Challenging Washington’s Foreign Policies

November 9, 2008
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” We’re not going be safe in a world of unconventional threats with the same old conventional thinking that got us into Iraq. We’re not going to unite a divided America to confront these threats with the same old conventional politics of just trying to beat the other side. In 2009, we will have a window of opportunity to renew our global leadership and bring our nation together. If we don’t seize that moment, we may not get another. This election is a turning point. The American people get to decide: are we going to turn back the clock, or turn the page?”
[Speech in Chicago, 10/02/07]

“Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors. . . . I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.”
[Speech in Chicago, 10/02/02]

“The war in Iraq should never have been fought. . . . The American people weren’t just
failed by President Bush, they were failed by Washington.”

This is Not Just Bush’s War: We will fail to learn the lessons of the Iraq War if we simply blame George W. Bush. The war in Iraq should never have been fought, and the decision to go to war is a clear example of how conventional Washington thinking has failed the American people. By authorizing the war, many in Congress accepted the conventional thinking that the threat from Saddam Hussein was imminent and enhanced by 9/11. They decided to take the president at his word that he was not overstating the intelligence, that he would try to work with the United Nations, and that he would use military force only after an aggressive effort at diplomacy. The media, by-and-large, failed to report doubts about war intelligence and fanned pro-war sentiments, while the Washington foreign policy elite largely lined up behind President Bush.

Obama Opposed the War in Iraq from the Beginning: On October 2, 2002, as Washington lined up for war, Barack Obama had the judgment and courage to speak out against it. Five years ago today, Obama said the war would lead to “an occupation of undetermined length, with undetermined costs and undetermined consequences.”

Conventional Thinking is Blocking Progress Today: Conventional thinking in Washington is as entrenched now as it was in 2002, and it is standing in the way of progress in Iraq and beyond. Those differences have been on ample display in this campaign. Conventional thinking says we should not talk to our adversaries, that we should not hunt down al Qaeda leadership, that we need to threaten the use of nuclear weapons to take out terrorist training camps, and that we cannot be candid with the American people about our foreign policy. Conventional thinking measures experience only by the years lived in Washington. Barack Obama has a different experience living and serving in the wider world – experience that gave him the judgment to get the most important decision of the post-Cold War era right, while Washington got it wrong. Barack Obama will challenge Washington and create a new beginning to secure America and restore our standing in the world.

Applying Lessons Learned from Iraq Abroad
“We’re not going to defeat the threats of the 21st century on a conventional battlefield.  We’re not going to counter terrorism or stop nuclear proliferation by invading and  occupying other countries.”

There is No Military Solution to Iraq’s Civil War: Barack Obama would responsibly end the war by beginning an immediate withdrawal of combat troops and completing the drawdown of those troops by the end of 2008. Drawing down our troop presence is the best way to finally apply real pressure on the Iraqi government to make the political accommodations necessary to end the civil war. Obama would call for a new constitutional convention with the United Nations that includes all segments of Iraq’s population and that would not adjourn until Iraq’s leaders reached a new accord on reconciliation. He would use presidential leadership to surge our diplomacy with all of the nations of the region on behalf of a new regional security compact and a major initiative to confront Iraq’s humanitarian crisis.

Get on the Right Battlefield and Ensure No Terrorist Safe Havens:  More than six years after 9/11, al Qaeda’s leadership remains at large. A recent National Intelligence Estimate warned that the leadership is using a safe haven in Northwest Pakistan to plan the next attack against America. Conventional thinking says we shouldn’t take out Osama bin Laden and other high-profile terrorist targets within the tribal areas of Pakistan if we have actionable intelligence and Pakistan is unwilling or unable to act. If Pakistan is willing to go after high-level terrorist targets like Osama bin Laden, Obama would give Pakistan all of the support it needs. But Obama made clear that, as president, if he had actionable intelligence about the whereabouts of al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan – and the Pakistanis cannot or will not act against terrorists known to be behind attacks on American civilians – then he will use highly targeted force to do so, a position endorsed by the bipartisan co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission in a Washington Post Op-Ed. When challenged on the substance of Obama’s argument, many in Washington said we should take out al Qaeda targets, but that it would be a “very big mistake” to make that clear top the public. Barack Obama believes you have to tell the American people where you stand if you want to be president.

Obama Would Rule out Nuclear Weapons to Destroy Terrorist Camps: Conventional thinking said Barack Obama was irresponsible for taking nuclear weapons off the table for attacking terrorist targets in Pakistan. Barack Obama shares the view of military planners who believe that using a nuclear weapon on a terrorist target in Pakistan would be unnecessary, as the United States has sufficient conventional options for taking out such targets. Barack Obama does not view nuclear weapons as just another weapon in our arsenal, and he will work to reduce the chance that these weapons fall into dangerous hands and reduce the chance that they are used anywhere in the world.

Rejuvenate American Leadership to Prevent the Spread of Nuclear Weapons and Materials.
“The best way to keep America safe is not to threaten terrorists with nuclear weapons – it’s to keep nuclear weapons and nuclear materials away from terrorists.”

Because conventional thinking has failed to adapt to a world of new threats, nearly two decades after the end of the Cold War, America still has a Cold-War nuclear posture that is stuck in the last century. As George Shultz, Bill Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn have warned, we are at a nuclear precipice, and the actions we are taking now are not sufficient to meet the threat. Barack Obama will revamp our nuclear posture and renew nonproliferation efforts to match the realities of the 21st century. He will focus on preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, materials, and technology into dangerous hands.

Obama Will Set Goal of Nuclear-Free World: Obama will set a new direction and show the world that America believes in the commitment made under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to work to ultimately eliminate nuclear stockpiles. Obama has said that America will not disarm unilaterally. Indeed, as long as nuclear weapons exist, the United States will retain a strong nuclear deterrent, but Obama will set new course for our nation and the world to reduce reliance on these weapons and prevent them from getting into dangerous hands – whether they are states or terrorists.

Obama Will Secure Nuclear Weapons Materials in Four Years: Barack Obama will lead a global effort to secure all nuclear weapons materials at vulnerable sites within four years – the most effective way to prevent terrorists from acquiring a nuclear bomb.  Barack Obama will work with Russia to make sure nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons materials in Russia and around the world are secured. He will work with other countries to develop and implement a comprehensive set of standards to protect nuclear materials from theft. He also will increase the pace at which nuclear security detectors are placed at key border crossings.

Obama Will Work with Russia to Take Nuclear Weapons off Hair-Trigger Alert: The United States and Russia have thousands of nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert. Barack Obama believes that we should take our nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert – something that George W. Bush promised to do when he was campaigning for president in 2000. Maintaining this Cold War stance today is unnecessary and increases the risk of an accidental or unauthorized nuclear launch. As president, Obama will work with Russia to find common ground and bring significantly more weapons off hair-trigger alert.

Obama Will Negotiate to Dramatically Reduce Nuclear Stockpiles: With thousands and thousands of nuclear weapons on each side, both the United States and Russia have not made sufficient progress to reduce the size of their nuclear arsenals. This has undermined their commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and their efforts to secure and reduce the spread of nuclear weapons and materials around the world. Barack Obama will start by verifiably ending production of fissile material for
weapons and by gaining agreement not to build new weapons. He will seek deep cuts with Russia and other nuclear powers to reduce global stockpiles dramatically by the end of his presidency.

Obama Will Seek a Global Ban on Intermediate-Range Missiles: At the height of the Cold War 20 years ago, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev signed a treaty to eliminate missiles with a range of 300-3,400 miles, which resulted in the destruction of 2,692 missiles, and removed many missiles from Europe. Today, while the U.S. and Russia still do not have these missiles, other countries do. These weapons are destabilizing because they can carry conventional, biological, chemical and/or nuclear warheads; and once they are launched there is no way to recall them and no way to determine what they carry until impact. This uncertainty is destabilizing and makes a catastrophic nuclear exchange more likely. Barack Obama will seek a global ban on the development, production and deployment of these missiles.

Obama Will Address North Korea’s and Iran’s Nuclear Programs: Barack Obama will use a combination of diplomacy and pressure both to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. He will also seek to strengthen the NPT so that any violation automatically triggers sanctions. Obama has a bill pending in the Senate to permit states to divest pension funds of stocks in companies that invest in Iran’s energy sector, thereby denying Iran a critical source of hard currency to advance its illicit nuclear program. Though the bill passed the House
overwhelmingly, an anonymous, secret hold from one Senator is keeping the Senate from
sending it to the White House for the president’s signature.

Obama Will Seek a Verifiable Ban on the Production of Nuclear Materials for Weapons: Barack Obama will negotiate a verifiable global ban on the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for use in nuclear weapons. Obama will create an international fuel bank to back up commercial fuel supplies so that there is an assured supply of fuel and no more excuses for nations like Iran to build their own enrichment
plants. He will increase funding for International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to prevent theft or diversion of weapons of mass destruction and material throughout the world. And he will strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty so that any violation automatically triggers a full range of sanctions. Each of these steps is outlined in a bipartisan bill Obama introduced with Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE).

Change Thinking on Diplomacy
“This will require a new era of American diplomacy. To signal the dawn of that era, we need a president who is willing to talk to all nations, friend and foe. I’m not afraid that America will lose a propaganda battle with a dictator – we need to go before the world and win those battles.”
Conventional thinking in Washington said it is “irresponsible and frankly naive” to have open dialogue. It says that dealing with dictators will give our opponents a propaganda victory.

Not Talking Doesn’t Work: The United States has not talked directly to Iran at a high level; and Iran has continued to build its nuclear weapons program, wreak havoc in Iraq, and support terror. The United States has not talked directly to Syria at a high level; and Syria has continued to meddle in Lebanon and support terror. The United States did not talk to North Korea for years; and that country was able to produce enough material for six to eight more nuclear bombs. Not talking denies us an opportunity to state our position forcefully and directly. It makes America look arrogant, and it makes it harder to rally international support for our diplomacy.

Obama Will Renew American Diplomacy: Barack Obama believes that conducting diplomacy with your adversaries as well as your friends is a matter of common sense. It is also the lesson of our history: John F. Kennedy had a direct line to Nikita Khruschev; Richard Nixon met with Mao Zedong; Ronald Reagan was negotiating arms agreements with Mikhail Gorbachev, even as he called on him to “tear down this wall.” Barack Obama knows that skillful diplomacy can drive wedges between adversaries; that the only way to know your enemy is to take their measure; and that tough talk is of little use if you’re not willing to do it directly to adversaries. Obama is not afraid of losing a public relations battle to a dictator; he’s ready for America to go before the world and win those battles, because that’s how tough, smart diplomacy works, and that’s how American leaders have scored some of the greatest strategic successes in US history.

Obama Will Strengthen the State Department: Although the size of the U.S. Foreign Service has increased in recent years, a quarter of State Department jobs are unfilled. In recent decades we have shut consulates or embassies in Nigeria, Tanzania, Congo and Somalia–hot spots where America should have a multi-post presence. As president, Barack Obama will increase the size of the U.S. Foreign Service by 25 percent to add more language specialists, economists, agricultural and public health experts as well as economic development experts. He will treat Foreign Service officers with the respect, pay, and career advancement opportunities they deserve. He will open more consulates in tough parts of the world so that we can spread America’s message and promote development exactly where it is needed most.

Obama Will Fight Global Poverty: Obama knows that in the 21st century, progress must not just mean freedom – it must mean freedom from fear and freedom from want. The lesson of his own experience – as an American boy living in Indonesia, as a community organizer in neighborhoods left behind by global change, and as a state senator and United States senator – is that change must come from the bottom up. We need new approaches around the world to help people to help themselves. In 2000, the United Nations and Member states agreed to eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which aim to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015. Obama will make the MDGs America’s goals.

Obama Will Double Foreign Assistance to Meet the Millennium Development Goals: Obama will double U.S. spending on foreign aid from $25 billion to $50 billion a year by 2012. He will target this new spending towards strategic goals, including helping the world’s weakest states to build healthy and educated communities, reduce poverty, develop markets, and generate wealth. He also will help weak states fight terrorism, halt the spread of deadly weapons, and build the health care infrastructure needed to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS as well as detect and contain outbreaks of avian influenza. With this increase in our foreign assistance, the U.S. will be better positioned to seek greater
contributions from other nations in pursuit of the MDGs.

Bring the American People Back into Our Foreign Policy
“We face real threats in the world. Any president needs the latitude to confront those
threats swiftly and surely. But we’ve paid a heavy price for having a president whose
priority is expanding his own power… We get secret task forces, secret budgeting, slanted intelligence, and the shameful smearing of people who speak out against the president’s policies. All of this has left us where we are today: more divided, more distrusted, more in debt, and mired in an endless war. A war to disarm a dictator has become an open-ended occupation of a foreign country. This is not America. This is not who we are.”

Conventional thinking says foreign policy should be made in secret, and that American leaders “shouldn’t always say everything you think,” when it comes to honestly discussing foreign policy decisions. Barack Obama believes that the American people are part of the solution to our failing national security policies, not part of the problem.
Obama will turn the page on Washington secrecy and bring the American people into discussions about the challenges the country faces abroad.

Obama Will Hold 21st Century Fireside Chats: People who care deeply about foreign policy but live outside the Beltway rarely have the opportunity to question and interact with government leaders. Messages are filtered through the media, and many times the hard questions are not asked. Barack Obama will bring foreign policy decisions directly to the people by requiring his national security officials to have periodic national broadband town hall meetings to discuss foreign policy. He will personally deliver occasional fireside chats via webcast.

Obama Will Deliver Annual State of the World Address: Similar to the president’s State of the Union Address, Barack Obama’s State of the World Address will clearly lay out to the American people the foreign policy challenges and opportunities that face the American people. It also will explain the direction of, and rationale for, American foreign policy.

Obama Will Reverse Policy of Secrecy: President Bush has overseen an unprecedented rise in official secrecy. In 2005, his administration classified 14.2 million documents, a fourfold increase since 1995. Bush’s administration has invoked the “state secrets” privilege to withhold documents 39 times since 2001. In comparison, at the height of the Cold War, the privilege was only used six times between 1953 and 1976. As president, Barack Obama will reverse this policy of secrecy. He will institute a national declassification center – based upon the recommendation of the Moynihan Commission on Secrecy – with a mission to streamline declassification. The Declassification Center will serve as a clearinghouse to set rules and regulations for declassification for federal agencies, and to make declassification secure but routine, efficient, and cost-effective.

Change Thinking on Bipartisanship.
“When I’m president, I will turn the page on the imperial presidency that views national
security as a partisan issue, and shuts out the peoples’ representatives.”

Conventional thinking in Washington has dragged down American foreign policy to be a tool in partisan political battles. George W. Bush used Iraq and the War on Terror to divide the American people and score easy political points through three national elections. Too often he politicized intelligence and shut out the peoples’ representatives. Barack Obama will bring the American people together around our foreign policy and get politics out of intelligence.

Obama Will Depoliticize Intelligence: Established in late 2004, the office of Director of National Intelligence (DNI) is supposed to coordinate intelligence gathering across federal spy agencies. Currently, the DNI serves at the pleasure of the president and works out of the Executive Office of the President. Worries that this may lead to a politicization of intelligence erupted earlier this month, when DNI Mike McConnell admitted that he had inaccurately told Congress that a recently passed electronic-surveillance law helped U.S. authorities foil a major terror plot in Germany. Furthermore, turnover at the top of our intelligence agencies has set back management and efforts at reform. As president, Barack Obama will insulate the DNI from political pressure by giving the DNI a fixed term like the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the chairman of the Federal Reserve. Obama will seek consistency and integrity at the top of our intelligence
community – not just a political ally.

Obama Will Convene a Bipartisan Consultative Group: Barack Obama will convene a bipartisan, bicameral Consultative Group of leading members of Congress to foster better executive-legislative relations and bipartisan unity on foreign policy. This group will be comprised of the congressional leadership of both political parties, and the chair and ranking members of the Armed Services, Foreign Relations, Intelligence, and Appropriations Committees. This group will meet with the president once every month to review U.S. foreign policy priorities, and will be consulted in advance of major military action.



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