Wild Frontiers of Our Localized World

Posted by sepoy on August 02, 2007 · 20 mins read

How can Obama be just as wrong as Bush?

Yesterday Barack Obama delivered a major speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. I believe that despite its virtues, it is overall an erroneous reading of the world's geo-political landscape; that his understanding of terrorism is deeply flawed and that his specifics on action in Pakistan should bring a smile to any fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

The speech contains Obama's boilerplate mixture of poetic flourishes, declarative statements, and heavy-handed hypotheticals [binary positions only, please]. Here are his basic critiques of US foreign policy: Iraq was the wrong war; we did not finish the job in Afghanistan; we lacked international cooperation and diplomacy; we lost the battle for the hearts and minds. In response to these failures he provides a five-pronged policy for his presidency:

When I am President, we will wage the war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships we need to take out the terrorists and the world's most deadly weapons; engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism; restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland.

I will largely restrict my comments to the first element - leaving Iraq for Pakistan. A couple of casual observation, first: This 'getting out of Iraq' business is just not gonna happen as envisioned by many Democrats. Colin Powell told many deliberate lies to this world but he said one thing right: you break it, you own it. However, once Obama suggests that we get our troops out of Iraq only to send them to Pakistan, it makes an ill-advised proposition calamitous. Normally, I would also have cheered the idealism in his speech. For example, he was surely picking up on something I wrote here many moons ago when he stated that:

I will also launch a program of public diplomacy that is a coordinated effort across my Administration, not a small group of political officials at the State Department explaining a misguided war. We will open "America Houses" in cities across the Islamic world, with Internet, libraries, English lessons, stories of America's Muslims and the strength they add to our country, and vocational programs. Through a new " America's Voice Corps" we will recruit, train, and send out into the field talented young Americans who can speak with -- and listen to -- the people who today hear about us only from our enemies.

But when read in the context of his whole speech, the idealism remains a plain contradiction. Which world will be receptive to America's Voice Corps after we would have invaded three countries in half a decade?

I have been a fan of Barack Obama's candidacy for a long while - I am his constituent - but I would have expected this speech to come from Charles Krauthammer. For seven years, millions have been hoping that a change in the White House will be a change in our policies at home and abroad. The hope being that a democratic administration will not start pre-emptive wars nor freeze the world out from our deliberations. Yet, here we stand. Clinton wants to invade Iran and Obama wants to invade Pakistan. It appears that there is unanimity in our political spectrum as far as global terrorism, and our reaction to it, is concerned. We clearly know and understand who our enemy is, what he wants and how will we combat him - no inquiry, no analysis, no knowledge of the local is needed nor required.

Point, if you can, to the difference between this spurious understanding of terrorism from Obama to anything you can find amid the neo-con library. Compare, as well, the blanket and generalized statements, the assertions of fallacies, and the monolithic construction of "their" narratives:

Al Qaeda's new recruits come from Africa and Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Many come from disaffected communities and disconnected corners of our interconnected world. And it makes you stop and wonder: when those faces look up at an American helicopter, do they feel hope, or do they feel hate?

We know where extremists thrive. In conflict zones that are incubators of resentment and anarchy. In weak states that cannot control their borders or territory, or meet the basic needs of their people. From Africa to central Asia to the Pacific Rim -- nearly 60 countries stand on the brink of conflict or collapse. The extremists encourage the exploitation of these hopeless places on their hate-filled websites.

And we know what the extremists say about us. America is just an occupying Army in Muslim lands, the shadow of a shrouded figure standing on a box at Abu Ghraib, the power behind the throne of a repressive leader. They say we are at war with Islam. That is the whispered line of the extremist who has nothing to offer in this battle of ideas but blame -- blame America, blame progress, blame Jews. And often he offers something along with the hate. A sense of empowerment. Maybe an education at a madrasa, some charity for your family, some basic services in the neighborhood. And then: a mission and a gun.

We know we are not who they say we are. America is at war with terrorists who killed on our soil. We are not at war with Islam. America is a compassionate nation that wants a better future for all people. The vast majority of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims have no use for bin Ladin or his bankrupt ideas. But too often since 9/11, the extremists have defined us, not the other way around.

This theory of global Islamic terrorism - poverty, chaos and conflict, disjunctive communities, the charismatic whisperer - is the one that Bernard Lewis has told and retold millions of times - despite all scholarship and evidence to the contrary. Lewis' model - derived from the Hashashin of Syria aka the Old Man of the Mountain - has this narrative: Islamdom and Christendom are embroiled in a Crusade. The charismatic Old Man of the Mountain takes poor and abandoned young Muslims, spirits them away to the mountain hiding ground where he has built a paradise of beautiful girls and virginal waters. He feeds them, sends aid to their family, shows them tantalizing glimpses of "Paradise" and brain washes them - with the help of hashish. Eventually, they are given a suicide mission to go kill and gain access to that Paradise they briefly encountered - with virgins etc. Lewis had peddled this particular reading of Islamic terrorism as early as 1991 but it was only after September 2001 that this emerged as the definitive understanding of the "Why do they hate us?" mind-bender. Despite being completely ahistorical, it cleverly explained the appeal and command of someone like Usama b. Laden, confirmed the basic truth of the civilizational clash, and also negated any culpability in the American history.

Needless to say, there is no place for facts in this narrative and the underlining assumptions remain unshakeable. For example, our enemy cannot be rational nor modern - Muhammad Atta or Shahzad Tanveer or Kafeel Ahmed notwithstanding. Why not? Because Modernity and Enlightenment, are forces which, by definition, should have no space for such actions. Consider further, that in Obama's retelling Abu Gharib is not an actual war crime but something extremists "say" - tripping on Hashish, no doubt. Similarly our occupation of Iraq is not an imperial reality but a mirage of elaborate lies. In effect the "whispers" of the extremists, devoid of any truth, remain the hypnosis of the Old Man of the Mountain. All we have to do is to proclaim them as such - call them out as Lies - and the spell will be broken. The unmistakable conclusion of that narrative, of course escapes Obama and others who still cling to such theories. We will have to end the incubators in London, in Amsterdam, in Madrid, and in Bali - surely by invading these countries which provide a safe haven to these terrorists.

This national discourse comes from a deep Orientalism that has been a staple of our political lives prior to and since that "bright and beautiful Tuesday morning". It is what enables us to question the sanity and the patriotism of anyone who dares raise the long history of American involvement across the globe as a contributing factor. It enables us to collapse real geographies from Leeds and Glasgow to Karachi and Islamabad into "wind-swept deserts and cave-dotted mountains".

Pakistan, of course, is the main thrust of Obama's speech. Here is his declaration: Al Qaeda has a sanctuary in Pakistan.. Note that the word "sanctuary" necessarily implies state protection and safety and that "Pakistan" indeed refers to the entire country. To reinforce his point, he states again, "[Al Qaeda is] training new recruits in Pakistan". These could easily be the exact words used by Bush to describe Afghanistan right before the US invasion in 2001. And invasion is the only conclusion one can reach when Obama states that he wants to "deploy troops to the "right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan". The only way I know of deploying troops to a sovereign nation is by invading said nation.

Obama demands his pre-emptive strike both as justification for WTC attacks and also because Pakistan has not proven a good enough ally:

As President, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.

One should remind Barack Obama, and the US Congress which just passed such a conditional bill, that Pakistan is, in clear and evident fact, fighting a war in Waziristan - with scores of military casualties seemingly every day. One can also remind him that since the Lal Masjid stand off - July 3rd - there have been a dozen suicide bombings across Pakistan killing over 200 civilians - almost keeping pace with Baghdad. One can further remind him that Pakistan has indeed allowed US military strikes on its sovereign territory, even with questionable intelligence. On November 10, 2006, US missiles hit a madrasa in Bajaur aimed at killing the elusive No. 2 of Al Qaeda but managed mainly to kill children. They must all be casualties of Pakistan's soft focus in the war on terrorism.

To be crystal clear, Obama suggests that a country that is a sovereign nation and ally, that has full nuclear capability, has the ability to carry out nuclear attacks, has the ability to give nuclear technologies to the card-carrying-member-of-the-Axis-of-Evil-next-door Iran, has a unpopular dictator supported and maintained by the United States, has deployed 100,000 troops across its North Western borders, has suffered thousands of casualties - army and civilians - carrying out the Global War on Terror, has seen its cities and deserts flood with the detritus from the forgotten war going on in Afghanistan, but has nonetheless maintained complete compliance by killing and capturing many key members of the Al Qaeda ... should be invaded.

I can only conclude that strategically, conceptually, operationally and politically, this is as bad a policy statement as was introduced in March 2003. It ought to be self-evident, according to Obama even, that if invading a country of 30 million, who were under severe sanctions for over a decade, at false pretense was a "wrong war", then invading a country of 165 million, with nuclear power, could prove a slightly more egregious blunder.

I could plumb further depths of this inanity by showing how flawed Obama is on his reading of Saudi Arabia, Israel and Iran and how his diplomatically mature outlook fails to even mention India or China - two major powers of the region - but I will stop here.

Instead let's go back and ask this simple question: How can Obama be just as wrong as Bush? Or more specifically, why is it that the world from Obama's or Bush's eyes appears no different.

There is no doubt that there are very real enemies intent on carrying out their own civilizational mission. But instead of focusing on the historical, cultural, religious, or political specificities of these enemies, our public discourse remains intent on reproducing imagined entities - and the deep Orientalism I mentioned above surely plays a significant role in this. This discourse makes potent, global actors out of local thugs. More importantly, it obfuscates any distinction between the local thug and someone like Usama b. Laden. It keeps alive our prejudices and assumptions about Islam. The fact that Bush did not know of the presence of Shi'a and Sunni sects in Islam (in Iraq or in general) is not simply comment on him being dull. He is a sharp man. He has many, many advisors who know and can comprehend 'difference'. That fact is actually a revelation of our systematic conceptualization of that uniform Other - the Muslim Terrorist. The thought that there may be differences and details and histories simply shouldn't have occurred to him. It is no surprise that the clash of civilization operates not on differences but on sameness - whether in Us or in Them. When Bush stated, "You are with us or you are against us", he was not being brash and belligerent, he was being honest.

Similarly the hegemonized 'imperialism' of America in the Islamist discourse cannot differentiate between actors near or far, nor can it understand any history, or geo-political narrative. In their discourses centuries of corruption and weakness in Islam will be swept away only by the cleansing power of their militant actions. The Muslim victims, Shi'a or Sunni or anything, are no different from the infidels because they really are no different in their eyes. The West is just as monolithic and undifferentiated. Usama b. Laden will surely flunk a basic history or cultural test of United States. He cannot tell you the difference between a Protestant and a Roman Catholic or between the imperialisms of the Ottoman empire, the British empire or the conceived American empire. Such distinctions are immaterial to his Occidentalism.

All this is no great insight. We cannot explain how we are able to systematically generate a comprehension of the world we inhabit without examining the ways in which we construct our knowledges. Why are we, four years after our indefensible invasion of Iraq and nearly six years after the attack on us, still unable to comprehend our enemies as capable, rational, modern agents? Every new instance of a new cell in our modern cosmopolitans, of a doctor or an engineer blowing himself is met either with universal bewilderment or universal condemnation of the very soul of Islam. Our terrorists, even when they are born in Bradford or housed in Hamburg remain in the wild frontier of our imagination. When terrorism happens in the domestic context, at Virginia Tech for example, we seek pathologies and sickness and material differences. When the same act is repeated in a crowded Baghdad market or a fruit stand in Islamabad, we summarily assign blame to an ever-lengthening chain of transmission that inevitably goes back to the whisperer in caves afar. Islam, we conclude, is still medieval, it needs rationality, science, a reformation.

When Obama refuses to even know the facts of Pakistan or Iran or Saudi Arabia, he is not being careless, he is just re-affirming the dominant discourse of American imperialism. Our actions, pre-emptive or post-partum leave us with nothing more than empty platitudes of God-given Freedom or New Hope. We are reluctant to Know. We do not want to investigate, to learn, or to understand. We insist on our global, flat, and binary world no matter how many facts pile up proving us wrong.

Unless we decide to get Local, to pay attention to local narratives, facts, histories, realities, languages, religions, ethnicities, cultures, etc. we will remain in this deeply flawed discourse. So the answer to my question, how can Obama be just as wrong as Bush, is simple enough: There is only one answer available at the moment.


Zack | August 02, 2007

I read this long post yesterday before it disappeared, but it looks like there have been quite a few changes. Off to read the new version now.

Farangi | August 02, 2007

Love it. This is beautiful, raw, and from the heart. It's like something Farangi might write. :) We must expect more from those who would presume to lead us, mustn't we? And for those of us who saw/see a glimmer of hope for a new way of approaching the world in Obama's candidacy, we have to hold him to a standard correlative to his apparent intellect and capacity for nuance. Feet to the fire, Sepoy! Onward!

On American Imperialism « An Unquiet Mind | August 02, 2007

[...] I was pondering a post in response to Obama’s speech, when I came upon this excellent blog post, by Chapati [...]

Mahendra | August 02, 2007

Excellent article. You've left me speechless. I've tracked back. Thanks for the wonderful, insightful analysis.

SC | August 02, 2007

Thanks for this analysis Sepoy. I too am incredibly disheartened by it all. At best Obama's threat to Pakistan is mere rhetoric, intended to indicate he's a man capable of violence, and not some ahimsa loving idealist. Another possibility is Obama is trying to call the republicans out on their bluff, namely that they got into the war on Iraq over terrorism, and not over oil and their family business'. This way Obama appears to fight just wars, and not selfish ones. At worse, however, Obama would actually do it, he would actually redirect military efforts towards Pakistan. In that case, what we have then is an upcoming election which might have been about issues of local and *domestic* significance, such as health care and education due to democrats such as Obama & Clinton forcing those issues. Instead the election will turn into how best to *manage* our empire.

MK | August 02, 2007

But it can't all be America's fault can it - surely Lewis' argument that some in the Muslim world are reacting violently to a perceived loss of global supremacy has some merit. There is an extremist element that draws on parts of Islam to attack the West and its blindness to ignore that. If it was simply a reaction to colonialism and a history of US interference why arent the South Americans strapping explosives to their belts. And if Pakistan is the new Afghanistan and a refuge for the Taliban, why would you fault Obama for pointing it out ?

SC | August 02, 2007

I just spent some time reading Obama's speech on his website in great detail, and although I think there are some problems with it (which I'd be willing to discuss), I'd like to recant my earlier assessment. I noted that not once did he use the phrase "Islamic terrorism" nor say anything reminiscent of Bernard Lewis' arguments. In fact, he has done quite a bit to dismantle the "essentializing" rhetoric of Orientalism. Furthermore, he claimed to want a democratic Pakistan. In addition, the conditions he proposes to place on the military aid to Pakistan would make many activists in Pakistan quite happy, as many have spoken out against the U.S. supported blind militarization of the country. Do give it a read on his website.

Andrew R. | August 02, 2007

I know beans about South Asia and still need a cheat-sheet on the four schools of Sunni fiqh, so I'm asking you in your capacity as an expert. What exactly *can* be done about the Salafi para-state in Waziristan?

sepoy | August 02, 2007

MK: I don't recalling saying what was America's fault. SC: I am not entirely convinced you have read either Obama's speech or my post. Andrew R: Not knowing beans but you are sure that there is something called the "Salafi para-state" in Waziristan? I don't even know what that means.

Farangi | August 02, 2007

Sepoy, don't respond to campaign spam. Just delete it.

Ahistoricality | August 02, 2007

I hate to disagree with you, because you're usually right, but I think a slightly less doctrinaire reading of Obama's speech is warranted, at least with regard to Pakistan. I agree with you that a more nuanced and localized understanding of international affairs would be a shocking boon to US diplomacy, and that Obama's description of terrorists is confused by the tendency to conflate their operational centers with their origins. However, with regard to Pakistan you need to be more convincing. You argue that US military involvement in Pakistan could only be an invasion, which ignores centuries in which allies sometimes operated in each others' territory for mutual benefit, which is more or less how the US is supposed to be operating in Afghanistan (and sometimes in Pakistan). The claim that "in Pakistan" means the same thing as "all of Pakistan" is hard to square with Obama's (qualified, but real) support for Pakistan's barely legitimate government and questionably reliable military. It sounds to me like he's trying to toe your line: increase democracy and civil society in order to make Pakistan a better ally, and do that by leveraging the influence and reach we now have within Pakistan. And you dismiss his public diplomacy efforts as irrepparably tainted by US hegemony, when he's describing a multilateral education initiative (note the emphasis on "listen") which ought to produce precisely the kind of nuanced and realistic understandings of the rest of the world which might in the long term alleviate this problem. (Personally, I think he ought to have pointed out that our public diplomacy problem is not just that "our enemies" have a loud voice in the discourse, but that our own public face has been ... well, Bush, who doesn't really qualify as an ally these days.). I do wish he'd said something about the nature of the civil war going on in Pakistan -- that's the nuance which is most obviously lacking -- and acknowledged that the (semi-?)autonomous regions are a long-term issue in which mere conquest is not likely to be an acceptable long-term solution.

sepoy | August 02, 2007

Ahistoricality: I guess our disagreement isn't simply on our reading of the word: deploy. 1. Whether foreign troops are in a corner or here or there is immaterial to the conception of a nation-state. One can see Turkey's refusal to allow US fueling and staging rights in the leadup to Iraq war. 2. You assume that the military dictatorship in PK will consent to some mutually beneficial agreement for US troops in Waziristan [Leave aside the thought about what insights our US troops possess that the Pakistani army doesn't]. But can you really conceive of such a reality without the explicit consent of the public? The same public that I should remind, has demonstrably gone away from the dictator? Is there any possible way that this alienated public, devoid of exercising any opinion, will go along with such a strategic partnership? Especially since there is a _lack_ of any democratic process? This is no chicken and egg. This is clearly before and after. And when this non-consenting public finds US military engaging in battle with Taliban troops on their soil, I believe we will end up with a severe case of hundreds of thousands of new "insurgents" to go against our troops. and ps. Are we fighting them in Pakistan so we don't have to fight them in Afghanistan?

Andrew R. | August 03, 2007

Most of the news that I've been following on Waziristan indicated that the Pakistani army got pretty badly spanked and so last year negotiated a surrender whereby large chunks of Waziristan became no-go areas for the Pakistani government. Again, as I understand it, these regions of Waziristan are now run by the Taliban. Is this understanding correct?

Ahistoricality | August 03, 2007

I think we're fighting them in Pakistan -- and I'm a little unclear, I admit, on who "them" is at this point, because we seem to have exacerbated an existing problem and given it a new name, but I'm not clear on whether there are new people involved -- because we screwed up in Afghanistan and because we did a lousy job working with Pakistan for the last ... actually, was there ever a time when our relationship with Pakistan was a force for good in the region or world? I'm sure you've a better read on the Pakistani public than I, but I suspect that the degree of public support for US involvement will depend a great deal on which institutions and constituencies the US is seen to be working with. If the US is actually putting pressure on Musharaf and supporting the Army, wouldn't that actually put us on the side of the bulk of civil society in Pakistan?

Ahistoricality | August 03, 2007

Well, the Pakistani government doesn't approve of Obama's speech. I'm not sure that tells us anything....

Nitin | August 03, 2007

Generals are often accused of preparing to fight the "last war"; politicians, I suppose, can be accused of trying to address the "last issue". IMHO, he's missed the plot. Invading Pakistan is not the question. How to address a potentially failing one is. Given that the political gymnastics that will be involved, even to change from one civilian prime minister to another, are sufficient to give the most informed observers splitting headaches, we can't expect the real issue to become something that lends itself to campaign circuit.

Krish Ashok | August 03, 2007

Brilliant post. Alas, every presidential candidate seems to make the same imperialist noises just so the mainstream media doesn't paint him/her as a conciliatory weakling. If only news in the US was presented as it is, without the Oreillys and Hannitys adding their narrow minded opinions to it.

Saadia | August 03, 2007

sepoy, don't bother to get involved in a back and forth with people who have no idea of what is going on in Pakistan, leave alone have any sense of history. The Pakistani public - and this includes the poor people of Waziristan who have become collateral damage in the military aggression between the Taliban and the Pakistan army - knows that the US has, in fact, been attacking targets in Pakistan, mostly with the knowledge and go-ahead of the Pakistani government, and sometimes without. Resulting, as you point out, sepoy, in the deaths of innocents. All of this, and not the whispers of the Old Man of the Mountain, are responsible for anti-American feeling across the world, but specifically in those communities that are bearing the brunt of this 'War-on-Terror-that-isn't-a-War-on-Islam'. When it's your family members dying, and your communities being attacked, and Muslim countries being invaded, all that propaganda about how wonderful America is and how it means well (which is essentially what something like the American Voice Corps would be if it isn't part of a larger, material, change in American policies and actions - just a new Voice of America) doesn't count for shit. And al-Qaeda gains recruits not because all these people suddenly find the promise of virgins in heaven compelling, but because they want to fight back, and since the world has so nicely been divided up into two camps, they often end up joining the only organized force fighting the US. and when the promise of the Democratic party, the man of the moment, the nice man, presents arguments that may sound better but amount to the same thing as the neo-cons, then the world is in even worse danger than we thought. But then again, I gave up on Obama the day he made that speech at the AIPAC fund-raiser many months ago. Sepoy, thank you for such an insightful and beautifully written piece of analysis.

LeftyProf | August 03, 2007

Sepoy, Excellent post. I agree with much of what you are saying, but I must admit that I am surprised that you are surprised at Obama in the first place. When has foreign policy ever been a partisan affair in the U.S.? What has the track record of the Democratic Party been, after all? And why should Obama be any different? Nevertheless, an excellent post!

Eunomia · Get Local | August 03, 2007

[...] Cliopatria, Ralph Luker points to a fine post by one of our fellow Cliopatria colleagues, Manan Ahmed. Manan and I seem to be on the same page [...]

Desi Italiana | August 03, 2007

Saadia-- "When it's your family members dying, and your communities being attacked, and MUSLIM countries being invaded, all that propaganda about how wonderful America is and how it means well (which is essentially what something like the American Voice Corps would be if it isn't part of a larger, material, change in American policies and actions - just a new Voice of America) doesn't count for shit." I understand your point, but you know that America isn't invading only "Muslim" countries, right? Unless you think that the entire Latin American continent, East Asia, SouthEast Asia (Vietnam, Laos, etc), Cuba, and the islands we call "territories" of the United States are all part of the "Muslim" world. And the US has indeed invaded/gone to war/occupied/conquered these countries.

apsaras | August 04, 2007

Inisghtful post, sepoy. Not that I would expect anything less. There might be another reason behind Obama's arguments in this speech than that he isn't engaged with the complexities on the ground, though (one that is, arguably, just as bad or worse). It could well be that someone in his campaign told him that he needed to appeal to the sizeable chunk of our population that sees nuclear warheads as the mainstay of our foreign policy, and didn't even do him the courtesy of writing an internally consistent speech for him to do it in. It would be another in a string of questionable political maneuvers coming out of his campaign, from the Hillary oppo research piece to some of his other recent speeches. Something about a candidate who would choose to disengage with facts the he knows -- choose to orate a policy he knows is questionable -- troubles me as much, or more, than a candidate who simply didn't know in the first place. The one who doesn't know, after all, could be taught. I'm especially suspicious of this because of the international education component. It simply doesn't make sense settled in next to the hawkish tones of the rest of the speech. As you noted, it's difficult to perform educational outreach and cross-cultural communication if you are blowing up the schools. It's inclusion makes me think that this speech is intended to be all things to all people. We are simply supposed to ignore the warlike exhortations, and focus on cultural outreach, or vice-versa, depending on our political leanings. This is, at best, another example of dissembling and posturing from a candidate who is supposed to -- indeed, who has built his campaign around -- honesty. Alternately, it is an indication of an actual desire to invade, and an actual conviction that the best way to resolve our country's foreign policy nightmare is at the point of a sword. I have really wanted to believe in this candidate. It's painful to feel that belief slowly being ground into powder. Thanks for the analysis and the well deserved evisceration of the speech.

Stan | August 06, 2007

I disagree with you argument...if you want to say that Obama is wrong by stating that "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will" then you are wrong…well tell me what country in this world even Pakistan will allow killers of 3000 of it's citizen a safe heaven. Reading your emotional tired makes me sick of the facts of your argument...i try to understand your argument about invading Pakistan it does not make sense...Clinton bomb Sudan and Iraq and the cultures and tribes their did not implode...and no one not even you will call such tactical military operation against terrorist invasion...are you kidding me... you mean to say that Osama should be allowed a safe Heaven in Pakistan...or that if the government of that nation fail to act in arresting and bringing them to justice that we should let it be...let it be clear to you that non of major candidates running for president will fail to bomb Osama no matter where he is hiding if the country fail to act...3000 Americans were killed by this guy and you are just been apologetic to his acts and asking our leaders for caution in dealing with this evil personified living in Pakistan...Obama is right if Pakistan wont act, as a President Obama will...Because this people killed 3000 Americans and are still roaming free in Pakistan planning another attack against U.S interest and if you think that killing them will lead Pakistan to implode you are wrong .... Bush have done so though unsuccessful But I did not see any implosion...Above i believe that some with your position will know the difference of striking to kill a terrorist and invading a country so please make your position clear by informing your readers that Obama never say he will invade but that he will strike to kill those responsible for 9/11 if the leaders of Pakistan fail to act and you what i think he is right and you are wrong.

sepoy | August 06, 2007

Stan: As I wrote above, not only is it that Pakistan is fighting a war within its borders against those that killed 3000 Americans but it is currently allowing military strikes based on intelligence. The only thing that a President Obama will have to do different is to try and mend fences with an hostile Islamabad. As for the Invasion argument, yes, that is my own interpretation of the language in his speech. I may be wrong. You may be right. I just don't see how any sovereign nation will allow overt foreign military presence on its oil.

GQ | August 07, 2007

Sorry, but I think you're reading WAY too much into this. We wouldn't be attacking Pakistan itself. We would be attacking al-Qaeda in territory that Pakistan doesn't control.

Dr Anonymous | August 07, 2007

We wouldn't be attacking Pakistan itself. We would be attacking al-Qaeda in territory that Pakistan doesn't control.
1. Who is "We"? 2. What theory of sovereignty do you subscribe to? For example, is it okay for the U.S. to bomb Maoist controlled districts in India because India's governments can't exercise sovereignty over them? 3. Are you on crack?

GQ | August 07, 2007

What does the word "sovereignity" imply? Answer: governance and control. If there is a territory that you're not governing, then there's no real soveriegnity.

GQ | August 07, 2007

And for what it's worth, polls show that most people in general, and a vast majority of Dems in particular, preferred Obama's answer. Maybe they also get the distinction.

tsk | August 08, 2007

@dr. anon: i agree with your sentiment, but #3 isn't a good argument. if you're smoking crack, odds are you've sold your computer or can't concentrate enough to make some of arguments presented. @gq: are we answering our own questions now? it appears we are. do i think you're incorrect? yes i do. will i explain why? of course i will. regardless of what you may think it implies sovereignty is "A nation or state's supreme power within its borders.". the areas in question are within pakistan's borders. the level of what you consider "control" is irrelevant. i'm not sure if you realize this, but you can only cross the border into a country legally if you have that country's permission. no permission, no legality. what is being proposed is crossing into a sovereign nation's borders and attacking people based on what country A thinks is "actionable intelligence". it implies that the u.s. thinks pakistan can't control or knows what goes on in its own borders, is some backwater failed state, and that the u.s. is some all-knowing, all-protecting benefactor that is always absolutely correct about everything, which has been made abundantly clear to not be the case. to put it another way, if canada started conducting raids on the michigan militia because of crimes in toronto without explicit approval of the u.s. government, don't you think it would piss a few people off? i love it how my countrymen think it's ok to send military/companies/etc. into places whether those there like it or not, but froth at the mouth at any implication of foreign entities or agreements having domain here. i'll take your standard and double it! as for the "vast majority" agreeing with the answer, 50M elvis fans can't be wrong, right?

itz | August 12, 2007

who cares, obama is charismatic. from what i've learned on this site, that's all that matters. by the way, GQ, you got knocked the f*ck out.

Archive Remix II: Empire's Ways of Knowing | May 10, 2012

[...] the tune of “They hate us for our freedoms” were the result. This failure of imagination, Ahmed writes, was at display in the then Presidential candidate Barack Obama's explication of America's foe [...]