Obama Adviser Outlines Foreign Policy Views Friday's presidential debate is set to focus on foreign policy. Susan Rice, Barack Obama's chief foreign policy adviser, discusses the Democratic presidential candidate's plans for Iraq, Pakistan and Russia, as well as what she sees as the biggest failures of the Bush administration.
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Obama Adviser Outlines Foreign Policy Views

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Obama Adviser Outlines Foreign Policy Views

Obama Adviser Outlines Foreign Policy Views

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This is Day to Day. I'm Madeleine Brand.


I'm Alex Chadwick. I heard Mara Liasson tell you a moment ago that the debate is still scheduled for tomorrow night. The presidential one topic foreign policy. Yesterday, Madeleine, you interviewed one of Senator McCain's advisors Robert Kagen. Today we have Susan Rice. She was an assistant secretary of state with President Clinton. She's now a foreign policy advisor to Barack Obama. So we begin this interview with Senator's Obama's number one priority in foreign policy. What is it?

Ms. SUSAN RICE (Foreign Policy Advisor for Barack Obama): His view is that the first thing we have to do is to responsibly and safely redeploy our forces from Iraq so that we can be in a position to put additional combat brigades, at least two additional combat brigades, in to Afghanistan. And couple that with economic and political support so that we can take the fight to the Taliban and al-Qaeda who hit us on 9/11 and who are resurgent in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

CHADWICK: The senator has said repeatedly that he would push to get U.S. troops out of Iraq within 16 months of taking office as president. He also says he envisions a residual force in Iraq. That's on your campaign website. Is that force made up of Americans? How many? Where in Iraq? And for how long?

Ms. RICE: Senator Obama's view is that we can safely redeploy our combat brigades from Iraq at the pace of one to two combat brigades per month. Once those combats brigades are drawn down, which we believe can be accomplished within 16 months, at that pace we will leave behind a residual and that residual will protect our embassy and civilians operating in Iraq, continue any operations that may be necessary to target remaining al-Qaeda remnants, and finally continue the mission of training the Iraqi security forces.

CHADWICK: You've mentioned the threat from Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan and along the Pakistan border. The Bush administration is now sending Americans strike teams into Pakistan against some of these forces. Pakistan objects strongly. Would President Obama continue that policy?

Ms. RICE: Senator Obama has said repeatedly throughout this campaign that he respects Pakistani's sovereignty, and his aim would be to cooperate to the maximum extent with Pakistan to take out Taliban and al-Qaeda elements inside their territory that threaten both Pakistan and the United States and indeed our forces inside of Afghanistan. But he's been very clear that if there are high valued al-Qaeda targets, like Osama bin Laden, that we have actionable intelligence about, I - meaning that we know where they are and when they will be there. And the Pakistani government is unwilling or unable to act on that intelligence, a President Obama will.

CHADWICK: We're speaking with Susan Rice. She's a foreign policy advisor to Senator Barack Obama. Susan Rice, North Korea says it's throwing out the UN nuclear inspectors. It's going to reestablish, rebuild the nuclear facility that allowed it to make a bomb. It is apparently it's going to start processing fuel for making another bomb. What would President Obama do?

Ms. RICE: A President Obama would take the view that we need to prevent North Korea from continuing its efforts and developing its nuclear program. This has been a singular failure of the Bush administration. When the Bush administration took office our intelligence community estimates that North Korea had enough material to make one to two nuclear weapons. Our now - they estimate that North Korea has enough for some eight to 10 nuclear weapons. The Bush administration refused to engage with North Korea directly on this issue for many years. When it finally did engage, we did make some progress. That progress has not been sufficient, and now it's in question. President Obama - should he become president, would have a tough policy that combines stronger sanctions, but to pursue this through diplomatic means to the maximum extent possible.

CHADWICK: Does Senator Obama believe that Iran wants a nuclear bomb?

Ms. RICE: I think every indication is that Iran is actively pursuing that.

CHADWICK: And what does that mean to Senator Obama?

Ms. RICE: That poses a grave threat. The Bush administration's approach and the approached the John McCain advocates is to - has been to refuse to deal with Iran in the context of negotiations directly. That has enabled Iran to pursue its nuclear program without any impediment. Over the summer, the Bush administration took a step, a useful step which was to send a very senior diplomat under Secretary of State Bill Burns to join with our European partners, the Chinese and the Russians in sitting down at the table with the Iranian negotiator. Senator Obama would continue those efforts in conjunction with our partners but combine them with tougher sanctions than the administration has pursued to date.

CHADWICK: You have said that Senator Obama is prepared for 21st century diplomacy. Russia seems to be retreating ever more in the 19th century. What would senator - what would a President Obama expect of Russia nd our relationship with Russia?

Ms. RICE: Senator Obama's view is that we need to have the strongest possible cooperation with our partners and allies in Europe to send a very clear message to Russia that their actions have consequences that their current behavior will not be tolerated, and indeed to offer Russia a clear choice. If Russia chooses to go in a different direction in which it continues to isolate itself, we will be united with our European partners in confronting that reality and working to turn Russia around. The irony is, Alex, that John McCain takes a very different approach. He advocated and continues to advocate throwing Russia out of the G8, a move that our European partners in the G8 strongly oppose. The only consequence that would have had wouldn't have changed Russia's behavior in the run-up to the invasion of Georgia, but it would have split us from our allies and made that very difficult for us to work with them. With this kind of leadership and that kind of approach, we are not going to be in a position to muster the kind of cooperation that we need and expect from our allies, and indeed, that we must have if we are going to effectively confront a Russia that it seems, at least, to be testing a very unsettling course.

CHADWICK: Susan Rice, an assistant secretary of state for President Clinton. She's currently a senior foreign policy advisor on the Obama campaign. Susan Rice, thank you.

Ms. RICE: Good to be with you Alex.

CHADWICK: Stay with us on Day to Day from NPR News.

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