Onward Into Waziristan!

by Patrick J. Buchanan

With Hillary Clinton’s lead growing, Barack Obama appears to be overreaching to keep the spotlight and highlight their differences.

His suggestion that sex education begin in kindergarten seems a great leap forward even for a liberal Democrat. While Barack says it must be “age-appropriate” sex education, one need not be Roger Ailes to imagine what the GOP oppo-research boys can do with this one.

In the CNN-YouTube debate, Barack, asked if he would meet with the leaders of Cuba, Syria, Venezuela, Iran and North Korea in his first year as president “without precondition,” blurted yes.

Should he get the nomination, imagine an ad twinning photos of Obama and Fidel (or brother Raoul), Hugo Chavez, Kim Jong-il and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, titled, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner at Barack’s House?”

At the Woodrow Wilson Center on Wednesday, Barack attacked Hillary from both flanks. By giving Bush a blank check for war, said Barack, with Clinton in mind, “Congress became co-author of a catastrophic war.”

Then, Barack stepped smartly to his right and assumed the stance of tough-minded realist who opposes the Iraq war because he wants to fight the real war, against al-Qaida and Islamic terrorists. Obama pledged to send 7,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan and, if Pakistan does not go after al-Qaida in its border provinces, to slash U.S. aid and send in U.S. troops to chase down the terrorists.

“There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans,” said Barack. “They are plotting to strike again. … If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.”

Now a threat to intervene in a friendly country against the will of its government is serious business, especially when it is a nation of 170 million Muslims, seething with anti-Americanism, which has atom bombs.

If Barack is talking abut covert operatives and special forces slipping into Pakistan, or surgical strikes with Predator drones, that is one thing, best done quietly and with the complicity of Musharraf.

But if Barack is talking about sending U.S. ground forces into Waziristan or Baluchistan, why would this not leave us in another mess like Iraq, with the U.S. Army bleeding and no way out? Would not Osama bin Laden rejoice in a border crossing by U.S. troops into Pakistan, enraging the Pakistani nationalists as well as the border tribes?

After half a decade of fighting in the Islamic world, has not the lesson sunk in with the hawks of both parties? U.S. troops in an Arab or Muslim country are more likely to create an insurgency than quell one.

The primary reason Osama gave for declaring war was that U.S. troops were occupying soil sacred to all Muslims Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca. After 9/11, we pulled our troops out at the request of the king. This was an admission that our vast military presence there did not make the Saudis safer; it made them more vulnerable.

Are we or the Saudis less secure after closing our bases?

The lesson applies to Iraq. For all his wickedness, Saddam was no threat to U.S. strategic interests. Smashed in the Gulf War, his military had lost its navy, air force and much of its armor, none of which had been replaced during the 10-year embargo. And no Iraqi had been found in any terror attacks in the post-Cold War era, save the abortive plot on the first President Bush in Kuwait, which was apparently payback for our countless attempts to kill Saddam.

The same lesson should have been learned from Lebanon. When Ronald Reagan sent Marines into the middle of that civil war, we lost 241 in the barracks bombings.

When the Marines departed, the Hezbollah attacks stopped. What did it avail us to go into Lebanon? How are we less secure after we pulled out?

Undeniably, U.S. combat troops can defend regimes and kill our enemies. Equally undeniably, in the Islamic world, the presence of U.S. troops is an irritant to the population, an instigator of insurrection and a recruiting cause for al-Qaida.

In his famous memo of October 2003, Donald Rumsfeld asked: “Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?”

With 3,000 dead Americans since then, 25,000 wounded, scores of thousands of Iraqis dead, and 150,000 troops still fighting four years later, do we not have the answer to Rumsfeld’s question?

“Is our current situation such that ‘the harder we work, the behinder we get’?” asked Rumsfeld in 2003. Yep, and it is the same in 2007.

Yet, what do we hear? On to Tehran. On to Pakistan. Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.