Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Third Hand...

There’s a concept I’ve been discussing with my Father recently; a concept I’ve given to calling, the “Third Hand”.

When a Political Figure acts against his nature, for whatever reason, there’s usually some other force at work, something we don’t see.

Put a simpler way, you got one hand on Obama pulling him one way, you got another hand pulling him in reverse, and then comes another hand (hint-hint: a Third Hand), which pushes him the way he actually goes.

Think of it like this, if there’s a situation where Obama does something to deliberately anger his base, logic suggests that the alternative, whatever it may be, is far worse.

Thus, we come to the release, or non-release, of those Abu Ghraib Photos, and the President’s reversal on that decision. My fellow Progressives/Liberals are justifiably upset by the decision…or maybe not so justifiably.

Looked at on its own, by itself the decision to withhold those photos is indefensible. Lord knows people I read, admire and respect have been dumping all over it. (Though I will say, David Kurtz in TPM comes very close to the explanation I'm about to give you, and...after all...he's a professional, and got there first, so...kudos.)

But…and I hate to bring the West Wing into anything…but it’s like President Bartlet said in the episode Hartsfield’s Landing (Episode 58, Season 3): “See the whole board…”

What do I mean by that?

Ask yourself, what happened? What made President Obama change his mind, or more to the point, has something changed that would make President Obama change his mind??

I’d say, yes.

Mind you this is just a theory, but at the same time...

Since the last week of April, beginning of May, there has been a considerable uptick in the violence in Pakistan, as the Taliban has moved ever closer to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan (within 60 miles, so it seems). Now, the United States has been using Aerial drones to ice people across the Pakistani Border. The Pakistani Government has been upset about that, but since Pakistani’s Prime Minister is Asif Ali Zardari (aka Benazir Bhutto’s widower) and Islamist Militants were the ones who killed her, I don’t think he’s that upset…you know what I mean?

(In fact, should I mention that the Pakistani Government wants "ownership" over U.S. Drones? God, I hope we told them "hell, no.")

The situation was so bad that General Petraeus said that Pakistan was two weeks from falling, and the President was asked about the security of Pakistan’s Nuclear Arsenal at his last press conference.

But something has happened into the interim. Pakistan’s population has decided that they don’t much like the Taliban, or Taliban rule. In fact now that the Taliban has closed within 40 miles of the Capital, suddenly, we don’t have to bribe the Generals into defending their own country anymore. They’re actually (finally) pulling troops off the Indian border to get into the fight with the extremists. In fact, it’s creating something of a humanitarian crisis as refugees flee the fighting.

So, we are left with a situation where the Pakistani Military has finally gotten off its collective, and ineffective ass to start dealing some payback to the Taliban. There's popular support for the offensive in mainstream Pakistan, and all this is coming off recent American pressure to do so.

...and into this hyper-mega-combustile mix, some folks want to release some 2000 more photographs of Americans torturing Muslims?!?

Can you say…Danish Cartoons?? Times ten??

The President said that these Photographs were "not particularly sensational, particularly when compared to the painful images we remember from Abu Ghraib." Maybe, maybe not. We only have his word on this. I've heard in some quarters, these photos were pretty bad. They were bad enough to have Lindsey Graham and Joe Lieberman write the President a letter begging him to not to release the photos. (It's too bad they couldn't have gotten a Democrat to sign that letter. I would have been helpful if it was bipartisan.)

With the Pakistani populace finally seeing things our way, why do we want to go and insert into the discussion something that makes the Pakistanis start thinking that the Taliban has a point?!?

Listen, some of the stories I’m seeing are using a specific word: stall and/or delay. I think the Administration is eventually going to release these photos, on their own accord. Either that, or I wonder how far they'll fight the case in court. Either way, they’re not going to release those photos yet, not until Pakistan stabilizes.

Personally, I want the photos released, too, but I'm personally okay with this decision as long as it's only a stall, or a delay...and not an outright cancellation.

At the end of Hartsfield's Landing, Sam Seaborn (in case you don’t remember, played by Rob Lowe), asks President Bartlet (Martin Sheen), a question. The answer is one that is both simple and complicated all at the same time, and is one of the reasons (I trust) we all voted for the President in the first place:

I don’t know how you... I don’t know the word. I...don’t know how you do it.

You have a lot of help. You listen to everybody and then you call the play.

I think the President might owe us a better explanation than the “safety of American Troops”, which is both true and hollow all at once. But this advice is coming from his Generals (something we all thought Bush didn't do enough of), and its coming from his OLC (who may actually have read a Law Book or two in their careers).

Still, I think the real reasons play across a far wider we all should try to see, but that the President is ultimately responsible for.

Please remember, there was a reason we decided we wanted this man to call the plays.

UPDATE (5:26pm Pacific): For the record, I beat Joe Klein to the punch.