"You don't say that out loud"

Last night I called John McCain’s remarks on Pakistan breathtaking. Our text begins at 7:51 of the video excerpt below. Obama has been discussing his comments, earlier in the campaign, to the effect that if the U.S. became aware of Osama bin Laden or other “high-value targets” seeking refuge in the mountainous border region of Pakistan near Afghanistan, that the U.S. should strike at those targets. McCain, who has been highly critical of this policy, replies.

“Now, on this issue of aiding Pakistan. ‘If you’re gonna 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, 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 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, Kadari, has got his hands full. And this area on the border has not been governed since the days of Al Qaeda…”

The trivial problem with this is that the new president of Pakistan is named Zardari, not Kadari. I had to look that up, and it would be a fine answer indeed that had only that problem with it.

The more preoccupying problem is that McCain is announcing, I believe unwittingly, that (at least as of Friday night; these things seem to change) he has no substantive difference with Obama on the matter. “If you have to do things, you have to do things” — an excellent short form for McCain’s entire foreign policy, come to think of it. His only concern is that Obama would tell the world what he was doing — is telling the world, already, what he would do — whereas McCain finds such candour distasteful. “You don’t say that out loud.”

The most preoccupying problem is that the current U.S. government has been launching military strikes within Pakistan all summer. There is no evidence that McCain even knows this has been happening, although one must presume he does because it’s in all the newspapers. And it is dispiriting that Obama failed, or declined, to call him on it.

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