Chicago Tribune: Obama outlines a vision of a new U.S. approach abroad
By Mike Dorning
Sen. Barack Obama promised Monday to double U.S. foreign aid if elected president, arguing that improvements in living conditions around the world would bolster the security of Americans and reduce the appeal of terrorism abroad.
The Illinois Democratic senator offered the commitment in a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs that harshly criticized the Bush Administration for its "squandered" response to terrorism.
Obama presented the challenges of terrorism, nuclear weapons and global warming as an opportunity to enhance America's influence over the world by stressing moral leadership, strengthened alliances and a vigorous U.S. engagement around the globe.
"The American moment has not passed. The American moment is here. And like generations before us, we will seize the moment and begin the world anew," Obama said.
The phrase, the American Moment, which Obama used as the title of his speech, echoes in a less triumphalist way famous language that TIME Magazine publisher Henry Luce used in 1941 to describe the pre-eminent place in the world America had taken during the 20th Century, which Luce dubbed the "American Century."
Obama also drew heavily on the foreign policy ideas of Democratic presidents who helped shape the U.S. response to the Cold War, including the alliance system that Harry Truman constructed to contain the Soviet Union and the aid programs that Truman and John F. Kennedy supported as the U.S. was competing with Communism for influence in Europe and the developing world.
While criticizing the Bush Administration for invading Iraq without broad support from allies, he offered assurances that as president he would not hesitate to go it alone with military force if necessary to defend the nation.
"No president should ever hesitate to use forceâ"unilaterally if necessaryâ"to protect ourselves and our vital interests when we are attacked or imminently threatened," Obama said. But, he added, "We should make every effort to garner the clear support and participation of others.
Obama repeated his past support for a withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops in Iraq by March 31, 2008, leaving a limited number of American troops in Iraq to fight terrorist groups.
He said that he would double current foreign spending to $50 billion by 2012, which would be the final year of his first term if he is elected.
"I know that many Americans are skeptical about the value of foreign aid today," Obama said. But, he added, "A relatively small investment in these fragile states up front can be one of the most effective ways to prevent the terror and strife that is far more costly."
Obama also supported the increase of the size of U.S. ground forces, calling for an enlargement of the Army by 60,000 and of the Marines by 27,000.
He called for the U.S. to "lead by example" to combat global warming by capping and reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the economy.
Obama said he would stress diplomatic measures and economic sanctions but use military force "if necessary" to stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons and eliminate North Korea's nuclear program.
He said he would seek to negotiate a verifiable global ban on the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for use in nuclear weapons.