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Washington Post: Obama and Romney Lay Out Positions on Iraq and Beyond

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Washington Post: Obama and Romney Lay Out Positions on Iraq and Beyond

By Karen DeYoung

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney outline their respective foreign policy visions in lengthy articles in the next issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, offering sharp contrasts on issues including the war in Iraq and climate change.

Obama calls the Bush administration's Iraq policies "tragically misguided" and advocates a phased withdrawal of U.S. combat forces, to be completed by next March. Romney notes that there is "no guarantee" that the administration's current strategy will succeed but says that "the stakes are too high and the potential fallout too great to deny our military leaders and troops on the ground the resources and the time needed to give it an opportunity."

But both candidates are at pains to move beyond Iraq toward an overarching vision that will convince an unsettled and war-focused public that this, too, shall pass.

Iraq has so dominated the foreign policy debate that candidates across the board are struggling to offer more comprehensive proposals. Although most have given at least one major foreign policy address, the extent to which they disagree with one another and with the Bush administration on the war has garnered the most attention.

In his article, Obama cites Democratic icons Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy as leaders who managed in "moments of great peril . . . both to protect the American people and to expand opportunity for the next generation."

Expanding on issues he first raised last month before the Chicago World Affairs Council, the senator from Illinois adds "a warming planet" to an otherwise conventional list of security threats that include global terrorists, proliferating nuclear weapons and "weak states that cannot control their territory."

After a U.S. withdrawal pushes Iraqi leaders toward political accommodation, he says, the new president should make a commitment to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "a task that the Bush administration neglected for years." Obama calls for a dialogue with Iran and Syria, noting that "our policy of issuing threats and relying on intermediaries . . . is failing. Although we must not rule out using military force, we should not hesitate to talk directly."

The Army, Obama says, should grow by 65,000 soldiers and the Marine Corps by 27,000 members. He says he would focus increased attention on Afghanistan and Pakistan, which he calls "the central front in our war against al-Qaeda." While calling on NATO to contribute more troops to "collective security operations," Obama cites the importance of rebuilding international alliances, pledging to listen more and "bully" less.

"People around the world have heard a great deal of late about freedom on the march," Obama writes. "Tragically, many have come to associate this with war, torture, and forcibly imposed regime change." He says he will end the CIA "renditions" policy of "shipping away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, of detaining thousands without charge or trial, of maintaining a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law."

To combat climate change, Obama pledges a "cap and trade" policy on carbon emissions. Although Bush promised a carbon emissions cap during the 2000 campaign, he subsequently rejected it.

Romney presents a somewhat narrower vision, echoing Bush in describing "the jihadist threat" as "the defining challenge of our generation." Repeating a speech he gave last month at the George H.W. Bush presidential library, Romney outlines four "pillars" of action, beginning with enhancement of the military. In addition to 100,000 more troops, the former governor of Massachusetts calls for an annual increase of $30 billion to $40 billion in the defense budget and pledges to spend at least 4 percent of the gross domestic product on defense.

Romney's second pillar is energy independence, a process that he says could take at least 20 years and should include increased domestic production with more offshore drilling, more nuclear power and a "fuller exploitation of coal," along with increased energy efficiency. "At the same time," he says without mentioning global climate change, "we may well be able to rein in our greenhouse gas emissions." He calls for a "far-reaching research initiative" to create cleaner energy.

Pillar three is the creation of joint commands, along the lines of the military's, to coordinate the use abroad of nonmilitary resources in health, education, law enforcement and diplomacy. Interagency regional commands, headed by "heavy hitters" with independent budgets, would supervise activities the way the military's regional commands do.

The fourth is a reexamination of U.S. alliances, leading to a greater focus on defeating radical Islam and establishing intelligence and law enforcement networks. Romney says that as one of his first presidential acts, he would call for a "summit of nations" to support moderate Muslims around the world.

"In the end, only Muslims themselves can defeat the violent radicals," Romney says. "But we must work with them."


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