Sunday, October 05, 2008


Father: You need to learn how to drive because I can't afford to have you wreck my car again.

Son: But if I hadn't, your car wouldn't be shining with this new coat of red paint. Why can't you appreciate the makeover?

Father: Because it cost me money and if you don't learn how to drive you'll wreck my car again!

Now replace the frustrated father with Barack Obama and the cocky son with John McCain. If the logic of the two candidates on Iraq can be reduced to a simple analogy then this serves the purpose.

John McCain doesn't get it. He glorifies a tactic – the 'surge' in Iraq – but stubbornly refuses to acknowledge the failure of the strategy – the invasion of Iraq. Unfortunately, this is just one of several things that reveal the 72-year old McCain to be a relic from the last century. America needs some fresh, 21st century ideas - Obama has them and he is the man for the job.

The ideas are simple. Obama advocates diplomacy and dialogue over dire declarations and threats. His message echoes what many scholars and practitioners have been saying for some time now, among them, five influential former secretaries of state – Henry Kissinger, Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright, James Baker and Colin Powell.

Obama promises this fundamental shift in approach because it is pretty obvious by now that refusing to talk to 'enemies' doesn't make them improve their behavior.

However, Obama was heavily criticized by McCain for publicly saying that he would sit down without pre-conditions with the leaders of Iran, North Korea and Cuba. But that is a more responsible statement than John McCain's silly and muscular song, "Bomb…bomb … bomb… Bomb… bomb … Iran." (A modification of the Beach Boys' lyrics " Ann".)

McCain's bullish strategy is also out of sync with American voters. In a recent poll conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (CCGA), a nonpartisan organization founded in 1922 to influence global issues, 65% of Americans voted in favour of talks with Iran. 68% favoured talks with North Korea and 70% with Cuba. Bombing is not on people's minds. Talking is.

On the question of the Iraq invasion, Obama has been against it from the start. He points out that this is a problem America created for itself. Every 'victory' since then has been too fragile and only attempted to cope with a strategic blunder while massively draining resources. Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, there were no weapons of mass destruction, Iraq and Iran kept each other in check and 'Al-Qaeda in Iraq' didn't exist. McCain chooses to be blind to all of the above. He insists you look at the new coat of red paint. He also wrongly paints Obama's withdrawal strategy as "defeat" when Obama's approach is simple – the US has to be careful getting out as it was careless getting in. 67% of Americans according to the CCGA poll support a time-table for withdrawal from Iraq. Again McCain is out of touch.

Obama also makes the argument that the central front on terror has been and still is Afghanistan. He wants a troop surge there. Here too he shows better judgment because today it is pretty clear that the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) in the north-western corner of Pakistan is a safe sanctuary for every bandit and aspiring terrorist in the world.

During the first Presidential debate debate Obama rightfully also criticized Bush's one-man Musharraf policy in Pakistan saying, "Musharraf was a dictator but he was our (America's) dictator." McCain shot back in defense of Musharraf, that Pakistan was a failed state when the general took over. Frankly, it looks much worse today. Lastly, to be effective in Afghanistan, America first needs to improve its relationship with NATO allies and the rest of the world.

By invading Iraq and ignoring Afghanistan things there have gone from bad to worse. Now countries like Norway and Germany don't want to shoulder the burden of a botched war. They refuse to send troops to the south where the insurgency rages.

George Bush's ramrod style has alienated allies and few people today share the sympathy epitomized in the French newspaper Le Monde's headline after 9/11 stating "We are all Americans."

83% in the CCGA poll, voted overwhelmingly to have America's standing restored. John McCain with his bluster and tough talk about 'victory' and 'defeat' in war has really not endeared himself to anyone abroad. Obama on the other hand has almost rock-star status in Europe. His race, youth and idealistic message of 'Change' have been electrifying.

But the substantive reasons that Obama trumps McCain on foreign policy are his intelligence, foresight and conciliatory tone. This will better serve America and the world where war-mongering and dire threats have failed.

Published on on October 4th 2008.


Neodawn said...

Obama presents a once in a generation opportunity for America. In fact, it is not even a tight choice between the two candidates based on what they stand for. However, it is funny that the polls are showing close numbers. You never know since, Al Gore & John Kerry “lost” against Bush.

Btw, McCain is wrong when he said Pakistan was a failed state when Musharraf took over. It was a democratically elected government in place with no major civil unrest.

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Hi Neodawn,
I don't know if this election is in fact close or if the polls are getting it badly wrong.

Well... Pakistan's finances were in tatters when Nawaz Sharif was overthrown... but I accept that 'failed state' is usually used for states in a much more dire situation. Pakistan always appear to lurch from one chaotic state into the next.

Anahat said...

it all makes so much sense... there is a need for change.. without doubt.. but will america vote for it.. there is a lot of talk and furor.. but when it comes down to casting the ballot, will the majority of the electorate go with the tried and tested.. maybe if he ran for Vice Presidnet under Hillary it wouldnt have been that bad?... yet to be seen if Barack Hussein Obama II can get to the finish line.. i hope he does.. more than ever.. but i wonder...

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Hey Ana,
You know what I dread? I dread the nasty, personal and offensive attacks that are coming Obama's way because the Republicans don't know how to lose. This gap that they see developing between the Reps and Dems will be bridged with some toxic swift-boating.

And then it will be interesting to see what happens. Will people allow themselves to be distracted by it? We're all waiting for the fat lady to sing.

'Tis a beautiful life! said...

While I agree about McCain on most of your points - to be honest he doesn't seem half as scary a prospect as Sarah Palin does. The idea that that woman could be in the white house is scarier to the world than the wall street crisis

The Rogue said...

I agree with you about McCain and his archaeic policies and everything. I watched an Obama give an interview on God TV, and he's impressive! On God TV! He talked about everything from religion to abortion to Iraq, very well at that! Obama beats his counterpart hands down on every front by a large margin - Age, policies, attitude, intelligence and he is exactly what America needs right now, but do they know it?

Unknown said...

Hi Alaphia

Great post, and i completely agree with you. The stats from the polls were interesting and show how out of synch McCain is. Obama does, I believe, have what it takes on all counts. Aided by a crucial world view and perspective given his international background that McCain can never have. As for Sarah Palin, the less said the better. I really believe the Republicans are in decline.

Alaphia Zoyab said...

Hi oncloud9,

Oh I absolutely agree. Sarah Palin's utter and complete ignorance is frightening.

Rogue - You make a valid point. I can only hope that the lead in the polls that Obama is showing means that people see it.

David - I hope you are right but this thing is not over till its over! Remember Al Gore and GWB?

Rohan said...

Obama advocates ripping apart babies in their mothers' wombs.