Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) remarks to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs caused some liberals to question Obama’s progressive values on matters of war and peace. In an April 23 speech he outlined his foreign policy vision, which called for an expansion of the military that would increase the Army by 65,000 and the Marines by 27,000. 

Obama also said: “No President should ever hesitate to use force – unilaterally if necessary – to protect ourselves and our vital interests when we are attacked or imminently threatened. But when we use force in situations other than self-defense, we should make every effort to garner the clear support and participation of others – the kind of burden-sharing and support President George H.W. Bush mustered before he launched Operation Desert Storm.”

This announcement made some progressives uncomfortable with Obama’s military proposal and criticized the Illinois senator’s plans. But in a post-9/11 election, democrats will find it tough to get elected with a pre-9/11 view of the world.

While there is no evidence to suggest a Democratic president would be less effective at defending the country against al-Qaeda and other Islamic Jihadist groups, democrats still have to fight a perception as being the party that is “soft on terror” and weak on defense. Obama– like all democrats– must prove he can best protect the country and is aware a democrat in the age of global terrorism cannot win back the White House by adopting a George McGovern antiwar foreign policy.

Recent polls have consistently showed disapproval from a majority of Americans of President Bush’s handling of the Iraq war and his conduct of the war on terror. Most regard the current administration as stubborn, one of arrogance, and incompetence. However, despite the lack of confidence many Americans had for the Bush presidency in the 2004 elections, republicans were able to portray former Democratic Presidential hopeful John Kerry as being soft when it comes to protecting the American people. Vice President Dick Cheney claimed at the time that electing the Massachusetts senator would cause another terrorist attack. Republicans successfully convinced the electorate that Kerry would not keep them safe, and President Bush was able to win reelection.

In the end, Americans preferred “strong and wrong,” than “right and weak.”Republicans have continued to show a willingness to exploit the war on terror and 9/11 for political gain. At a Lincoln Day dinner in New Hampshire, Giuliani suggested that under a Democratic president the country would be less safe. Fox News Commentator, Bill O’Reilly said Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards “doesn’t have a clue and doesn’t care about terrorism.”  With repeated accusation and labels leveled such as unpatriotic, undermining the troops and emboldening the terrorist– democrats must convey strength and a willingness to defeat America’s enemies.

Our next President should be competent, someone who uses good judgment and wisdom, but he/she must also demonstrate a willingness to use force against opposing threats if necessary. A few days ago, a terror plot to kill U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix in New Jersey by 6 Islamic radicals was foiled on Monday. No one knows what might happen in 4 or 7 years, and because the threat of terror is real, the democrats must make the case they too are strong in combating terror. Their case must be that they believe in fighting smarter– oppose to not fighting at all.

Although some liberals disapprove of Obama’s military plans, it is a mistake to think he shouldn’t have one– an antiwar campaign will only get one so far. Progressives can debate Obama’s views on foreign policy but it is inaccurate to think he can win being antiwar alone.

About the Author:
Nadia Brown is a writer, poet, and author of Unscrambled Eggs.



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