NAME-BRAND journalists have let Barack Obama make any claim he chooses about Iraq, Afghanistan or coping with terrorism without pinning him down for details.
Yet many of his comments and positions seem stunningly naive about
national security. Given that this man may become our next president,
shouldn't he explain how he'd do the many impressive things he's promised?
This week, Obama claimed, again, that he'd promptly capture Osama bin Laden. OK, tell me how: Specifically, which concrete measures would he take that haven't been taken? How would he force our intelligence agencies to locate bin Laden? And he can't just respond, "That's classified."
He also claimed that fighting terrorism is a law-enforcement problem,
not a military one (should we send the NYPD to Mosul and Kandahar?),
and that the answer to terrorism is the approach taken after the 1993
World Trade Center attack, featuring conventional trials and prison
That flaccid post-'93 response only encouraged
terrorists - who are unfazed by the prospect of a US prison, where the
quality of life's better than it was at home. The Clinton
administration's hesitancy and softness gave us the subsequent attacks
on the Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia, on our embassies
in East Africa, on the USS Cole and, ultimately, the events of 9/11.
The senator needs to tell us why it would be different now.
Obama has also said he'd send our troops into Pakistan, although he'll
withdraw rapidly from Iraq. His unwillingness to discuss the
consequences of a hasty retreat from Baghdad is one thing - but
invading Pakistan would be an order of magnitude worse.
A substantial number of Iraq's 26 million citizens did
welcome us. In Pakistan, with its 170 million Muslims and some of the
most rugged terrain on earth, anti-Americanism prevails. Any US
military incursion would be greeted with outrage and demands for a
Nor does Obama appear to grasp that armies
need fuel, ammunition, food, spare parts and other supplies. Nearly
everything for our troops in landlocked Afghanistan, from bottled water
to medical supplies, now comes via Pakistani ports, roads and
railroads. If those long, difficult routes were cut, how would
President Obama supply our troops? And no, it can't all be done by air.
Oh, Pakistan has nukes, too.
Also this week, Obama's
advisers stated that, if apprehended, Osama bin Laden should be tried
in a conventional US courtroom. My fellow Americans, do you believe that?
Do you believe that this arch-terrorist, publicly proud of
his responsibility for 9/11, should be given all the rights of a US
citizen and a public platform to engage in propaganda?
What the full-rights-for-terrorists advocates fail to comprehend is
that our judicial processes - so dear to us - are viewed by terrorists
as a means to advance their cause, to embarrass us, to reveal our
intelligence methods and to perpetuate their martyr myth.
Harsh as it may sound, a dead terrorist is dead, but an imprisoned
terrorist is a cause (and not just for his fellow radicals). Abu Musab
al-Zarqawi is forgotten, but our Guantanamo prisoners are pop stars.
Obama appears out of his depth on all this, but the gushingly friendly
media have given him a pass on every groundless claim or gaffe. It's
time for journalists to start asking him tough questions - to press him
when he doesn't give serious answers. Isn't that their job?
Those who knew Obama in his university days claim that he couldn't be
persuaded to study history. It shows. And his lifelong lack of interest
in the military is self-evident.
The response that "he has
knowledgeable advisers" isn't enough. Obama's military and
counterterror "experts" compose a unique collection of the dismissed,
the discredited and the dysfunctional. Most appear to be out to settle
personal grudges rather than to advance our nation's security.
Let's hope that just one high-profile journalist pushes Obama on the following questions:
* How would you find Osama bin Laden? What, specifically, would you do differently?
* What would be the rules for capturing or killing Osama?
* How would you manage the consequences of the military incursion into Pakistan you've threatened? Are you willing to go to war with Pakistan?
* What would be the specific results of a swift troop withdrawal from Iraq?
* Why would a judicial approach to defeating terrorists work this time when it failed to protect us in the past?
* Do you truly believe that self-admitted terrorists, when captured, deserve the full legal privileges of US citizens?
If this highly talented candidate has glaring gaps in his understanding
of the world, voters deserve to know. If his campaign promises have no
substance, we deserve to know that, too.
I support John McCain
for president, but I live by the values that guided me as an Army
officer: I will support my commander in chief as chosen by the American
people, no matter who he (or, one day, she) may be. But until the
people make their choice, both candidates should be held to the same
tough standards of truth in advertising.
Sen. Obama, tell us how.
Ralph Peters' new book, "Looking for Trouble," will be published in July.