Playing It Safe On Foreign Policy
Barack Obama gave a major foreign policy speech yesterday at the Chicago Council of Global Affairs; a speech intended to show the foreign policy Wise Men inside the Beltway that he was ready for prime time. Since Colin Powell has been advising Obama, it comes as no surprise that the speech sounds like it came out of Bush 41’s foreign policy shop, nor is that a bad thing for a senator trying to show he can see the world as the Beltway crowd does.
Obama makes the correct points about the challenges we face after eight years of damage from the Bush/Cheney train wreck; damage to our military, our international relationships, and the administration’s misplaced priorities. He is trying to lay out an overall framework that assures the Wise Men that he belongs, which makes sense politically when you are aiming to give the media a reason to sanction you. Yet Clinton’s team or even 41’s team could have written it. Two areas that were less than satisfactory were on Iraq and energy security.
In a speech five months ago, I argued that there can be no military solution to what has become a political conflict between Sunni and Shi’a factions. And I laid out a plan that I still believe offers the best chance of pressuring these warring factions toward a political settlement – a phased withdrawal of American forces with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31st, 2008.
I acknowledged at the time that there are risks involved in such an approach. That is why my plan provides for an over-the-horizon force that could prevent chaos in the wider region, and allows for a limited number of troops to remain in Iraq to fight al Qaeda and other terrorists.
Given the damage Bush has done to this country among the Islamic world, why do Obama and Hillary feel any residual in-country force will be welcome?
Energy And Global Warming
As the world’s largest producers of greenhouse gases, America has the greatest responsibility to lead here. We must enact a cap and trade system that will dramatically reduce our carbon emissions. And we must finally free ourselves from our dependence on foreign oil by raising our fuel standards and harnessing the power of biofuels.
Such steps are not just environmental priorities, they are critical to our security. America must take decisive action in order to more plausibly demand the same effort from others. We should push for binding and enforceable commitments to reduce emissions by the nations which pollute the most – the United States, the European Union, Russia, China, and India together account for nearly two-thirds of current emissions. And we should help ensure that growth in developing countries is fueled by low-carbon energy – the market for which could grow to $500 billion by 2050 and spur the next wave of American entrepreneurship.
Yes, we need to demand that China and India step up to the plate and shoulder their responsibilities to reduce emissions. But this rhetoric about reducing our dependence on foreign oil through biofuels and by raising mileage standards is a long way down from an Apollo Initiative to change this economy and make us energy independent over the next 30 years.
As I said, the speech served its purpose, which was to demonstrate to the Wise Men inside the Beltway and the media that Obama is safe and predictable without demanding real sacrifice or inspiring Americans to demand more of their government. There's nothing visionary in pointing out the obvious mistakes of the last six years and vowing to move back to 41's foreign policy; it's a safe play for him. But it doesn't set him apart from anyone else either.