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Is Obama Really a Hawk?

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
December 14, 2009
The Daily Beast


There's nothing like a Nobel peace speech extolling war to unite the Washington commentariat and the foreign-policy community. They all loved President Obama's Oslo oration. Who could oppose fighting Hitler or Osama bin Laden? Only far out multiculturalists plus Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. I liked the speech, too, given my all-too-frequent support of military force.

Liberals actually like to talk about wars for human rights and democracy, though feel uncomfortable saying so. Conservatives just like threatening war all the time, and actually going to war occasionally with overwhelming force, whatever the cause-oppression, bringing democracy to the heathens, retaining democracy for sinners, balance of power, monopoly of power, and to make liberals look weak. Besides, Republicans don't worry about wars causing budget deficits, because the tooth fairy always pays the tab.

But going to war does not a foreign policy make. If Americans are searching for a new Obama foreign policy, they need to look back to the closing words of Obama's West Point speech. Those paragraphs zeroed in on the overriding imperative of restoring America's economic strength-the very heart of America's military and diplomatic power and economic competitiveness. Without that economic power, there will be no military and economic power, no military victories, not much of anything. This truth, one of the few truths in the foreign-policy business, is the only basis for a realistic and effective national-security policy.



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