Noah, I think you’re mostly right: Nobody can really be sure how Barack Obama will react to the news that American forces raided an enemy’s outpost in Syria. This is worrisome, especially considering we’re only 8 days away from the general election and Obama is the clear favorite heading into the last week of the campaign. Yet, if the junior senator from Illinois’ rhetoric is to be taken seriously–that is, if his rhetoric towards another nation known to hide terrorists is to be taken seriously–he would have to agree that the action taken by United States Military was justified. Consider this report from Reuters (which appeared over a year ago, yet it mirrors some of his more recent words, too):
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama said on Wednesday the United States must be willing to strike al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan, adopting a tough tone after a chief rival accused him of naivete in foreign policy.
Obama’s stance comes amid debate in Washington over what to do about a resurgent al Qaeda and Taliban in areas of northwest Pakistan that President Pervez Musharraf has been unable to control, and concerns that new recruits are being trained there for a September 11-style attack against the United States.
The question, then, is: Will Obama substitute Syria for Pakistan, so that his rhetoric is consistent? I’m doubtful–it’s not politically advantageous for him to do so (of course, agreeing with Bush administration on a foreign policy decision only weakens his case). By his own admission, foreign policy is Obama’s strongest policy area–“foreign policy is the area where I am probably most confident that I know more and understand the world better than Senator Clinton or Senator McCain”–and his reaction to this most recent development in the war on terror could be telling. But it’s probably too late for McCain to capitalize on this.
I’m not a betting man, but if I were, I’d say that the Obama campaign will (erroneously) argue that President Bush is attempting to escalate the war before November 4th.