NY Times: Obama Outlines His Foreign Policy Views
By Jeff Zeleny
Senator Barack Obama said today that even though the global image of the United States has been sullied by the war in Iraq and a "foreign policy based on a flawed ideology," America must repair its standing in the world and resist the temptation to turn inward.
"America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America," Mr. Obama said. "We must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission - we must lead the world, by deed and example."
In a speech before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Mr. Obama presented himself as a presidential candidate "who can speak directly to the world." After a sharp critique of President Bush, Mr. Obama called for increasing foreign aid to developing countries, expanding and modernizing the military and rebuilding fractured alliances.
"This president may occupy the White House, but for the last six years the position of leader of the free world has remained open," Mr. Obama said. "And it's time to fill that role once more."
Mr. Obama, an Illinois Democrat elected to the United States Senate two years ago, delivered the first major foreign policy address of his Democratic presidential bid to hundreds of supporters in the ballroom of a downtown hotel here. It is the first of several policy speeches he is scheduled to deliver in the coming weeks as he works to define his candidacy with specific proposals an Obama administration would pursue.
"This election offers us the chance to turn the page and open a new chapter in American leadership," Mr. Obama said. "The disappointment that so many around the world feel toward America right now is only a testament to the high expectations they hold for us. We must meet those expectations again, not because being respected is an end in itself, but because the security of America and the wider world demands it."
He added: "This is going to require a new spirit, not of bluster and bombast, but of quiet confidence and sober intelligence, a spirit of care and renewed competence."
In the opening three months of his presidential race, Mr. Obama has solidified his role as one of the leading contenders for the nomination, raising more money than any of his rivals for the primary campaign. But Mr. Obama is also striving to expand his appeal beyond that of a best-selling author and political celebrity as he tackles questions of substance and policy.
The United States must build a 21st century military, Mr. Obama said, in addition to "showing wisdom in how we deploy it." He called for expanding American ground forces, adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 to the Marines. But less than 1 percent of the military can speak Arabic, Mandarin or Korean - a shortcoming he said needs to be corrected through training and recruitment.
"We know what the war in Iraq has cost us in lives and treasure, in influence and respect," Mr. Obama said. "We have seen the consequences of a foreign policy based on flawed ideology, and a belief that tough talk can replace real strength and vision."
The Bush administration, Mr. Obama said, "squandered that opportunity" to unite the world after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The war in Iraq, he said, "was based on old ideologies and outdated strategies, a determination to fight a 21st century struggle with a 20th century mindset."
"And after all the lives lost and the billions of dollars spent, many Americans may find it tempting to turn inward, and cede our claim of leadership in world affairs," Mr. Obama said. "I insist, however, that such an abandonment of our leadership is a mistake we must not make."
If elected, Mr. Obama said he would lead a global effort to secure all nuclear weapons and materials across the world within four years. In addition to securing stockpiles of nuclear material, Mr. Obama said the United States should work to negotiate a ban on producing new nuclear weapons material.
To discourage countries from building weapons programs, Mr. Obama endorsed the concept of providing reactor fuel through an international nuclear fuel bank, proposed last year by former Senator Sam Nunn, a Georgia Democrat who now advises the Nuclear Threat Initiative. As president, Mr. Obama said he would provide $50 million to get the fuel bank started and urge Russia and other countries to join.
Mr. Obama also called for the United States to rebuild its alliances, reform the United Nations and strengthen NATO.
"We have heard much over the last six years about how America's larger purpose in the world is to promote the spread of freedom - that it is the yearning of all who live in the shadow of tyranny and despair," Mr. Obama said. "I agree, but this yearning is not satisfied by simply deposing a dictator and setting up a ballot box."
Lisa Miller, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, dismissed Mr. Obama's criticism.
"Senator Obama started his career with a tone of hope, but has quickly turned to one of blame," Ms. Miller said. "Obama has no foreign policy experience; therefore has no record of having done anything - wrong or otherwise. His comments today blamed others and failed to detail his own plan for success."