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April 24, 2007

More on Obama's Foreign Policy Speech
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

I was going to do a piece on Obama’s foreign policy speech but Shadi seems to have beaten me to the punch.  I’ll just focus on a couple of things that I thought distinguished Senator Obama from some of the other candidates and one thing that they all need to address.

I was thrilled to see that section four, not section one, was cooperation with allies.  Too often progressives confuse ends (Keeping America secure) with means (multilateralism).  Working with others is important but it shouldn’t be our top priority.  Obama doesn’t drivel on about the UN, the ICC or international norms.  Instead, he uses examples where working with others results in tangible and direct benefits to America’s interests.  Global warming and the concept of a new security architecture for Asia, which takes into account the rise of China, are both great examples.  If you want to convince people that working with others will them safer, you have to clearly demonstrate the benefits. He does that effectively, and demonstrates that he believes that working with others is not an end onto itself.

The emphasis on nuclear issues is huge.  This is probably the single most important security threat we face and yet it usually get short shrift because it’s technical and boring.  Obama goes beyond the standard talking point about nuclear terrorism and unsecured nuclear material.  He addresses issues such as interdiction, an international nuclear fuel bank and rethinking the nuclear posture.  He has made the nuclear issue a high priority since he got into the Senate, and it’s reflected in the speech.

The one area where Obama, and all the other candidates on both sides of the aisle need to do more work is military policy.  The proposal to increase the size of the military is a good one.  It has been around for almost four years.  It originally came about because a number of experts looked around and realized that we were going to be in Iraq for years and that to prevent the military from breaking we needed to increase its size.  Well, too late.  The military is broken and will require significant restructuring.  Some of the think tanks are starting to work on new long-term proposals, and I don't expect any of the candidates to have one yet.  But I do hope that before we get to 2008 there is a candidate out there who has an aggressive plan to help the military recover from the Iraq War.


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Ilan, the chief means of helping our military recover from the Iraq war - in addition, of course, to ending the war - is to dismantle a significant portion of the preposterously extended US system of 1000+ military outposts, many of which were built and manned for a post-WWII and Cold War environment that no longer exists. The troops in those outposts can be redeployed stateside, and to more vital areas.

Not that I expect any candidate to actually put this idea forward. The military economy is a "peculiar institution" of the highest order. Both parties will be inclined to pursue military votes by promising more bucks for the armed services.

Ilan, perhaps you might explain what this expanded military force would be used for that would be in compliance with the UN Charter:

# All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

# All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

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