Spencer Ackerman has a good article in The American Prospect on the likely direction that a President Obama would take in terms of US foreign policy: The Obama Doctrine. An excerpt:
“There is a popular notion that Democrats have to try to appear like Republicans to pass some test on national security. The fact that that’s still the case after Iraq is absurd,” says one of Obama’s closest advisers. “So you break from that orthodoxy and say ‘I don’t care if the Republicans attack me because I’m willing to meet with the leadership in Iran. We haven’t for 25 years, and it’s not gotten us anywhere.'”
Most of the members of Obama’s foreign-policy team expressed frustration that they had taken a well-considered and seemingly anodyne position on Iraq and suffered for it. Obama had something similar happen to him in the spring and summer of 2007. He was attacked from the left and the right for saying three things that should not have been controversial: that if he had actionable intelligence on the whereabouts of al-Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan but no cooperation from the Pakistani government, he would take out the jihadists; that he wouldn’t use nuclear weapons on terrorist training camps; and that he would be willing to meet with leaders of rogue states in his first year as president. “No one [of Obama’s critics] had thought through the policy because that was the quote-unquote naïve and weak position, so they said it was a bad position to take,” recalls Ben Rhodes, the adviser who writes Obama’s foreign-policy speeches. “And it was a seminal moment, because Obama himself said, ‘No, I’m right about this!'”
Instead of backing down, Obama asked his foreign-policy team to double down. Rhodes wrote a speech that Obama delivered at DePaul University on Oct. 2, which criticized the boundaries of acceptable discourse set by the same establishment that backed the war. “This election is about ending the Iraq War, but even more it’s about moving beyond it. And we’re not going to be safe in a world of unconventional threats with the same old conventional thinking that got us into Iraq,” Obama said. One of his advisers, recalling the fallout from Obama’s comments about pursuing al-Qaeda in Pakistan, says, “He takes policy positions that are a break from both rigid orthodoxy and the Bush administration. And everyone says it’s a gaffe! That just encapsulates everything that’s wrong about the foreign-policy debate in Washington and in Democratic politics.”
The whole article is really interesting. I also liked this part, where the foreign-policy aspects of an Obama-vs.-McCain fall matchup were discussed:
The Obama foreign-affairs brain trust balks at the suggestion that what it’s proposing is radical. “He said we’d take out al-Qaeda’s senior leadership in the Pakistani tribal areas if Pakistan will not. That’s not, to me, a revolutionary policy,” Rhodes says. “Watching him get attacked on the right is absurd. You’ve got guys who argued for a massive invasion and occupation of a country that had nothing to do with 9-11 criticizing him for advocating the use of highly targeted force to kill Osama bin Laden!”
Rhodes is referring, of course, to John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who recently asked of Obama, “Will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested invading our ally, Pakistan?” It’s no secret that McCain, a war hero who is to the right of Bush when it comes to Iraq, hopes to make this a foreign-policy election. Conventional wisdom holds this would give him an advantage over Obama. A Feb. 28 Pew Research Center poll found 43 percent of respondents believe Obama is “not tough enough” on foreign policy. Thirty-nine percent believe Obama’s foreign policy is “just right,” while 47 percent say the same of McCain.
Even so, Obama’s foreign-policy advisers are thrilled at the prospect of facing McCain. Had the GOP nomination gone to Mitt Romney or Mike Huckabee, politicians who don’t particularly care about foreign policy, an Obama victory would not provide a mandate for the sweeping foreign-affairs overhaul his campaign proposes. November’s election could be, for the first time in a very long time, a choice between two radically different visions of U.S. global engagement. “We want to have this debate with John McCain,” a close Obama adviser says. “[Obama] will offer this clear contrast.”
I’ve been challenged a few times recently about my support for Obama. “It’s just an infatuation,” people assert. “You just want change for its own sake. What do you really know about the guy?” What these people are doing, though, is projecting. They have no way of knowing how much research I’ve done into Obama’s ideas and positions, his past experience and what it reveals about his leadership ability and his likely actions in office. What they are really talking about is the shallowness of their own understanding of Obama.
That’s why it’s really over for Hillary at this point. That’s why I believe, in contrast to some people I know who believe that McCain will “crush” Obama in the fall, that in fact it will go the other way. The reality is, Obama’s support is not just coming from people who are blindly seeking change for its own sake, and have latched onto the first candidate who gives a pretty speech. The bedrock of his support comes from people who are deeply dissatisfied with the sorts of mainstream political choices that have been offered lately, who have taken the time to really look at Obama, and like what they see.
When people do that, when they examine the evidence of his character and integrity (as opposed to just watching the same 10-second clips of Jeremiah Wright over and over, with inane voiceovers from Fox News), when they honestly seek to answer the questions, “Who is this guy? What kind of president would he be?” — when people do that, a lot of them conclude that he’d make a really good one. Not just because they want someone to fill that role, but because he actually is that good.
Obama rings true. When people check him out, a substantial portion of them conclude that he’s the genuine article. That’s why, if you look at the polling in pretty much every state that’s held a primary so far, Hillary’s support has climbed steadily in the months before election day, while Barack Obama’s support, after starting well below hers, rises with a much steeper slope. It’s happening now in Pennsylvania (though Obama’s rise has been slower there than in some earlier contests, reflecting Hillary’s relative strength in Pennsylvania):
In terms of support numbers, both in these state-by-state primary contests and in the general election against McCain, Obama has real upside potential. There exists a pool of rational, open-minded voters who haven’t yet made up their minds. When those people look at the available choices, they’re not very likely to learn good things they didn’t already know about Hillary or McCain. Hillary and McCain have years on the national stage; if you don’t support them already, the chances that you’re going to switch to them now are relatively small.
Obama is different. Outside the pool of politics junkies who have been following these races obsessively (ahem), many voter haven’t tuned in yet. When those voters do tune in, and check out Obama, a substantial portion of them are going to conclude, “Whoa; I must vote for this man.” That’s where that steep slope in his support graph comes from.
Those of you accusing me of irrational Obamamania, take this test: Go research the guy yourself. Watch his campaign speeches on YouTube. Listen to his podcasts. Read what hilzoy had to say about Obama’s first two years in the Senate, or what Charles Peters had to say about Obama’s actions in the Illinois state legislature.
That’s the kind of research I did before falling in love with the guy. That’s where my Obamamania comes from. It’s not irrational. Just the opposite.