Obama does something right

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By John Barnhart

    NATO supply trucks are once again crossing through Pakistan on their way to Afghanistan. This came after Hillary Clinton told the Pakistani government that the U. S. is sorry that Pakistani troops were killed when American air strikes hit Pakistani army checkpoints that were reported to be firing on Afghan forces in Afghanistan.
    “We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military,” Clinton said in a statement.  She added that mistakes were made by both sides.
    Her statement fell well short of the apology that Pakistan had demanded, but it was good enough. We were getting supplies to our troops through other routes and Pakistan was losing a great deal by keeping its supply routes closed. We were holding back huge amounts of aid. Furthermore, Pakistan was losing the per-truck transit fees they charged along with the opportunity to sell fuel to the truckers. My guess is that she gave the Pakistani government enough cover to back down from a position that was hurting Pakistan more than it was hurting us.
    This was an example of one of the rare cases in which the Obama administration has actually done something right. In his first year in office he looked ridiculous as he groveled before all sorts of foreign leaders, apologizing for just about everything that has happened in the last 200 years. This time, he didn’t do that and the statement Clinton issued was reasonable, expressing regret that Pakistani soldiers were killed, without making an apology for the incident, itself.
    Incidents in which we have accidently attacked Pakistani border posts have happened before, although the number of Pakistani troops killed has been much smaller in previous occurrences. Similar clashes will happen again as long as Pakistan continues to allow the Taliban to operate against U. S. and Afghan forces from safe havens in that country. If somebody on the Pakistani side of the border fires at American or Afghan troops inside Afghanistan, we are going to strike the positions that the fire is coming from with the intent of destroying them. Pakistan has to realize that’s the price you pay for allowing insurgents to use your country as a base from which to launch attacks on a neighbor.
    Pakistani government officials also fuss about our use of UAVs to kill Taliban leaders inside  their country. This, again, is also the price Pakistan pays for allowing Taliban and al Qaeda chiefs to set up shop inside the country. And, apparently not all Pakistanis are disturbed by this as somebody is providing us with the information we need to target these militants. I’m sure that Taliban commanders don't go about with big signs over their heads, legible from the air, that identify them.
    The UAV strikes, by the way, are another of the those rare cases of the Obama Administration doing something right, although President Obama’s policy is actually a continuance, and amplification, of a policy begun by Bush the Younger.
    This is a wise policy. In warfare, going after leaders always makes sense and using UAV’s is just an extension of what snipers have always done on the battlefield. Snipers look for a guy who is clearly in charge, and then shoot him. The Bush/Obama policy of targeting Taliban and al Qaeda leaders makes it more difficult for them to carry out command and control functions for their organizations.
    President Obama has been criticized for not trying to capture these guys. The critics say that we lose valuable intelligence that we could gain by interrogating them. Capturing them, however, is easier said than done. Furthermore, what do we do with them after we interrogate them?  Keeping them is a problem and we obviously can’t just let them go. The best choice, the one President Obama has made, is to kill them whenever we can find them.
    This, by the way, does not mean my opinion of Barack Obama’s competence has changed. It just goes to show that even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.