Outside editorial: Recasting delicate affairs of state as a jobs program

Posted: Thursday, November 11, 2010

The following editorial first appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Before last week's elections, the White House said President Barack Obama would be dealing with many issues on his current 10-day, four-nation trip to Asia, among them global security, international trade and economics, improving cultural ties, preventing terrorism and personal diplomacy with key leaders.

Last Wednesday, the trip became about jobs.

The president, who left Washington on Friday and who spent the weekend and Monday in India, still is dealing with global security, international trade, etc. - boring stuff that doesn't play well at election time - but the focus of the White House press office is on how good all of this will be for American workers.

With that in mind, we can happily report that the 1,000 St. Louis workers who build components of Boeing's C-17 cargo plane have a little more job security. The U.S. Air Force may not want any more C-17s, but the Indian air force does. Included in the $10 billion export deal with India are 10 C-17s.

Currently, about 10 C-17s a year roll out of the Boeing assembly plant in Long Beach, Calif., so the Indian deal will buy the C-17 program another year. Times being what they are, we'll take it.

Still, we'd like to think that at least some American voters are interested in the larger issues that Obama will be addressing with leaders in India, South Korea, Indonesia and Japan, as well as the issues that will emerge at the meeting of G-20 finance ministers and leaders in Seoul on Thursday and Friday.

We live in a complicated world. Obama has been criticized for his detached, cerebral approach to the affairs of state. Recasting this Asian trip as about "jobs" suggests that he's trying to keep things a little simpler now.

But consider Obama managed to spend three days in India without uttering the "K-word" - Kashmir. The disputed Muslim territory between India and Pakistan has been the flashpoint for two wars and ceaseless saber-rattling since the Indo-Pakistani partition of 1947. The sabers now are nuclear on both sides.

Here's the United States, deeply enmeshed for the last nine years in a war across Pakistan's western border in Afghanistan, buying the allegiance of Pakistan's government and military and its intelligence agencies for its war against al-Qaeda.

Here's the Indian government, deeply suspicious of the same Pakistani government, military and intelligence agencies, knowing that the weapons the United States has been selling to Pakistan probably are pointed east, toward Kashmir, not west, toward the Taliban.

Here's an Indian government that has credible reports that Pakistan's intelligence services helped the terrorists who attacked 10 sites across Mumbai in November 2008.

And here's a Pakistani government that knows that India knows, but it has a major chokehold on the United States because the United States needs Pakistan's help in the war on terror.

And Kashmir never came up, except obliquely, when Obama offered "to play any role the parties think is appropriate" in making peace between India and Pakistan.

It didn't come up because India didn't want it to come up, and because Obama is trying to treat India as the mature power it has become, not just as a pawn in U.S. global policies.

Jobs are important, but these kinds of considerations are important, too. And worth some cerebral, detached attention.



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