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Obama Says He Would Take Fight To Pakistan
Clinton did not respond yesterday to the issue of her Iraq vote, but she sought to show her toughness on dealing with terrorist threats without endorsing the idea of raids into Pakistan. In an interview with American Urban Radio News Networks, she said that if there were actionable intelligence showing Osama bin Laden or other prominent terrorist leaders in Pakistan, "I would ensure that they were targeted and killed or captured." She also said she long has favored sending more troops to Afghanistan.
Other Democratic candidates took issue with Obama's tough talk on Pakistan.
"It is dangerous and irresponsible to leave even the impression the United States would needlessly and publicly provoke a nuclear power," Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) said in a statement.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, in a telephone interview, said that Obama's threat, if acted upon, could inflame the entire Muslim world. "My international experience tells me that we should address this issue with tough diplomacy first with Musharraf and then leave the military option as a last resort," he said.
Former senator John Edwards (N.C.) said in a statement that he would first apply "maximum diplomatic and economic pressure on states like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia" to do their utmost to combat the spread of terrorism. He also challenged both Obama and Clinton to block a proposed U.S. arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (Del.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, called Obama's threat misguided. "The way to deal with it is not to announce it, but to do it," Biden said at the National Press Club. "The last thing you want to do is telegraph to the folks in Pakistan that we are about to violate their sovereignty."
Obama said opposition to the war in Iraq should not lead Americans to turn their backs on threats of terrorism. "The terrorists are at war with us," he said. "The threat is from violent extremists who are a small minority of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, but the threat is real."
Beyond military measures aimed at defeating al-Qaeda, Obama outlined a series of other initiatives he would pursue to combat those threats. He repeated an earlier pledge to double U.S. foreign aid to $50 billion, said he would provide $2 billion to combat the influence of Islamic schools known as madrassas and launch a more ambitious public diplomacy initiative, which he promised to steer.
"As president, I will lead this effort," he said. "In the first 100 days of my administration, I will travel to a major Islamic forum and deliver an address to redefine our struggle."
Obama also called for additional steps to protect the homeland from possible attack and a reassertion of American values, promising to prohibit torture "without exception," close the terrorist prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and ensure that all intelligence gathering is done within the letter of the law.
Rekindling last week's debate with Clinton, Obama said he would bring a new approach to diplomacy. "It's time to turn the page on Washington's conventional wisdom that agreement must be reached before you meet, that talking to other countries is some kind of reward and that presidents can only meet with people who will tell them what they want to hear."