Thursday, September 11, 2008

Obama, Bush, Pakistan, and Partisanship

Last year, Obama said that if he had actionable intelligence on high-value terrorist targets in Pakistan, he would take them out, without Musharraf's permission if necessary. At the time, I thought that was just common sense, although I also thought it might piss off some on the left. What I didn't expect was for the right to jump on that statement as a "gaffe" and as "evidence" of Obama's "lack of experience."

Today, as Oliver Willis points out, George Bush admitted to embracing that position:

President Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials.

The classified orders signal a watershed for the Bush administration after nearly seven years of trying to work with Pakistan to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and after months of high-level stalemate about how to challenge the militants’ increasingly secure base in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

American officials say that they will notify Pakistan when they conduct limited ground attacks like the Special Operations raid last Wednesday in a Pakistani village near the Afghanistan border, but that they will not ask for its permission.


Will the same people on the right criticize Bush for this as they did Obama? Or will they admit Obama was right? Most likely, they'll try to ignore the whole thing, or else try to find a detail -- any detail -- that separates the two men's statements and seize on that to explain why they are completely different.

As it happens, I was able to track down specifically what my conservative blog-friend Ezzie wrote about Obama's statement:

Barack Obama suggested (from what I understand) nuking Pakistan [followed by suggesting nuking just terrorists in Pakistan, followed by suggesting contemplating attacking Pakistan on our own, all within a minute or so].


Obviously, Obama never said anything about nuking anybody, and I challenged Ezzie on this in a comment (I wrote, "Source?") Ezzie appeared to admit he didn't have a good one ("a friend on Shabbos said...") but then went on to say, "Regardless, even the last statement is completely idiotic."

So I'm calling you out, Ezzie. :-) Are Bush and Obama right or are they "idiotic?"

45 comments:

Ezzie said...

Are you serious? You're equating attacking Pakistan with chasing terrorists within it? You're kidding me, right?

Ezzie said...

Oh, and I find it hilarious that the left is now cheering whenever they think Bush agrees with them. :)

"Can we afford more of the same?" - Ha!

Jewish Atheist said...

ezzie:

You're equating attacking Pakistan with chasing terrorists within it?

What? I can't even tell who you think said what. Both men supported attacking terrorists within Pakistan. Nobody suggested attacking Pakistan itself.

Oh, and I find it hilarious that the left is now cheering whenever they think Bush agrees with them. :)

I find it hilarious that the Republicans keep mocking Obama's proposals just before they adopt them as their own.

Ezzie said...

What I actually wrote there:

JA: Bombing terrorists in Pakistan is "completely idiotic?" I can't help but believe you'd be praising Bush to the Heavens if he said the same thing.

Ez: No, but suggesting that we should be rushing to carry out our own attacks in an *allied* country that has nukes? Not very wise.

Not the same.

Anyway, as is clear from the post, the White House is informing Pakistan of everything they're doing, they're just not waiting for permission. Obama's suggestion sounded like a much more direct affront to the Pakistani government. So yes:

Most likely, they'll try to ignore the whole thing, or else try to find a detail -- any detail -- that separates the two men's statements and seize on that to explain why they are completely different.

Because they are, and the fact that they both have "Pakistan" and "US carrying out attacks" in the details does not make them the same. Whatever happened to nuance?

Moreover: They also illustrate lingering distrust of the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies and a belief that some American operations had been compromised once Pakistanis were advised of the details.

A second senior American official said that the Pakistani government had privately assented to the general concept of limited ground assaults by Special Operations forces against significant militant targets, but that it did not approve each mission.

Seriously, JA, this was disappointing.

Ezzie said...

I find it hilarious that the Republicans keep mocking Obama's proposals just before they adopt them as their own.

I'm a Dem, don't tell me. I find it even funnier that Obama is now pushing off his tax increases because it would damage the economy, something we can't afford now. Because normally, we could?! At least he's learning some economics. Maybe he can teach his followers!

Nobody suggested attacking Pakistan itself.

Not only did I keep hearing that then, Willis quotes Bush as criticizing Obama for suggesting it. Presumably if he hadn't said anything that sounded like it Bush would have been lambasted for the criticism.

Jewish Atheist said...

When did Obama say "rushing?" When did Obama say he would not inform Musharraf?

Not only did I keep hearing that then, Willis quotes Bush as criticizing Obama for suggesting it. Presumably if he hadn't said anything that sounded like it Bush would have been lambasted for the criticism.

LOL. Bush said it and the press didn't call him on it, so it must be true. How cute. And why would Obama want to attack Pakistan??

Let's save the tax debate for a different thread.

Ezzie said...

When did Obama say he would not inform Musharraf?

He said he'd go against Musharraf, I believe. That's what I keep finding.

He made a rash statement in an interview. That's a far cry from a US policy decision that - if you read the NYT piece - was favored by every branch of military and was privately okayed with the Pakistani government. That's pretty easy to see.

There's a reason why most of the outrageous statements and comparisons on the left simply don't gain traction beyond the left. Most reasonable people are able to see the difference between what the left cries out about and reality. In this example, people who see the two cases understand why one raises eyebrows and the other is discussed by even the NYT as something which "underscores U.S. concerns over Pakistan’s ability and will to combat militants."

Jewish Atheist said...

He made a rash statement in an interview.

He said he would go after "high-value terrorist targets in Pakistan" without Musharraf's permission if necessary. That is exactly Bush's position now. I really can't see the distinction you're trying to make.

In this example, people who see the two cases understand why one raises eyebrows and the other is discussed by even the NYT as something which "underscores U.S. concerns over Pakistan’s ability and will to combat militants."

I'm seeing both cases and I cannot understand the difference, other than Obama is a Democrat (and therefore must be stupid at foreign policy) and Bush is a Republican (and is therefore Serious and right about foreign policy.)

Jewish Atheist said...

Can you explain how you get from "I would attack HIGH-VALUE TERRORIST TARGETS within Pakistan" to "I would attack Pakistan?"

CyberKitten said...

JA said: At the time, I thought that was just common sense, although I also thought it might piss off some on the left.

Presumably it would also piss off people in Pakistan - which is supposedly our Ally?

Are you saying that its OK for the US to attack its enemies (usually with a guided missile) in *any* country if it chooses to do so? Whatever happened to sovereignty?

Jewish Atheist said...

CK:

I can't really justify it in any absolute sense, but the pros seem to outweigh the cons. If OBL is in Pakistan and the Pakistani government either cannot get him or will not, we have a right to defend ourselves by taking him out. To be clear, I'm talking about "high-value terrorist targets" who specifically are engaged in hostilities with the U.S., not just random bad guys we don't like.

I think it's better with an ally like Pakistan as opposed to an enemy with Iran because there's much less chance of it causing an actual war.

In general, I don't seem to weight sovereignty that high on my list of concerns. I was fine with Israel's raid in Iraq back in the 80s and I'd be fine with an Israeli raid in Iran today assuming two things: that it works, and that it doesn't cause a war. Unfortunately, I don't think either of those assumptions are likely to be true at the moment.

CyberKitten said...

JA said: To be clear, I'm talking about "high-value terrorist targets" who specifically are engaged in hostilities with the U.S., not just random bad guys we don't like.

...and if he was in a house in London or Berlin or Rome or Moscow... you'd be quite happy to drop a laser guided bomb through the guys window? No matter what the consequences?

JA said: I think it's better with an ally like Pakistan as opposed to an enemy with Iran because there's much less chance of it causing an actual war.

Maybe it won't cause a war - but its a great way of losing an ally!

JA said: In general, I don't seem to weight sovereignty that high on my list of concerns.

I'm not sure that the country concerned would agree with you. Would it be OK for China or Russia to target a "high-value terrorist" with a guided missile if he was hiding out in California?

JA said: I was fine with Israel's raid in Iraq back in the 80s and I'd be fine with an Israeli raid in Iran today assuming two things: that it works, and that it doesn't cause a war.

Neither of which would be true. Such an attack is likely to fail and the retaliation would be.... something none of us would like to think about!

Ezzie said...

I'm seeing both cases and I cannot understand the difference, other than Obama is a Democrat (and therefore must be stupid at foreign policy) and Bush is a Republican (and is therefore Serious and right about foreign policy.)

Snort. There's a far cry between a Presidential candidate with no foreign policy experience making broad sweeping statements about attacking within an ally's country without any mention of discussion other than "if Musharraf won't I will!", and a President, after private discussions with that government, making a calculated decision to immediately carry out worthwhile missions without waiting for specific permission in certain instances. I can't believe that you don't see a difference between the two.

If McCain had made that statement and Clinton had carried such a thing out, you'd be flipped completely on this.

Jewish Atheist said...

...and if he was in a house in London or Berlin or Rome or Moscow... you'd be quite happy to drop a laser guided bomb through the guys window? No matter what the consequences?

No, obviously we'd have to consider the consequences. That's why I said specifically that I think the pros outweigh the cons in this particular case.

Maybe it won't cause a war - but its a great way of losing an ally!

I doubt it.

I'm not sure that the country concerned would agree with you. Would it be OK for China or Russia to target a "high-value terrorist" with a guided missile if he was hiding out in California?

Obviously the country concerned wouldn't agree with me. I think it would be just as ok for China or Russia to do it in the U.S. as it is for us to do it in Pakistan, although as an American I probably wouldn't be too happy about it.

Neither of which would be true. Such an attack is likely to fail and the retaliation would be.... something none of us would like to think about!

I already agreed with that!! :-) You cut that part off.

Jewish Atheist said...

Ezzie:

Snort. There's a far cry between a Presidential candidate with no foreign policy experience making broad sweeping statements about attacking within an ally's country without any mention of discussion other than "if Musharraf won't I will!", and a President, after private discussions with that government, making a calculated decision to immediately carry out worthwhile missions without waiting for specific permission in certain instances. I can't believe that you don't see a difference between the two.

BS. Obama said almost EXACTLY what Bush is now doing. If anything, Bush's policy is more broad. He doesn't limit himself to "high-value terrorist targets."

If McCain had made that statement and Clinton had carried such a thing out, you'd be flipped completely on this.

No I wouldn't. Would you?

Ezzie said...

No I wouldn't. Would you?

But you're completely against the Iraq War? No, I wouldn't be. Clinton never did enough in terms of going after foreign targets.

Obama said almost EXACTLY what Bush is now doing. If anything, Bush's policy is more broad. He doesn't limit himself to "high-value terrorist targets."

Not after having private discussions with the other government. He made the statements with no communication whatsoever and as a direct challenge statement - about an ally! You really don't see the difference in how the statements were made?

I don't see why limiting the value of the targets is a good thing if you've discussed it with the government already.

Comrade Kevin said...

Ah, the plot thickens!

Jewish Atheist said...

But you're completely against the Iraq War? No, I wouldn't be. Clinton never did enough in terms of going after foreign targets.

Yeah, I thought it was probably stupid from the start. I was hopeful that it wouldn't be, but it turns out my concerns were founded.

Not after having private discussions with the other government. He made the statements with no communication whatsoever and as a direct challenge statement - about an ally! You really don't see the difference in how the statements were made?

Gimme a break. Obama would have privately talked to Pakistan first too. The whole discussion was in the context of if they'd already discussed it and Musharraf said no.

I don't see why limiting the value of the targets is a good thing if you've discussed it with the government already.

Because it's not without drawbacks to go bombing in other countries without their permission. (Notification =/= permission.) You've got to have a damn good reason. OBL would be one. A couple of joe-schmoe members of AQ probably not.

CyberKitten said...

JA said: No, obviously we'd have to consider the consequences. That's why I said specifically that I think the pros outweigh the cons in this particular case.

So... It's OK to drop bombs on Pakistan but not OK to drop then on Europe or Russia? Is it that Pakistan can't do much in retaliation? That they basically have to pretty much put up with your behaviour?

JA said: I doubt it.

If a so-called ally of mine started dropping bombs on *my* country.. I don't think that they'd be an ally for very long!

JA said: I think it would be just as ok for China or Russia to do it in the U.S. as it is for us to do it in Pakistan, although as an American I probably wouldn't be too happy about it.

Especially if some of the so-called 'collateral damage' happened to be people you know. How do you think relatives of people killed every time you take out a 'high-value target' feel about your country? Do you think they rejoice that another terrorist is dead or do you think that they would hate you for the rest of their lives?

Jewish Atheist said...

So... It's OK to drop bombs on Pakistan but not OK to drop then on Europe or Russia? Is it that Pakistan can't do much in retaliation? That they basically have to pretty much put up with your behaviour?

Pretty much. However, there's also a big difference between bombing some people living in caves in mostly unpopulated woods and bombing some bad guys in London.

If a so-called ally of mine started dropping bombs on *my* country.. I don't think that they'd be an ally for very long!

Again, it's not like bombing London.

Especially if some of the so-called 'collateral damage' happened to be people you know. How do you think relatives of people killed every time you take out a 'high-value target' feel about your country? Do you think they rejoice that another terrorist is dead or do you think that they would hate you for the rest of their lives?

Obviously, they're not rejoicing. There has to be some sort of awful calculus any time we bomb anywhere between the number of bad guys vs the number of civilians. In the bombings we're talking about, I'm assuming there won't be many civilians involved. (In a raid on a nuclear weapons plant, there would be more, but that isn't really "civilian.")

Ezzie said...

Yeah, I thought it was probably stupid from the start. I was hopeful that it wouldn't be, but it turns out my concerns were founded.

Because you felt it was wrong or just not going to work? i.e. Do you believe in the concept of attacking but just think this was a bad place to do so, or against such attacks in general?

Gimme a break. Obama would have privately talked to Pakistan first too. The whole discussion was in the context of if they'd already discussed it and Musharraf said no.

AAH! There's a difference between a discussion of:

Obama: You should go after those guys.
Musharaff: NO!
Obama: Okay, we'll do it then!

and a private discussion about the US going after targets without permission first, as the case is here. Don't you see that?!

Because it's not without drawbacks to go bombing in other countries without their permission. (Notification =/= permission.) You've got to have a damn good reason. OBL would be one. A couple of joe-schmoe members of AQ probably not.

Could be. But if they've already discussed it with the Pakistanis and felt that this was fine, I'd trust that.

Jewish Atheist said...

Because you felt it was wrong or just not going to work? i.e. Do you believe in the concept of attacking but just think this was a bad place to do so, or against such attacks in general?

Because I didn't think it was going to be worth it. And I think it hasn't been, even if we manage to leave a reasonably stable country behind.

Obama when he was saying this was a bad idea (not that I knew about him at the time, of course) said he's not against all wars, just against stupid wars.

AAH! There's a difference between a discussion of:

Obama: You should go after those guys.
Musharaff: NO!
Obama: Okay, we'll do it then!

and a private discussion about the US going after targets without permission first, as the case is here. Don't you see that?!


Not if the Obama-Musharaff conversation is also private. If anything, asking Musharaff to do it first is more diplomatic. I can't see how you think this is the difference between "idiotic" and "a good move."

Could be. But if they've already discussed it with the Pakistanis and felt that this was fine, I'd trust that.

Well yeah, obviously if you know it's "fine," then by definition it's "fine." :-) I'm talking about if they're pretty hostile about the idea.

avian30 said...

For the record, this is Obama's statement:

"I understand that (Pakistan) 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-Qaida leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will."

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/367/

Jewish Atheist said...

avian30:

Thank you!

Random said...

A few thoughts -

Firstly, you need to update your information. Musharraf isn't president anymore, he quit a couple of weeks ago. The new guy is Asif Ali Zardari, whose previous (only) claim to fame is that he's Benazir Bhutto's widower and rejoices in the nickname of "Mr Ten Percent" owing to the fact that he's probably the most corrupt politician in Pakistan (anybody who knows anything about Pakistani politics will tell you that that's one hell of an achievement). He's pledged to continue the alliance with the USA, but as he relied on the support of Islamist parties to overthrow Musharraf and he at best seems to lack the physical courage of either Musharraf (who survived literally dozens of assassination attempts) or Bhutto (who of course was assassinated) then there is some concern as to how long this will last.

Secondly, there's a world of difference between announcing a policy in public (as Obama did) and carrying it out secretly. The American alliance is venomously unpopular in Pakistan - see the assassination attempts referred to above - and plausible deniability is vital to the Pakistani government. They can live with secret strikes, but if the policy is publicly announced then they may well be forced to oppose it. And it's no use saying (as you have been) "but of course Obama will talk to the Pakistanis in private first" - he has *already* publicly announced the policy, on the campaign trail no less, and for no better reason than to demonstrate that he can be as macho as any Republican, that he might have undermined American policy in the region and destabilised a key ally (it may be a coincidence that Musharraf fell only a few weeks later, but it can't have helped) is apparently of no concern when set against the overwhelming goal of making Barack Obama look tough. He can't cover it up now - to use a somewhat earthy analogy, he's in the position of a married man who has publicly announced his intention to take a mistress who is surprised that his wife is upset that he is planning to fly to Vegas for the weekend without her. All the consultations in the world are not going to change the fact that the cat is out of the bag.

And thirdly, why are the Dems jumping up and down with glee about the fact that Bush supposedly agrees with Obama anyway? I thought Bush was supposed to be a warmongering idiot? If a warmongering idiot agrees with you, shouldn't you be concerned rather than elated?

CyberKitten said...

JA said: However, there's also a big difference between bombing some people living in caves in mostly unpopulated woods and bombing some bad guys in London.

Except that most of the bombs seem to be falling in small villages killing not only the suspected terrorist but everyone physically close to him including women & children. Doesn't the indiscriminate killing of innocent people bother you? It certainly bothers me.

JA said: Again, it's not like bombing London.

Why? Because Pakistan is weak & is not expected to respond adversely to being used as target practice? Or is the temporary alliance in the so-called War on Terror disposable so that it doesn't really matter if they turn their backs on the US?

JA said: Obviously, they're not rejoicing. There has to be some sort of awful calculus any time we bomb anywhere between the number of bad guys vs the number of civilians.

So its OK to kill civilians as long as we take out a few terrorists along the way? This 'awful calculus' *produces* future terrorists! Even if you manage to take out an actual terrorist (which is debatable considering the quality of intelligence that leads to these attacks) you might take out 10-20 bystanders too who might have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Will their family & friends simply shrug their shoulders and move on or will they start helping the very terrorists you are supposed to be fighting. How many survivors of an attack will become terrorists themselves?

JA said: In the bombings we're talking about, I'm assuming there won't be many civilians involved.

Hundreds so far I think. How many innocent deaths are considered 'acceptable loses'?

JA said: (In a raid on a nuclear weapons plant, there would be more, but that isn't really "civilian.")

Maybe not - but there will still be people working there as a job and nothing else. Are cleaning staff legitimate targets because they work at such a plant? Are their human rights made null and void because they needed the job to feed their children?

Personally I would regard the bombing of targets or the operation of Special Forces within another countries borders without its Governments knowledge or express permission as an Act of War. I really don't know what else to call it.

...and then of course there is the ethical dimension. Is it ok for a country like the USA to basically assassinate whoever it considers to be its enemies anywhere in the world? Now imagine that as a universally acceptable act. What kind of world would that result in and would you want to live there? Shouldn't we be better than our enemies who kill people indiscriminantly? Shouldn't we maintain the moral high ground here or are we just as bad as they are?

Jewish Atheist said...

random:

Firstly, you need to update your information. Musharraf isn't president anymore

I know that. Musharraf was president when Obama made his statement.

Secondly, there's a world of difference between announcing a policy in public (as Obama did) and carrying it out secretly.

Oh come on. He answered a simple question honestly. It's not like he came out and announced he was going to attack Iran in order to prove he's "macho."

he might have undermined American policy in the region and destabilised a key ally (it may be a coincidence that Musharraf fell only a few weeks later, but it can't have helped)

LOL. Come on, even Bill Kristol would have trouble keeping a straight face while making that argument.

Jewish Atheist said...

CK:

Except that most of the bombs seem to be falling in small villages killing not only the suspected terrorist but everyone physically close to him including women & children.

In Iran? What are you talking about?

Doesn't the indiscriminate killing of innocent people bother you? It certainly bothers me.

I was talking about "discriminate killing."

Why? Because Pakistan is weak & is not expected to respond adversely to being used as target practice? Or is the temporary alliance in the so-called War on Terror disposable so that it doesn't really matter if they turn their backs on the US?

I was just referring to the difference between bombing some caves and bombing a residential building.

So its OK to kill civilians as long as we take out a few terrorists along the way? This 'awful calculus' *produces* future terrorists! Even if you manage to take out an actual terrorist (which is debatable considering the quality of intelligence that leads to these attacks) you might take out 10-20 bystanders too who might have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. Will their family & friends simply shrug their shoulders and move on or will they start helping the very terrorists you are supposed to be fighting. How many survivors of an attack will become terrorists themselves?

I completely agree with you in general. Again, I'm not talking about Joe Schmoe Terrorist, but someone like OBL. I think it'd be worth it.

Hundreds so far I think. How many innocent deaths are considered 'acceptable loses'?

In Pakistan? I'm not sure what you're referring to. In general, though, I wouldn't say it's ok to kill hundreds of civilians to get even OBL. I'm thinking more along the order of 10-20.

Maybe not - but there will still be people working there as a job and nothing else. Are cleaning staff legitimate targets because they work at such a plant? Are their human rights made null and void because they needed the job to feed their children?

I'd feel awful for them and would hope the Israelis would choose the time least likely to kill them.

Personally I would regard the bombing of targets or the operation of Special Forces within another countries borders without its Governments knowledge or express permission as an Act of War. I really don't know what else to call it.

Obviously attacking Iran's nuclear plant would be an act of war. No question. That's why I think Israel probably shouldn't do it (besides the other reason I mentioned of it's probably not doable, Iran's nuclear program being so spread out.)

...and then of course there is the ethical dimension. Is it ok for a country like the USA to basically assassinate whoever it considers to be its enemies anywhere in the world? Now imagine that as a universally acceptable act. What kind of world would that result in and would you want to live there? Shouldn't we be better than our enemies who kill people indiscriminantly? Shouldn't we maintain the moral high ground here or are we just as bad as they are?

I'd much prefer assassinations to all-out war. Why do you keep on saying "indiscriminately" when I'm suggesting the opposite? If you want to debate my argument, debate my argument. I didn't say we should carpet bomb a city if we know he's in it.

OBL targeted tens of thousands of civilians (the Pentagon is a military target, but the WTC sure wasn't.) I'm talking about targeting OBL in a scenario when we can keep the civilian death count pretty low (in the tens.) That's the difference.

Jewish Atheist said...

Gah. Haven't had my caffeine yet. I used "Iran" when I meant "Pakistan" a couple of times.

Jewish Atheist said...

And thirdly, why are the Dems jumping up and down with glee about the fact that Bush supposedly agrees with Obama anyway? I thought Bush was supposed to be a warmongering idiot? If a warmongering idiot agrees with you, shouldn't you be concerned rather than elated?

1) It shows how nakedly partisan and full of BS Obama's critics on the right are. Obama suggests something: "Boo! Stupid!" Bush does that thing: "Yay!"

2) If it's a good idea, we're glad when Bush does it. He's still in power, you know.

CyberKitten said...

JA said: In Iran? What are you talking about?

Pakistan - but you've had your coffee & corrected that [grin]

JA said: I was talking about "discriminate killing."

Except that bombs - even laser guided ones don't just kill the people they were intended for. There have been many cases where suspected terrorists have been killed along with their extended families and their neigbours. Are you saying that its OK to kill women & children who's only crime happens to be they are related to people we class as terrorists?

JA said: I was just referring to the difference between bombing some caves and bombing a residential building.

Its my understanding that most of the civilian casualties have resulted from bombs falling on residential areas in villages on the Pakistan/Afganistan border region.

JA said: I completely agree with you in general. Again, I'm not talking about Joe Schmoe Terrorist, but someone like OBL. I think it'd be worth it.

I don't think that killing OBL will make that much difference to things. Combat deaths (or enemy assassinations) are how AQ members move up the ranking. OBL will simply become a martyr and be replaced by the next in line. Killing 10-20 innocent bystanders in the process achieves nothing except an increase in hatred against the USA.

JA said: In Pakistan? I'm not sure what you're referring to. In general, though, I wouldn't say it's ok to kill hundreds of civilians to get even OBL. I'm thinking more along the order of 10-20.

Yes, Pakistan - at least according to the news reports I've seen. As I said above I don't think that the civilian deaths are worth it. Killing OBL will merely be a propaganda 'victory'.

JA said: I'd feel awful for them and would hope the Israelis would choose the time least likely to kill them.

I'm sure that their grieving relatives will feel much better because of that.

JA said: Obviously attacking Iran's nuclear plant would be an act of war. No question. That's why I think Israel probably shouldn't do it (besides the other reason I mentioned of it's probably not doable, Iran's nuclear program being so spread out.)

Indeed - and an act of folly. I was also refering to dropping bombs in Pakistan. ATM its a case of the enemy of my enemy..... so they're 'happy' to let it continue for now....

JA said: I'd much prefer assassinations to all-out war. Why do you keep on saying "indiscriminately" when I'm suggesting the opposite? If you want to debate my argument, debate my argument. I didn't say we should carpet bomb a city if we know he's in it.

Because assassination by laser guided bomb or hellfire missile is hardly discriminate. Such devices will kill *everyone* in the target building and probably the buildings either side of it. That's hardly discriminating!

JA said: OBL targeted tens of thousands of civilians (the Pentagon is a military target, but the WTC sure wasn't.) I'm talking about targeting OBL in a scenario when we can keep the civilian death count pretty low (in the tens.) That's the difference.

Personally I don't think the 'rightness' of killing innocent civilians is just a numbers game.

Jewish Atheist said...

CK:

Are you saying "collateral damage" is NEVER acceptable? Or just not acceptable in targeted assassinations? Because then all an OBL would have to do is keep a couple wives and kids with him at all times and he'd be untouchable.

CyberKitten said...

JA said: Are you saying "collateral damage" is NEVER acceptable? Or just not acceptable in targeted assassinations?

What I find unacceptable (and frankly objectionable) is the all too familiar dismissive attitude by some military forces to the problem of so-called collateral damage (AKA killing innocent people). The killing of 10-20 innocent bystanders *cannot* be justified by the death of a terrorist (no matter how highly ranked) who will undoubtedly be replaced 5 minutes after his/her organisation find out that they're dead. You cannot say that terrorist A is 'worth' 6 women & children whilst terrorist B is 'worth' 15 women & children. That kind of calculation is frankly obscene.

How many terrorist targets are out there plotting against you? 5 thousand? 20 thousand? If you kill 10-20 innocent people each time you kill one of them - even if you kill 1 or 2 innocent people - that's one hell of a butchers bill and what exactly will it achieve. Damned little I think.

What I'm trying to say is that you cannot wade through the blood of innocents to get to your enemy. It's wrong, stupid and frankly counterproductive.

Jewish Atheist said...

CK:

What I find unacceptable (and frankly objectionable) is the all too familiar dismissive attitude by some military forces to the problem of so-called collateral damage (AKA killing innocent people).

I also find that unacceptable and objectionable. However, I don't think I'm being dismissive.

The killing of 10-20 innocent bystanders *cannot* be justified by the death of a terrorist (no matter how highly ranked) who will undoubtedly be replaced 5 minutes after his/her organisation find out that they're dead.

*Cannot* be? What if we reasonably believe that if we don't kill that terrorist, he will kill hundreds or thousands (again?) Wouldn't it be worth it then? Or are we condemned to turning the other cheek while we're slaughtered without repercussion?

You cannot say that terrorist A is 'worth' 6 women & children whilst terrorist B is 'worth' 15 women & children. That kind of calculation is frankly obscene.

It is obscene, but it's the best we can do.

How many terrorist targets are out there plotting against you? 5 thousand? 20 thousand? If you kill 10-20 innocent people each time you kill one of them - even if you kill 1 or 2 innocent people - that's one hell of a butchers bill and what exactly will it achieve. Damned little I think.

Again, I'm just talking about the leaders.

What I'm trying to say is that you cannot wade through the blood of innocents to get to your enemy. It's wrong, stupid and frankly counterproductive.

That's just how war works. If you hold that war is never justified, fine, but I don't agree.

CyberKitten said...

JA said: I also find that unacceptable and objectionable. However, I don't think I'm being dismissive.

Not as dismissive as some in the military.... But still I find your attitude deeply disturbing.

JA said: *Cannot* be? What if we reasonably believe that if we don't kill that terrorist, he will kill hundreds or thousands (again?) Wouldn't it be worth it then? Or are we condemned to turning the other cheek while we're slaughtered without repercussion?


...and how exactly will killing a terrorist in a village in Pakistan stop them plotting against you? Any that you kill will be replaced almost immediately. Do you think that they are going to run out of warm bodies before you run out of missiles? We're 7 years into the so-called War on Terror. Are we winning yet? Will it take another 7 and another 7 after that? Do you see any end to this so-called War?

JA said: It is obscene, but it's the best we can do.

Then we have already lost any moral high ground we supposedly occupy.

JA said: Again, I'm just talking about the leaders.

So... 500 then? So we kill 5-10 thousand people getting to them... and then another 5-10 thousand when they're replaced by the next commander in line... and then another 5-10 thousand... ad infinitum?

JA said: That's just how war works. If you hold that war is never justified, fine, but I don't agree.

War is a disgusting human activity that we could do well without. It is about time we grew out of the idea that killing people actually solves anything.

Jewish Atheist said...

CK:

...and how exactly will killing a terrorist in a village in Pakistan stop them plotting against you? Any that you kill will be replaced almost immediately.

I don't think that's true. Some people aren't easily replaceable. For example, I'm pretty sure that Israel's assassination of Hamas's bombmaker "The Engineer" made future bombings of Israeli civilians less effective.

Do you think that they are going to run out of warm bodies before you run out of missiles?

For the eighth time, I'm not talking about "warm bodies," I'm talking about the leaders.

We're 7 years into the so-called War on Terror. Are we winning yet? Will it take another 7 and another 7 after that? Do you see any end to this so-called War?

I do not see an end to it. Terrorism is a tactic, not a group of people.

Then we have already lost any moral high ground we supposedly occupy.

You can't differentiate between targeting civilians and targeting legitimate targets while attempting to minimize civilian deaths?

So... 500 then? So we kill 5-10 thousand people getting to them... and then another 5-10 thousand when they're replaced by the next commander in line... and then another 5-10 thousand... ad infinitum?

I'm thinking more along the lines of 50. And only as a last resort.

War is a disgusting human activity that we could do well without. It is about time we grew out of the idea that killing people actually solves anything.

Killing people who are trying to kill you solves the problem of those people trying to kill you. It may also create problems, of course, but it's just as wrong to say killing never helps as it is to say it always does.

CyberKitten said...

JA said: I don't think that's true. Some people aren't easily replaceable. For example, I'm pretty sure that Israel's assassination of Hamas's bombmaker "The Engineer" made future bombings of Israeli civilians less effective.

Some replacements will not be as effective as those they replace - but some will be and the rest will learn on the job. You might be temporarily degrading their efficiency but at what cost?

JA said: For the eighth time, I'm not talking about "warm bodies," I'm talking about the leaders.

Who have warm (fairly interchangeable) bodies. I shall try and be less general in my future comments.

JA said: I do not see an end to it. Terrorism is a tactic, not a group of people.

Then what exactly are we achieving by killing terrorists and anyone who happens to be within 50 meters of them at the time the bomb impacts?

JA said: You can't differentiate between targeting civilians and targeting legitimate targets while attempting to minimize civilian deaths?

So.. you think its OK to kill innocent people so long as you don't *directly* target them? But unfortunately the rest of the people in that building and anyone walking by are just unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Can't make an omelette without breaking eggs? - which is OK until your married to one of them....

JA said: I'm thinking more along the lines of 50. And only as a last resort.

Except that the US military in particular (as well as the Israeli military) seem too often to see assassination as a *first* resort. Also - once the 50 are dead what do you expect to happen? That everyone else will pack up and go home? What exactly do you think will be achieved? 'Victory' in the War on Terror?

JA said: Killing people who are trying to kill you solves the problem of those people trying to kill you. It may also create problems, of course, but it's just as wrong to say killing never helps as it is to say it always does.

..and yet you said yourself: "I do not see an end to it". So what exactly are we 'solving' here?

Jewish Atheist said...

CK:

What we would be accomplishing is minimizing both the total death toll and our own death toll. At least that's the idea. We have to keep doing it forever, probably.

You're all up in arms about killing people, but how is it better to let more people be killed by doing nothing? Is the blood not on our hands if we can act but don't?

Jewish Atheist said...

Even neocon nutjob agrees that Obama was first:

I was among many people who ridiculed the Obama proposal at the time, on the grounds that a) no nation violates the territorial integrity of an ally, even if that ally is problematic, and b) Obama’s bellicosity seemed entirely unbelievable, given that he spoke in the wake of his remarks about meeting with the leaders of the world’s worst regimes “without preconditions.” On the latter point, he was and remains wrong and foolish.

On the former point, though, he was, apparently, precognitive, and may be due an apology.

Ezzie said...

Because I didn't think it was going to be worth it. And I think it hasn't been, even if we manage to leave a reasonably stable country behind.

Obama when he was saying this was a bad idea (not that I knew about him at the time, of course) said he's not against all wars, just against stupid wars.


I think that at the time, you'd have been in a very small minority who would have thought it would not be "worth it", as was Obama. Now, I still think it's already worth it, presuming we don't abandon it. That's true both for us in the USA and the Iraqis.

Out of curiosity, what would be the requirements necessary to have made it "worth it"?

Not if the Obama-Musharaff conversation is also private. If anything, asking Musharaff to do it first is more diplomatic.

Except Obama never claimed that he'd be having a conversation. Merely that if Musharaff wouldn't, he would. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has been asking them to do things for years to no avail, and only then did they work out through private negotiations what to do. Therein lies the very key differences between the two.

I'm talking about if they're pretty hostile about the idea.

Doesn't seem to be the case as of now, does it? :) Most of the complaining is ironically coming from US media, liberals such as yourself (and mostly in the context of "hey, they ripped on Obama!"), and a general in their army - but notably, not their government. It's much ado about nothing.

Ezzie said...

BTW, note the quote Avian put up. He makes no mention of discussions whatsoever. Here, Bush has clearly had discussions to allow such actions after years of asking the Pakistani government to do something.

Jewish Atheist said...

I think that at the time, you'd have been in a very small minority who would have thought it would not be "worth it", as was Obama. Now, I still think it's already worth it, presuming we don't abandon it. That's true both for us in the USA and the Iraqis.

I think a lot more people thought that than were vocal about it. The people were still cowed by 9-11 and the Bush administration was playing on that fear. Remember that half the country or more at that time thought Saddam had something to do with the attacks.

Out of curiosity, what would be the requirements necessary to have made it "worth it"?

For example, if we defeated their army in three days the way we did, and were greeted as liberators, and then there was a stable government installed immediately without much further bloodshed. Was that likely? My gut said no, but the whole country seemed to be acting like it was reasonable, so I was unsure.

Except Obama never claimed that he'd be having a conversation. Merely that if Musharaff wouldn't, he would. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has been asking them to do things for years to no avail, and only then did they work out through private negotiations what to do. Therein lies the very key differences between the two.

You're doing a whole lot of assuming right there. To me "if Musharaff wouldn't" implies that we had already put pressure on him to do it.

"Doesn't seem to be the case as of now, does it? :) Most of the complaining is ironically coming from US media, liberals such as yourself (and mostly in the context of "hey, they ripped on Obama!"), and a general in their army - but notably, not their government. It's much ado about nothing."

So what's the big problem about Obama doing the same freaking thing?! This is so ridiculous.

BTW, note the quote Avian put up. He makes no mention of discussions whatsoever. Here, Bush has clearly had discussions to allow such actions after years of asking the Pakistani government to do something.

Answered above. "If Musharraf wouldn't" implies that we tried to get him to. You're really just splitting hairs here. Come on, even JPOD admitted it and he's worse than Kristol.

asher said...

Give JA some credit..I haven't seen someone tap dance this well since Fred Astair.

Ezzie said...

I think a lot more people thought that than were vocal about it. The people were still cowed by 9-11 and the Bush administration was playing on that fear. Remember that half the country or more at that time thought Saddam had something to do with the attacks.

No, they thought he was connected to terrorists. I don't think that people in this country were afraid to state a war is a bad idea because they were "cowed" by 9/11 or fearful of the Bush administration. The only people who ever find the administration scary are the people most vocal about it.

For example, if we defeated their army in three days the way we did, and were greeted as liberators, and then there was a stable government installed immediately without much further bloodshed. Was that likely? My gut said no, but the whole country seemed to be acting like it was reasonable, so I was unsure.

Explain how a "stable government" could ever be "installed" let alone "immediately". Go back to then - I remember a David Letterman segment (of all people) with Dan Rather (of all people) discussing how the whole process is at least TEN years.

To be continued, I gotta run.

Jewish Atheist said...

Ezzie:

No, they thought he was connected to terrorists.

Gah, it's so frustrating how you continually try to rewrite history. No, they thought he was behind 9-11. From 2003:

"WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly seven in 10 Americans believe it is likely that ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the Sept. 11 attacks, says a poll out almost two years after the terrorists' strike against this country.

Sixty-nine percent in a Washington Post poll published Saturday said they believe it is likely the Iraqi leader was personally involved in the attacks carried out by al-Qaeda. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and independents believe it's likely Saddam was involved."

This was not a coincidence. The Bush administration repeated "Saddam" and "9/11" over and over again to create that impression. They never came out and said it explicitly, because it was even then clearly untrue, but they did enough.

Explain how a "stable government" could ever be "installed" let alone "immediately".

Ezzie, we've had this argument ten times. I go pull out all the quotes from Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc., about being "greeted as liberators" and how it would take "months not years" and how it would basically pay for itself. You pretend all that never happened and point to some interview somewhere where somebody said the opposite. The facts speak for themselves. The Bush administration and those who enabled them were either catastrophically stupid, or they deliberately misled the American people. They promised a short, cheap war.

As for how they would install a new government, that was the whole deal with Chalabi. The neocons thought they were just going to throw him in there and he would be the "George Washington of Iraq." (That's a quote from Deputy Undersecretary of Defense William Luti.)

Now again, this all seemed to me to be implausible, but that's how the war was being sold to America, and people seemed to be going along with it. I thought, maybe I'm wrong about my doubts. I wasn't exactly an expert on Iraq or anything and I thought the whole country can't be totally nuts.

But I wasn't wrong about my doubts. The country was nuts. People were either scared to object or they bought the propaganda. Obama was one of the few politicians smart enough to see the truth then and say it loudly. That's one of the primary reasons I've been supporting him since early 2007.

Obama then:

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

That I believed then, although I didn't know of Obama.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

That I did not know, but I suspected. This was largely not part of the national debate in 2002, but if it were, I'm sure I would have been convinced. Again, I didn't know much yet about Iraq at that point.