About If Obama Wins
|July 7th, 2008||#1|
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If Obama Wins info
July 14, 2008
Candidate cites need to earn troops’ trust, touts his judgment over McCain’s, holds civilians accountable for missteps in Iraq
By Rick Maze
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama knows that to win the vote of current and former military members and their families, he has to prove himself.
“Precisely because I have not served in uniform, I am somebody who strongly believes I have to earn the trust of men and women in uniform,” Obama said in a July 2 interview with Military Times as he contrasted his lack of service with that of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, a Navy retiree and Vietnam veteran who has years of experience in Congress working on national security issues.
“I do not presume that from the day I am sworn in, every single service man or woman suddenly says, ‘This guy knows what he is doing,’” said Obama, a freshman U.S. senator from Illinois, in his most extensive interview to date on a wide range of military issues.
Earning trust, he said, means listening to advice from military people, including top uniformed leaders, combatant commanders and senior noncommissioned officers and petty officers. It also means standing up for the military on critical issues and keeping promises, Obama said.
The 46-year-old former community organizer and civil rights attorney will formally become the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee at the party’s August convention in Denver.
Obama said he hopes the military community will see him as “a guy looking out for us and not someone trying to score cheap political points.”
Military members and their families deserve better pay and benefits, he said, and although money might be hard to find for a generous increase, he supports increasing basic pay to keep up with inflation and private-sector salaries, and he believes housing allowances need to be increased so young service members and their families can afford adequate places to live.
He also wants to spend more to improve veterans’ health care and reduce the wait for a disability claim to be processed.
“I don’t know a higher priority than making sure that the men and women who are putting themselves in harm’s way, day in and day out, are getting decent pay and decent benefits — so that when they return home as veterans, they don’t have to wait six months to get benefits that they’ve earned, that they’re not winding up homeless on the streets, that they’re being screened for post-traumatic stress disorder, that if a spouse is widowed, the benefits are sufficiently generous,” he said. “These are just basic requirements of a grateful nation.”
Obama said he did not want to be more specific because he did not want to make promises he might not be able to keep. “I think we can do a much better job than we’re doing right now,” he said. But, he added, “I want to be honest: We are going to be in a tight budget situation. We’re not going to be able to do everything all at once.”
He also wants an end to stop-loss orders that extend active duty beyond separation or retirement dates, and he wants a deployment schedule that provides more stability and time at home for families.
One way to relieve this stress is to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps. Obama’s plans for a 65,000-person increase in the Army and a 27,000-person increase in the Marine Corps match plans already underway. He said he is not sure about personnel levels for the Navy and Air Force, but “I don’t anticipate a reduction” for those two services.
Troops in Iraq
Pulling U.S. combat forces out of Iraq would free up money for personnel programs and a host of other military needs, Obama said, citing the $10 billion to $12 billion monthly cost of military operations there. He did not mention that funding for Iraq has, so far, been emergency funding on top of the regular peacetime budget that would not automatically be diverted to other military programs.
Getting U.S. combat troops out of Iraq is a key Obama goal, and one where he said he is misunderstood. His campaign materials say Obama would begin withdrawing combat troops from Iraq, one or two brigades a month, as soon as he takes office. But he added in the interview that the start of the withdrawal also depends on the security conditions on the ground.
Obama said he wants to reduce combat troops, leaving forces to continue training Iraqi police and military officers, providing security for U.S. officials and facilities and for counterterrorism operations. Exactly when and how quickly this would happen depends on the situation in the field, he said, acknowledging that military commanders on the ground would play a key role in recommending what steps to take.
Obama said he would not order any “precipitous” withdrawal of combat forces. Instead, he said, his policy is that “we should be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless in getting in.”
“I have always said that as commander in chief, I would seek the advice and counsel of our generals,” Obama said. But, in the end, “it is the job of commander in chief to set the strategy.”
A strategic factor in the decision to keep forces in Iraq includes, for him, a question about the risk of not having enough combat-ready forces for other operations.
“If we have only one battle-ready brigade outside the Iraq rotation to respond to other risks, that’s not good strategic planning by the commander in chief,” he said. “If we have a situation in Afghanistan where we are seeing more and more violence in the eastern portion of Afghanistan, at a time when we’ve actually increased the forces down there and we’ve got some of the best battle-tested operations deployed there, and we’re still seeing increases in violence, what that tells me is that we’ve got real problems.”
Obama said he believes he would be a far better commander in chief than McCain.
“I believe that I have a better grasp of where we need to take the country, and how we should use the power of ... not just our military, but all of our power in order to achieve American security,” Obama said. “I think I have a better sense than he does of where we need to go in the future.
“As somebody who has worked on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on critical issues like nuclear proliferation . . . as somebody who has traveled widely and grew up traveling around the world, I think I have a clear sense of the nature of both the transnational threats and challenges but also the opportunities that are going to determine our safety and security for the foreseeable future. And that’s why I think I can be an effective commander in chief,” Obama said.
Accountability in leadership
During the interview, Obama discussed the issue of accountability for military leaders, including times when, he said, he believes the Bush administration has blamed senior officers for things that were not their fault. He contrasted his own personal standards of accountability that he said would apply if he becomes president.
“There are times during the course of this war where I felt that the military was blamed for bad planning on the civilian side, and that, I think, is unfortunate,” he said.
He acknowledged, however, that sometimes it is important to hold military leaders responsible for their actions.
Obama also spoke of rocking the boat. In what seems certain to be one of his more controversial proposals for the military, Obama said he wants to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
Equity and fairness are part of the reason for lifting the ban on acknowledged homosexuals serving in the military, Obama said, but there are practical reasons, too — like getting “all hands on deck” when the nation needs people in uniform. “If we can’t field enough Arab linguists, we shouldn’t be preventing an Arab linguist from serving his or her country because of what they do in private,” he said, referring to the 2006 discharge of about 60 linguists for violating the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on service by homosexuals.
“I want to make sure that we are doing it in a thoughtful and principled way. But I do believe that at a time when we are short-handed, that everybody who is willing to lay down their lives on behalf of the United States and can do so effectively, can perform critical functions, should have the opportunity to do so.”
Asked how he would deal with opposition from within the Pentagon, Obama smiled and said: “Well, I’m a pretty persuasive guy.” But he acknowledged that pushing such a legal change through Congress would be more challenging. “We have to distinguish whether there are functional barriers to doing this and are people prepared for the political heat.”
Another potential boat-rocking issue involves the use of private military companies to do work once performed by uniformed troops. Obama said he would seek to limit military-related work in combat zones that is turned over to private contractors.
“There is room for private contractors to work in the mess hall providing basic supplies and doing some logistical work that might have been done in-house in the past,” he said. “I am troubled by the use of private contractors when it comes to potential armed engagements. I think it puts our troops in harm’s way.”
Obama also said he is troubled by the long-term effect of such a policy. “Over time, you are, I believe, eroding the core of our military’s relationship to the nation and how accountability is structured,” he said. “I think you are privatizing something that is what essentially sets a nation-state apart, which is a monopoly on violence.”
Obama on defense
Sen. Barack Obama’s positions on some key issues:
Iraq pullout. Obama wants to remove forces from Iraq at one to two brigades a month. He has not set a timetable, saying much will depend on the situation on the ground. He has often been quoted as saying, “We should be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in.”
Afghanistan buildup. Two more brigades would be sent to Afghanistan to fight the growing threat from the Taliban.
End strength. Obama supports the drive to grow the Army by 65,000 soldiers and add 27,000 Marines to the Marine Corps. He has not staked out a position on the sizes of the Navy and Air Force. The Navy is drawing down. The Air Force was shrinking, but that was halted recently.
Stop-loss. He would seek to end the policy for reservists and active-duty troops.
Military families. Obama would create a Military Families Advisory Board to cut burdens on spouses and families.
Pay rates. He plans to bring basic pay levels in line with the private sector. The campaign has not released specifics.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Obama would work to repeal the controversial law governing gays in the military. He said the law has deprived the armed services of troops with crucial skills.
Guard and reserves. Obama wants them to deploy one year out of every six years, and cap cumulative deployment time at 24 months.
Veterans. Troops coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan would have mental health screeners in every state. Veterans also would have up to five years to enroll to receive care from the Veterans Affairs Department, versus the two years now allowed.
Weapons programs. All major programs would be re-evaluated based on current and future needs. Trade-offs would be made between systems designed for the Cold War and other new aircraft, such as unmanned aerial vehicles and cargo and refueling aircraft. Although not going into specifics, Obama called for “unparalleled air power capabilities,” adding that “relying solely on old systems from a past century will not suffice.” Obama calls for modernizing current ships and investing in small, capable combatants. He supports the concept of the Littoral Combat Ship program.
Private contractors. Obama calls for greater accountability and oversight for private contractors, especially those who are working in a war zone, and would require the Defense Department to decide “where contracting makes sense and where it doesn’t.”
Our questions, his answers
This July 2 interview with Sen. Barack Obama has been edited for clarity and length. To view the full transcript, go to http:www.armytimes.com.
Q. What qualifies you to be commander in chief?
A. I think that the most important quality that a commander in chief needs at this juncture in history in particular is judgment, an ability to see what America’s challenges are, to be able to see around the corner and anticipate where threats may come from in the future and to exercise that judgment effectively in deploying not just our military, but our whole arsenal of American power: our diplomatic power, our economic power, our intellectual, scientific and cultural power.
And, as somebody who has worked on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on critical issues like nuclear proliferation and ... grew up traveling around the world, I think I have a clear sense of the nature of both the transnational threats and challenges, but also the opportunities that are going to determine our safety and security for the foreseeable future. And that’s why I think I can be an effective commander in chief.
Q. What makes you better than John McCain?
A. John McCain has extraordinary service to our country, so I would never try to compare what he has done as a military officer, as well as his lengthy service to our country. I believe that I have a better grasp of where we need to take the country and how we should use the power of, again, not just our military, but all of our power in order to achieve American security. ...
I think I can exercise better judgment and anticipate what future opportunities are going to be.
Q. Provide an example, if you could, of where you can exercise better judgment.
A. I would argue in thinking about the war in Iraq from the start. I continue to believe that our decision to go into Iraq was a strategic mistake. It wasn’t just a problem of execution, but it was a problem of conception. John McCain may have been a critic of particular tactics of the Iraq war, but he believed that it was the right thing to do.
I believed that we needed to keep our focus in Afghanistan to hunt down al-Qaida operatives, to consolidate the gains that had been made by the outstanding military efforts in Afghanistan. I think we took our eye off the ball.
Q. you talk about withdrawing one or two brigades every month soon after you are elected as a process to get us down quickly. What will you do if your military commanders advise against that and they tell you you can’t do that?
A. This whole notion that I would initiate a precipitous withdrawal just isn’t borne out by anything that I’ve said. What I have repeatedly said from the start ... is that we should be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. That we should send a clear message to Iraqi leadership that we are not going to engage in a permanent occupation in Iraq and that we are not going to have permanent bases there. That we want to bring a gradual withdrawal of our combat forces, that we would maintain a counterterrorism force in the region that could continue to keep al-Qaida on the run.
That we would continue to have a protective force for our embassy, our civilian and humanitarian forces, and that we would continue to train Iraqis, both Army and police. And I have always said that as commander in chief, I will absolutely seek the advice and counsel of our generals and our commanders on the field, not just our generals, but our midlevel officers and those who are on the ground doing the fighting.
Q. If the withdrawal doesn’t begin as soon as you take office, when would you like it to begin? What kind of strategy would you set in terms of timing?
A. if current trends continue and we are at a position where we continue to see reductions in violence and stabilization and continue to see some improvements on the part of the Iraqi army and Iraqi police, then ... it strikes me that that is something we could begin relatively soon after inauguration. If, on the other hand, you’ve got a deteriorating situation for some reason, then that’s going to have to be taken into account.
Q. It’s the first wartime transition in 40 years. The basic concern within the Pentagon is that things will be lost or continuity will be lost. Do you expect to keep any political appointees in place?
A. I try to avoid signaling what a Cabinet will look like. I can tell you this: I do think that [Defense] Secretary [Robert] Gates has brought a level of realism and professionalism and planning to the job that is worthy of praise. I think that the Pentagon is operating more effectively. I think he has improved greatly the relationships with the Joint Chiefs and the military generally.
Q. He just fired one of the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
A. Well, that’s OK. The truth is, part of improving relations is improving accountability. That’s something we should always expect from our military leadership and our civilian leadership, something that has been in short supply over the last seven years. So overall, I think Gates has done a good job.
But whether that means that he would continue in that position, or would even want to, I think that’s something that will be determined later.
Q. You’re on record supporting the growth of the Army and the Marine Corps. Where are you with the Navy and the Air Force?
A. What I want is a fully integrated armed forces that can deal with the full spectrum of threats that are out there. Our naval and air superiority has to be maintained.
Whether that means that we need more airmen and sailors or whether that means that our budget maintains the extraordinary technological superiority that we have in air and on the seas, that is something that I would determine based on consultation with the military itself.
Q. The size of our military has really been built very heavily on the National Guard, and very heavily on private contractors to provide everything from food service to aircraft service and gun-toting security. What are the proper rules for those different pieces and how should that change?
A. We have overburdened our National Guard and our reserves. They have performed wonderfully, and I think the quality of their service has been outstanding — oftentimes under some pretty adverse circumstances.
But we have to give them some regularity, some predictability in their service. ... We have to recognize that the National Guard has important uses here at home. ... I don’t like National Guard or reservists being used almost as active duty but not getting the benefits.
And so part of the reason I think increasing the size of the Army and the Marine Corps is so important is to make sure we’re providing some relief and returning the National Guard and the reserve corps back to their provisional role.
When it comes to private contractors, there is room for private contractors to work in the mess hall providing basic supplies and doing some logistical work that might have been done in-house in the past. I am troubled by the use of private contractors when it comes to potential armed engagements. I think it puts our troops in harm’s way.
Q. Are service members adequately paid?
A. I think we can do a much better job than we’re doing right now. ...
we are going to be in a tight budget situation. We’re not going to be able to do everything all at once, [but] what I can tell you is that I don’t know a higher priority than making sure that the men and women who are putting themselves in harm’s way, day in and day out, are getting decent pay and decent benefits so that when they return home as veterans, they don’t have to wait six months to get benefits that they’ve earned, that they’re not winding up homeless on the streets, that they’re being screened for post-traumatic stress disorder, that if a spouse is widowed, the benefits are sufficiently generous. These are just basic requirements of a grateful nation.
Q. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” — you want to repeal it. Why isn’t the policy working?
A. I think that at a time when we are pressed, we should have an attitude of “all hands on deck.” If we can’t field enough Arab linguists, we shouldn’t be preventing an Arab linguist from serving his or her country because of what they do in private.
Q. How do you get the military leadership to go along with that?
A. Well, I’m a pretty persuasive guy [smiles, laughter]. I think we have to distinguish whether there are functional barriers to doing this, and are people prepared for the political heat.
Q. Are you?
A. Let me put it this way: Precisely because I have not served in uniform, I am somebody who strongly believes that I have to earn the trust of the men and women in uniform. I don’t presume that from the day I’m sworn in that every single service man or woman suddenly says, “This guy knows what he’s doing.”
I think that I have to display those qualities in leadership in listening, standing up for our military on some of the critical issues we’ve talked about, on delivering on my promises, so that relationships and trust are built, and so that people who are serving in armed forces feel like, “You know what? This is a guy who’s looking out for us, and he’s not looking just to score some cheap political points.”
|July 10th, 2008||#2|
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Yeah, you just have to love this interview/article. I find it revealing, although very disingenuous in places (since when to liberals care about earning “…the trust of men and women in uniform"?).
There are so many other things wrong with what he says that one hardly knows where to start. Things I have questions on:
1. What is the point of a 65,000-person increase in the Army and a 27,000-person increase in the Marine Corps while holding steady on the Navy and Air Force if you u are going to pull out of Iraq post haste?
2. How do you withdraw combat troops from Iraq at the rate of one or two brigades a month, as soon as he takes office and still maintain a viable security force on the ground and get all our stuff out (equipment, facilities, etc.)?
3. It would sure be nice if he had a clue about how to pay for all the nifty things he wants to do, but I don't think he understands how GWOT is funded. As noted in the article, and not discussed by Obama, emergency appropriations are not part of the budget, so there are no savings. I also think he seriously underestimates the need for recapitalizing the current force (the costs of recapitalizing the wheeled vehicle fleet alone are scary), let alone developing and buying new stuff.
4. I don’t understand Obama believes he would be a far better commander in chief than John McCain would. Have to tell you that working on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for far less than 2 years and growing up traveling around the world makes him “…think I can be an effective commander in chief… .”. How does that give you any sense of the “…nature of both the transnational threats and challenges but also the opportunities that are going to determine our safety and security for the foreseeable future… .”? How does this compare to devoting your entire adult life to service in the US Navy and in the US Senate.
5. I understand diplomatic power, economic power, intellectual power and even scientific power, but what the heck is “…cultural power… .”?
Note that this interview was primarily for the Army Times, which is a trade publication for the US Army and DoD. So unless you are a subscriber, have access to the Early Bird (this appeared there too), get it passed to your from someone who does or it gets picked up by other media outlets (could be as Army Times and the other Military Times papers are run by Gannet I think), you may never see this article.
I'd rather be a Soldier with a mule and mountain gun, than Knight of old, with spurs of gold, or Roman, Greek or Hun. For when there's trouble brewing, they always send for me!
Mortui Non Mordent - Celeritas Et Accuratio
|July 11th, 2008||#3|
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Smacks to me of Obama trying to win votes from the military.
Sgt. Rafael Peralta ,United States Marine Corps
Company A, 1st Bn, 3rd Marine Regt, 3rd Marine Divison
We will never forget your valor and sacrifice.
Semper Fi !
|July 21st, 2008||#7|
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A lot of Americans now agree with Obama on Iraq. It's a tramendous waste of money, time and infinitely worse, Iraqi and American lives! Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and the sole reason the US is in there is oil. It's a crystal clear fact in the eyes of the international community. Saying that America is in Iraq for bringing the damned land "freedom, democracy, and hence a better quality of life" is saying that all these years and thousands of lives have been WASTED because nothing, NOTHING of value has been achieved in Iraq that even vaguely resembles a better life for teh average Iraqi. Quite the oppesite, it's become worse, much worse.
Obama's Iraq policy has always made sense and when he becomes the next president, hopefully it'll still be in effect.
|July 21st, 2008||#8|
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What they say to get elected and what they do once they are elected are two different things. I always look upon our local Politicians as one is bunch of thieves and the other is a bunch of of crooks and I am never sure which label to hang on which party
LeEnfield Rides again
|July 21st, 2008||#10|
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"My center is giving way, my right is in retreat situation excellent. I shall attack." -Foch
I am from NYC. I fly a French flag because I work in Paris.
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