Specific Policy Positions
Afghanistan Argues that the Bush administration, because of its fixation on Iraq, has neglected the real central front in the war on terrorism. Would deploy two additional brigades (approximately 10,000 troops) to Afghanistan, made available by his planned 16-month drawdown from Iraq, once the units had rested and retrained.
Pakistan A strong supporter of proposals by Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., to tie military aid more closely to Pakistan's actions against terrorists and to triple nonmilitary aid to Islamabad for education, health, and infrastructure to $1.5 billion a year. He has been strongly criticized for reserving the right to strike unilaterally at Qaeda targets on Pakistani territory, but has countered that any president would do the same.
Military forces Supports the ongoing addition of 92,000 troops to the Army and Marine Corps.
Nuclear weapons Supports the eventual abolition of all nuclear weapons, and opposes development of new types of such weapons. Supports stronger international measures for nuclear arms control and nonproliferation. Criticizes President Bush's "rushed deployments" of missile defense systems.
Africa As a first-generation African-American, with several Africa specialists among his key advisers, he would make U.S. policy toward Africa a higher priority. Along with McCain and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, issued a joint statement, endorsed by the Save Darfur Coalition, denouncing "more than five years of genocide" by the Sudanese government and promising that the next president would pressure Sudan "with unstinting resolve."
Obama's most visible foreign-policy adviser and spokesperson has been Susan Rice, a former State Department Africa specialist whose views were shaped by the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and who argues passionately for a more active policy on Darfur. Richard Danzig and F. Whitten Peters served as Navy and Air Force secretary, respectively, in the Clinton administration and are known as solid, pragmatic managers. Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Jonathan Gration, a fighter pilot who became an African development activist, changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat after meeting Obama in 2006. Denis McDonough, a former aide to Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., is the campaign's national security coordinator and is part of a cadre of advisers housed at the liberal Center for American Progress.
U.S.-India nuclear deal: Voted to require India to stop producing uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons, an amendment to a bill approving U.S.-India cooperation on civilian nuclear power. Was one of just 26 senators who sought unsuccessfully to add the ban on "fissile materials" as a condition for the nuke deal. He later voted in favor of the unamended treaty.
Cluster bombs: Voted to limit the military's use of cluster bombs and to curb their sale abroad. The amendment, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., failed, with McCain among those opposed.
Missile defense: Voted to cut $50 million from missile defense and add the money to nonproliferation programs.
U.N. ambassador: Opposed President Bush's nomination of John Bolton to be U.S. representative to the United Nations. Voted unsuccessfully against cloture on the nomination.
Key Interest Groups
American Israel Public Affairs Committee: A speech before the powerful group is a rite of passage for presidential candidates. In Obama's case, it was very nearly a trial by fire. He started off on the defensive over his Muslim heritage and his willingness to negotiate with Iran. But he pledged that "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." Critics of the pro-Israeli lobby saw Obama's AIPAC performance as abject surrender, but he emphasized that Israel must make some concessions to Palestinian interests.
AFL-CIO: While defense-industry executives tend to vote Republican, their employees are heavily unionized and Democratic. Any major cut in Pentagon spending threatens thousands of increasingly scarce blue-collar manufacturing jobs, discouraging Democratic candidates from getting specific about potential cuts to defense.
This article appears in the July 12, 2008 edition of National Journal Magazine Contents.
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