a foreign policy Q&A with Obama

This is a very specific set of written questions by the Washington Post to which Senator Obama gave detailed replies. Let me highlight and excerpt a few of the ones that I think are particularly relevant to the muslim american interest.

On democracy promotion:

Q. Do you believe democracy promotion should be a primary U.S. goal? If so, how would you achieve it? How would you balance democracy and human rights priorities against other strategic needs in the case of countries including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China and Russia?

A. We benefit from the expansion of democracy: Democracies are our best trading partners, our most valuable allies and the nations with which we share our deepest values.

Our greatest tool in advancing democracy is our own example. That's why I will end torture, end extraordinary rendition and indefinite detentions; restore habeas corpus; and close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

I will significantly increase funding for the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and other nongovernmental organizations to support civic activists in repressive societies. And I will start a new Rapid Response Fund for young democracies and post-conflict societies that will provide foreign aid, debt relief, technical assistance and investment packages that show the people of newly hopeful countries that democracy and peace deliver, and the United States stands by them.

I recognize that our security interests will sometimes necessitate that we work with regimes with which we have fundamental disagreements; yet, those interests need not and must not prevent us from lending our consistent support to those who are committed to democracy and respect for human rights.

On reaching out to the muslim world:

Q. You have said that within your first 100 days in office, you would give a major speech in a "major Islamic forum" in which you will "redefine our struggle." What is that redefinition? What would be the substance of that speech?

A. As president of the United States, I will directly address the people of the Muslim world to make it clear that the United States is not at war with Islam, that our enemy is al-Qaeda and its tactical and ideological affiliates, and that our struggle is shared. In this speech, I will make it clear that the United States rejects torture -- without equivocation, and will close Guantanamo. I will make it clear that the United States stands ready to support those who reject violence with closer security cooperation; an agenda of hope -- backed by increased foreign assistance -- to support justice, development and democracy in the Muslim world; and a new program of outreach to strengthen ties between the American people and people in Muslim countries. I will also make it clear that we will expect greater cooperation from Muslim countries; and that the United States will always stand for basic human rights -- including the rights of women -- and reject the scourge of anti-Semitism. Simply put, I will say that we are on the side of the aspirations of all peace-loving Muslims, and together we must build a new spirit of partnership to combat terrorists who threaten our common security.

On Afghanistan and Pakistan policy:

Q. How would you balance the perhaps conflicting imperatives of taking U.S. action against presumed terrorists in the Pakistan border area and the possibility that such action could further undermine the ability of . . . the Pakistani government . . . in its own fight against domestic terrorism? You have called for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq "on to the right battlefield in Afghanistan and Pakistan." How, specifically, would you change current U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan?

A. I will deploy at least two additional combat brigades to Afghanistan to reinforce our counterterrorism operations and support NATO's efforts against the Taliban. I will put more of an Afghan face on security by enhancing the training and equipping of the Afghan army and police, including more Afghan soldiers in U.S. and NATO operations. I would increase our nonmilitary aid by $1 billion to fund projects at the local level that impact ordinary Afghans -- including the development of alternative livelihoods for poppy farmers. And I will put tough anti-corruption safeguards on aid, and increase international support for the rule of law across the country.

In Pakistan, I will reject the false choice between stability and democracy. In our unconditional support for [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf, we have gotten neither. I will condition elements of our aid to the Pakistani government on their actions to pursue al-Qaeda in the FATA, and their actions to fully restore democracy and the rule of law. I will increase assistance for secular education and for development of the border region so that we meet the extremists' program of hate with a program of hope. Our goal in Pakistan must not just be an ally -- it must be a democratic ally, because that will be a better ally in the fight against terrorism and that will represent a better future for the Pakistani people.

On India and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty:

Q. You've said you want to strengthen the [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] "so that nations that don't comply will automatically face strong international sanctions." What about those nuclear states that have refused to sign the NPT -- specifically Israel, India and Pakistan? Should they also be eligible for sanctions? If not, does that encourage countries like Iran simply to follow their example and withdraw from the treaty?

A. There's a big difference between countries that are members of the NPT and violate their obligations, and countries that have never signed up to these obligations. In the first instance, we need to enforce treaty obligations. Withdrawing from the NPT, after having violated its provisions, is contrary to international law and requires the strongest international response.

I didn't excerpt it above, but it should be noted that Obama's answer to the obligatory question on Israel-Palestine was typically vague. Tha's reassuring, as is the fact that Obama has been vilified by as both an anti-semite and a zionist already by the usual suspects. I've long argued that the Israel-Palestine issue is fundamentally irrelevant to the muslim-american political self-interest, so I am actually pleased with vague rhetoric and status quo. Any further interference in I-P is detrimental to everyone involved.

There's a lot more in depth at the link (the article is four pages long) and covers the whole spectrum of issues, including withdrawal from Iraq, Iran policy, Guantanamo, and the State Department. It's worth reading the whole thing. On the whole, reading this makes it clear that Obama's judgement is indeed comprehensive and informed and that the "experience" issue is merely a canard. Obama knows the issues and in this interview outlines a very consistent and principled approach.

What's the one thing missing? I would very much like to see someone ask Obama about Dubai Ports World.

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