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Legitimate questions of judgment, experience
Worm Hole -
Legitimate questions of judgment, experience
Joseph C. Wilson IV
SANTA FE, N.M. - In recent weeks Americans have been subjected to a litany of outrageous
statements from Sen. Barack Obama's pastor of 20 years, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. While Obama
was finally compelled to distance himself from his radical preacher, the relationship raises
legitimate questions about Obama's judgment and naivete.
Obama, after all, wants to be president of the United States, and in that quest has proposed
unconditional summit meetings with some of our country's most determined enemies, including
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Obama's campaign has been built upon his supposed transcendent qualities and intuitive
judgment. His foreign policy experience is limited to having lived in Indonesia between the
ages of 6 and 10, and having traveled overseas briefly as a college student. He further
claims that a speech he gave against the war in Iraq six years ago to extremely liberal
supporters in a campaign for state senator in Illinois is sufficient proof of his superior
judgment in national security matters and qualifies him to be president and
commander-in-chief of U.S. Armed Forces at a time when we are fighting two extraordinarily
difficult wars. As with his relationship with Wright, a closer examination is warranted.
In the U.S. Senate, to which he was elected in 2004, a year after the launching of Operation
Iraqi Freedom, he has done little to act on his asserted anti-war position, and has said
repeatedly that had he been in the Senate at the time of the vote on the authorization for
the use of military force he doesn't know how he would have voted. As chairman of the Senate
Foreign Relations subcommittee on Europe, with jurisdiction over NATO, he has held not a
single oversight meeting because, as he admitted, he was too busy running for president,
even though NATO's presence in the Afghanistan war is critical to success in that venture.
Obama repeats the incorrect and politically irresponsible mantra that Sen. Hillary Clinton
voted for the war and that therefore he is more qualified to be president. Unlike Obama, as
the last acting U.S. ambassador to Iraq during the first Gulf War, I was deeply involved in
that debate from the beginning.
President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell made it clear publicly and in their
representations to Congress that the authorization was not to go to war but rather to give
the president the leverage he needed to go to the United Nations to reinvigorate
international will to contain and disarm Saddam Hussein, consistent with the resolutions
passed at the time of the first Gulf War.
With passage of the resolution, the president did in fact achieve a U.N. consensus, and
inspectors returned to Iraq. Hans Blix, the chief U.N. inspector, has said repeatedly that
without American leadership there would have been no new inspection regime.
l l l
SADDAM WAS A SERIAL VIOLATOR OF HUMAN RIGHTS, had started two wars in the region in the
previous decade, continued to threaten his neighbors, including Israel, which he once said
he would destroy with weapons of mass destruction. We may not have fully understood how
little remained of his WMD arsenal, but were we really willing in the aftermath of 9/11 to
give him a free pass, as Obama's rewriting of history suggests he might have done?
The approach of tough diplomacy backed by the threat of military action was the correct one
and it yielded exactly the desired results, a unanimously passed U.N. resolution and the
capitulation of Saddam when he readmitted the inspectors.
The betrayal occurred not when the president was given the tools he needed to secure
international support for inspections, but rather when Bush refused to allow the inspectors
to complete their work and decided preemptively to invade, conquer and occupy Iraq.
That decision and power was his alone -- not the Congress' and certainly not Hillary
Clinton's. Obama is wrong to turn Bush's war into Clinton's responsibility. And Obama is
dangerously naive in failing to understand the need in international crises to blend tough
diplomacy with the other foreign policy tools at our disposal to achieve a strong national
Judgment and leadership in foreign policy are not intuitive. They are learned through
experience. Obama's long and close relationship with the anti-American hate-monger Wright,
his inattention to his responsibilities in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and his
careless approach to Iraq all suggest that he would benefit from more experience. We should
ask whether we want those lessons to be learned in the White House.
(Joseph C. Wilson IV is a former diplomat and U.S. ambassador. He was senior director for
African Affairs in the Clinton administration. In 2003 he wrote a New York Times opinion
piece, "What I didn't find in Africa," challenging the Bush administration's use of
intelligence to justify the war in Iraq.)
Joseph C. Wilson IV
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