areas, they have already replied:

The Taliban on Tuesday killed four Pakistanis and two Afghan nationals they accused of spying for the US in North Waziristan. The bodies of three Pakistanis – Muhammad Nisar, Shahideen Khattak, Shadar – and Khanu Afghani, an Afghan refugee, were found on Tehsil Road, 25 kilometres from Mir Ali. Meanwhile, the bodies of Gul Zali, an Afghan national, and Majeed Khattak, a local, were found in Miranshah. A not [sic] found next to the bodies read that the bodies were “a gift for US President Barack Obama, Afghan President Karzai and President Asif Ali Zardari”.

Most likely, President Obama was offering his hand — with preconditions — to Iran and Syria where gathering radicals together and exporting them in the form of Islamic terrorism is foreign policy. If he unilaterally removes the military option from the table, it will be interesting to see how those nations respond.

Pakistan: Terrorism ‘our own problem’ and no foreign troops allowed

The two major presidential candidates seem to agree that our effort in Afghanistan faces a growing threat from al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal and federally adminstered areas.

Senator Barack Obama is your basic ‘bunch of carrots and little stick’ kind of guy who has already promised to “triple the amount of non-military aide to Pakistan” and tosses in that he [will] give them “F-16s to fight terrorism.” I didn’t know that the Taliban has an air force. The stick part is 10,000 more troops to Afghanistan yet he no longer implies that he will invade Pakistan or send troops in to spot targets and then bomb them. On the other hand, Senator McCain seems to also say he would put more troops in Afghanistan. He adds that there will be no sanctuary for terrorists there yet he does not explain how he will accomplish that in Pakistan. While our commander in Afghanistan has requested more troops, no one seems to say what they think those troops ought to do there.

All that brings me to this report:

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan is fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban for its own interests, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Saturday as he embarked on his first official visit to the United States. Gilani, in office since March, is due to meet U.S. President George W. Bush in which militant sanctuaries along the Pakistani border with Afghanistan is expected to figure prominently.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking in Australia on Friday, set the tone for the visit by stressing Pakistan had to do more to curb the flow of militants fuelling the Afghan insurgency.

“Extremism and terrorism are our own problems. This is our own fight. This is our own cause,” he told reporters at a military airbase in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, before his departure. “My priority number one is to maintain law and order in the country … and that’s why it is in our own interest that extremism and terrorism is contained.”

The United States has long been frustrated at what it views as inadequate efforts by its major ally in the war on terror to do enough to combat militants along the border with Afghanistan.

Washington has broadly supported Gilani’s policy of using tribal elders to influence militants to give up violence but has expressed worries that militants would use the breathing space provided by talks to step up attacks on Western forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistan, which itself is facing growing militant violence at home, says it would continue fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban but would not allow foreign forces to take action in its territory.

During his four-day visit, Gilani would also meet U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.

Before they meet with him, Obama and McCain would be wise to read a lot from Bill Roggio’s great site, The Long War Journal.

They could start here:

Operation ends in Hangu; Government opts for negotiations in northwest

8,000 foreign fighters in Fata ring alarm bells in Islamabad

PM Gilani fears incident like 9/11 could happen again

The so-called Right War. If it is right to fight violent jihadists in Afghanistan and perhaps to even root them out of Pakistan, then it was right to do the same things in Iraq.

The Right War” in Afghanistan is the headline and both candidates say they have the solution there. First, they better know what they are talking about. Sound bites (just words) will not get it done.


A hat tip to the Mudville Gazette for the link through to Soldiers’ Angels.