I Support Obama

This Sunday’s New York Times Magazine has an even-minded profile of Barack Obama by James Traub that describes the primary reason why I support him: his foreign policy.   Here’s an excerpt about the respect Obama generates among foreign policy experts due to his ability to process complexities and create nuanced policies:

In mainstream foreign-policy circles, Barack Obama is seen as the true bearer of this vision [of Soft Power]. “There are maybe 200 people on the Democratic side who think about foreign policy for a living,” as one such figure, himself unaffiliated with a campaign, estimates. “The vast majority have thrown in their lot with Obama.” Hillary Clinton’s inner circle consists of the senior-most figures from her husband’s second term in office — the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, the former national security adviser Sandy Berger and the former United Nations ambassador Richard Holbrooke. But drill down into one of Washington’s foreign-policy hives, whether the Carnegie Endowment or the Brookings Institution or Georgetown University, and you’re bound to hit Obama supporters. Most of them served in the Clinton administration, too, and thus might be expected to support Hillary Clinton. But many of these younger and generally more liberal figures have decamped to Obama. And they are ardent. As Ivo Daalder, a former National Security Council official under President Clinton who now heads up a team advising Obama on nonproliferation issues, puts it, “There’s a feeling that this is a guy who’s going to help us transform the way America deals with the world.” Ex-Clintonites in Obama’s inner circle also include the president’s former lawyer, Greg Craig, and Richard Danzig, his Navy secretary.

The first of the Clinton people to notice this rising political star was Anthony Lake, national-security adviser in Bill Clinton’s first term. Lake says that he was introduced to Obama in 2002 when the latter had just begun considering a run for a Senate seat. Impressed, he began contributing ideas. When Obama came to Washington as a senator and joined the Foreign Relations Committee, Lake continued to work with him on occasion. Like others, Lake was impressed not so much by Obama’s policy prescriptions as by his temperament and intellectual habits. “He has,” Lake says, “the kind of mind that works its way through complexities by listening and giving some edge of legitimacy to various points of view before he comes down on his, and that point of view embraces complexity.” This awareness of complexity felt like a kind of politics itself and a repudiation of the Bush administration’s categorical thinking.

In ’04 Kerry got blasted for his subtle thinking and consideration for complexities.  The Bush people labeled him as a waffler who wouldn’t be able to take strong stances when necessary.  So far, Obama has been able to avoid this label by spending less energy advertising his understanding of complexities and more time advertising the clear conclusions to which his subtle thinking leads him.

However, as the article points out, a problem still remains.  In spite of Obama’s sound policy and the support of many of America’s foreign policy experts, the numbers in the polls still fall heavily in Sen. Clinton’s favor.  Clinton is succeeding at representing herself as the tough-minded candidate who will take us to war when necessary and not use diplomacy with dictators .  It’s a play on the country’s fear (sounds a little like a president we know and don’t love).  She then categorizes Obama’s hopeful, diplomatic, Soft Power approach as impractical and naive.  In his defense Obama tells Traub, “for most of our history our crises have come from using force when we shouldn’t, not by failing to use force.”

This is the critical message that Obama must communicate to the American people.  Obama does not only represent the best choice for those of us who are hopeful of solving our problems through non-violent diplomacy, but he also is the best choice for those of us who are fearful for our country, who are afraid of terrorism and do not want to be attacked again.  He must communicate that excessive force and ill-conceived military missions are not just a way to fight terrorism that puts only soldiers and foreign civilians in peril, but that this behavior actually creates MORE danger for the American people.  He must demonstrate that his approach is not just a more nuanced alternative, but it is the BEST and the ONLY way to keep America safe.  In this way, Obama can position himself as the attractive candidate for both the hopeful and the fearful.

Later: why the ethnic backgrounds of Obama and Tiger Woods represent the inevitable and positive future of the American identity and the disappearance of Race.


~ by jaredran on November 2, 2007.

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