Obama delivered a mesmerizing speech last night. But his words did little to burnish his credentials to be commander in chief. In a 44-minute speech, foreign policy barely received a minute's worth of attention. Sure, he made the obligatory mention of his sagacity in not supporting the war in 2002 and his desire to pull out combat troops in 16 months. But that's old news. What will he do, specifically that is, to ensure that Iraq does not become a terrorist haven or a cauldron of sectarian violence? He barely mentioned his support for Israel or his plan to rein in Russia. He talks about repairing broken alliances -- OK, that sounds nice but which alliances, and how will he do that exactly? He will rebuild our military, too -- but exactly how? Nor is it clear when Obama would advocate the use of force?
He also failed to mention Darfur, or even Africa (a continent of over 900 million people) in general, but found room to mention Georgia -- an inconsequential former Soviet state of just 4 million people. He says he will pursue direct diplomacy with Iran to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons -- but diplomacy has actually bought Tehran time to continue its enrichment, hasn't it? And pray tell, what would he do differently in Pakistan? I'm not sold on the fact that more troops there would make any difference in our fight against the Taliban -- he needs to sell me. That's what presidents do.
Folks, don't be fooled by the soaring rhetoric. Yes, Obama is a better alternative than McCain -- who seems hellbent on restoring a cold war with Russia -- but he gives so few specifics that I question what he would do as commander in chief. McCain's foreign policies may be hair-brained -- kick Russia out of G-8, form a League of Democracies, stay in Iraq indefinitely - -but they are anything but vague. Don't worry, you might say: Obama has good people around him -- Susan Rice, Anthony Lake, Samantha Power, et al. OK, maybe. But that sounds vaguely familiar to what we said about Bush in 2000.
I didn't expect him to detail every foreign policy proposal -- otherwise he'd still be talking to an empty stadium. But his website is also vague. To wit: On Israeli-Palestinian peace process ("He will make a sustained push"), on eradicating global poverty ("He will help the world's weakest states to build healthy and educated communities"), on strengthening NATO ("Obama will rally NATO members"), on Darfur (He supports "increasing pressure on the Sudanese and pressure the government to halt the killing"). His site is also woefully out-of-date. He says nothing about how he will combat a revanchist Russia, for instance.
To paraphrase the Illinois senator himself: Obama, on foreign policy, you are a better candidate than this.
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