Philosophy, Film, Politics, Etc.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

McCain on Obama on Pakistan

I'm not gonna try to analyze the entire debate. I think both candidates made some mistakes. Ultimately, Obama wasn't as strong as I was hoping he would be. I think he passed up an opportunity to define himself independently of the Democratic Party, and he didn't always provide satisfying responses to McCain's many criticisms.

But I won't get into all the details. I wanna just offer my view on one of McCain's criticisms, because Obama didn't counter it effectively enough for my tastes.

The issue has to do with Pakistan. Now, I don't claim to be an authority on American foreign policy. I don't know how best to treat Pakistan. I did read an interesting, and seemingly well-informed, article about how Obama and McCain fared in the debate over policy issues relating to Pakistan, and the author concludes that Obama came off much stronger. That may be true. But what I want to address is not the issue of Pakistan itself, but the logic of McCain's critical argument against Obama.

McCain says that Obama shouldn't have said that he would ever launch military strikes in Pakistan. He made it clear that, even if such strikes were necessary, Obama shouldn't have said it "out loud."

McCain did not suggest that Obama's strategic thinking was wrong. On the contrary, he made it clear that Obama's thinking is perfectly valid. The only problem, according to McCain, is that Obama said what he was thinking out loud.

The problem with this is, McCain voiced his criticism out loud, making it clear to Pakistan that he does not have a problem with Obama's thinking. He has thus made it clear to Pakistan that they should not trust him, because he is not willing to talk openly about how far he is willing to trust them.

McCain wants very much to make Obama look too inexperienced and dangerously naive to lead the nation in foreign affairs. While I am not sure Obama is the best possible thing that could happen to America's foreign policy, McCain hasn't made it clear that he is a better choice. And, more to the point, his particular line of attack regarding Pakistan is simply unsound. Obama never threatened Pakistan, and he hasn't admitted anything about his strategic thinking that McCain hasn't also admitted.

Unfortunately, I don't think Obama did a sufficient job of dealing with McCain's faulty reasoning. He let McCain look stronger than he should have. Maybe he'll do better next time.