Thursday, April 30, 2009

One hundred days, poetry and change

Subsequent segments of press conference found here.

So grateful to finally reach the 100th day, so that the media may come up with a new meaningless thematic obsession. (Time to stop counting days and get to the business of living a sober life.)

Because she was out reading her poetry at an open mic, your blogstress did not watch the president's press conference in real time, a circumstance she would have once deemed unthinkable. Your écrivaine is uncertain of just what this means, except that perhaps now that the country appears to be in capable hands, she no longer finds her vigilance to be quite so necessary.

Nonetheless, your Webwench could not entirely look away, and so midnight found her watching the video on her computer, marveling at the fact that it was possible to lie on a couch, netbook perched on knees, and watch tiny moving pictures (with excellent sound) that way. (Your cybertrix is sometimes easily amused.)

President Obama's customary elegance was in evidence, as he answered each question thoughtfully and with a minimum of scripted comments. Your blogstress saw him trip up only once, at the hands of NBC's Chuck Todd, who asked, "Can you reassure the American people that, if necessary, America could secure Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and keep it from getting into the Taliban's hands or, worst-case scenario, even al Qaeda's hands?"

I am gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan not because I think that they're immediately going to be overrun and the Taliban would take over in Pakistan; more concerned that the civilian government there right now is very fragile and don't seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services -- schools, health care, rule of law, a judicial system that works for the majority of people. And so as a consequence it is very difficult for them to gain the support and the loyalty of their people.

So we need to help Pakistan help Pakistanis. And I think that there's a recognition increasingly on the part of both the civilian government there and the army that that is their biggest weakness.

On the military side you're starting to see some recognition just in the last few days, that the obsession with India as the mortal threat to Pakistan has been misguided, and that their biggest threat right now comes internally. And you're starting to see the Pakistan military take much more seriously the armed threat from militant extremists.

We want to continue to encourage Pakistan to move in that direction. And we will provide them all the cooperation that we can. We want to respect their sovereignty, but we also recognize that we have huge strategic interests, huge national security interests in making sure that Pakistan is stable and that you don't end up having a nuclear armed militant state.
It was that last sentence that got the president in a little trouble, when Robb pounced with a follow-up.
But in a worst-case scenario --

THE PRESIDENT: I'm not going to engage --

TODD: -- military, U.S. military could secure this nuclear --

THE PRESIDENT: I'm not going to engage in hypotheticals of that sort. I feel confident that that nuclear arsenal will remain out of militant hands. Okay?
But he had, just a sentence ago, acknowledged the possibility of Pakistan becoming "a nuclear armed militant state." Indeed, Pakistan, an enormous problem that barely registers as one in the minds of the American people (or much of the press corps, for that matter), looms forebodingly. I find it unlikely that the U.S. will be able to withdraw from South Asia any time soon, unless we are willing to leave both Afghanistan and Pakistan in states of civil war. Afghanistan borders Iran, which borders Iraq. Pakistan borders Afghanistan and India. Think: epic proportions.

On another matter, The Guardian's Michael Tomasky caught an Obama error when the president asserted that the British did not torture prisoners of war taken in World War II. Alas, they did.

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