After we announced our support for Senator Obama, I received many emails and several calls from members. There were many who responded enthusiastically to our calls to volunteer. And there were also a handful of people expressing concern that Obama does not deserve our support because of some of his positions. So I’m sure there are others – especially those who are supporting third party candidates – who are curious about the strategy and thinking behind our decision.
We never take decisions about candidates lightly and the presidential endorsement was no different. We pored over all of the Presidential candidates’ (including third party candidates’) position papers and statements and studied them closely. So we are familiar with the points of disagreement we have with Senator Obama (e.g. about residual troop forces in Iraq, about conduct of the so-called war on terror, about military funding). But a careful examination of the candidates’ positions lead us to believe that the cause of peace would fare significantly better over the next few years if Senator Obama – and not Senator McCain – is elected president.
Obama’s early opposition to the Iraq war, his repeated emphasis of his willingness to engage in diplomacy with Iran and other countries without precondition, and his embrace of the vision of a nuclear weapons free world all offer opportunities to advance towards a more peaceful foreign policy. Prospects for progress on torture, a land mine ban, a conventional weapons treaty, a marginally more rational military budget, and a better approach to Middle East peace all improve with an Obama administration. (Though we would still have plenty of work to do in order to make these changes happen. More on that later.)
Peace Action West shares the desire for more fundamental change in national security strategy than either of the two viable presidential candidates offers. That’s why we are working every single day to grow a stronger political base for a foreign policy truly grounded in diplomacy, international cooperation and conflict prevention. We know we are up against a “foreign policy establishment,“ comprised of both Democrats and Republicans, that is willing to use force and coercion to advance geopolitical goals that have nothing to do with the basic defense of the American people — even while evidence grows that the use of such force is rarely ethical or effective. (We opposed the Clinton administration’s Iraq policy that sowed the seeds of the Iraq war for example.) Therefore we understand the attraction of third party candidates like Nader and McKinney as embodying that more fundamental change. An endorsement of a third party candidate, or even abstaining from making any endorsement, may have been more personally satisfying. But our honest evaluation has led us to the firm belief that this historic election will have results that ripple across the world in ways that are too critical to set aside.
Just as it is wishful thinking to believe that Obama fully embodies the peace agenda and will make a radical break with an entrenched “foreign policy establishment”, it is dishonest and dangerous to say there are not life and death differences between John McCain and Barack Obama on issues of foreign policy. The Iraq War – which Obama opposed – demonstrates how millions of people around the world who don’t get to vote in U.S. elections are affected by our choices. We believe we owe it to all the people of this country and around the world to elect the best president we can. And then do what we are always doing. Build the constituency for peace into a stronger and stronger political voice so that we make the politicians line up behind us.
This is not just about Barack Obama. If you are like me, you are looking forward to the end of the Bush administration, and I can’t wait to celebrate a happy result with you on Election Day. But I, along with the rest of us at Peace Action West, will be right back to work on November 5th, and I hope that you’ll join us. Because no matter who is president in January, like always, it will be up to the regular folks like you and me to bring the change we need to Washington.