James Forsyth James Forsyth

Hillary’s party of hawks inside the administration

On the Chris Matthews Show, David Ignatius set out the internal debate in the administration about Af-Pak policy:

“Vice President Biden and the deputy secretary of state Jim Steinberg argued for this narrow focus on al-Qaeda, a kind of minimal definition of the US role. Richard Holbrooke, our new emissary to that part of the world, Hillary Clinton argued with General Petraeus for a broader nation-building effort. And as near as I can tell–we’ll have to sort this out over the next week–the president came–leaned on the side of the Biden narrower definition, because I think he’s nervous about getting in too deep, the very question you raised at the outset. The problem is you can’t do the narrow mission, you can’t pacify and stabilize these border areas without also doing the nation building. So, you know, he’s in.”

What is interesting about this is that it shows that Holbrooke and Clinton—who are close and both supported the Iraq war and are among the most hawkish Democrats—have not changed their foreign policy views. These two in concert with Petraues, will act as the more hawkish pole of the administration.

It is also worth noting, as Norah O’Donnell pointed out, that Obama in his speech announcing his new policy mentioned “Afghanistan” 33 times and “Pakistan” 41 times. Then on Sunday, Obama talked about al Qaeda moving its base of operations over the border from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

The administration seems increasingly comfortable making it clear that Pakistan is actually the bigger problem. Having said that, it is no further on than anyone else in coming up with robust ideas for how to solve this problem.

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