Sunday, April 19, 2009

Armed Diplomacy

While President Obama held his Sunday news conference, and touted the virtues of talk over combat, saying that diplomacy "strengthens our hand," the bombs rained over the Waziristan region of Pakistan killing at least three people, and injuring several others.

One source, in Pakistan, says that missiles were fired into houses, early this morning, leaving at least eight civilians dead. In the past three years, military attacks like these have reportedly killed 600 people. And, in recent weeks, too, there have been alarming reports of civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

The American president's photo op with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, and the exchanging of gifts, was heartening, but what is disconcerting is the juxtaposition of that image with ones of ongoing air raids on Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as recent combat fatalities in Iraq.

The Obama foreign policy doctrine appears to see statesmanship as a mode of preemption, yet how can any reasonable person sit down to table with one's adversaries, as Mr. Obama suggests and, simultaneously, bomb the daylights out of their country. What, for example, would President Obama, or his secretary of state, say when sitting down with Ahmadinejad: "We just blew up half of Tehran--want to talk about this?"

Moreover, what input does Pakistan's flavor of the month, President Asif Ali Zardari, have about American military intervention in the internal affairs of his country? You'll recall, of course, that Saddam Hussein was once a friend of Washington's. Will what happened in Iraq be a paradigm for what is about to happen in Pakistan, and the politics of deconstruction for the profits of reconstruction prevail?

More importantly, what does it mean when the head of the free world says he wants to talk and, at the same time, he insists on bringing a loaded shotgun with him to the table? Armed diplomacy is more than an oxymoron, it shows contempt for the whole process.

As for exit strategies in Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else in the region, one is reminded of what the King says in "Alice in Wonderland"-- "Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop."