Barack Obama’s Foreign Policy Speech

As part of our continuing effort to follow the foreign policy platforms of the major U.S. presidential candidates — right now those include in our minds Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Giuliani, McCain and Romney — we bring you the video of Barack Obama’s April 23 speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The speech was the Democratic candidate’s first major statement on foreign policy. (We should be clear that we aren’t giving Obama special treatment. When other presidential candidates make major foreign policy speeches, we’ll also cover those in this space.)

Here are the New York Times and Associated Press stories on the speech. If we had to classify Obama’s foreign policy after listening to the speech, we’d call it liberal internationalism in the mold of Bill Clinton — idealistic and assertive about America’s role in the world, but circumspect about the unilateral exercise of U.S. power, especially military power.

The most emblematic line:

“We must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission — we must lead the world, by deed and example.”

Obama listed “five ways America will begin to lead again”:

1. “The first way America will lead is by bringing a responsible end to this war in Iraq and refocusing on the critical challenges in the broader region.”
2. “The second way America will lead again is by building the first truly 21st century military and showing wisdom in how we deploy it.”
3. “The third way America must lead again is by marshalling a global effort to meet a threat that rises above all others in urgency — securing, destroying, and stopping the spread of weapons of mass destruction.”
4. “The fourth way America must lead is to rebuild and construct the alliances and partnerships necessary to meet common challenges and confront common threats.”
5. “The fifth way America will lead again is to invest in our common humanity — to ensure that those who live in fear and want today can live with dignity and opportunity tomorrow.”

One important omission was noted by The Washington Note’s Scott Paul: “. . . while Obama discusses the use of military force in largely the right ways, he says there could be a time when we would be forced to use it unilaterally to protect ‘our vital interests.’ Even in a speech as broad as this one, when discussing appropriate circumstances for the use of force, Obama needs to define what ‘our vital interests’ are. Something so important cannot be left to the imagination.”

Andrew Sullivan also had some comments about the speech. “It is emphatically not isolationist; it is emphatically not against the use of military force when necessary; it is emphatically pro-military in its call for many more troops,” he said.

Watch the speech below and draw your own conclusions:

UPDATE: David Brooks has some interesting comments about Obama’s Niebuhrian instincts (Times Select) in foreign policy.

UPDATE II: The Washington Times editorial page, of all places, finds much to admire in Obama’s foreign policy speech. Hmm . . . Brooks and now the WT; a Republican conspiracy against HRC?

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