THE SPINE AUGUST 9, 2009
You may think the president is without gumption in his dealings with some of America's enemies. I think it's a more complicated tale, although I disapprove of much that he has done and more that he hasn't in the area of foreign policy.
But in one place, at least, he has kept his word and honorably so. You may recall that during the campaign (and even prior to it) Obama fixed on targets in Pakistan as a focus of our military power. The Republicans who are honest at nothing ridiculed his position. But it is crystal clear that we have used drone aircraft against Al Qaeda and Taliban chieftains in both the Punjab and Afghanistan.
The apparent Wednesday killing of whom The New York Times calls the "supreme leader" of the Pakistan Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, has now been called into doubt. As has the killing of a remote relative and a contender for the succession, Hakimullah Mehsud, in an intra-mural shootout among the mob of fanatics. How would I know who's correct on either of these?
But there is no question that the U.S. has brought real power to the battle, not only going after men in the field but also attempting to assassinate their leaders. This is the kind of behavior that the present administration has criticized so long as it was done by the Bushies. But now that it is obvious that these tactics are also tactics of the Obama crowd, will Eric Holder relent?
A dispatch in today's Chicago Tribune reports that Holder will soon appoint a special prosecutor to investigate C.I.A. functionaries who tortured Al Qaeda operatives and suspected operatives after September 11. I more than suspect that the administration will regret even this policy. But it would be more than folly to put in the dock people who pursued tactics in the Middle East and Asia now being carried out by the present administration itself.