Barack Obama, Neocon
Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition). New York, N.Y.: Aug 3, 2007. 
pg. A.8

Democratic Presidential hopeful Barack Obama is taking heat from 
liberals and conservatives alike for his comment that he wouldn't 
hesitate to send U.S. troops into Pakistan to capture or kill al 
Qaeda leaders. Actually, it's the best thing we've heard yet from the 
junior U.S. Senator from Illinois.

"I understand that [Pakistan President Pervez] Musharraf has his own 
challenges," Mr. Obama said in a speech Wednesday at the Woodrow 
Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington, D.C. "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. . . . If we have actionable intelligence about high-value 
terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will."

As a candidate recently pilloried by fellow Democrats as a foreign 
policy naif, Mr. Obama's remarks may be no more than an effort to don 
a Mike Dukakis helmet. And given the Senator's consistent opposition 
to the war in Iraq, it may seem peculiar that he should now propose 
invading a nuclear-armed Muslim country -- all the more so since Mr. 
Obama let slip yesterday in an interview that as President he would 
rule out the use of nuclear weapons "in any circumstance," before he 

But in a primary contest where Democrats seem to vie with one another 
for the title of who will pull out of Iraq the fastest, Mr. Obama's 
speech is at least a recognition that he'd be willing to use military 
force somewhere. It's also a reminder to antiwar Democratic voters 
that the terror threat won't vanish when the Bush Administration 
does, and that U.S. soldiers will have to be put in harm's way again.

Sometimes the easiest -- but worst -- decision for a President is not 
to take military action. This was part of President Clinton's failure 
against al Qaeda in the 1990s, which his wife and Presidential 
candidate Hillary Clinton now wants to bathe in nostalgia as a 
simpler time when life wasn't so hard. But no one should forget that 
throughout the 1990s Mr. Clinton was storing up trouble with his 
failure to react forcefully to the first World Trade Center bombing, 
and to the al Qaeda attacks against U.S. embassies in East Africa in 
1998 and the USS Cole in 2000.

Mr. Obama's comments also showed some welcome realism about the 
problem that confronts the U.S. in Pakistan. Following Mr. 
Musharraf's ill-conceived truce last September with Taliban-connected 
warlords in the Pakistani province of Waziristan, terrorist raids 
into neighboring Afghanistan rose threefold. Al Qaeda has also been 
able to substantially reconstitute itself in the area, according to 
the latest U.S. National Intelligence Estimate. If Pakistan is 
unwilling or unable to police its own territory, then no prudent U.S. 
President can afford to rule out special forces raids or Predator 
strikes, or more.

Incidentally, Mr. Obama's words -- assuming they are sincere -- 
indicate that as President he would have overruled former Secretary 
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who in 2005 is reported to have vetoed a 
U.S. commando raid into Waziristan on grounds that it might have 
destabilized Mr. Musharraf's government. The Senator describes that 
decision as "a terrible mistake," and anyone who wants to run to the 
right of Rummy on counterterrorism can't be all bad.

Too bad, then, that Mr. Obama instantly squandered an opportunity for 
seriousness by insisting that Iraq is "the wrong battlefield" in the 
war on terror. In case he hasn't noticed, Iraq today is the main 
battlefield where U.S. forces are confronting, and killing, al Qaeda 
on a daily basis. And GIs don't have to invade another country to do it.

The Senator is also misguided to say that the struggle in Afghanistan 
and Pakistan is "the war that has to be won," as if fleeing Iraq in 
defeat would make that easier. If we let al Qaeda emerge victorious 
in Iraq -- or even allow it to claim a partial victory -- we will 
contribute a chapter to its mythology of Islamist invincibility, help 
it gain new recruits, and encourage further assaults. The best way to 
defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan is first to demonstrate 
the national will to stay and win in Iraq.

Still, Mr. Obama's willingness to draw appropriate conclusions from 
realities in Pakistan stands in refreshing contrast to his Democratic 
opponents. Tragic as a premature withdrawal from Iraq would be, it 
would be compounded if Democrats draw the lesson never again to use 
or threaten force abroad. By distancing himself from his party's 
pacifist wing, Mr. Obama is growing up as a candidate.