Chicago Sun-Times Editorial - Obama shouldn't be reactive to critics - The candidate should not form his foreign policy because he is afraid
Copyright by THe Chicago Sun-Times
August 5, 2007
Sen. Barack Obama shouldn't allow his foreign policy to be shaped by criticism that he's "naive" on international affairs.
Though he has long criticized the Iraq war, Obama came out this week sounding an awful lot like a hawk Wednesday when he said he'd launch a strike on Pakistan, our tenuous ally and a nuclear power, to get at terrorists in hiding along the Afghanistan/ Pakistan border.
Even though his campaign insists his stance was formed weeks ago, excerpts of his speech before the Woodrow Wilson Scholars in Washington, D.C., made many question whether his controversial plan was simply a campaign strategy -- a reaction to Hillary Clinton's earlier charge that Obama was "irresponsible and naive" for saying he'd open talks with leaders of rogue nations. That Clinton echoed Obama's stance on Pakistan seemed to go unnoticed. The freshman senator does sit on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Then on Thursday, Obama appeared to be making policy during a media interview. Asked if there were any circumstances in which he would be prepared or willing to use nuclear weapons against terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he replied: "I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance," adding, after a pause, "involving civilians." Then he quickly added, "Let me scratch that. There's been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That's not on the table."
Wise men do not apologize for taking time to think. And we'd like to think that Obama is taking full advantage of the experienced foreign policy experts he has on his staff. We certainly wouldn't want him to commit to getting the United States involved in any more Middle East conflicts simply because he wanted to deflect criticism that he wasn't strong enough in dealing with terrorists.
What started all this was Obama's statement during the YouTube debate two weeks ago when he said he would be willing to meet with governments long shunned by the U.S. In his speech last week, he repeated the position, saying "not talking does not work." He named Iran, Syria and North Korea. We happen to agree that diplomacy is far better than silence. A generation ago, it was hard to imagine the United States having diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union or China.
We urge Obama to pace himself and not let the breakneck speed of the e-world or the snarking of his political opponents set it for him. Voters demand answers from those who ask to lead us. Good answers. Thoughtful answers. Honest answers. Not answers shaped on the fly.