Senator Barack Obama (D-Il), then an Illinois state senator, delivered these remarks in Chicago, October 2002
I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.
What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income, to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.
That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics……
You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.
I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors…and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.
I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences……
I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.
Obama hasn’t sent troops to Libya. He hasn’t sent troops to Egypt. He didn’t act on the Green Movement in Iran. He had to be persuaded 3 times to go after Bin Laden. He campaigned on bringing troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq, and did so. He opposed the surge in Iraq.
Obama is big on his belief that whatever he “says” will be enough to make it actually happen. Hence his “red line”. He REALLY expected that would be all that was needed. He is, I believe, genuinely NOT in favor of putting US troops into foreign countries. That was one of his goals for “change”.
He also knows that he has no chance of passing any domestic agenda if he commits troops to another country. He also probably figures that Israel is manipulating the pro-Israel normalcy bias, trying to force his hand, which he has had a continuing tendency to resist, from the beginning, despite attempts to smooth over. That stripe hasn’t changed since his day one in office.
He does not want his legacy to be expanding wars against Muslim countries. In this, his gut feeling has been correct from the beginning. His naiveté in thinking his ‘pronouncements’ would have a real effect against entrenched US policy may be all he has left — hope against hope. Unfortunately, such blunders have consequences. He has put himself in a corner, and he will either have to play along or show America’s incredible foreign policy hypocrisy. He has been manipulated into this due to his lack of real experience. Conversely, he has the opportunity to show his personal integrity, if any. Who is Obama? What is he made of? What are his core beliefs? Until now, we do not know.
He is at THE critical stage of his presidency. How he handles this will determine many things:
- how many people die in Syria, how many American ground troops will die from gas in pre-Armageddon, the future of Arab Spring/ convergence of critical mass for emergence of Caliphate, the future of big-power resource wars in Century 21
He wanted the job. Now the world will see if he can handle it, and whether he can now legitimately earn his Nobel Peace Prize, or give it back. It is at such moments that world leaders either become great or forgettable. If they fail to rise to their moment in history, there are usually disastrous consequences for the world.
As for Vladimir Putin, who has repeatedly made his position extremely clear, he will act aggressively in response to any overt move by America. Otherwise, HE will look like a paper tiger. He prefers to avoid such a move, because he holds yet-to-be-played financial “hole cards” he does not yet wish to reveal. He would prefer to act decisively when he has created a Machiavellian advantage WITHOUT conflict. I also believe that he wants Russia to act like the grown up, according to international law, rather than according to whatever the US wants.
His is not the blustering bravado of Soviet Russia, but his determination should not be underestimated. Russia has as much at stake in the Middle East as the West, and he will require that to be acknowledged before all the smoke settles. He will not be ignored without significant long-term consequences.
Well, Mr. Obama? Show us who you REALLY are. The stage is yours. “You want a fight, Mr. President?”