Foreign Policy (Democrat Party)

“I am running for President of the United States to lead this country in a new direction… Instead of being distracted from the most pressing threats that we face, I want to overcome them. Instead of pushing the entire burden of our foreign policy on to the brave men and women of our military, I want to use all elements of American power to keep us safe, and prosperous, and free. Instead of alienating ourselves from the world, I want America – once again – to lead…
This must be the moment when we answer the call of history. For eight years, we have paid the price for a foreign policy that lectures without listening; that divides us from one another – and from the world – instead of calling us to a common purpose; that focuses on our tactics in fighting a war without end in Iraq instead of forging a new strategy to face down the true threats that we face. We cannot afford four more years of a strategy that is out of balance and out of step with this defining moment.”
— Barack Obama, Washington, D.C., July 15, 2008

As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Obama has fought to strengthen America's position in the world. Reaching across the aisle, Obama has tackled problems such as preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction and stopping the genocide in Darfur.
Obama rejects the notion that the American moment has passed and believes that America must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission. Obama believes that America must lead the world, by deed and example, and that America cannot meet the threats of the century alone and that the world cannot meet them without America.

SIX months ago, in a mock poll conducted at the US-Islamic World Forum, a gathering of influential Muslims and Americans held every year in the Gulf state of Qatar, Barack Obama won a resounding victory as the preferred choice for the next American president. If one is to believe internet chatter from America's extreme right, the Illinois senator's popularity among Muslims in the Middle East might be due to the allegations that he is 43.75% Arab by blood, or that he has been secretly funded by Arabs with ties to terrorism. Then again, it might just be natural that a candidate who has some Muslim ancestry, and who has protested against the widely loathed policies of the Bush administration, would inspire more enthusiasm than a Republican opponent committed to continuing those policies. Oddly enough, however, recent statistical and anecdotal evidence from the region shows that enthusiasm for Mr Obama is less fulsome than might be expected.

The lukewarm feelings partly reflect the burgeoning over the past eight years of a more general cynicism towards America. In a global opinion survey taken last spring regarding expectations from a new American president, results from five Muslim countries polled clashed with more optimistic opinions elsewhere; large majorities expected that American policies under any new administration would either not change much, or change for the worse. "Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell were both black, and they still invaded Iraq," scoffs a Cairo taxi driver.
From Tehran to Tunis, a common refrain in ordinary conversation is that somehow, by hook or by crook, powers within the American establishment "will not allow" Mr Obama to win, either because he is black, or because he has a Muslim middle name, or because he appears to have challenged the imperial ambitions of Washington's inner cabal.

Among intellectuals, the widespread belief is that by election time in November the Democrat contender will, in any case, have been obliged to pander to interest groups, such as the mythically strong pro-Israel lobby, to the point where his foreign policies scarcely diverge from the incumbent's. Mr Obama's much-quoted speech before the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington in June, in which he endorsed a "united" Jerusalem as Israel's capital (a position his campaign later tempered), and his subsequent five-country tour in the region last month, only reinforced such doubts.

Much Arab press coverage focused on the fact that during his 36-hour stop in Israel, the candidate managed to spend barely an hour with Palestinian leaders. "You would need a microscope to locate the difference between the statements made by Obama during his recent trip to the region, especially in the Israeli-Palestinian part of the itinerary, and between the stances and policies currently pursued by the Bush administration," grumbled Elias Harfoush, a columnist for the liberal pan-Arab daily, AL HAYAT. A spokesman for Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist party that seized control of the Gaza Strip last year, declared that the policies of Mr Obama and his rival, John McCain, appeared equally hostile. As recently as April, a leading Hamas official had said that he "liked" the Democrat, and hoped he would win. Yet there remains a strong underlying desire, in a region that has come to despair of ever breaking its multiple deadlocks, that regime change in America could reverberate positively here. "Arabs are divided between a sceptical majority that sees no difference between John McCain and Barack Obama, and a hopeful minority that believes Obama could narrow the gap between the Muslim world and the West," says Marwan Bishara, the chief political analyst for al Jazeera, a popular satellite TV network.

Jihad al-Khazen, a seasoned editor at AL HAYAT, suggests that the challenge from Mr Obama has already begun to influence American policy. Both Mr Bush and Mr McCain, he noted in a recent column, initially attacked the Democrat's call for dialogue with Iran as "appeasement", and his demand to withdraw American forces from Iraq as naive. Yet the Bush administration recently, and for the first time, dispatched a diplomat to join multi-party talks with Iran over its alleged nuclear weapon ambitions. Mr Bush has lately spoken of the need for a "time horizon" for America's engagement in Iraq.

Just as Muslims and Arabs might be expected to back Mr Obama, Jewish Israelis, ever concerned with security and anxious to avoid a lessening of superpower support, could be expected to favour Mr McCain's "staying the course" approach. Yet Mr Obama's careful reiteration of American orthodoxies regarding Israel has helped secure him not only overwhelming support among American Jews, but also improved his ratings in the Jewish state. A poll at the end of July put him barely 7 points behind Mr McCain among Israeli Jews, compared with a 20-point gap in May. Perhaps more tellingly, as Israel enters its own election season unusually bereft of inspiring leaders, the same poll revealed that, among younger Israelis, it is Mr Obama who is strongly favoured to win.

-Info gotten from the Economist

The Problem
Inadequate Security and Political Progress in Iraq: Since the surge began, more than 1,000 American troops have died, and despite the improved security situation, the Iraqi government has not stepped forward to lead the Iraqi people and to reach the genuine political accommodation that was the stated purpose of the surge. Our troops have heroically helped reduce civilian casualties in Iraq to early 2006 levels. This is a testament to our military’s hard work, improved counterinsurgency tactics, and enormous sacrifice by our troops and military families. It is also a consequence of the decision of many Sunnis to turn against al Qaeda in Iraq, and a lull in Shia militia activity. But the absence of genuine political accommodation in Iraq is a direct result of President Bush’s failure to hold the Iraqi government accountable.
Strains on the Military: More than 1.75 million servicemen and women have served in Iraq or Afghanistan; more than 620,000 troops have completed multiple deployments. Military members have endured multiple deployments taxing both them and their families. Additionally, military equipment is wearing out at nine times the normal rate after years of constant use in Iraq’s harsh environment. As Army Chief of Staff General George Casey said in March, “Today’s Army is out of balance. The current demand for our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds the sustainable supply and limits our ability to provide ready forces for other contingencies.”
Resurgent Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: The decision to invade Iraq diverted resources from the war in Afghanistan, making it harder for us to kill or capture Osama Bin Laden and others involved in the 9/11 attacks. Nearly seven years later, the Taliban has reemerged in southern Afghanistan while Al Qaeda has used the space provided by the Iraq war to regroup, train and plan for another attack on the United States. 2007 was the most violent year in Afghanistan since the invasion in 2001. The scale of our deployments in Iraq continues to set back our ability to finish the fight in Afghanistan, producing unacceptable strategic risks.
A New Strategy Needed: The Iraq war has lasted longer than World War I, World War II, and the Civil War. More than 4,000 Americans have died. More than 60,000 have been injured and wounded. The United States may spend $2.7 trillion on this war and its aftermath, yet we are less safe around the globe and more divided at home. With determined ingenuity and at great personal cost, American troops have found the right tactics to contain the violence in Iraq, but we still have the wrong strategy to press Iraqis to take responsibility at home, and restore America’s security and standing in the world.

Barack Obama's Plan
Judgment You Can Trust
In 2002, as the conventional thinking in Washington lined up with President Bush for war, Obama had the judgment and courage to speak out against going to war, and to warn of “an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs, and undetermined consequences.” He is fully committed to ending the war in Iraq as president.
A Responsible, Phased Withdrawal
Barack Obama believes we must be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in. Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq: ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased, directed by military commanders on the ground and done in consultation with the Iraqi government. Military experts believe we can safely redeploy combat brigades from Iraq at a pace of 1 to 2 brigades a month that would remove them in 16 months. That would be the summer of 2010 – more than 7 years after the war began.
Under the Obama plan, a residual force will remain in Iraq and in the region to conduct targeted counter-terrorism missions against al Qaeda in Iraq and to protect American diplomatic and civilian personnel. He will not build permanent bases in Iraq, but will continue efforts to train and support the Iraqi security forces as long as Iraqi leaders move toward political reconciliation and away from sectarianism.
Encouraging Political Accommodation
Barack Obama believes that the U.S. must apply pressure on the Iraqi government to work toward real political accommodation. There is no military solution to Iraq’s political differences, but the Bush Administration’s blank check approach has failed to press Iraq’s leaders to take responsibility for their future or to substantially spend their oil revenues on their own reconstruction.
Obama's plan offers the best prospect for lasting stability in Iraq. A phased withdrawal will encourage Iraqis to take the lead in securing their own country and making political compromises, while the responsible pace of redeployment called for by Obama’s plan offers more than enough time for Iraqi leaders to get their own house in order. As our forces redeploy, Obama will make sure we engage representatives from all levels of Iraqi society—in and out of government—to forge compromises on oil revenue sharing, the equitable provision of services, federalism, the status of disputed territories, new elections, aid to displaced Iraqis, and the reform of Iraqi security forces.
Surging Diplomacy
Barack Obama will launch an aggressive diplomatic effort to reach a comprehensive compact on the stability of Iraq and the region. This effort will include all of Iraq’s neighbors—including Iran and Syria, as suggested by the bi-partisan The Iraq Study Group Report. This compact will aim to secure Iraq’s borders; keep neighboring countries from meddling inside Iraq; isolate al Qaeda; support reconciliation among Iraq’s sectarian groups; and provide financial support for Iraq’s reconstruction and development.
Preventing Humanitarian Crisis
Barack Obama believes that America has both a moral obligation and a responsibility for security that demands we confront Iraq’s humanitarian crisis—more than five million Iraqis are refugees or are displaced inside their own country. Obama will form an international working group to address this crisis. He will provide at least $2 billion to expand services to Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries, and ensure that Iraqis inside their own country can find sanctuary. Obama would also work with Iraqi authorities and the international community to hold the perpetrators of potential war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide accountable. He would reserve the right to intervene militarily, with our international partners, to suppress potential genocidal violence within Iraq.
The Status-of-Forces-Agreement
Obama believes any Status of Forces Agreement, or any strategic framework agreement, should be negotiated in the context of a broader commitment by the U.S. to begin withdrawing its troops and forswearing permanent bases. Obama also believes that any security accord must be subject to Congressional approval. It is unacceptable that the Iraqi government will present the agreement to the Iraqi parliament for approval—yet the Bush administration will not do the same with the U.S. Congress. The Bush administration must submit the agreement to Congress or allow the next administration to negotiate an agreement that has bipartisan support here at home and makes absolutely clear that the U.S. will not maintain permanent bases in Iraq.

Barack Obama’s Record
  1. Barack Obama opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. In 2002, as the conventional thinking in Washington lined up for war, Obama had the judgment and courage to speak out against the war. He said the war would lead to “an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs and undetermined consequences.” In January 2007, Obama introduced legislation to responsibly end the war in Iraq, with a phased withdrawal of troops engaged in combat operations.
    1. The Problem: Iran has sought nuclear weapons, supports militias inside Iraq and terror across the region, and its leaders threaten Israel and deny the Holocaust. But Obama believes that we have not exhausted our non-military options in confronting this threat; in many ways, we have yet to try them. That's why Obama stood up to the Bush administration's warnings of war, just like he stood up to the war in Iraq.
    2. Opposed Bush-Cheney Saber Rattling: Obama opposed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which says we should use our military presence in Iraq to counter the threat from Iran. Obama believes that it was reckless for Congress to give George Bush any justification to extend the Iraq War or to attack Iran. Obama also introduced a resolution in the Senate declaring that no act of Congress – including Kyl-Lieberman – gives the Bush administration authorization to attack Iran.
    3. Diplomacy: Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Now is the time to pressure Iran directly to change their troubling behavior. Obama would offer the Iranian regime a choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation. Seeking this kind of comprehensive settlement with Iran is our best way to make progress.


~This page was assembled by Raewyn Duvall