December 12th, 2008
05:13 PM ET

Obama's biggest foreign policy challenge?

Juan Cole

A consensus is emerging among intelligence analysts and pundits that Pakistan may be President-elect Barack Obama's greatest policy challenge. A base for terrorist groups, the country has a fragile new civilian government and a long history of military coups. The dramatic attack on Mumbai by members of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e Tayiba, the continued Taliban insurgency on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the frailty of the new civilian government, and the country's status as a nuclear-armed state have all put Islamabad on the incoming administration's front burner.

But does Obama understand what he's getting into? In his "Meet the Press" interview with Tom Brokaw on Sunday, Obama said, "We need a strategic partnership with all the parties in the region - Pakistan and India and the Afghan government - to stamp out the kind of militant, violent, terrorist extremists that have set up base camps and that are operating in ways that threaten the security of everybody in the international community." Obama's scenario assumes that the Pakistani government is a single, undifferentiated thing, and that all parts of the government would be willing to "stamp out" terrorists. Both of those assumptions are incorrect.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Raw Politics
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. Jim M

    Juan, I believe that you have focused too narrowly on the Obama quote and the relationship of strategic partnerships with governments. The modus operandi for US foreighn policy, has for a long time, been one of entering into partnerships where the partner is viewed has having at least some level of value to US foreighn policy objectives and not necessarily solely with the country's government Be it Nicaragua, Iran, Panama, or a whole host of contries, strategic partnerships of the US have involved military, political factions and economic stakeholders outside of government leadership.

    December 12, 2008 at 7:57 pm |
  2. KAREN

    I Think Barack Obama has a big mess to clean ,but im praying for peace,and understanding fact is were in this mess becouse of greed,lots of money was made off this war,and lots of lives lost.

    December 12, 2008 at 7:31 pm |