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Barack Obama: The Peace Candidate?


Why would anyone think that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is the peace candidate?

True, before President Bush sent an invasion force to Iraq and before Obama was in the Senate, he made a speech saying intervention would be a mistake. But after the invasion, in 2004, he said he wasnt sure how he would have voted when the resolution authorizing Bush to use force to overthrow Saddam Hussein came before the Senate. Since being in the Senate, he has voted to continue the occupation.

That doesnt sound much like a peace candidate, does it?

Obama has made speeches and written articles demonstrating his full embrace of the interventionist policy that has characterized the U.S. governments approach to the world for many years.

Whats truly frightening is that Obama doesnt seem to realize that U.S. foreign policy has been interventionist. For example, he said, We cannot afford to be a country of isolationists right now. 9/11 showed us that try as we might to ignore the rest of the world, our enemies will no longer ignore us. And so we need to maintain a strong foreign policy, relentless in pursuing our enemies and hopeful in promoting our values around the world. (Emphasis added.)

In the last hundred years, when have we ignored the rest of the world? U.S. administrations have been interfering in Middle Eastern affairs for more than 50 years. They have been interfering in Latin America even longer. Anyone who takes a close look with an open mind would know that 9/11 was a consequence of U.S. interventionism, not isolationism, which is a smear word. That someone opposes invading other countries doesnt mean he opposes commercial or cultural relations with them. The great liberals of history (when that word meant freedom and minimum government) favored peace and free trade.

Fear of nonintervention is something Obama has expressed before. In the July/August 2007 Foreign Affairs he wrote, After Iraq, we may be tempted to turn inward. That would be a mistake. The American moment is not over, but it must be seized anew. We must bring the war to a responsible end and then renew our leadership military, diplomatic, moral to confront new threats and capitalize on new opportunities.

Those are not the words of peace candidate. Obama has often talked about the need for the United States to project its power around the world.

He has made it clear that he supports wars that are not strictly defensive and has expressed admiration for the first President Bushs war against Iraq: 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.

Obama engages in the same fear-mongering that we have gotten accustomed to with George W. Bush. Obama says, This centurys threats are at least as dangerous and in some ways more complex than those we have confronted in the past. They come from weapons that can kill on a mass scale and from global terrorists who respond to alienation or perceived injustice with murderous nihilism. They come from rogue states allied to terrorists and from rising powers that could challenge both America and the international foundation of liberal democracy.

Again, he shows no understanding that it is interventionism, not liberal democracy, that makes Americans targets. Hes fallen for the Bush line that they hate us because we are free.

Even parts of the U.S. government know that is nonsense. As the Pentagons Defense Science Board put it in 2004, Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather, they hate our policies.

And Osama bin Laden himself said that same year, Contrary to what Bush says and claims that we hate freedom let him tell us then, why did we not attack Sweden?

With Obama in the White House, we could look forward to more Wilsonian military adventures: We have heard much over the last six years about how Americas larger purpose in the world is to promote the spread of freedom. I agree.

With a peace candidate like that, who needs a warmonger?

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    Sheldon Richman is former vice president and editor at The Future of Freedom Foundation and editor of FFF's monthly journal, Future of Freedom. For 15 years he was editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington, New York. He is the author of FFF's award-winning book Separating School & State: How to Liberate America's Families; Your Money or Your Life: Why We Must Abolish the Income Tax; and Tethered Citizens: Time to Repeal the Welfare State. Calling for the abolition, not the reform, of public schooling. Separating School & State has become a landmark book in both libertarian and educational circles. In his column in the Financial Times, Michael Prowse wrote: "I recommend a subversive tract, Separating School & State by Sheldon Richman of the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank... . I also think that Mr. Richman is right to fear that state education undermines personal responsibility..." Sheldon's articles on economic policy, education, civil liberties, American history, foreign policy, and the Middle East have appeared in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, American Scholar, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, Washington Times, The American Conservative, Insight, Cato Policy Report, Journal of Economic Development, The Freeman, The World & I, Reason, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Middle East Policy, Liberty magazine, and other publications. He is a contributor to the The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics. A former newspaper reporter and senior editor at the Cato Institute and the Institute for Humane Studies, Sheldon is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia. He blogs at Free Association. Send him e-mail.