Support around the world does matter

by Brian Vogt | July 31st, 2008 | |Subscribe

Seth Green’s recent post examining a recent McCain attack that criticized Senator Obama for his worldwide notoriety, hit the nail on the head.  Seth rightly questioned whether in this time of global interdependence and conflict, a leader who is respected and admired around the world is actually a bad thing.  Senator McCain certainly has policy differences with Senator Obama, and those should be examined by the voters.  However, to criticize Obama’s celebrity seems to be political – and logical – blunder. 

This got me thinking about the symbolic role of the presidency to the rest of the world and how that can sometimes matter more than many of the foreign policy decisions that the president makes. 

Clearly, Obama’s story is one that has great appeal beyond the borders of the United States.  He is a mixed race American with an African father and an American mother who spent some his youth living abroad in the Muslim country of Indonesia.  After 232 years of white male presidents, to actually have a president that looks a bit more like the rest of the non caucasian world, would truly be a bold statement.  (more…)

The McCain Campaign’s “Celeb” Ad

by Seth Green | July 30th, 2008 | |Subscribe

The McCain campaign released an ad today called Celeb that argues Obama is a global celebrity who is ready to take the stage but not ready to lead. The ad plays scenes from the large crowds that greeted Obama in Berlin and makes it seem like Obama’s worldwide popularity is dangerous.

The ad strikes me as particularly odd on two levels. First, McCain has talked a lot about the need for America to use all of the powers at its disposal, not just the military. He regularly says we need to think in terms of cultural and economic influence as well as military might. Thinking in these terms, Obama’s crowds in Berlin are a promising sign that America could regain some of our cultural leadership and this could give us greater influence to tackle issues from Iran to Afghanistan with a broader alliance. How we could we be safer, as the ad suggests, to have our current President, who spends his overseas trips doing sword dances with Saudi royalty while demonstrators line up to protest his visit in each country he touches down? (more…)

Free Trade Part 2: Wielding the Double-Edged Sword

by Jeffrey Asjes | July 30th, 2008 | |Subscribe

In Free Trade Part 1, I outlined some of the ways in which free trade can benefit our economy and our national security. It has the potential to vastly improve our economic welfare, as well as helping to stabilize potentially dangerous poverty stricken regions abroad. Like most useful tools, however, free trade must be used responsibly to avoid causing more harm than good.

The fundamental problem with free trade agreements is not that they cause any sort of net economic loss to either country. Protectionist politicians and lobbyists often point out that free trade can hurt American industries by exposing them to increased competition. That’s true as far as it goes, but it’s also quite misleading. (more…)

Combating An Ideology

by Jeffrey Asjes | July 27th, 2008 | |Subscribe

On Friday at the New America Foundation, the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, James Glassman, spoke about America’s strategy in the so called ‘war of ideas’. The speech outlined a process of gentle encouragement and openness. As Glassman was keen to note, when it comes to radical fundamentalism based on Islam, “we [Americans] are not the credible voices”. Instead, Glassman says that the battle against radicalism must be conducted by those who are well respected within the Muslim world. (more…)

Free Trade Part 1: Why we need it.

by Jeffrey Asjes | July 25th, 2008 | |Subscribe

The U.S. economy is in crisis, the average American is hurting, and growth is just barely staggering along. Worse, the rest of the world is already beginning to feel the pain as well. As always, economic problems generate social ones, and in these trying times, we cannot allow poverty to spread and create breeding grounds for violent extremism. Our leaders must take action, not only to stabilize our domestic economy, but also to help mitigate the effects of this crisis in already unstable regions. In this regard, free trade agreements represent the best way forward. Not only do FTAs improve our own economy, but they can also help alleviate poverty the developing world, and thereby make our nation more secure. (more…)

Sen. Obama’s Magical Mystery Foreign Policy Tour

by David Isenberg | July 22nd, 2008 | |Subscribe

Don’t you just hate it when things don’t go according to plan? Consider Sen. Obama as a case in point. Before he left on his overseas trip assorted pundits and bloviators were predicting that he was about to step into a perilous minefield. 

Supposedly when visiting Iraq Obama was going to be faced with the unpalatable choice of either acknowledging that things are better in Iraq, in part due to the success of the surge which he opposed, or he would refuse to acknowledge that success, which would make him look woefully out of touch with reality. 

Yet, days before Obama visited, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in an interview with German newspaper Der Spiegel had this to say: 

SPIEGEL: Would you hazard a prediction as to when most of the US troops will finally leave Iraq?

Maliki: As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned. U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.

SPIEGEL: Is this an endorsement for the US presidential election in November? Does Obama, who has no military background, ultimately have a better understanding of Iraq than war hero John McCain?

Maliki: Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of US troops in Iraq would cause problems. Of course, this is by no means an election endorsement. Who they choose as their president is the Americans’ business. But it’s the business of Iraqis to say what they want. And that’s where the people and the government are in general agreement: The tenure of the coalition troops in Iraq should be limited.

As Talking Points Memo noted, this was not a mistranslation by Der Speiegel or misunderstanding by Maliki.

Of course, as Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote: (more…)

Gore sets bold goals but campaign avoids specificity

by Brian Vogt | July 18th, 2008 | |Subscribe

Yesterday Al Gore made a bold speech that set an ambitous goal for the reduction of greenhouse gases: that all electricity produced in the United States would come from renewable sources within the next 10 years. Finally, it’s time that a leader pushes us to make the dramatic changes that are required to make a significant reduction in our greenhouse gas emission. As I wrote previously, climate change is not just an environmental issue, it’s also a national security issue. So, I applaud Al Gore for setting an ambitious goal. It seems so commonplace these days to set goals that are 20 or 30 years off in the future, particularly when it comes to energy or the environment. It’s easy for politicians to promote such goals since they will certainly be out of office long before we ever reach the deadline they set. Such distant goals serve to delay immediate action. As Gore emphasized, 10 years is about the longest attention span America has for a sustained effort on such an issue. And, as the frequently referenced example of the moon landing shows, we can achieve great things within that time frame if we set our minds to it.

Although Gore’s speech set a bold goal for the future, I felt that the speech, and the campaign he promotes, is missing key components. As I’ve frequently commented on this blog, it’s time that our politicians acknowledge that real financial sacrifices, at least in the short term, are required. It’s up to our leaders to be honest with us. Otherwise, when the sacrifices become evident, there will be an even greater public backlash. Gore spoke very little of the sacrifice that would be required. The main interventions he calls for are for greater support of new technologies. (more…)

What Are We Doing in Iran Exactly?

by John Eden | July 18th, 2008 | |Subscribe

A recent piece in The New Yorker aptly entitled Preparing the Battlefield reveals that the U.S. government has recently dedicated significant resources to covert operations within Iran. U.S. Special Operations Forces have been operating cross-border missions since last year, but apparently something bigger and bolder is afoot. According to the article, the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are now participating in a range of clandestine military activities designed to (1) provide support for groups within Iran thought to be responsive to U.S. interests and (2) gather information about Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. (more…)

They Won’t Admit it, But McCain and Obama Agree

by Matthew Rojansky | July 16th, 2008 | |Subscribe

Yesterday, Senators Obama and McCain each gave major foreign policy addresses. The speeches have been analyzed and deconstructed by campaign talking heads and experts ad nauseum in the intervening twenty-four hours, and I don’t propose to bore you, dear reader, with more of the same.

Instead, I’d like to offer a tidy catalogue of what you might call “unacknowledged” bipartisan consensus. Here are three examples of surprisingly close agreement between the rival candidates on the state of security in Iraq today, ramping up military and civilian assistance to Afghanistan, and taking the fight to Al Qaeda and the Taliban in their Pakistani “sanctuary”:

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Obama Must Take the High Road

by Matthew Rojansky | July 12th, 2008 | |Subscribe

This is from a friend on the Hill:

It has become increasingly fashionable in the blog world to take a swipe at John McCain’s wartime service. Personal attacks are unfortunately the currency of modern campaigns, but stupidity is not a virtue. The more people attack John McCain’s record, the more they remind voters what separates McCain from the rest of us. In a world where most of us are never called or tested, he has endured treatment that few of us can even imagine. Simply put he is a great American. While he may not be the right choice for President, his voice may not share the tenor of our times, but few would doubt that he has character.

Unfortunately there is nothing grand about the GOP in this light either. The only thing more repugnant than today’s slights against McCain, are the smears heaped on Max Clelland. The attacks on John Kerry for his service are just another sad chapter in our electoral history. When we honor service only when it suits our political interests and only when heroes share our political affiliation, we debase ourselves and we dishonor our country. If McCain does lose this election, as he might, Democrats and Obama in particular will rue taking the low road. Every nation needs its heroes and needs inspiration, and it comes in all forms, shapes, colors and sizes. In their shadow we see the best of ourselves, and by insulting their service we tear at the very fabric of our society. There is a school that says you have to win at any price, and winner’s remorse is better than losing. But the election is not the end, but the beginning, and the abiding lesson of this administration should be knowing the difference between serving your party and serving the country. Defeat has a price but so does every victory. George HW Bush led a public life of great service, personal grace and distinction. I doubt the ads he ran in 1988 are something he is proud of. If we believe that this country has to heal and come together, we would do well to heed that lesson.

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All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.