Obama Cites Drop in World's Regard for U.S.
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Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said today that during the past six years, the United States has had no leader, and he is ready to fill that void. The Illinois senator outlined his foreign policy initiatives during a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
NPR's Cheryl Corley reports.
CHERYL CORLEY: Barack Obama's speech was entitled, "The American Moment." And he says while many may think this nation's time as a world leader has passed and its reputation has been tarnished by America's foreign policies and the war in Iraq, there are still plenty who want America as an ally.
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): This election offers the chance to turn the page and open a new chapter in American leadership. The disappointment that so many around the world feel toward America right now is only a testament to the high expectations they hold for us.
CORLEY: Mistakes made over the past six years, says Obama, have made meeting those expectations more difficult. But if elected president, the senator says he has five ways for America to lead the world again. The first would be to end the war in Iraq in a responsible manner.
Unlike most of the Democratic candidates, Obama opposed the war from the start and he reiterated his plan, which calls for a phased withdrawal of troops but allows for a limited number to remain.
Sen. OBAMA: The president's escalation of U.S. forces may bring a temporary reduction in the violence in Baghdad at the price of increased U.S. casualties that will be experienced so far is hardly encouraging. But it cannot change the political dynamic in Iraq. A phased withdrawal can.
CORLEY: In addition, says Obama, he'd work to rebuild a military that's been stretched to a breaking point by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Sen. OBAMA: That's why I strongly support the expansion of our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines. But adding troops isn't just about meeting a quota. It's about recruiting the best and brightest to service and it's about keeping them in service by providing them with first-rate equipment, armor, training and incentives they deserve.
CORLEY: One of the most urgent threats the world faces now, says Obama, is the spread of nuclear weapons. He says Iran must not acquire them, North Korea's must be eliminated and America must work with Russia to make sure its stockpiles of weapons are safe.
Sen. OBAMA: Here's the thing, we can do something about this. As president, I will lead a global effort to secure all nuclear weapons and materials at vulnerable sites within four years, the most effective way to prevent terrorists from acquiring a bomb.
(Soundbite of applause)
CORLEY: Obama says rebuilding partnerships with other countries and working with them to reform cooperative bodies like the United Nations and the World Bank would be his fourth foreign policy goal. The fifth would be doubling foreign aid to developing countries.
Cecilia Moad(ph), a management consultant, said the senator was not simply preaching to the choir but addressing a call for change.
Ms. CECILIA MOAD (Management Consultant): Leaders can't be leaders without followers and so he is speaking to that hunger and there is a hunger for people to have - I've heard people say, I want somebody who has some intelligence and some common sense. Well, I believe President Bush has plenty of intelligence. I think there is lacking in terms of his willingness to take different perspectives.
CORLEY: Obama's speech was the first in a series he plans to give on how he plans to lead the country. Others will focus on health and education.
Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.
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