The Globe Gazette - A New Vision to Keep America Safe
By Senator Barack Obama
It's time that American foreign policy reflected the common sense of the American people, not the failed conventional thinking of Washington.
To turn the page, we have to focus on the real threats to the American people -- not on fighting the wrong war in Iraq. And we have to have the courage to tell the American people where we stand.
Today, America's most dangerous enemies are training and plotting in the tribal regions of northwestern Pakistan. This al-Qaida safe-haven is a direct result of a failed policy that has America fighting on the wrong battlefield.
Instead of finishing the job against Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida in Afghanistan, we diverted our attention and resources to a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized. This allowed the terrorists to escape into Pakistan, where they have steadily rebuilt their strength and where they threaten America as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I outlined my plan to deal with this threat as a part of a comprehensive strategy to fight terrorism in a speech on Aug. 1. I have supported aid to Pakistan in the Senate, and as I said in my speech, I would continue substantial military aid if Pakistan takes action to root out the terrorists.
I would also supplement that aid with non-military assistance to support the education and development necessary to combat extremism in Pakistan. As president, I will always work with friends and allies like Pakistan to root out terrorists
But relying on Pakistan while we fight the wrong war in Iraq has not worked. Because of that policy, bin Laden and members of his inner circle who bear direct responsibility for the murder of 3,000 Americans are plotting new attacks. If Pakistan cannot or will not take out these high-level terrorist targets and we have actionable intelligence about where they are, then I would take action to protect the American people.
I firmly believe that if we know the whereabouts of bin Laden and his deputies and we have exhausted all other options, we must take them out.
I have never called for an invasion of Pakistan. You don't need thousands of American troops to take out a meeting of high-level terrorists. Any student of the American military knows that we have many options to target terrorists with limited force, many of which involve no American boots on the ground. To suggest that targeting terrorists in Pakistan would be tantamount to an invasion is to misunderstand the capabilities of the U.S. military or to misrepresent my position.
I have been told that it is dangerous and un-presidential to say publicly that I will take action against terrorists like bin Laden. I reject that view. I trust the American people and I believe they have had enough of presidents who don't.
Our security should not just be debated by insiders in the salons of Washington, it should be discussed with the American people. If my opponents believe that we should not take out high-level targets like bin Laden when we know where they are, they should say so. If my opponents have a secret plan to win the war on terrorism, they should tell the American people what it is.
I also reject the view that American cannot talk candidly to its friends and allies. The choices before us in Pakistan are not between unconditional support Musharraf and the extremists. That is a false choice.
The choice is whether you continue the Bush-Cheney policy that has been bad for America -- and bad for Pakistan -- because it has failed to take out al-Qaida's safe-haven, failed to reach out to Pakistan's democratic majority and failed to undermine extremism. If my opponents feel that the Bush-Cheney policy is working, they should say so and not try to pin Pakistan's long-standing and persistent internal problems on my recent call for a new approach.
My call for a new foreign policy is based on common sense. We need strong alliances to combat common enemies. We need to talk directly to our adversaries if we want our tough talk to amount to anything. We need to get off the wrong battlefield in Iraq if we want to deal effectively with terrorism. We need to take out bin Laden if we have him in our sights.
Washington's conventional thinking says we cannot do these things. But conventional thinking is directly responsible for the most catastrophic foreign policy failure in a generation. After all, the war in Iraq wasn't cooked up by Americans in Mason City. It was authorized by politicians in Washington who said they knew better.
If that's what conventional thinking amounts to, it's time for the conventional thinking to change.