Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why I am voting for Obama

[Obviously, this is my own views, not vetted or approaved by any other person or organization or company]

Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

- Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons, 11 November 1947

I've had the opportunity over the past few weeks to have a number of conversations with individuals about the U.S. Presidential election. And the fact that I was in Afghanistan does come up. With the proportionately small portion of the population associated with the military it is a different background. One of the most rewarding conversations was with one woman in the North Hills whose son has enlisted, and is going to start after high school graduation.

I first started paying attention to Obama after his "More Perfect Union" speech, given when he was being attacked because of the views held by his former Pastor. It was striking because instead of attacking back, or complaining about the unfairness of being attacked for the beliefs and views of another (beliefs that he disagrees with), he instead talked about what America was and could be. That America could be more like the 'City on a Hill' for the world to see and aspire too. And it is the 'last best hope for the world.' It was so different then the reflexive flag waiving or the criticize America that one usually hears that it is striking in its difference. And certainly to be dispised by the extremes on both right and left.

The areas I write about are National Security and ability to handle crisis.

1. National Security. The framework is the four elements of National Power: diplomatic, information, military, economic, referred to as DIME (

Diplomatic: A nations ability to rally allies, engage opponents, and persuade neutral governments. Obama has repeated stated that a forefront of his national security policy is to work with U.S. partners to further our shared interests and that he will engage potential opponents. McCain states as a virtue that he will ignore certain allies (will not commit to meeting with Spain??!!) and views engaging potential opponents as venal. McCain will instead form new groupings such as a 'League of Democracies' to deal with international issues as opposed to existing institutions such as NATO. The obvious question, what makes McCain think that NATO allies and the usual other allies (Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea) are not an appropriate start (because NATO includes countries like Spain and France???)

Information: The ability to gather information, and communicate with foreign audiences. Obama would engage foreign populations directly to pursuade them and to undercut anti-U.S. propaganda. To amplify this point, look at a Obama-Biden rally vs. a McCain-Palin rally, and look at it from a point of someone in Asia or Africa or South America or the Middle East. Especially when Palin talks about representing 'Real Americans'. (Many in New York City think when hearing this 'We were American enough for Al-Queda, why are we not American enough for Republicans?') Obama's ability to do this is exemplified by Rashid Khalidi, a Palistinian advocate.
Khalidi added that he strongly disagrees with Obama's current views on Israel, and often disagreed with him during their talks over the years. But he added that Obama, because of his unusual background, with family ties to Kenya and Indonesia, would be more understanding of the Palestinian experience than typical American politicians.

It is that ability to communicate a disagreement with someone outside of the U.S., and still being respected as someone of principle and someone who can be worked with, is vital for a President of a country that is cast as "the last, best hope of the Earth, we just have to show the world why that is so."

Military: Ability to apply military power. This goes beyond any shooting, as the U.S. military response to the tsunamis in Southeast Asia, the Philippines and disasters in Pakistan show. Both candidates will strengthen the military. Obama speaks also to bringing in the rest of the government (i.e. diplomacy and foreign aid) engaged on the ground in major areas instead of just the military. McCain does not speak to non-military elements.

Economic: Understanding how economic issues bear on foreign policy. Neither candidate speaks to this directly, as discussion of economic issues in the campaign focuses on domestic issues, but Obama speaks to applying the entire tools of the U.S. government to national security/foreign relations. McCain does not.

2. Crisis Management. The second area is the ability to handle crisis. When the U.S. has a new President and strong opponents, the new President will be tested. To say otherwise is naivete. The only question is how this crisis will be handled. This campaign had the added highlight of a major economic crisis, the potential fall of the U.S. financial system during the campaign.

From reports, we know of the following actions by Sen. Obama
i. Discussed the strategy with House Democratic leaders for finance and economics.
ii. As Democratic leaders determined their goals (that the rescue plan provide the opportunity for taxpayers to recoup their investments), Sen. Obama began speaking in public on the need for a rescue and the Democratic desire that the rescue be made as investments so the investment can be recovered.
iii. Liberal democrats in congress who initially stated their willingness to let the U.S. financial system collapse report receiving calls from Sen Obama persuading them that the modified rescue plan was worth voting for.
iv. The use of government purchase of equity was used by European governments as the cornerstone of their rescue, based on past experience by some European countries. As provision had been made in the U.S. rescue plan for potential purchase of equity in financial institutions, the U.S. Treasury took part in the plan.

From reports, we know the following actions by Sen. McCain
i. Suspended campaign and went to Washington DC to work on the House negotiations, which collapsed that day. There are no reports of significant inputs to the debate, nor Sen. McCain's understanding or support.

Obama had made the comment that a "President will have to deal with more than one crisis at a time. His steadiness, taking the time to understand the issues, and ability to communicate the issues to other lawmakers and to the public are the mark of a leader. There is no evidence for results for McCain.

Colin Powell stated in his endorsement of Obama
And he displayed a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity, a depth of knowledge and an approach to looking at problems like this and picking a vice president that, I think, is ready to be president on day one. And also, in not just jumping in and changing every day, but showing intellectual vigor. I think that he has a, a definitive way of doing business that would serve us well.

And these are the traits that I would look for in handling crisis.

There are other reasons for choosing Sen. Obama over Sen. McCain. Colin Powell discusses a number of them in his endorsement ((Transcript)). Christopher Buckley, onetime columnist with the conservative National Review does the same.One could go to the two candidate websites for information on what they believe.

Colin Powell Endorsement (Transcript) (12:28)

Obama Closing Arguments, Norfolk, VA October 28, 2008 (35:47)

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