Obama’s Speech on Security

Barack Obama gave a major policy speech yesterday; one that has a lot of people buzzing once again that this guy is the real deal. Of course, it also has a lot of people on the left wondering if perhaps he’s too ‘hawkish.’ Here are segments of the speech with my comments…


After 9/11, our calling was to write a new chapter in the American story. To devise new strategies and build new alliances, to secure our homeland and safeguard our values, and to serve a just cause abroad. We were ready. Americans were united. Friends around the world stood shoulder to shoulder with us. We had the might and moral-suasion that was the legacy of generations of Americans. The tide of history seemed poised to turn, once again, toward hope.

But then everything changed.

We did not finish the job against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We did not develop new capabilities to defeat a new enemy, or launch a comprehensive strategy to dry up the terrorists’ base of support. We did not reaffirm our basic values, or secure our homeland.

Instead, we got a color-coded politics of fear. Patriotism as the
possession of one political party. The diplomacy of refusing to talk to
other countries. A rigid 20th century ideology that insisted that the
21st century’s stateless terrorism could be defeated through the
invasion and occupation of a state. A deliberate strategy to
misrepresent 9/11 to sell a war against a country that had nothing to
do with 9/11.

And so, a little more than a year after that
bright September day, I was in the streets of Chicago again, this time
speaking at a rally in opposition to war in Iraq. I did not oppose all
wars, I said. I was a strong supporter of the war in Afghanistan. But I
said I could not support “a dumb war, a rash war” in Iraq. I worried
about a “ U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost,
with undetermined consequences” in the heart of the Muslim world. I
pleaded that we “finish the fight with bin Ladin and al Qaeda.”

The political winds were blowing in a different direction. The
President was determined to go to war. There was just one obstacle: the
U.S. Congress. Nine days after I spoke, that obstacle was removed.
Congress rubber-stamped the rush to war, giving the President the broad
and open-ended authority he uses to this day. With that vote, Congress
became co-author of a catastrophic war. And we went off to fight on the
wrong battlefield, with no appreciation of how many enemies we would
create, and no plan for how to get out. 

Because of a war
in Iraq that should never have been authorized and should never have
been waged, we are now less safe than we were before 9/11.

This is exactly spot on.

Bush shone in the days right after 9/11 — well, after he put on some dry slacks and headed back to the White House from his hide out, anyway. he said all of the right things, and shook the right people’s hands. By September 14, 2001, people were actually starting to feel good again.

Unfortunately, that’s when his presidency effectively ended.

Everything the Bushies have done since then has been about money and power, and I’m sure the power is only to make sure the money keeps flowing to his buddies. Flying is moderately safer, at least inside the cabin, but honestly, even without all of this extra security when entering the terminal, the odds of a repeat of what happened on 9/11 is unlikely. No one will again be able to take the controls of a plane without a fight – ever. But the baggage hold isn’t a whole lot safer, our ports aren’t inspected any more than they were, the immigration situation is still at critical mass, and frankly, most of the actions Bush has undertaken in the intervening six years have made it more likely that terrorists will attack, not less.

The Iraq occupation (can we please stop calling this a war? This stopped being a war four years ago, when Saddam’s government was routed) must absolutely end, and end soon. Muslims don’t want us, or anyone else, there. The people living in the Middle East want to determine their own fate for the first time in more than a thousand years.  The longer we stay there, the longer they see us as just another in a long line of conquering  empires, and the more radical they’ll become. There are enough radical Muslims; there is no need to create more. And yet, that is exactly what we’re doing.

And Sen. Obama is so right when it comes to war. it is shameful that Congress rubber-stamped the Iraq War, regardless of the ‘evidence" presented. No one in their right mind could possibly have seen Iraq as a threat to anyone at the time, and we were already engaged with a group that had demonstrated a threat just a year earlier. no matter what one thought of Iraq and Saddam Hussein, it was simply not credible to believe that Iraq posed a greater threat than al Qaeda.

Sen. Obama continues:

It is time to turn the page. When I am President, we will wage the
war that has to be won, with a comprehensive strategy with five
elements: getting out of Iraq and on to the right battlefield in
Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing the capabilities and partnerships
we need to take out the terrorists and the world’s most deadly weapons;
engaging the world to dry up support for terror and extremism;
restoring our values; and securing a more resilient homeland.

first step must be getting off the wrong battlefield in Iraq, and
taking the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

introduced a plan in January that would have already started bringing
our troops out of Iraq, with a goal of removing all combat brigades by
March 31, 2008. If the President continues to veto this plan, then
ending this war will be my first priority when I take office. 

is no military solution in Iraq. Only Iraq’s leaders can settle the
grievances at the heart of Iraq’s civil war. We must apply pressure on
them to act, and our best leverage is reducing our troop presence. And
we must also do the hard and sustained diplomatic work in the region on
behalf of peace and stability.

In ending the war, we must
act with more wisdom than we started it. That is why my plan would
maintain sufficient forces in the region to target al Qaeda within
Iraq. But we must recognize that al Qaeda is not the primary source of
violence in Iraq, and has little support – not from Shia and Kurds who
al Qaeda has targeted, or Sunni tribes hostile to foreigners. On the
contrary, al Qaeda’s appeal within Iraq is enhanced by our troop

Ending the war will help isolate al Qaeda and
give Iraqis the incentive and opportunity to take them out. It will
also allow us to direct badly needed resources to Afghanistan. Our
troops have fought valiantly there, but Iraq has deprived them of the
support they need—and deserve. As a result, parts of Afghanistan are
falling into the hands of the Taliban, and a mix of terrorism, drugs,
and corruption threatens to overwhelm the country.

As President, I would deploy at least two additional brigades to
Afghanistan to re-enforce our counter-terrorism operations and support
NATO’s efforts against the Taliban. As we step up our commitment, our
European friends must do the same, and without the burdensome
restrictions that have hampered NATO’s efforts. We must also put more
of an Afghan face on security by improving the training and equipping
of the Afghan Army and Police, and including Afghan soldiers in U.S.
and NATO operations.

I know a lot of liberals will find this "hawkish," but the fact of the matter is, it’s the right thing to do. We have to fight the bad elements in these place, not just to keep ourselves safe, but to protect the people in the Middle East, as well. Think about it; they’ve terrorized us a few times in the past 20 years, but the poor people who live over there have been putting up with them for many more years, and many more times. I don’t know the answer to this, because I’m not on the inside, but I would suspect that our intelligence people are having a far more difficult time getting useful information these days, because people are more fearful of the United States. In other words, they don’t trust us or the terrorists.

There is no military solution in Iraq. On the other hand, there is no diplomatic solution to be had with al Qaeda. These are people without a country, in an almost literal way. They are being hidden in the wilds of Pakistan, with no government affiliation. And they are only safe because we aren’t going after them.

For whatever reason, Bush is using Musharraf’s and Pakistan’s sovereignty as his excuse for not going into Pakistan and routing al Qaeda once and for all. Funny; it didn’t stop him from invading Iraq, and taking over the entire country; now we’re claiming we can’t persuade him to allow us to go into a small corner of the country and take out specific people who have done us harm? Okay, fine; if he won’t allow us to do it, then why isn’t the Pakistani Army going in there and doing it for us? Aren’t they our "Allies"? If a steady stream of Germans were using Britain as a home base to attack the US, what would we do if Gordon Brown refused to help us out?

Now, I said the solution to the al Qaeda was only a military solution. Understand that the al Qaeda problem is different than the Afghanistan problem. We must do our best to help the Afghan people find their way to a stable government of their choosing. We can’t simply leave Afghanistan broken; we have to put as much of our resources into helping the, build a society they can live with. That requires a political solution, with a variety of players.

To succeed, we must improve our civilian capacity. The finest
military in the world is adapting to the challenges of the 21st
century. But it cannot counter insurgent and terrorist threats without
civilian counterparts who can carry out economic and political
reconstruction missions – sometimes in dangerous places. As President,
I will strengthen these civilian capacities, recruiting our best and
brightest to take on this challenge. I will increase both the numbers
and capabilities of our diplomats, development experts, and other
civilians who can work alongside our military. We can’t just say there
is no military solution to these problems. We need to integrate all
aspects of American might.

One component of this integrated
approach will be new Mobile Development Teams that bring together
personnel from the State Department, the Pentagon, and USAID. These
teams will work with civil society and local governments to make an
immediate impact in peoples’ lives, and to turn the tide against
extremism. Where people are most vulnerable, where the light of hope
has grown dark, and where we are in a position to make a real
difference in advancing security and opportunity – that is where these
teams will go.

Again, Sen. Obama hit the nail on the head. Having the finest military in the world is a great thing, but its primary mission should be defense. As in protecting the United States. The military should always be a last resort, used when all other measure fail, not as a first resort, in a vain attempt to "force" others to comply to our will. The United States of America needs more friends, not more enemies. More enemies means a greater need for resources, meaning more tax money, and greater vigilance. The Marshall Plan was probably the single greatest achievement by the United States government in our history. We simultaneously rebuilt Europe after World War II, lessened the dangers to Americans around the world, and created an economic boom that has lasted, to some extent, to this day. Yet, we have not repeated our accomplishment. That is, in a word, ludicrous.

One thing that George W. Bush said during his 2000 campaign that made sense was that the United States has to stop telling other countries how to live, and we have to stop being the world’s policeman. It was one of the few things he said that made sense, and yet, he has proceeded to do the exact opposite when he obtained the reins of power.  Our reputation has taken a major hit in countries all around the world, and the next president will have no choice but to repair that damage, and the best way to do so is to return us to the role of benevolent superpower. It’s really strange, isn’t it? We won the Cold War largely on our reputation for being strong but fair, and yet the right wingers who have largely guided this country off the cliff by abandoning principle over blind strength.

Sen. Obama simply rocks. He gets it. This country needs a leader who understands that we have to be strong, but that we also have to be benevolent and fair. We have to go after those who would hurt us, when there is no other choice, but we also have to take pains to make it less likely that others hurt us. Meddling in the Middle East, occupying one country and ham-handedly threatening other countries has created more terrorists than anything in recent years. We can’t let bullies get away with attacking us, but we also can’t be just like the bullies.

This is one of the best campaign speeches I’ve ever read (I wish I’d seen it, and if the Obama campaign wouldn’t mind, I would love to put the video of it up on my web site.) Democrats have to stop triangulating on defense, and we have to make people understand that George Bush isn’t tough on terrorism; quite the opposite; he’s probably the greatest enabler of terrorism in history.

BarackObama.com | Sam Graham-Felsen’s Blog: Senator Obama Delivers Address on National Security.

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