THE BLOG
11/21/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Foreign Policy Vote for Barack and Joe

by Taylor Marsh

I cast an early and enthusiastic vote for Obama-Biden. As a die hard Hillary support, I didn't start out feeling that way about the top of the ticket. But that's how it ended up, proud to vote for Obama. When I saw the crowds in my home state of Missouri over the weekend it only added to the pride.

Let me start by borrowing some words from the Chicago Tribune endorsement, personalizing them just a bit: Many Americans say they're uneasy about Obama. He's pretty new to them. I can provide some assurance. I have come to know Obama since he entered the presidential primary season. I have watched him, investigated everything about him, fought him, argued against him on the web, tv and radio, even as he rose from nowhere to win the Democratic nomination. I now have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions. He is ready. That he has Joe Biden beside him makes me even more sure of the foreign policy vote I cast.

That's how I vote, on foreign policy, national security and military matters. These are the issues that matter most to me, what I've studied for over three decades. I can't lay out every foreign policy point in this post, China and Russia for instance, but there is simply no doubt in my mind that Barack Obama, along with Joe Biden, who is the most brilliant foreign policy thinker in the Congress, his presence sending a strong signal to our allies, is the team that can turn the U.S. towards an engaged, significantly strengthened position in the world.

Pakistan and Central Asia

Barack Obama had the courage and strength of purpose to announce that he would strike inside Pakistan to get bin Laden if actionable intelligence presented itself. It alarmed many and took some time for the purpose of this position to be understood, but what he was sending was a signal that no one should doubt his force of will to protect the United States and seek out enemies on foreign soil, while sending an unmistakable message to then President Musharaff and the Pakistanis, particularly the ISI. The piece Joe Biden posted here on Huffington Post on Pakistan he cross-posted on my blog, a piece that elevated him beyond any other on the subject. These two men together are simply unmatched in their thinking on this region, which is the most difficult challenge in the world we face today. That Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili sent for Joe Biden when things got rough with Russian and Putin ends the debate. Biden understands the strings Putin is pulling, as he flexes muscles that, no doubt, a new president will have to match.

As for John McCain, he didn't mention Pakistan or Central Asia until Obama was well on his way to discussing the challenges we face there, which was prefaced with the difficulties unraveling in Afghanistan. But McCain saying "We are all Georgians" is one of the most alarming statements made as we move to a post-Bush era. This type of thinking is what led to the invasion of Iraq. Not only can our military not afford such implied allegiance, but neither can our treasury, of which there can no longer be any doubt. Our foreign policy simply cannot withstand another administration that believes America can save the world in lieu of allies working in cooperation.

Unfortunately, Obama-Biden will take over when Pakistan is at a tipping point. The Federally Administered Tribal Area bordering Afghanistan is now dangerously infiltrated with Islamic extremists, which are threatening the Karzai government. Zardari's position is also perilous, not only politically, but because anti American sentiment has grown, but also because of widespread poverty, food shortages and the currency collapse. Pakistan is close to coming unglued. We haven't begun to talk about India, with the balance of power in this entire region teetering on collapse.

Afghanistan

Barack Obama has been calling for a more concentrated military strategy in Afghanistan for a very long time. John McCain was virtually silent on the issue until well into the election season, prompted, I believe, by Obama's strong statements. McCain's strong support for Musharraf for so long exactly mirrored Bush's, which Joe Biden rightly deemed the Administration's "Mushraff policy," instead of a policy towards Pakistan and the entire region. However, very careful strategy must be considered before engaging a large number of American troops inside Afghanistan, because we could end up in another quagmire just as easily, as Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski has warned, as have others like Juan Cole. A recent NIE leaked to McClatchy states that even then stability is no longer guaranteed. The fact is that Bush has let the situation deteriorate so deeply, because of his single minded foreign policy focus on Iraq, that some increase of force strength is absolutely necessary, I believe, to get us back to where we were before we invaded Iraq. We've lost ground in Afghanistan, with the Taliban gaining control, corruption rampant, so we're left with little choice. Obama understands this all too well, as does Biden, who has been calling for the same types of action. How We Lost the War We Won, by Nir Rosen, will give you an idea of what the next president will inherent from Bush.

Iraq

The differences between McCain and Obama on Iraq are obvious. One of the biggest challenges we face right now is the new draft agreement on U.S. force presence, which Sadr is now pushing the Iraqi parliament to reject. But the biggest concern about McCain is that his talk of "victory" resembles a Vietnam warrior wanting to settle old scores that cannot be settled, while taking that strategy and utilizing it beyond Iraq, perhaps another "surge" in Afghanistan. McCain thinks in 20th century terms about battle. Obama does not. However, unlike many, I never was that impressed with Obama's anti war speech on Iraq, which was given in a very friendly district of Chicago, without facing any political heat at all for his stance. But he did stand up against the war, which cannot be denied. I did as well, on a.m. radio, ranting at Democrats in Congress for their spinelessness. If in the Senate, however, I still believe Obama would have cast a vote for the war, but he didn't have that burden, which benefited him greatly, as we all know. But even in being against the war, Obama is a cautious and deliberate man, having vision to look further than the next mile, which means whatever his withdrawal plans are in Iraq he will do it after getting counsel from many, including military leaders, and make a decision that will be less likely to haunt Democrats. I don't think he will withdraw all troops in a specified timeline from Iraq, as some liberal activists believe, but I've also never thought that was a good idea either. There is no way we can judge what we're going to inherit in Iraq, because there is absolutely no proof that the Bush administration has been forthright with the actual truth of what's unfolding in Iraq right now. But make to mistake about it, Barack Obama will begin to get us untangled from Iraq, handing back to the Iraqi's their country.

Israel - Iran

Obama is a strong supporter of Israel, as is any politician at this level of American politics. He is also strong enough to understand that the "special relationship" we have with Israel has morphed into a heavy handed Middle East policy that had Bush pushing for elections that resulted in Hamas gaining a strong foothold because the people weren't ready. Interfering in the domestic policies of other nations can lead to trouble, especially in the Middle East.

No other single act has harmed our relationships in this region more than the Republican phobia against diplomacy. Obama believes you need to talk to your adversaries as much as you do your allies. John McCain, unfortunately, is stuck in the 20th century mind set about the Middle East, which is further driven home by the presence of Joe Lieberman at his side. This partnership reveals a dangerously blinded approach to Iran, one that has led to an impossible relationship that is hurting us in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, where the Iranians were of great help right after 9/11. The Iraq war and the subsequent Iraqi government is now also linked closely to Tehran, while Iranian influence throughout the region continues to grow, which is doing nothing good for Israel. But still, McCain and Lieberman ignore what their bellicose rhetoric towards Tehran engenders for a country and a people they so long to aid, at a time when great possibility for change in Israel is unfolding. Along with Joe Biden, who is known and trusted in the Middle East, Barack Obama has the opportunity to revitalize our relationships, something that would not have a chance if McCain became president.

Conclusion

In the midst of a financial crisis, we need steady leadership from people who know the modern world challenges we face. "Experience" is a valued asset, which Biden offers, but a new look at a world that no longer resembles the 20th century from a person who is educated, curious, modern, worldly, bringing a wholly new way of looking at our challenges offers great possibility, especially as deep a thinker as Obama has proved himself to be.

The fact that John McCain is 72 years old is also a factor; to say otherwise would be a lie. Looking at his running mate, while balancing the dangerous foreign policy challenges we face, I cannot in good conscience remotely consider voting for John McCain. I will forever believe that the choice of Palin was simply political, which proved correct in igniting the base, but leaves the seriousness of Palin taking over as president from a man of McCain's maturity out of the equation entirely. It's a dangerous chance to take when the world is changing so rapidly, with more dangers today, including economic, than we've faced in a generation. As prepared as McCain is to be president, his running mate is simply not.

Having started out the primary season neutral, then moved to a very strong Hillary Clinton supporter, which I remain, also having been among her strongest advocates anywhere, I knew I'd vote Democratic, for the foreign policy reasons given above. But many times in the last 24 years I've held my nose to vote Democratic, when the candidates just didn't get it done. After the primary season I thought this might be another one of those years. I am proud to say it is not. Barack Obama has convinced me that he's the right person for the presidency at this particular time in history. The addition of Joe Biden, whom I've followed in the Senate for years, began my partisan pilgrimage, which evolved into a proud vote for Obama-Biden. If you vote on foreign policy, the team that offers the strongest change from the Bush-Cheney years, with the gravitas to make the world sit up and remember America as we once were, before the last years ruined our reputation, is Barack Obama and Joe Biden. They earned my vote.