Saturday, July 19, 2008

“President” Obama Takes The World Stage


Perhaps John McCain should’ve kept his drooling piehole shut when he chided his rival Senator Barack Obama for not going overseas, especially to combat zones. Because in response, the junior senator from Illinois and the man whom many believe will be the 44th president now gets to play statesman while Congress is in recess. World leaders such as Afghanistan’s president Hamid Karzai will get an advance preview of what to expect from an Obama administration. Typically, the GOP is now criticizing for going to the Middle East a man whom they’d criticized just last month for not going to the Middle East, desperately trying to reduce the Obama trip as a mere "campaign stunt."

In fact, in advance of Senator Obama’s stop in Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has already told Der Spiegel that he likes the Democratic candidate’s withdrawal plan. Of course, the Iraqi government that we’d cobbled together over the last few years has been screaming for us to get the hell out for weeks now and have been virtually ignored by both the Bush administration and State Department.

There are many, many good reasons for Sen. Obama’s lightning-fast trip through Europe, the Persian Gulf, as well as Afghanistan in central Asia. While the Obama campaign is strenuously trying to avoid the appearance of campaigning abroad, that is exactly what it’s doing. The most damning true allegation leveled against Mr. Obama is that he lacks experience, gravitas and pragmatism, especially in the arena of foreign relations. Forging relationships with a very strong possibility of being the next leader of the free world alone is a very good reason for this whirlwind tour. The Middle East, to put it mildly, is a gigantic geopolitical minefield and if Sen. Obama can adroitly skip through this area of the world with tripping any mines, it would be a huge boost to his campaign and standing as a statesman-in-waiting.

It also allows world leaders to see the stark contrast between the young, dynamic senator who’s been associated with the word “change” as George W. Bush has been chained to the word “failure.” After the last G8 and Bush’s previous trip to Europe and the Middle East, governments and their leaders will gain an invaluable insight into how much different the world could be under an Obama administration.

It also allows these world leaders to compare not only their notes but two sets of notes- It’s inevitable but useless to compare a likely incoming president with an outgoing one. However, the contrast between Obama and McCain, especially on foreign policy, is just as marked. While Bush is now speaking vaguely about “time horizons” and McCain sputtering about a century-long occupation in some Utopian Iraqi paradise, Obama is talking about specific numbers (16 months and we’re out of Iraq, he’s been saying. However, it ought to be noted during the 2004 presidential debates, Sen. John Kerry was talking about getting us out by December 2005 and less than three years ago Rep. John Murtha had a more stringent timetable in mind, which was six months.).

While Bush and McCain are hoarsely screaming about non-existent nukes in Iran, Obama is promising to round up all fugitive nuclear weapons that do exist and ridding the world all nuclear weapons. While Bush’s foreign policy consists of ignoring capriciously-designated rogue nations until they accede to all his unreasonable demands, Obama is already advocating opening up negotiations with them, including the government of Iran.

You will not see Sen. Obama cautiously bumbling through a pre-swept Iraqi market swaddled in body armor and surrounded by 100 soldiers and five attack helicopters circling overhead while pretending he’s in a flea market in Muncie. There will be closed-door meetings where Obama will seriously discuss ground conditions with national and local-level politicians as well as our ground commanders.

Bush’s own recent whirlwind trips through Europe and the Middle East and now Obama’s will offer foreign heads of state and the people who live in them an invaluable opportunity to observe and analyze a crucial crossroads in not only American history but also world history. The three men will allow these people and national leaders to see what the United States used to be like in all its hideous, unilateral glory under Bush, how it would continue unabated if not actually accelerated under McCain and a tantalizing if still somewhat vague alternative under a President Obama.

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