In July, when George W. Bush signed off on unilateral military action inside Pakistan, Barack Obama supporters were quick to claim that the President was now following Obama’s lead. For in August 2007, Obama said of al Qaeda members inside Pakistan, “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.” But a story in today’s New York Times reveals that Bush had okayed such actions on before Obama even took his seat in the Senate:
The United States military since 2004 has used broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, according to senior American officials.
These military raids, typically carried out by Special Operations forces, were authorized by a classified order that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld signed in the spring of 2004 with the approval of President Bush, the officials said. The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States.
In the year before the candidate of international cooperation decided to advertise his plan for American unilateralism (upsetting the Pakistani leadership and inflaming the Pakistani street), there was a Navy Seal raid on suspected militants in the Bajaur region of Pakistan’s volatile Federally Administered Tribal Area. Obama was correct that the U.S. should not always wait for the okay of foreign governments before taking out deadly enemies. But broadcasting it was a reckless rookie move. The election was long; August 2007 seems a lifetime ago, and Obama seems more than willing to move away from failed tactics. Let’s hope he’s learned the whole walk softly-big stick thing by now.