Skip to content

Obama Advisers Highlight Likely Changes in Foreign Policy

A panel of foreign policy advisers close to Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) shed light on how an Obama presidency might deal with national security issues.

The group, which included former Cabinet officials, Members of the Congress and representatives from various countries, such as Britain and Afghanistan, spoke at a roundtable discussion Thursday in Denver. The panelists touched on a variety of issues, including the threats of terrorism, climate change and nuclear proliferation.

An Obama administration foreign policy, they said, would stress integration of military and diplomatic power, including increasing foreign aid. Obama’s running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), recently proposed a bill that would provide billions of dollars in development assistance to the most volatile regions of Pakistan, one panelist said.

‘“As we have seen in the past few years, power without diplomacy is positively dangerous to us and others,” said Anthony Lake, a former national security adviser.

Gayle Smith, a former senior director for African affairs at the National Security Council, said improving U.S. relations with citizens of the Islamic world was paramount. One way she suggested an Obama administration would accomplish that would be through the creation of schools and other social programs in unfriendly countries.

“Think about what Afghanistan would look like if for the past 30, 40 years the United States had been in the forefront [supporting] their primary education,” she said.

Susan Rice, former assistant secretary of state for African affairs under President Clinton, said education was especially important in undeveloped countries.

“It’s about leaving a better world for our children — and not just the children of the U.S. but the children of the world,” Rice said. “What happens to the children of the world affects the children of the U.S.”

Richard Danzig, former Clinton-era Navy secretary, said the war in Iraq had “crippled, emaciated and over strained” the U.S. military, which he said was strong at the beginning of President Bush’s two terms.

“When Sen. Obama says Iraq is a part of a larger puzzle, he’s not only making a statement about Iraq, but about the need to send more brigades back to Afghanistan,” Danzig said.

Danzig called pragmatism — a recurring theme in Obama’s campaign — a key fixture in Democratic presidential nominee’s foreign policy platform.

“If there are things Bush has done right — and there are — he’s not going to reflexively change them in the way that Bush did with the Clinton administration (policies),” he said, citing intelligence community reform as a Bush success.