Barack Obama says that, as President, he would be willing to hunt down terrorists on Pakistani soil if President Pervez Musharraf won't.
"If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will," Mr. Obama said, according to the prepared remarks of a major foreign policy speech he just delivered at the Wilson Center.
In the address on global terrorism, Obama blamed Congress for failing to prevent a war in Iraq that he argued has only emboldened terrorists around the world and made the United Stares less safe. The time has come for America to leave Iraq, he said, and turn its military and diplomatic attention to the terrorist havens of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In a familiar Democratic refrain, he said America squandered the widespread support it had after the attacks of Sept. 11 by invading Iraq.
"We did not finish the job against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We did not develop new capabilities to defeat a new enemy, or launch a comprehensive strategy to dry up the terrorists’ base of support. We did not reaffirm our basic values, or secure our homeland.
"Instead, we got a color-coded politics of fear. Patriotism as the possession of one political party. The diplomacy of refusing to talk to other countries. A rigid 20th century ideology that insisted that the 21st century’s stateless terrorism could be defeated through the invasion and occupation of a state. A deliberate strategy to misrepresent 9/11 to sell a war against a country that had nothing to do with 9/11."
Obama said that reasoning lead him to oppose what he called a "dumb war, a rash war" in Iraq that could unleash chaos in the heart of the Muslim world.
The only thing standing in the way of President Bush and a historic mistake, he said, was Congress.
"That obstacle was removed," he said. "Congress rubber-stamped the rush to war, giving the President the broad and open-ended authority he uses to this day. With that vote, Congress became co-author of a catastrophic war."
Substitute Congress for Hillary Clinton, or John Edwards, for that matter, and you have the crux of Mr. Obama's argument: that while he may not have as many years of experience in the US Senate or as many establishment foreign policy backers as his rivals, he nevertheless was the candidate who exercised the correct judgement when it came to the war in Iraq.
"Because of a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged, we are now less safe than we were before 9/11," he said.
He echoed the sentence structure of none other than Rudy Giuliani – who often talks about the "terrorists war on us,' when he says "the terrorists are at war with us."
To defend the United States and defeat its enemies, Obama offered a five-point plan.
"(W)e 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."
Like most of his fellow Democrats, he expressed support for the idea of withdrawing from Iraq but didn't specify the level of American forces to remain for peace keeping or the protection of US interests and embassies, saying only, "my plan would maintain sufficient forces in the region to target Al Qaeda within Iraq."
"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."