This report by Robert Kaiser — “Iraq Aside, Nominees Have Like Views on Use of Force” — is far from the worst thing we’ve seen in the Washington Post during this campaign season. However, it may be the most clueless.
Kaiser contends that differences between Barack Obama and John McCain about Iraq “may obscure a consequential similarity between their hawkish views on the use of American force in other places.” Kaiser bases his claim that Obama is a “hawk” on various positions Obama has taken during the general election campaign. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to Kaiser that Obama may simply be positioning himself along side, and fractionally to the left of, McCain for the purpose of winning the election. But then Kaiser probably believed that Obama would keep his promise to accept public funding of his campaign.
The best evidence of how Obama feels about using U.S. force is, of course, his pre-campaign positions when the use of force has been a live and immediate issue. Prior to the Iraq war, Obama did not favor using force under circumstances in which the likes of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and even John Kerry considered such a course appropriate. More recently, Obama opposed the use of increased force in Iraq (as part of a new strategy) where it held out the promise (now quite possibly realized) of preventing a defeat for the U.S., victory for al Qaeda, and a bloodbath for Iraq.
Kaiser claims that Obama has suggested that he is “prepared to take military action if the Iranians acquired nuclear weapons.” He infers this from the candidate’s statement that a nuclear armed Iran would not be permitted. But when questioned, Obama is never willing to affirm this inference. Kaiser again ignores the possibility (and I would submit, the probability) that Obama is being cagey.
Near the end of his piece, Kaiser finally acknoweledges that “Obama nearly always mentions the need for allies and international collaboration in any use of force; McCain does not emphasize that point.” In fact, as his positions on Iraq have demonstrated, McCain simply does not view international collaboration as necessary. This key difference between the two candidates, by itself, defeats Kaiser’s claim that they “have like views on the use of force.”
Has Obama really conned Kaiser into believing he’s a John McCain style “hawk”? Or is Kaiser just helping Obama con his readers?
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