Why Obama excites

If you want to know why Senator Barack Obama excites so many US Democrats, take a look at the video below. Speaking in late 2002 (when he was still an Illinois state senator), Obama lays out the major risks of an Iraq invasion, all the time looking both reasoned and tough on Saddam.

Over the fold are a couple of excerpts from the transcript. Note that only the second of these is in the posted video excerpt.

Excerpt 1:

Obama: “Now let me be clear â I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.”Heâs a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

“But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

“I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

“I am not opposed to all wars. Iâm opposed to dumb wars.”

Excerpt 2:

Obama: “Part of what is going to be difficult to anticipate by the March 2004 primary is whether in fact the United States has invaded Iraq, whether the overthrow of Saddam is complete. If it has happened, then what the debate is really going to be about is what is our long-term commitment there? How much is it going to cost? What does it mean for us to rebuild Iraq? How do we stabilize and make sure that this country doesn’t splinter into factions between the Shias, and the Kurds, and the Sunnis? There is going to be a whole host of critical issues, and I think that that’s going to be something that whoever the Democratic nominee, or those who are seeking the nomination, is going to have to grapple with.”

Interviewer: “How would you have voted a few months ago when they had the vote on the so-called Iraq war powers resolution? Would you have — is the Democratic Party split on that?”

Obama: “I think there is a division.”

Interviewer: “And how would you have voted? Would you have supported that resolution? Voted yea or nay?”

Obama: “If it had come to me in an up or down vote as it came, I think I would have agreed with our senior Senator Dick Durbin and voted nay. And the reason is not that I don’t think we should have aggressive inspections. What I would have been concerned about is a carte blanche to the Administration for a doctrine of preemptive strikes that I’m not sure sets a good precedent.”

To be sure, I would be even more impressed if he had said this after US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Council in February 2003. But this is a pretty good effort. Those who have argued Obama lacks foreign policy wisdom (compared, I suppose, to someone significantly smarter than Dick Cheney) may struggle to make their charge stick.

About David Walker

David Walker runs editorial consultancy Shorewalker DMS (shorewalker.net), editing and advising business and government on reports and other editorial content. Newsletter: https://shorewalker.net/subscribe . Among other roles, David has edited the award-winning Acuity and INTHEBLACK magazines, been chief operating officer of online publisher WorkDay Media, held senior policy and communications roles at the Committee for Economic Development of Australia and the Business Council of Australia and run the website for online finance start-up eChoice. He is a former economics writer for The Age and News Ltd. He has qualifications in law and corporate finance.
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Ingolf Eide
17 years ago

Thanks for that, D.W.

I can only get dialup out here in the bush so hardly ever get to hear and see figures like Obama. Given your recommendation, I let this clip download in the background while I got on and did other things. Most impressive, as you say. He has a remarkable amount of gravitas for such a young man and is clearly very bright indeed. And, it would seem, willing and able to take the long view. I shall pay a bit more attention in the future.

17 years ago

Not going to happen this time around.

Not even going to be Democratic candidate, so so much for President.

Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters
17 years ago

anyone backing Obama for running mate of Hillary or Al this time round and next time going for the jugular? He’s a great speaker!
By the way, the main irony I note is how 9/11 was a great day for the intergration of Christian ethnic minorities in mainstream America. To quote the old Arab saying: the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

Nicholas Gruen
17 years ago

The Democrats are hunting round for a candidate who can’t win a pretty much unlosable election and they have one in Hilary. Nothing like a dynasty to hold back real talent.

17 years ago

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors.

Saddam was rewarding the families of people who blew up Jews. Clinton’s Sudan bombing was all about a supposed connection between bin Laden and Iraq in the production of VX nerve gas.

…until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

Code for: until the Shiites take over – and orchestrate a holocaust that makes today’s strife in Iraq look like a Friday mosque picnic – Saddam himself will go on killing but, what the hell, he’ll fall away eventually.

If it has happened, then what the debate is really going to be about is what is our long-term commitment there?

Here’s last week’s New York Times editorial on the subject of long term commitment.

The international community and NATO

17 years ago

The Democrats showed in 2004 that they will gravitate to the candidate perceived to be electable.

Er, which America are you talking about? The one that is John Edward’s and Al Gore’s houses, or the other half?
I think NGruen is far closer to the mark:

The Democrats are hunting round for a candidate who can

Nicholas Gruen
17 years ago


From a fair distance away I thought Edwards was good last time. The NATO general who Clinton was backing early seemed quite good too. But they plumped for Kerry. (sigh!)

17 years ago

Humorous and true aside, N Gruen: that NATO general was Wesley Clark, and he was a complete novice to politics. Q: Why did that matter?

A: he didn’t know that when meeting (and greeting) the great unwashed, you need anti-bacterial handspray. Hence he caught a cold and his campaign sputtered out :)

I agree with Frijters that Obama would make an appealing VP, but then he risks getting stuck – the best thing for him might be to credibly lose as a VP.

I didn’t mean to dismiss Edwards, but it is true that when you are worth 200 million, talking about ‘two Americas’ is a bit hard to pull off.