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Ahead of the Democrat Presidential candidate’s current foreign trip, Barack Obama laid out his ‘national security strategy’ in Washington on 15 July.

His inspiration for the renewal of the global order is George Marshall. Needed then and needed again now is “a new overarching strategy to meet the challenges of a new and dangerous world.”

Such a strategy would join overwhelming military strength with sound judgment. It would shape events not just through military force, but through the force of our ideas; through economic power, intelligence and diplomacy. It would support strong allies that freely shared our ideals of liberty and democracy; open markets and the rule of law. It would foster new international institutions like the United Nations, NATO, and the World Bank, and focus on every corner of the globe. It was a strategy that saw clearly the world ‘s dangers, while seizing its promise.

What is needed? What can best be done? What must be done?

Obama catalogues what could have been done after 9/11 to meet today ‘s dangers, instead of losing thousands of American lives and spending nearly a trillion dollars, alienated allies and neglected emerging threats – all in the cause of fighting a war for well over five years in a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. The Obama strategy is based on five goals essential to making America safer:

  • ending the war in Iraq responsibly
  • finishing the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban
  • securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states
  • achieving true energy security, and rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

There needs to be a responsible redeployment of combat troops that pushes Iraq‘s leaders toward a political solution, rebuilds the military, and refocuses on Afghanistan and broader security interests. But he made clear that “we must be as careful getting out of
Iraq as we were careless getting in.”

A new coalition must be forged to support Iraq ‘s future, including all of Iraq ‘s neighbours, the UN, the World Bank and the EU and “we will make it clear that the United States seeks no permanent bases in Iraq.”

Al Qaeda has an expanding base in Pakistan and if another homeland attack comes, it will likely come from the same region where 9/11 was planned. And yet today, the US has five times more troops in Iraq than Afghanistan. At least two additional combat brigades will be sent to Afghanistan and greater contributions – with fewer restrictions – sought from NATO allies. The focus will be on training Afghan security forces and supporting an Afghan judiciary. Obama proposes an additional $1 billion in non-military assistance each year.

The senator makes clear that if Pakistan cannot or will not act, “we will take out high-level terrorist targets like bin Laden if we have them in our sights.” “Make no mistake: we can ‘t succeed in Afghanistan or secure our homeland unless we change our Pakistan policy. We must expect more of the Pakistani government, but we must offer more than a blank check to a General who has lost the confidence of his people.”

The biggest nuclear worry is about a rogue state or nuclear scientist transferring the world ‘s deadliest weapons to the world ‘s most dangerous people: terrorists who won ‘t think twice about killing themselves and hundreds of thousands others. “America seeks a world with no nuclear weapons. As long as nuclear weapons exist, we must retain a strong deterrent.” “By keeping our commitment under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, we ‘ll be in a better position to press nations like North Korea and Iran to keep theirs.”

“We cannot tolerate nuclear weapons in the hands of nations that support terror. Preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons is a vital US national security interest. No tool of statecraft should be taken off the table. “I commend the work of our European allies on this important matter, and we should be full partners in that effort.”“Ultimately the measure of any effort is whether it leads to a change in Iranian behavior. That ‘s why we must pursue these tough negotiations in full coordination with our allies, bringing to bear our full influence – including, if it will advance our interests, my meeting with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing.” “The surest way to increase our leverage against Iran in the long-run is to stop bankrolling its ambitions. That will depend on achieving my fourth goal: ending the tyranny of oil in our time.”

One of the most dangerous weapons in the world today is money paid to unstable or hostile nations for their oil. It pays for terrorist bombs, funds petro-diplomacy in Caracas and radical madrasas from Karachi to Khartoum. It takes leverage away from America and shifts it to dictators.

This immediate danger is eclipsed only by the long-term threat from climate change, which will lead to devastating weather patterns, terrible storms, drought, and famine. That means people competing for food and water in the next fifty years in the very places that have known horrific violence in the last fifty: Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Most disastrously, that could mean destructive storms on our shores, and the disappearance of our coastline.

This is not just an economic issue or an environmental concern – this is a national security crisis and this dependence on foreign oil must be ended. “And as President…I’ll invest $150 billion over the next ten years to put America on the path to true energy security.” Investment will be in research and development of every form of alternative energy. The
US is ready to lead again.

For all of its power, America is strongest when it acts alongside strong partners. Now is the time for a new era of international cooperation: for America and Europe to renew their common commitment to face down the threats of the 21st century; to strengthen their partnerships with Japan, South Korea, Australia and India; to create a stable and prosperous Asia; to engage China on common interests like climate change.

It’s time to strengthen NATO by asking more of the allies, while always approaching them with the respect owed a partner; to reform the UN; and to deepen the engagement to help resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Obama proposes to create “A Shared Security Partnership Program”, a new alliance of nations to strengthen cooperative efforts to take down global terrorist networks, while standing up against torture and brutality. This will involve working with the African Union and building a new partnership to roll back the trafficking of drugs, and guns, and gangs in the Americas. The foreign assistance program will be doubled to $50 billion by 2012.

“This must be the moment when we answer the call of history. For eight years, we have paid the price for a foreign policy that lectures without listening; that divides us from one another – and from the world – instead of calling us to a common purpose; that focuses on our tactics in fighting a war without end in Iraq instead of forging a new strategy to face down the true threats that we face. We cannot afford four more years of a strategy that is out of balance and out of step with this defining moment.” “None of this will be easy, but we have faced great odds before. When General Marshall first spoke about the plan that would bear his name, the rubble of Berlin had not yet been built into a wall. But
Marshall knew that even the fiercest of adversaries could forge bonds of friendship founded in freedom. He had the confidence to know that the purpose and pragmatism of the American people could outlast any foe.”

Today, the dangers and divisions that came with the dawn of the Cold War have receded. Now, the defeat of the threats of the past has been replaced by the transnational threats of today. We know what is needed. We know what can best be done. We know what must done. Now it falls to us to act with the same sense of purpose and pragmatism as an earlier generation, to join with friends and partners to lead the world anew.”

This was a rousing speech which resounds well in Europe. Some analysis is needed but this can better be addressed after the Obama travels.

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