Is Secretary Hillary Clinton Fed Up With President Obama’s Af-Pak Policy?

Our nation has to be strong fiscally at home in order for us to be strong abroad,” said Secretary Hillary Clinton in her interview on Sixty Minutes. Prior to this statement, Mrs. Clinton said “All of a sudden you’ve got countries who are explicitly saying to me, in private, ‘Well, look, you know, we always looked to you because you had this great economy and now, look, you’re in the ditch. And you’ve dragged other people into the ditch,”

These are strong words and interesting words. We interpreted these words as distaste for the results of President Obama’s economic policy.  But as we scanned the newspapers on Monday morning, we could not find any serious discussion of these comments. We were relieved to see Bill O’Reilly cover this topic in a segment on his show. Mr. O’Reilly invited Dick Morris, a confirmed Hillary disliker, to discuss whether Secretary Clinton’s comments signalled her desire to challenge President Obama for the 2012 Democratic nomination.

We think this discussion is highly premature and Dick Morris seemed to agree. A great deal depends on the 2010 Congressional elections and on whether President Obama pulls a Bill Clinton type makeover to become a centrist President. 

Bill O’Reilly had a point about the tension between Secretary Clinton & President Obama but we think he made it in the wrong context.  He should have focused on her comments about Pakistan on Sixty Minutes:

  • “I’m not saying that they’re at the highest levels but I believe that somewhere in this (Pakistan) government are people who know where Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda is, where Mullah Omar and the leadership of the Afghan Taliban is and we expect more cooperation to help us bring to justice, capture or kill, those who attacked us on 9/11″
  • “We’ve made it very clear that, if, heaven forbid, that an attack like this, if we can trace back to Pakistan, were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences”

These words are extraordinarily undiplomatic, harsh and confrontational. Every syllable uttered by Secretary Clinton is 100% true. But, we do not recall such words ever expressed by a senior diplomat against Pakistan. The regime in Pakistan reacted angrily to these words as one would expect. In response, the Obama Administration went into high gear, reports the New York Times, to pacify General Kiyani of the Pakistani Army. Admiral Mullen, the man who claims to have a trusting relationship with General Kiyani, called Kiyani to water down the Clinton message. 

President Obama has staked his entire Af-Pak policy on winning cooperation from the  Pakistani Army. His approach is to have long talks with the Pakistani Army and ISI, the Pakistani Intelligence service. He hopes to persuade them to come around to his way of thinking and he has offered many carrots to them.

Clearly, Secretary Clinton thinks poorly of this approach. She should know. This approach has been tried by virtually every President except George W. Bush and it has failed miserably. Secretary Clinton understands that Pakistan is the greatest threat to Afghanistan. She now seems extremely concerned that the Taleban, well protected and nurtured by the Pakistani Army & ISI for many years, are serious about attacking the American homeland.

The attack on Times Square nearly succeeded. The only reason it failed was the incompetence of the alleged bomber. The next bomber will probably learn from this failure. Secretary Clinton is an uncommonly intelligent lady and we have no doubt she understands this better than just about any body else in the Obama Administration. 

This is why we believe Secretary Clinton was so undiplomatically unequivocal in delivering a harsh warning to the Pakistani Army.  We wonder whether the strong message was as directed towards President Obama as it was against the Pakistani regime. We sincerely hope it was. 

Apparently we are not alone. Bruce Riedel, who chaired President Obama’s special interagency committee last year to develop the administration’s Af-Pak policy, agreed with Secretary Clinton in his recent interview with the Council of Foreign Relations. Mr. Riedel said:

  • “The secretary is right, that there is a very serious possibility that the next mass casualty terrorist attack on the United States will be postmarked “Pakistan.” We narrowly averted that in Times Square just a week ago. A stiff diplomatic demarche is not going to satisfy anyone should that happen.”

Secretary Clinton is saying publicly to Pakistan and America that the situation is moving towards a serious confrontation and that the time is now for President Obama to get tough, really tough against the Pakistani Army.

Will President Obama listen? And will TV hosts like Bill O’Reilly join this debate? At stake is America’s security at home.

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