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Anti-Obama, Part II

Barack Obama’s foreign policy views have been in the news a lot lately, and although it’s been a mixed bag, in my opinion it hasn’t been going well. I just sent this message of protest to the Obama for America campaign. If I get a response I’ll post it here.

UPDATE: I’ve received a response, and as promised I’m including it at the end of this post.

— • —

Senator Obama, I am ashamed of you for saying you would send U.S. troops into Pakistan unilaterally, without the permission of the Pakistani government or, presumably, the U.N. You’ve lost my vote with this one, which is a shame because until now I was hoping you would be a progressive force in global politics. I support your willingness to meet with people like Castro and Ahmadinejad, and I think it’s about time the U.S. declared a no-first-use nuclear policy, so I find it all the more disturbing that you would take such a foolish, immoral position as to imply that America has the right to invade foreign nations at will. Not only that, you have the nerve to put it at the center of your recent fundraising appeal, and you are asking your supporters to sign a petition in support of your absurd statements! I think your progressive base deserves an explanation and a retraction.

From today’s Washington Post, “Obama’s comment on Wednesday heightened anger created [in Pakistan] last week by senior Bush administration officials’ statements that they would consider such strikes if intelligence warranted them…. ‘It’s a very irresponsible statement, that’s all I can say,’ Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said. ‘As the election campaign in America is heating up, we would not like American candidates to fight their elections… at our expense.'” Even Mitt Romney has a more responsible position on this issue. So who are you to be calling Senator Clinton “Bush-Cheney lite” ? I think I’m beginning to see the real Senator Obama, and that person is an opportunistic fearmonger who is trying to use “tough talk” to compensate for his image of inexperience. So once again, shame on you. Do I need to see my political ideals betrayed yet again?

— • —

Here is a sample of the fundraising appeal I mentioned above, which persuaded me to abandon my hope that Obama’s positions were evolving in a direction where I could support them.

    The next president must end the war in Iraq, refocus on Afghanistan and the Taliban resurgence, and pressure Pakistan to root out al Qaeda once and for all.
    Most importantly, the next president must make sure that Osama bin Ladin and al Qaeda’s core leadership are captured or killed. If Pakistan or any other nation won’t act against bin Ladin and his cohorts, we will.
    The first step to making America safer is getting our troops out of Iraq and onto the right battlefields in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But that’s not enough.
    We must develop the military and intelligence capabilities to neutralize terrorist networks and secure the world’s most deadly weapons.
    Recruiting, training, and equipping our forces to fight more targeted and agile counter-terrorism missions are central to our success. …
    If you’re ready to write a new chapter in American history and redefine our role in the world, join our movement.

For a more in-depth expression of my doubts about Obama’s foreign policy, see this post I wrote two weeks ago.

— • —

UPDATE: Here is the official response I received from the Obama campaign on August 10. Similar ideas were expressed unofficially by RAH in two of the comments to this post.

    Thank you for contacting Senator Obama about his plans to protect America from terrorism. Senator Obama laid out a comprehensive plan for a new 21st century foreign policy that was hailed by foreign policy and human rights experts as a reasonable, balanced approach that would defend America and rebuild our relationships and credibility abroad.
    Some in the media have sensationalized one part of Senator Obama’s comprehensive plan, going so far as to suggest that the plan involves a threat to invade Pakistan with ground forces. This description is inaccurate and misleading, because any student of the American military knows that we have options to target terrorists with limited force, many of which involve no American boots on the ground. To suggest that targeting terrorists would be tantamount to an invasion is to misunderstand the capabilities of the U.S. military, or to misrepresent his position.
    We encourage you to look beyond the headlines and read about the Senator’s plan here.
    It is time to turn the page on the conventional wisdom in Washington that got us into a war with no end, tells us today that talking to our adversaries is a sign of weakness, and says that tough talk and sound bites can replace the tough work of diplomacy. Barack Obama had the judgment to oppose the Iraq war from the beginning, and as president, he will lead us in a better direction.

I will reiterate that what concerns me is not the danger of American “boots on the ground” in Pakistan, but the implication that the U.S. has the right to enter any nation at all in pursuit of those it considers terrorists, even when we are acting alone. While I may agree in principle that the U.S. has the right to pursue its attackers wherever in the world they may be, we must not claim for ourselves a prerogative that would offend us if it were exercised by other nations. In other words, there must be procedures for this under international law. I refer my readers to this speech by retired General Wesley Clark as an example of what a progressive American foreign policy should look like.


Comment from RAH
Time: August 4, 2007, 20:04

Did you read or listen to his speech. It’s been on C-Span or you can find his entire speech on his website I venture to say you hadn’t because if you did, you would not have misquoted him or misrepresented what he said.

If you are basting our question on what had been reported in the news, I strongly suggest you read or listen to the speech and then if you are not satisfied, write him again. The media misrepresented his words and intent. You have to take what he said about Pakistan in entire context of his speech.

Read it. Better yet listen to it, it’s much better spoken.

Comment from eatbees
Time: August 4, 2007, 20:32

@RAH — I’m going by the representations that Obama himself, or his organization, made in the fundraising appeal I quoted above. To me it sounds like a justification to intervene anywhere in the world using the “war on terror” as an excuse, so how is this different from the Bush policy? I’m opposed to unilateral action under any circumstances, except in direct response to an attack—and even then, as the aftermath of 9/11 shows, the world would rally to our side and unilateral action would not be necessary. The priority is preserving international rule of law, which is a broader principle than national security, and not in conflict with it. I have written to Obama previously, pleading with him to renounce the Bush doctrine of the “preemptive strike,” but he seems to be evolving in the opposite direction. I’m aware that Obama is well-spoken, because I’ve deconstructed some of his earlier foreign policy speeches in detail. But well-spoken or not, his views often strike me as American chauvinism, and in this case in particular he went too far.

Comment from mullah cimoc
Time: August 4, 2007, 20:48

mullah cimoc say ameriki need stop listen for the lie of usa media. usa media so control.

so soon all ameriki man under control the hillary clinton. this just the punish for abdicate duty to wife and the child. he so weak now. just the feminize. this job of usa tv show, depection woman for all power position make him aemriki thinking natural for woman rule the man.

this the natural selection punish the stupid and wicked ameriki letting masters in tel aviv run all usa, for kill and torture him muslim.

ameriki had him chance for resist nazi in aemrika but too afraid. him just want 7-11 nacho and new refrigerator, or the meth. now him to suffer too much become man once again, but terrible suffer all aemriki person first.

Comment from RAH
Time: August 4, 2007, 20:53

Your question, I take it is in reference to this quote below

As President, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will.

Read the rest of it here :

However, it sound like you are interpreting and making an opinion on your own interpretation.

Comment from Bill Day
Time: August 5, 2007, 06:34

The Kennedys also used a belligerent attitude to mask inexperience and balance a liberal domestic agenda, and look where that got us.

Comment from leblase
Time: August 5, 2007, 07:12

Having read both your post and RAH’s link to Obama’s full speech, it seems to me three topics are to be considered:
1 The candidate’s analysis of the situation is quite good concerning the fight with Al Qaida.
It is refreshing to learn that a top American politician is aware of where lies the root: Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Focusing on the Afghan war that the US is losing seems adequate.
Yes, the US Special forces and the Intelligence community have to adapt (a cultural revolution seems indeed necessary!); yes, it is time security agencies would learn other languages than Spanish or Russian (during the Lebanese war of the 70s, the CIA front man in Beyruth spoke only English and French;-);yes, it is time to tell the outside world that America isn’t navel-oriented (if it isn’t…) and cares about the outside world, speaks about democracy and practices it
(I read nothing about the fact that although the Palestinians were pushed to free elections by the US the result not being in accordance to Washington’s list, it decided to boycott the people’s choice: to Arab masses, this did a great damage to the image of the Made in USA political integrity).
On the wrong side of Obama’s analysis, the confusion of Taliban and Al Qaeda: although temporarily allied, these two very different entities pursue different aims and practice different methods.

2 Obama’s solutions fall short: the Afghani and Pakistanese authorities are almost as dangerous as the extremists America is supposed to fight : Karzai’s totally corrupt government is composed of ancient arms dealers (Karzai himself) poppy producers, transformers and exporters.
Most of NATO members do not want to participate more actively in the fighting in Afghanistan because they do not agree with the tactics employed (the same than the Soviet used, with a lot of civilian casualties, destruction of traditional culture and compromission with local warlords).
Pakistan is potentially the most dangerous country in the world, and threatening to hit it or partially invade it shows Sen. Obama has no knowledge of the society there, which is a mixture of sophisticated, technologicaly-advanced and backward religious-oriented fanatic sectarianism.
3 Time.
Long before the American election comes, the situation will have evolved very fast, not only in these two countries, but in the whole region. Pointing out his actions now will only nail him down in everyone’s mind.
Barak Obama should have in mind that by election day, most of the people will be so weary of the actual candidates’s babble that he should distillate his bright-and not so bright solutions along the months to come.
The way he goes now, I’m afraid his only future will make him appear as a more and more radical. Conservative or liberal radical?

Comment from eatbees
Time: August 5, 2007, 19:33

@RAH — It’s true that I’m “reading into” Obama’s recent statement on Pakistan and basing my interpretation on that. But I don’t think my reading is uninformed. This debate is taking place in the context of five years of aggressive American military action that has been a disaster for the U.S. and the world. My standards are high for what I expect from a candidate for president, particularly a progressive candidate. I see Obama trying to bring “new thinking” to the problem, but he keeps lapsing into the sort of macho posturing that is meant to impress the national security establishment. His stance is full of contradictions, and I wish he would get it ironed out one way or the other!

@Bill Day — My point exactly.

@leblase — You’ve actually taken the time to read the speech, which I haven’t done since I’ve already read two other long Obama foreign policy speeches. I thought I could make an intelligent guess of what I would find there. But now you’ve encouraged me, so I’ll read it the next time I have a few extra minutes….

Your points are excellent, thank you. For point 1) I don’t think it should impress us to find politicians who understand that the root of al Qaeda is in Pakistan and Afghanistan! Isn’t that the very least we should expect? The idea that we are “fighting on the wrong battlefield” is not original to Obama. We need to go deeper with the analysis. I wonder if he takes into account that Pakistan’s national security establishment is an unreliable partner, because it is heavily invested in the Taliban and al Qaeda? I wonder if he is encouraged by the success of civilian, secular opponents to Musharraf like Supreme Court Chief Justice Chaudhry? This is why I will read the speech, though I expect to be disappointed.

I think point 2) more or less answers my question. I didn’t know, by the way, that Karzai was a former arms dealer. I once ate in an Afghan restaurant owned by his brother in San Francisco. At the time, I was a big fan of his—this was in 2002 and my real Afghan hero, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was already dead—so I was hoping they would have his photo in a place of honor. I was disappointed to find that the staff was actually a bit embarassed about the connection!

Moving on to point 3) — yes, the situation is evolving rapidly and a leader should choose to be more circumspect, rather than score points with the pundits or the masses. To be honest, my respect for Hillary Clinton is growing. Obama has been in the news for agreeing to meet the Iranian and Cuban leadership, for taking nuclear weapons off the table against al Qaeda, and for his threat to “act” if Musharraf won’t. I agree with some of these positions and disagree with others, but what worries me is that the only common denominator I see is a desire to grab the headlines, to be bold and break with the past. So your question “conservative or liberal radical?” is right on.

As an antidote to all this, I strongly recommend the speech General Wesley Clark gave yesterday at the Yearly Kos convention of progressive bloggers. General Clark demonstrates exactly the sort of mature, comprehensive, yet progressive foreign policy I haven’t seen from any of the front-running Democratic candidates. He was a candidate for the 2004 presidential nomination but never caught on, and he hasn’t declared his intentions this time around. If he got in the race, I would support him in a heartbeat. I’ve taken the time to transcribe a large chunk of his speech on my blog. The video version is here.

Comment from Sefina
Time: February 2, 2008, 23:45

Barak Obama will be one of the best ever Presidents of the United States of America if elected. There is only one race which is the human race and Barak has my support to the end and over. No need to explain why this is something that everybody should just know by now. And for all the african american and non whites dont make the mistake of not voting…the next opportunity thsat comes along like this youll be 6 feet under. THINK ah good yes you can!!!!!

Comment from Howard
Time: March 23, 2008, 12:35

Why does Bill Richardson want Hillary to drop out of the campaign ASAP! … Because, he has tied his own political future to Obama … and, he knows that because of the Obama/Wright debacle, Hillary will dramatically lead over Obama in all the up-coming democratic primaries.

Obama and his supporters keep saying that the democratic nominee should be the one who gets the most popular votes … not super delegates. But, in addition to Obama accepting Richardson’s delegate vote, even though Hillary won the popular vote in New Mexico … it’s apparent that if Obama’s 20 year association with racist Wright (and indirect association with Farrakan) had been known a year ago by the public … Obama would not have gained a lead in the popular vote … in fact, he probably wouldn’t even still be in the race at all!

The current political situation is exactly why super delegates should vote for Hillary. Obama might have gotten this far, because we didn’t know about his racist affiliations for an entire year … but, from this point on, there’s no way Obama could win in the general election.

I’m a democrat, but I’ll vote (and campaign) for McCain if Obama becomes the democratic candidate!

Comment from Lee
Time: May 16, 2008, 09:43

Don’t you media people ever get tired of shoving your candidate, Barak Obama, down the throats of Americans? From the beginning, we have had to endure your constant media bias and the lop sided promotion of YOUR candidate. You are supposed report the news fairly, with an even hand, providing equal coverage and exposure for both candidates. You may be able to influence the news, but you’re loosing your credibility in the process.

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