The idea that anything has really changed, at least in the realm of foreign policy, with the ascension of Barack Obama to the White House, is now completely debunked by the administration’s latest pronouncement on the "Af-Pak" war. I quote from the "white paper" that accompanied the president’s spiel:
"The ability of extremists in Pakistan to undermine Afghanistan is proven, while insurgency in Afghanistan feeds instability in Pakistan. The threat that al-Qaeda poses to the United States and our allies in Pakistan — including the possibility of extremists obtaining fissile material — is all too real. Without more effective action against these groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan will face continuing instability."
That’s from the introduction to a curiously obtuse document, one that never tries to justify its various listed "objectives" with anything other than the most perfunctory scaremongering — precisely what the Bushies used to do. Remember the mushroom-cloud rhetoric that clouded the debate over the Iraq intervention? Averring that the mere possibility Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear weapons posed such an imminent threat that definitive evidence was beside the point, then secretary of state Condoleezza Rice famously declared:"We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud." These nukes, the White House and its allies claimed, could pass into the hands of terrorists, who would then have the capacity to nuke New York. In making the case for war with Iraq, the Bushies consistently conjured this fear of radioactive horror, the mental detritus of late-night sci-fi movies, Cold War memories of the Cuba missile crisis, and "duck and cover" drills in the schoolrooms of the Fifties and early Sixties.
This nuclear threat to the United States, supposedly posed by al-Qaeda hiding in the Pakistani hinterlands, is nowhere mentioned in the white paper except in that one instance. In fact, there is zero evidence that Pakistan’s 40-or-so nukes are in any danger, and none is cited. The idea that al-Qaeda and its allies are about to seize control of Islamabad and commandeer the country’s nuclear arsenal, is the sort of fantasy one might expect to find in a paperback thriller, or The Weekly Standard. As recently as a year ago, Adm. Mike Mullen, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, opined that Pakistan’s nukes were well-protected and there was little likelihood of them falling into the hands of al-Qaeda. This could be because, as Richard Sale reports,
"So while the nukes of any country are allegedly in danger of hijacking, apparently the new safeguards are such that the slightest error in procedure renders the weapon null and void, a system much like the one the Russian used with their portable nuclear weapons systems."