Senator Barack Obama boldly put his plan for Iraq in print on the op-ed page of the New York Times today. In it, he says he will "pursue a diplomatic offensive with every nation in the region on behalf of Iraq's stability..." I read that literally -- a diplomatic offensive with every nation in the region, including Syria and Iran. This is way overdue. After all, precious time has been lost since the likes of Larry Eagleburger, Ed Meese, Alan Simpson and Sandra Day O'Connor called for such action in their Iraq Study Group Report.
As Sen. Obama recognizes in his op-ed, and as evidenced by other news of the day, we have to shift our focus to the chaos on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. And that's really the key op-ed -- "My Plan for Pakistan."
I visited Islamabad on a Senate trip in 2003. Every street and marketplace and bus stop was teeming with people. They were buying and selling, and not just the goods of everyday life; they were buying and selling the ideas that will determine whether America wins or loses the fight against Islamic extremism.
A regional approach is crucial to our success in Iraq, but it is also vital to our success on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. And whenever you're dealing with Pakistan, you're automatically dealing with India. So the next op-ed won't be easy for Sen. Obama. I suppose the tragic folly of the Iraq War is that everything else is now more difficult because of it.
Why is it more difficult? Because the international community, if they don't downright abhor the Bush/Cheney approach, certainly don't trust our foreign policies. After all, we invaded a country on the false premise that it posed an imminent threat. Regaining the trust of the international community will be the next president's biggest challenge. Is it naïve to think that if the Syrians, Indians, Pakistanis, Afghans and Iranians trusted us, stabilizing the region would be less difficult?
In his piece, Sen. Obama alludes to the political attacks he will soon have to endure. As he wrote, there will be charges of "flip-flopping and surrender." But these attacks will likely come from the same people who committed the worst sin of all -- contributing to the fracturing of American credibility. As Sen. Obama considers a "My Plan for Pakistan" op-ed, it wouldn't be a bad idea to start by implementing the regional approach and beginning the hard work of restoring trust in America.