In Chicago this week, Obama argued against the current tides of Democratic opinion. There’s been a sharp rise in isolationism among Democrats, according to a recent Pew survey, so Obama argued for global engagement. Fewer Democrats believe in peace through military strength, so Obama argued for increasing the size of the military.
In other words, when Obama is confronted by what he sees as arrogant unilateral action, he argues for humility. When he is confronted by what he sees as dovish passivity, he argues for the hardheaded promotion of democracy in the spirit of John F. Kennedy. ~David Brooks
Far be it from me to continue to advise Obama on how to run his campaign (I earlier told him that he shouldn’t run this time–and I stand by that advice), but this approach puzzles me. Obama must feel confident that he has the antiwar voters locked up if he can make the kind of foreign policy speech he made the other day, which was not all together non-interventionist-friendly (to put it mildly). The problem is that the antiwar voters still have a long time to rally around someone like John Edwards, who at least makes some effort to not sound like a rampaging interventionist these days (except, naturally, when it comes to Iran), which will leave Obama mouthing Clinton-like platitudes about “responsible” foreign policy while more consistent antiwar candidates who actually have foreign policy experience (e.g., Richardson) will be stealing his supporters. I suppose we can give Obama credit that he is attempting to lead his party and moderate the extremes within it. The problem is that one side of his party is, according to his own past estimations, dead wrong on their basic assumptions about the management of foreign policy; for some reason, he has chosen to embrace the overwhelming bulk of their conception of how to manage foreign policy. I don’t know whether this is how he uses his “Niebuhrian instincts,” but it seems like awfully foolish politics to me.
Brooks goes on:
When I asked him to articulate the central doctrine of his foreign policy, he said, “The single objective of keeping America safe is best served when people in other nations are secure and feel invested.”
That’s either profound or vacuous, depending on your point of view.
Well, obviously I think it’s pretty vacuous, but what it is mostly is dangerous.