Look who’s Backing Obama

J.B. Sivanich

In early August, Newsweek editor-in-chief and columnist Fareed Zakaria wrote an article provocatively titled, “What Bush Got Right,” which ran as a cover article. The article began by admitting that the ire drew by the arrogance and incompetence of the Bush early years was largely deserved.
However, the basis and bulk of the article says that many commentators have overlooked the last years of the Bush administration in which he has forgone cronyism, ideology and force for competence, pragmatism and even diplomacy. Zakaria cites that there has been a drastic change in personnel with the dismissals of the ideologues Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfel and the diminishing role of Dick Cheney in favor of pragmatists like Condolezza Rice, Stephen Hadley and Robert Gates, whom he views as being responsible for changing the tone and direction of his foreign policy.
Some of Zakaria’s other examples show that Bush has eschewed the foreign policy choices of the Republican Party and its presidential candidate, John McCain, in favor of a more moderate course of action that is strikingly similar to the proposed plan of Barack Obama.
Upon assuming office, Bush vowed not to continue talks with North Korea in the same way Bill Clinton did. In 2005, Bush reversed on earlier rhetoric and began a multilateral approach; last week’s headlines that United States would take North Korea off the list of state sponsors of terror shows that the Bush administration acknowledges the importance of concessions in diplomacy. To be factually correct, the United States agreed to remove North Korea from the terror list last summer, but fulfilled their part of the bargain until now. McCain condemned the move, while Obama called it “a modest step forward.”
As the *******New York Times******** editorial board pointed out, the refusal to negotiate with North Korea, led by hard-liners like Dick Cheney, which lasted throughout Bush’s first term, allowed North Korea to produce enough plutonium for four nuclear weapons.
Zakaria also writes about the United States sending senior State Department officials to negotiate with Iran about their nuclear program. John McCain and Hillary Clinton called Obama “******na’ve UMLOT*****” for suggesting he would sit down and talk with foreign leaders who have differences with the United States. A lot of this debate is over at whichever level — presidential, secretary of state, high-ranking officials, etc. — these negotiations would take place.
There is a lot of grey area here that is being washed over with campaign-trail rhetoric. Obama, in most circumstances, would not conduct negotiations with Ahmadinejad for fear of suffering backlash back home. For all his tough rhetoric, I cannot seriously believe that John McCain would forswear diplomacy at any level with most countries that somehow presented a problem.
Obama’s position is that he would not hesitate to take out high-ranking Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives even if they were across the border in Pakistan, citing these groups as the true front of the “War on Terror.” Citing Pakistan as an ally in the “War on Terror,” McCain called Obama “*****na’ve UMLOT ********* and inexperienced” for taking this stance. If you have been following the news in the past few weeks, you would know that the U.S., still under Bush’s command, not Obama’s, made air strikes against al-Qaeda in Pakistan, killing five. In July, Bush gave the green light to ground raids across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border without authorization of the Pakistani government.
Obama and other more liberal democrats have, for some time now, been pushing for an agreement with the Iraqis that includes a timeline as to when American troops are going to withdraw. In recent months, that is exactly what the administration and Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki have done. This is quite an about face from a president who said setting a timeline for withdrawal would be the equivalent to “setting a date for failure.” John McCain has been the most consistent and vocal critics of a timeline for withdrawal; Sarah Palin, his running mate, accused Joe Biden of “waving the white flag of surrender” by suggesting this move.
I do not mean to suggest that there are no areas of foreign policy where Bush does side with McCain; Guantanamo Bay, Iraq, Cuba and Russia are prime examples. Nor do I mean to say that by Bush taking a foreign policy course similar to Obama’s that this validates any of these stances.
In Zakaria’s article, he observes that a lot of the negativity aimed at Bush comes from his resistance to publicly express regret for his prior mistakes, though Zakaria adeptly argues that the policy of his later years is a tacit acknowledgment of these faults.
In a similar manner, I would like to argue that, though Bush is publicly supporting John McCain, his experience has led him to choose a foreign policy that tacitly aligns itself with the proposed policy of Barack Obama. Hopefully, we will not have to sit by and watch as another president commits the same mistakes that our current president has already started to correct.