Obama hits Bush on foreign policies
By Mike Dorning
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published April 24, 2007
Sen. Barack Obama accused President Bush on Monday of weakening America's global leadership with a "squandered" response to terrorism as the Democratic presidential candidate committed himself to repair relations with allies and the nation's standing around the world.
The Illinois senator pledged to double U.S. foreign aid if elected president, arguing that improvements in stability and living conditions in poor nations would reduce the appeal of terrorism abroad and bolster security at home.
Delivering his presidential campaign's first major address on foreign policy to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Obama said the U.S. must resist the temptation to turn to isolationism in response to the losses the nation has suffered in Iraq. And he declared, "The American moment is here.
"America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission."
Obama presented the challenges of terrorism, nuclear weapons and global warming as an opportunity to enhance America's influence over the world by emphasizing moral leadership, strengthened alliances and a vigorous U.S. engagement around the globe.
His address provided a withering critique of Bush's handling of the war in Iraq and response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as "based on old ideologies and outdated strategies." He said the Bush administration's uneasy relations with allies and the scandals over mistreatment of prisoners have done long-term damage to the nation's ability to counter the terrorist threat.
"The president may occupy the White House, but for the last six years the position of leader of the free world has remained open. And it's time to fill that role once more," Obama said.
GOP rejects criticism
Responding to the criticism of Bush, Chris Taylor, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said, "Voters want a leader, not someone who continues to throw around criticism and empty rhetoric."
Obama offered a spirited defense of the value of strong ties with foreign allies and international institutions such as the United Nations, arguing they magnify American power more than they constrain it. He also said the U.S. should counter the challenge of Islamist terrorism with a greater emphasis on winning the support of the public in developing nations.
That vision echoes the foreign policy ideas of Democratic presidents who helped shape the U.S. response to the Soviet challenge during the Cold War. Harry Truman constructed an alliance system that included NATO to contain the Soviet Union. The Truman administration's Marshall Plan provided aid to post-World War II Europe to blunt Soviet influence and John Kennedy expanded U.S. aid to the developing world to compete against communist influence there.
Obama added a subtle but clear suggestion that his own life story as the son of an African immigrant who had spent part of his childhood in the developing Islamic nation of Indonesia would give him added credibility as a messenger to the global public.
"It's time we had a president ... who can speak directly to the world, and send a message to all those men and women beyond our shores who long for lives of dignity and security that says 'You matter to us. Your future is our future,'
" Obama said.
More soldiers, Marines urged
Still, Obama offered assurance that he would not shrink from using military force to protect the United States. He also called for an expansion of U.S. ground forces, pledging an enlargement of the Army by 60,000 and the Marines by 27,000.
Obama repeated his support for a withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops in Iraq by March 31, 2008, leaving a limited number of American troops there to fight terrorist groups.
He said he would double current foreign aid spending to $50 billion by 2012.
"A relatively small investment in these fragile states up front can be one of the most effective ways to prevent the terror and strife that is far more costly," Obama said.
He called for the U.S. to "lead by example" to combat global warming by capping and reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the economy.
Obama said he would emphasize diplomatic measures and economic sanctions but use military force "if necessary" to stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons and eliminate North Korea's nuclear program.