In a speech today at the Council on Foreign Relations, Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards criticized both the Bush Global War on Terror and the Democrats for giving in on the war funding bill. “The core of this presidency has been a political doctrine that George Bush calls the “Global War on Terror.” He has used this doctrine like a sledgehammer to justify the worst abuses and biggest mistakes of his administration, from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, to the war in Iraq. The worst thing about the Global War on Terror approach is that it has backfired—our military has been strained to the breaking point and the threat from terrorism has grown,” Edwards said.

He continued, “We need a post-Bush, post-9/11, post-Iraq American military that is mission-focused on protecting Americans from 21st century threats, not misused for discredited ideological pursuits. We need to recognize that we have far more powerful weapons available to us than just bombs, and we need to bring them to bear. We need to reengage the world with the full weight of our moral leadership. What we need is not more slogans but a comprehensive strategy to deal with the complex challenge of both delivering justice and being just. Not hard power. Not soft power. Smart power.”

Edwards was also unhappy that his fellow Democrats compromised on a war funding bill. “Any compromise that funds the war through the end of the fiscal year isn’t a compromise at all, it’s a capitulation. As I have said repeatedly, Congress should send the president the same bill he vetoed again and again until he realizes he has no choice but to start bringing our troops home. We need to get out of Iraq on our own timetable, not when we are forced to do so by events. As a recent Council report put it, the U.S. “has already achieved all that it is likely to achieve in Iraq… [and] staying in Iraq can only drive up the price of these gains in blood, treasure, and strategic position.”

Edwards wants to replace the war on terror with a new strategy that “includes strong and creative diplomacy, and also new efforts to lead the fight against global poverty. I’ve proposed a plan to lead an international effort to educate every child in the world. As president, I would increase foreign assistance by $5 billion a year to make millions of people safer, healthier, and more democratic, and by creating a cabinet-level post to lead this effort.” Edwards would also beef up intelligence collection, close GITMO, restore habeas corpus, and ban torture. Edwards wants to rebuild the military, do away with preemptive war, and go back to letting the military commanders make the decision, not civilians in Washington, D.C.

Whether you agree or disagree with them it is nice to see to see candidates like Edwards and McCain talk in detail about what they would do if they were elected. The other four top tier candidates, in both parties, run away from details every single day on the campaign trail. How many more times can we listen to Rudy wave the flag, while pretending to know anything about national security, and Hillary and Romney change their positions to whatever works that day, or Obama speak in platitudes, but never seem to have any details? I wish more Americans cared about elections enough to force candidates to talk about the issues. Edwards’ plan is too ambitious for one president to accomplish, but I would like to see him try, because that would mean that the conventional wisdom was wrong, a candidate can talk about issues, and still win.
Full Text of Edwards Speech

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at 

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