FT. BENNING, GA — First off, thanks to everyone who emailed me a copy of the White Paper. My thoughts: That’s it? Al Qaeda is bad, Al Qaeda is in Pakistan, so let’s expand the war there while flooding the region with civilian experts that don’t yet exist? Flooding Pakistan with yet more practically unaccountable American money? Expanding the drone war?
Wow. Focusing only on corruption in Afghanistan kind of misses the point. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. This has been a long time coming, and Pakistan watchers have been wondering just where all this escalation talk in Pakistan was leading.
As Noah Shachtman has been noting, this really does amount to declaring war against an entire region of Pakistan. But as Judah Grunstein rightly notes, Congress never authorized the use of military force in Pakistan, which introduces another layer of complexity to Obama’s escalation plan… and that’s ignoring the Clintonian policy of relying on missile strikes (and, frankly, a Rumsfeldian plan of relying on air strikes) instead of adopting an actual, populace-centric policy for Pakistan.
I also note the use of the term “contact group,” which tells me that Barnett Rubin and Ahmed Rashid are now playing major roles in shaping U.S. policy in the area. I may not agree with the feasibility of their ideas, but it past time for some adults to be driving things, and I’m glad to see them involved.
But overall, this doesn’t say much we haven’t already heard. None of this is a surprise, since the Obama team has been publicly focus-grouping every proposal in here. But this brings up a different point: given how thoroughly banal this is: who is the intended audience? Does Obama intend this to be his intention to the rest of the world, or does he intend this so be for his domestic constituency? I suspect it is the latter.