Friday, September 26, 2008

McCain and Obama Debate Pakistan Policy


By various estimates, there are about 1.5 million to 2 million American Muslim voters, including several hundred thousand Pakistani-Americans, in the United States. The estimated number of people of Pakistani origin in the United States ranges from 250,000 to 500,000. The top three geographies are NY/NJ/CT tri-state area, Chicago metropolitan area and Southern California. Pakistani Americans are the seventh largest Asian American ethnic group after Chinese, Filipinos, Indians, Vietnamese, Koreans, and Japanese communities. Pakistani-Americans are the second largest Muslim group in America after African-American Muslims. There is a significant concentration of Muslim vote in the swing states of Florida and Michigan. If, as the anecdotal evidence suggests, Obama gets the lion's share of the Muslim American vote, then he could win the presidency by a thin margin of Muslim votes.

Is an Obama win good for Muslim-Americans or Pakistani-Americans? To answer this question, let's look at the first debate between McCain and Obama. Pakistan and Afghanistan figured prominently in the US presidential debate 2008 between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama. Here's the relevant transcript on the subject:

LEHRER: Afghanistan, lead -- a new -- a new lead question. Now, having resolved Iraq, we'll move to Afghanistan.

And it goes to you, Senator Obama, and it's a -- it picks up on a point that's already been made. Do you think more troops -- more U.S. troops should be sent to Afghanistan, how many, and when?

OBAMA: Yes, I think we need more troops. I've been saying that for over a year now.

And I think that we have to do it as quickly as possible, because it's been acknowledged by the commanders on the ground the situation is getting worse, not better.

We had the highest fatalities among U.S. troops this past year than at any time since 2002. And we are seeing a major offensive taking place -- al Qaeda and Taliban crossing the border and attacking our troops in a brazen fashion. They are feeling emboldened.

And we cannot separate Afghanistan from Iraq, because what our commanders have said is we don't have the troops right now to deal with Afghanistan.

So I would send two to three additional brigades to Afghanistan. Now, keep in mind that we have four times the number of troops in Iraq, where nobody had anything to do with 9/11 before we went in, where, in fact, there was no al Qaeda before we went in, but we have four times more troops there than we do in Afghanistan.

And that is a strategic mistake, because every intelligence agency will acknowledge that al Qaeda is the greatest threat against the United States and that Secretary of Defense Gates acknowledged the central front -- that the place where we have to deal with these folks is going to be in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.

So here's what we have to do comprehensively, though. It's not just more troops.

We have to press the Afghan government to make certain that they are actually working for their people. And I've said this to President Karzai.

No. 2, we've got to deal with a growing poppy trade that has exploded over the last several years.

No. 3, we've got to deal with Pakistan, because al Qaeda and the Taliban have safe havens in Pakistan, across the border in the northwest regions, and although, you know, under George Bush, with the support of Senator McCain, we've been giving them $10 billion over the last seven years, they have not done what needs to be done to get rid of those safe havens.

And until we do, Americans here at home are not going to be safe.

LEHRER: Afghanistan, Senator McCain?

MCCAIN: First of all, I won't repeat the mistake that I regret enormously, and that is, after we were able to help the Afghan freedom fighters and drive the Russians out of Afghanistan, we basically washed our hands of the region.

And the result over time was the Taliban, al Qaeda, and a lot of the difficulties we are facing today. So we can't ignore those lessons of history.

Now, on this issue of aiding Pakistan, if you're going to aim a gun at somebody, George Shultz, our great secretary of state, told me once, you'd better be prepared to pull the trigger.

I'm not prepared at this time to cut off aid to Pakistan. So I'm not prepared to threaten it, as Senator Obama apparently wants to do, as he has said that he would announce military strikes into Pakistan.

We've got to get the support of the people of -- of Pakistan. He said that he would launch military strikes into Pakistan.

Now, you don't do that. You don't say that out loud. If you have to do things, you have to do things, and you work with the Pakistani government.

Now, the new president of Pakistan, Zardari, has got his hands full. And this area on the border has not been governed since the days of Alexander the Great.

I've been to Waziristan. I can see how tough that terrain is. It's ruled by a handful of tribes.

And, yes, Senator Obama calls for more troops, but what he doesn't understand, it's got to be a new strategy, the same strategy that he condemned in Iraq. It's going to have to be employed in Afghanistan.

And we're going to have to help the Pakistanis go into these areas and obtain the allegiance of the people. And it's going to be tough. They've intermarried with al Qaeda and the Taliban. And it's going to be tough. But we have to get the cooperation of the people in those areas.

And the Pakistanis are going to have to understand that that bombing in the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad was a signal from the terrorists that they don't want that government to cooperate with us in combating the Taliban and jihadist elements.

So we've got a lot of work to do in Afghanistan. But I'm confident, now that General Petraeus is in the new position of command, that we will employ a strategy which not only means additional troops -- and, by the way, there have been 20,000 additional troops, from 32,000 to 53,000, and there needs to be more.

So it's not just the addition of troops that matters. It's a strategy that will succeed. And Pakistan is a very important element in this. And I know how to work with him. And I guarantee you I would not publicly state that I'm going to attack them.

OBAMA: Nobody talked about attacking Pakistan. Here's what I said.

And if John wants to disagree with this, he can let me know, that, if the United States has al Qaeda, bin Laden, top-level lieutenants in our sights, and Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act, then we should take them out.

Now, I think that's the right strategy; I think that's the right policy.

And, John, I -- you're absolutely right that presidents have to be prudent in what they say. But, you know, coming from you, who, you know, in the past has threatened extinction for North Korea and, you know, sung songs about bombing Iran, I don't know, you know, how credible that is. I think this is the right strategy.

Now, Senator McCain is also right that it's difficult. This is not an easy situation. You've got cross-border attacks against U.S. troops.

And we've got a choice. We could allow our troops to just be on the defensive and absorb those blows again and again and again, if Pakistan is unwilling to cooperate, or we have to start making some decisions.

And the problem, John, with the strategy that's been pursued was that, for 10 years, we coddled Musharraf, we alienated the Pakistani population, because we were anti-democratic. We had a 20th-century mindset that basically said, "Well, you know, he may be a dictator, but he's our dictator."

And as a consequence, we lost legitimacy in Pakistan. We spent $10 billion. And in the meantime, they weren't going after al Qaeda, and they are more powerful now than at any time since we began the war in Afghanistan.

That's going to change when I'm president of the United States.

MCCAIN: I -- I don't think that Senator Obama understands that there was a failed state in Pakistan when Musharraf came to power. Everybody who was around then, and had been there, and knew about it knew that it was a failed state.

From this debate transcript and prior statements, it is clear that Sen McCain is far more knowledgeable about Pakistan than Senator Obama. Mr. McCain has also repeatedly stressed diplomacy and close working relationship with Pakistan and demonstrated his commitment by his actions such as several visits and phone conversations with Pakistani leadership recently and in the past. On the other hand, Mr. Obama has made aggressive statements about Pakistan without making serious effort to understand the issues faced by Pakistanis in FATA.

Beyond the debate specific to Pakistan policy, the most oft-repeated phrase by Senator McCain was “I don’t think Sen Obama understands”, while Obama repeated “I agree with John” more often than any other phrase. Just these two phrases capture the essence of the tone of the debate on foreign policy.

Here's a video clip of the McCain-Obama foreign policy debate regarding Pakistan:

19 comments:

libertarian said...

From this debate transcript and prior statements, it is clear that Sen McCain is far more knowledgeable about Pakistan than Senator Obama.

Disagree Riaz. Seems your horror with Obama's wanting to invade Pakistan statement is clouding your judgment of him in general. He says "for 10 years, we coddled Musharraf, we alienated the Pakistani population, because we were anti-democratic."

That is the truth. And isn't that in line with what you advocate i.e. engage the Pakistani people rather than take the easy way out?

And McCain said "I'm not prepared at this time to cut off aid to Pakistan. So I'm not prepared to threaten it ..." (emphasis mine)

Riaz Haq said...

Libertarian,

McCain said to Obama:

We've got to get the support of the people of -- of Pakistan. He said that he would launch military strikes into Pakistan.

Now, you don't do that. You don't say that out loud. If you have to do things, you have to do things, and you work with the Pakistani government.

Now, the new president of Pakistan, Zardari, has got his hands full. And this area on the border has not been governed since the days of Alexander the Great.

I've been to Waziristan. I can see how tough that terrain is. It's ruled by a handful of tribes.


I have been to FATA and I have seen how things are done there. I also know how any perceived threat by the US in Pakistan would be clearly counterproductive. Diplomacy that deals with winning Pakistanis' support will be essential for any success in FATA. McCain's statement clearly shows he understands it too. Obama knows too little to talk about dealing with this crisis. I also agree with McCain that Pakistan was a failed state before Musharraf after years of misrule by Bhutto and Sharif.

McCain clearly knows what he is talking about. Obama doesn't. His presidency will be dangerous for world peace.

Raz said...

Agree with Libertarian, here. Your judgement about Obama is clouded by the old school thinking that "a Republican president is better for Pakistan". When deemed necessary, any presidential candidate will order strikes in Pakistan. Make no mistake.

And yes McCain is much more knowledgeable but what does that count for? Bush didn't even knew the name of our president when he was running for president.

Just listen to Obama! He is far more intelligent than Bush or McCain. If Bush can learn about foreign policy while in office, Obama can do so as well.

Can the world afford another Republican president for four more years, dictated by Neo-cons? Can we afford evangelical, extreme right- wing conservatives dictate US policy? Do we need another George W.Bush?

Obama is better for the whole world!

Anonymous said...

Obama is a great analytical guy..he grasps things very fast and he got Biden by his side for giving him best advise on South Asia. John McClain is a cold warrior and with his compulsive antagonism against Russia, he is going to screw America into another vicious cold war. Bush administration wasted all its efforts in Iraq, though nerve centre of terror is in Pakistan. US intelligence and marines on the ground have for long alleged that Pakistani military were airlifting(and using trucks) supplies to Taliban when Iraq was boiling and FC paramilitary personnel assists Taliban fighters crossing across the border by replenishing them with food and water, returning from "hit-and-run attacks". A message clearly has to sent and further aid must be contingent on co-operation and strict audit on usage of aid.

Riaz Haq said...

Raz,

You said,

"Just listen to Obama! He is far more intelligent than Bush or McCain. If Bush can learn about foreign policy while in office, Obama can do so as well."

I think you are confusing your personal liking of Obama and his charisma with intelligence. Obama had mediocre grades in Punahou and Occidental and yet got scholarships there and later at Columbia and Harvard.

Well, Bush learned on the job and what a disaster he has been. That's what I am afraid of with novice Obama as president.

"Can the world afford another Republican president for four more years, dictated by Neo-cons? Can we afford evangelical, extreme right- wing conservatives dictate US policy? Do we need another George W.Bush?"

McCain is no George Bush. He's never gotten along with the conservative right-wing of his part. In fact, Obama now is more like George Bush circa 2000 as a complete novice.

Riaz Haq said...

Anonymous,
You are repeating the falsehoods spread by Indians and anti-Pak US media about Pakistan's role in Afghanistan. Musharraf was very personally and deeply committed to the war on terror that exposed him to great personal risk and eventually brought him down. Besides, do you think the US military presence would even be possible in landlocked Afghanistan without Pakistan's support? Just think about it.

The last Pakistani said...

i favour Mccain over Obama but...Mccain has stated some "facts" about Obama which were all out lies not just half truths or he didnt like twist stories(like many politicians do) he spoke all out LIES!!!

but in the end after weighing the pros and cons Mccain would be better for Pakistan Obama is sort of gambling on the whole Pakistan-Afghanistan situation.How in the world does he expect to be successful in a region where both the soviets and the British failed so miserably.

The hate that exists in Afghanistan against the U.S alone would be enough to defeat the U.S army, diplomacy is the only way Obama needs to realise that.Its true that the war on terror has to be fought in Afghanistan and some areas of Pakistan but not by Obamas methods.

pakireport.blogspot.com

BRADEN said...

I saw the entire debate and I was shocked by the statement because considering their political party, the statements should be switched.
don't support McCain so quick, although he apologized for abandoning Pakistan in the 80's. he still did, he also has represented the same political party that has abandoned Pakistan time and again.earlier in the debate he said his hero was Ronald Reagan, what a great example of a wise forign deplomacy.
in the united states military service is highly respected as in most countries.Obama being a public servent or providing community service to the poor. although highly respected as well, certain Americans don't believe Obama has the strength to be president. so at some point in the debate, he had to display some form of might, unfortunitly he had to use Pakistan as that example. but if you remember earlier in the debate McCain also talked about having a strong U.S. military, and when he described Pakistan he described it from a military perspective.

"I've been to Waziristan. I can see how tough that terrain is. It's ruled by a handful of tribes."

I know what the U.S. does with a large military.that is not good for Pakistan.If Pakistan needs someone at all, take my advice,root for the one who takes care of the poor.

libertarian said...

Riaz: I have been to FATA and I have seen how things are done there. I also know how any perceived threat by the US in Pakistan would be clearly counterproductive.

I acknowledge your data on FATA. But think this through for a moment. McCain's (and your) "practical" approach stalemates in analysis-paralysis - we maintain status quo. And unless the top US commanders are crying wolf, the situation in FATA is worse than Afghanistan pre-911. What do you suppose the US response will be to another attack of the scale of 911 - from FATA? Does the President - whoever he may be - have any option but to launch a full-scale war on Pakistan? Be quite sure that McCain's war paint will be put on much earlier in that scenario than Obama's.

McCain's position - and yours - implies the appeasement of the Taliban and Al-Q by bowing to their backers in the Pakistani Army. I hope we can agree that that at least is not an option.

Riaz Haq said...

Another 911 scale attack on US soil will undoubtedly trigger a massive response no matter who is the president and regardless of the consequences for the US and the world. After such an action, we might even wish the "status quo" prior to it was better.

It's much harder to build a lasting solution than to lash out with raw, naked power that almost never works in the long run. We have seen it amply demonstrated in the last seven years and throughout human history. There is a difference between precise surgery and mass slaughter.

I give credit to McCain for at least talking about a lasting solution and trying diplomacy with Pakistan in FATA.

BRADEN said...

I think all of you are looking at one debate in a high energy election. look at whats going on in our economy and both wars. McCain spoke about Russia. Obama spoke about Pakistan. but if either where in power they'd both re-examine their options in regards to those issues.
the whole debate about what if there's another 9/11. which is silly considering the great work the world has with tracking their money,they have to move the money at some point. so the likely hood of such a scenario is slim to none. but of course we would bomb everything we think has anything to do with it. but at the very least, despite the loss of lives, American would be bankrupt.

Anonymous said...

Republican "pragmatism" is nothing but nervousness about another Iraq quagmire than analytical reasoning to my mind.I was a fan of Bush,but his backtracking of "bring it on"(challenge Iraqi insurgents) and all shows that he is chicken too. I still believe Iraq war was worth it and Iraq could have moved the WMDs to Syria by the time "shock and awe" arrived. Sorry for harping on the past but..We need a Winston Churchill type leader for war on terror.Hope Obama could lead by example.McClain looks like he should instead be in the box..Sarah Palin's glamour makes me indecisive though. I fear young American electorate feels the same. ;-)

libertarian said...

anonymous: We need a Winston Churchill type leader for war on terror.

Be careful what you wish for. Churchill was an unvarnished bigot. Here's the idiot in his own words (from Sankar Ghose):

In September 1940 Churchill told Amery, 'I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion ...'

Anonymous said...

Riaz,

Take a look at this video presentation:

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x6wxmr_burning-down-the-house-what-caused_news

I hope that you and others (especially libertarian) can comment on this.

Thanks

movie fan said...

The candidates have a major difference in their leadership styles: McCain tends to say, "Follow me because the other guy can't get it done" while Obama says, "Follow me because I can get it done." Ideally, the candidates should say, "Follow me because i will help you get it done" ... in any case, of the two of them Obama demonstrates a better leadership mentality

Anonymous said...

Looks like Obama was right after all. McCain said he wouldn't go after Bin Laden in Pakistan, and Obama said he would....AND HE DID!!!....AND HE GOT BIN LADEN!!!!

Anonymous said...

Of course History has proven Mccain and you to be wromg Haq!
Obama was vindicated in what he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News report on Pak-China ties:

Pakistan is China’s Number 1 ally and the most special country for China.



These were the words of Prof Feng Zhongping, President, China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), as he addressed members of the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) at the institute Tuesday morning.



The occasion was the visit by a five-member delegation of the CICIR who had an interactive discussion with a compact group of PIIA members and journalists. Chairperson of the institute, Dr Masooma Hassan, presided over the proceedings.



“Our ties with Pakistan”, Zhongping said, “are historic and as such we treat Pakistan as a very special country”. Pakistan, he said, had a geo-strategic location which was of pivotal importance to China. He said that Pakistan was an old friend of China and added that China had a history of never letting her friends down. Pakistan’s population of 180 million was of great consequence to China, he said.



Another member of the delegation, citing the importance of Pak-China ties, pointed out that it was Pakistan that helped open up China to the world by starting off an air service between the two countries and cited Pakistan’s efforts in bringing the US and China closer.



Pakistan’s location, Zhongping said, was very important as access to the Indian Ocean would make China a two-ocean power, with the Indian Ocean to one side and the Pacific to the other which would benefit the country greatly in light of her rapidly expanding trade with the world.



Asked by a questioner about the validity of the current perception that the US was grooming India to take on China militarily and was building India as a sequel to China, he said that it was premature to make a prognosis there and lots would depend on the Indian stance towards the issue of which there were no indications as yet. He said that all chances were that India would not be sucked into the US strategic plans of the US in the area as that could affect her rapid economic advances and undo the fruits of her development effort....


http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-4-146641-Pakistan-Chinas-number-one-ally-experts

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a ET piece on Pak-China rail link:

The railway project will connect Pakistan with Xinjiang region in China and enhance the capacity of transportation between the two countries, said Sichuan University Chengdu China Pakistan Study Centre Director Dr Chen Jidong, while speaking as a key note speaker at a one-day seminar on prospects of Pak-China Relations at the University of Peshawar on Friday.

The seminar was arranged by the Department of International Relations (IR), University of Peshawar, in collaboration with Institute of Policy Studies Islamabad.

Jidong claimed the project is in the greatest advantage of Pakistan, and will build trade and transport corridors by connecting South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia and Western China.

According to a report published in The Hindu on September 1, 2012, a portion of the railway track from Kashgar to Hotan in southern Xinjiang began in June last year, whereas work has not yet started beyond that.

The line is planned to run from Kashgar, the Old Silk Road town, to Xinjiang region, the report said.

Chinese strategic analyst Professor Zhon Rong said the taking over of Gwadar port by a Chinese company along with this new project can transform Pakistan into an economic giant of the 21st century.

“Let me tell Pakistani people that Gwadar Port is first for the development of Pakistan and then for any other country. The US withdrawal by end of 2014 (from Afghanistan) would start the beginning of a golden period for Balochistan,” he said.

“Gwadar port will always belong to Pakistan. The Pakistani government has handed it over to a Chinese company because the Singaporean Company who was in charge of port operations in 2007 could not deliver the desired results,” added Rong.

When a student inquired about the role of China post-2014, Jidong said China prefers participation of the Afghan people in the peace process.

“We have no favours or opinion to offer on talks of the Afghan government with the Afghan Taliban, but China does want to play a moderate and neutral role in Afghanistan,” he said.

Department of International Relations Chairman Professor Dr Adnan Sarwar Khan said the old slogan ‘deeper than the sea and higher than the sky’ for Pak-China relations must be transformed into something tangible by boosting economic ties.

“If other regional countries can have alliances and organisations like Nato, why can’t we have IPC (India Pakistan China) or APC (Afghanistan Pakistan China) cooperation to boost regional peace and economy,” he said.

Institute of Policy Studies Director General Khalid Rehman, Pak China Friendship Secretary General Syed Ali Nawaz Gillani and a large number of students attended the seminar.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/521536/pak-china-ties-railway-hub-to-promote-bilateral-relations/