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McCain Outspoken in Defense of Musharraf

By Alec MacGillis
MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Seeking to present the face of a steady leader in a time of crisis, John McCain today rebuffed some of the calls for immediate U.S. action regarding Pakistan in the wake of the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and expressed confidence in the government of General Pervez Musharraf.

Speaking to reporters after his plane touched down here on his way back from Iowa, McCain rejected out of hand any suggestion that the U.S. should consider invading Waziristan, the mountainous region of Pakistan that has become the base for al-Qaeda and Taliban elements suspected in the assassination.

"Pakistan is a sovereign nation. Second of all, some of the lessons of recent [American experience] argue that we have a complete plan and know what our objective is," he said, invoking the "Powell doctrine" that calls for going to war only when one has overwhelming force available. "If you've ever been to Waziristan, which I have been to, it's very rugged country that has not been governed by anyone going back to Alexander the Great. It presents an enormous military challenge alone, much less that it would the alienate people and government of Pakistan if we decided to initiate unilateral action."

McCain was outspoken in his defense of Musharraf, who has had to contend with criticisms today from others on the campaign trail, such as Bill Richardson's call for a curtailing of U.S. aid to Pakistan. "I continue to believe Musharraf has done a pretty good job, done a lot of the things that we wanted him to do," McCain said, citing Musharraf's decision to relinquish his military post, to call elections, and to end martial law.

He added, "I would remind some of my fellow Americans that Benazir Bhutto and [former prime minister Nawaz] Sharif presided over failed states, there was corruption, there was a failed state in Pakistan when Musharraf took charge...I would like to give Musharraf some credit for taking the measures that we asked him to do."

McCain rejected his rival Mitt Romney's argument that Ronald Reagan proved it was not necessary to have foreign policy expertise prior to becoming president to be able to contend with crises abroad. "President Reagan ..won the cold war and I revere his memory," McCain said, but then added, "I would view the present situation as one that requires no on the job training."

McCain also questioned Hillary Clinton's call for an independent investigation of the assassination, saying that the Pakistani government already appeared to be making progress in investigating the attack and that it is too early to argue that more is needed. And he rejected the argument put forward by Barack Obama's top strategist that the war in Iraq helped lead to the assassination by taking the U.S. focus off of the Al Qaeda threat on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

"It's inexperience, again, to make a comment like that," McCain said. "Afghanistan was a base for the Taliban and al-Qaeda and we had to go there. Iraq, if we had not mishandled Iraq as Rumsfeld did...things would be fine in Iraq today. It's the mishandling of Iraq that causes us problems in Iraq."

By Washington Post editors  |  December 28, 2007; 6:17 PM ET
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Teddy Roosevelt told us how to bring democracy to Pakistan and elsewhere, "speak softly and carry a big stick." We carry a tiny stick not big enough to meet our obligations in Iraq and Afghanistan, let alone northwest Pakistan. To bring democaracy to any muslim nation we must eradicate the fundamentalist salafist element. Saudi Arabia has opened madrassahs in Pakistan which teach the terrorists view of Islam. The Taliban flush with drug money is winning against the so called anti-terrorist Musharraf gov't. We must increase our ground force by a million to carry that big stick. We must have India pull its forces 1 mile from the border everywhere except Kashmir under threat of import embargos. We then tell Musharraf to go after the fundamentalists or we will. He is not stupid enough to nuke our forces as this would be the end of him and Pakistan. On the non-military front we must stop the brainwashing of Pakistans children in these learn the Quran in Arabic and we will tell you what it means terrorist factories. We must pay the Afghan farmer at least as much for legal crops as they receive for poppy. The drug money is the cause of the Taliban resurgence there and in Pakistan. We must arm the farmers into militias which can hold off the Taliban until our air power arrives. Brainwashed terrorists will never see the light of reason and must be killed.
Musharraf cannot play both sides when a quarter million American troops are sitting on his borders ready to take out the terrorists in the northwest. Musharraf while flawed still represents Americas best option to stop terrorism in Pakistan. P.S. would the ignorant stop writing about how he stepped down as head of the military, he still controls the military and intelligence services. Our biggest problem is if he had Bhutto killed and her followers find out there will be civil war with the Salafists possibly winning and controlling the nukes.

Posted by: jameschirico | December 29, 2007 6:58 AM | Report abuse

OH, and BTW, Smart Alec MacGillis-Your Spinning is just a little too obvious!

For what is supposed to be an expert on World events, and someone qualified to spout off Opines, I would think you would be aware of the FACT, it is NO LONGER GENERAL Musharraf!

His only Title(Live it, learn it, and Love it!) is PRESIDENT Musharraf!

Reporter! And I am an Astronaut! An Iranian Astronaut at that!

Posted by: rat-the | December 28, 2007 9:15 PM | Report abuse

I have never doubted McCain's Military expertice, or qualifications. It is the Business, and Economic aspects that I feel would be better Handled by someone like Mitt Romney and Huck(Number Two!) with McCain as their Military Expert, than McCain trying to be the President, trying to use somebody like Mitt, as his Exectutive Expert!

Then, PLEASE folks, wake up and REALIZE, if Benazir had not Stood Up and made herself vulnerable, she would be just as unhurt as the others in the SUV! Probably could have kept the Bomber from ever detonating at all!

What I want, is the Survivors Polygraphed, about whether THEY prompted Benazir to stand up! I believe she was set up!

Posted by: rat-the | December 28, 2007 9:07 PM | Report abuse

Sounds about right (although, did McCain really concede that the Office of President "requires no on the job training"?).

Posted by: JakeD | December 28, 2007 6:24 PM | Report abuse

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