My Life in Words

The end of the innocence: Obama isn't as different as he wants you to think.

Correspondence 1: August 7 , 2007

Senator Obama,

I am not a current constituent of yours, but have been a supporter of your run for President. I have followed your campaign with some interest for the last several months and I have been impressed with the level of intelligence and consideration that seems to be brought to the statements that you make and positions that you take publicly. It is primarily this level of reasoned thought that has attracted me to you as a candidate.

I am troubled, however, by recent statements you made regarding foreign policy and Pakistan. The issue of national sovereignty concerns me a great deal, as it is a basic tenet of foreign policy that has governed modern international relations for decades. That is, before the sitting President violated it with a largely unprovoked invasion of Iraq. I am unclear how you as a candidate can justify denouncing your fellow candidates for their early support of that debacle at the same time as you are publicly expressing your support for incursions into another sovereign state - and this one ostensibly an ally.  

My concerns from a policy perspective are as follows:

  1. How can we as Americans justify our outrage at having our borders and our lives violated if we support military incursions into another sovereign state? How can the innocent people of Pakistan (who far outnumber the extremists) continue to call the United States an ally (which we claim to be) after we have suggested such an action?  
  2. Wouldn't our action against a Pakistani territory without the approval or support of the Musharraf government only serve to weaken it in the eyes of its own citizens, as well as the citizens of its peer states? If our goal is to build up our allies and strengthen our alliances around the world, we must do it by helping to legitimize their governments, especially in the Arab and Islamic world, not by undermining them.
  3. How can our other allies still claim to value national sovereignty and at the same time remain supportive of the U.S. if we undertake such an action? Would we not be placing said allies, whose governments and citizenry are already often at odds with U.S. foreign policy, in an even more tenuous position? Again, we should be seeking to strengthen and legitimize our alliances, not to strain them.
  4. Does unilateral action in this capacity, if undertaken, then obligate us to act unilaterally any time we see a similar situation present itself? What other states will it then be acceptable to violate? Does our own unilateral action, if undertaken, signal tacit support of similar actions by other states? What other states are we then willing to tolerate our allies violating? Our enemies?

These are not my only concerns, but they represent a significant cross-section of the issues that an action of this sort would bring to the fore.

I hope in the immediate future you will justify (or at least clarify) your statements, as they have potentially alienated a large group of voters. On a personal level, I am looking for a candidate who will build America back to respectability in the global community. Until I read your remarks, I was convinced that you fit that description. My concern on this particular issue is strong enough to justify lending my support to another candidate. I hope you will consider its potential impact on the future of your campaign.


Chris Nelson

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