Obama Shapes an Agenda Beyond Iraq War
Senator Obama’s early opposition to the war in Iraq is the best known of his views, but voters taking his measure as a potential president will discover that he is a leader in securing stray weapons from the former Soviet Union, a key backer of American aid to the Congo, and that he would tend to support a missile strike on Iran if other methods fail to get Tehran to abandon its nuclear program.
Key advisers in Mr. Obama’s foreign policy orbit include Ms. Rice; a Pulitzer Prize-winning anti-genocide activist, Samantha Power; a national security adviser to Mr. Clinton, Anthony Lake, and Senator Obama’s foreign policy staffer, Mark Lippert.
Ms. Rice, who now works at the Brookings Institution, is unabashed about her views on a potential Obama presidency. “I think he’d be excellent,” she said.
However, Ms. Power, who took leave from Harvard’s Kennedy School last year to work in the senator’s office, may be the foreign policy specialist campaigning most publicly on Mr. Obama’s behalf. During a speech last month at Northwestern University, she spoke of what a “President Obama” might do and sowed doubts about two of his potential primary opponents, Senator Clinton and the Democratic nominee in 2004, Senator Kerry of Massachusetts.
“Hillary Clinton came out about two-and-a-half, three weeks ago and endorsed the president’s position on coercive interrogation techniques, not McCain’s position, distinguishing herself from McCain, perhaps with 2008 in mind,” Ms. Power said. She also faulted Mr. Kerry for failing, during his debates with Mr. Bush, to mention the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. A columnist for Time magazine, Joe Klein, has reported that Mr. Kerry made the decision based on focus groups his campaign conducted. “The answer came back, ‘It’s not a winner politically,'” Ms. Power said.
Spokesmen for Mrs. Clinton did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for Mr. Kerry, David Wade, said Mr. Kerry “has a 21-year record of leadership exposing human rights abuses and insisting on accountability.”
Ms. Power did not say specifically what Mr. Obama would do about interrogations, but implied he would be more responsive to human rights concerns, while still protecting America. “Just as you can’t leave values out of foreign policy or you end up to some degree in the mess we’re in, I believe, so too, you can’t leave security out of foreign policy,” she said, adding that “a kind of a middle course” would be “what I think President Obama will bring to the White House.”
During Ms. Power’s talk at Northwestern, she detailed the same poll results about liberals’ foreign policy goals that Mr. Obama mentions in his book. She went on, as he does, to critique those priorities as shortsighted.
Ms. Power has declared the notion of forcible humanitarian intervention “dead,” at least for now, thanks to the fallout from the Iraq war. “Certainly, I, in the Darfur context, would not even think about advocating a U.S. invasion,” she said at Northwestern. “The reality is jihadis would follow American troops.”
Ms. Power, who backed a former NATO commander, Wesley Clark, in the 2004 presidential contest, did not respond to calls and e-mails seeking comment for this article.
Mr. Lake, a professor at Georgetown, compares Mr. Obama to President Clinton.
“I worked on the campaign of President Clinton, then-Governor Clinton, in 1992. I haven’t seen anybody since with the same talent for being formidably intelligent and being able to place complicated concepts in such eloquent terms as Senator Obama has,” Mr. Lake said. “I think a candidate like Obama only comes along once in a while.”
Mr. Lake praised Mr. Obama for his conviction that America can be a moral leader abroad. “He believes America can be a positive force in world, but we have to be tough-minded about it,” Mr. Lake said.