Late last year, I wrote an article explaining why the antiwar left should embrace the libertarian-leaning Republican Ron Paul. I still stand by that position as the correct one for the time, given Paul's unequivocal opposition to U.S. intervention in the affairs of the Middle East and his promise for immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq.
Now that the Paul candidacy is officially over, and the Libertarian Party has nominated right-wing former Congressman Bob Barr, I have no hesitation in embracing Barack Obama as the antiwar movement's last hope.
To be sure, Barack has not been as stridently antiwar as many of us would like. He has shifted his position to a 'responsible' one of allowing that he may leave a contingent of troops in Iraq for the indefinite future. And some of the people Obama has surrounded himself with, including former advisor Samantha Power, are the kind of folks who can best be described as 'liberal interventionists'.
However, given the choice between John McCain and Obama, and the lack of any appealing Third Party candidate, Obama wins by a country mile. Not only has McCain pledged to keep the U.S. in Iraq for the long, long term, there is a very real chance that McCain will dangerously accelerate the U.S. military presence around the world, including the real possibility he will start another war. McCain is one of the few people in the world who still believes that the Vietnam War was justified and should have been carried through to victory, a very odd position for a Senator who has been a leading advocate of normalized relations with the government of Vietnam.
Fortunately, there are also positive aspects of Obama's record and rhetoric that make it easier to support his candidacy as something more than just an anti-McCain vote. The Illinois Senator's early opposition to the war in 2002 is the most obvious of these. But there is also his basic world view; more than any other candidate, Barack Obama understands the rest of the globe and is well-traveled and well-read enough to understand the American desire for World Empire is filled with pitfalls. The fact that Obama has said he will negotiate directly with America's 'enemies' is very encouraging. It shows the candidate understands that military might alone is not sufficient to conduct a sound foreign policy and that the threat of force must be accompanied by the willingness to compromise where such give and take is in our national interest.
Finally, there is the whole 'flag pin' issue. Those of us who have watched in disgust as politicians have bent over backwards to abuse the American flag in order to stifle dissent on issues of war and peace should take encouragement from Obama's stand. Though he has ultimately been forced by politics to wear the pin now and again, it was an act of integrity and courage for Obama to tell it like it is, that waving flags and wearing flag pins is a cheap substitute for true patriotism.
Ultimately, though, the biggest argument for Obama is centered on priorities. If he is elected, the first African American President will undoubtedly be focused on the issues of the economy, health care and education. McCain, on the other hand, has little experience and even less interest in such domestic problems. He is an American imperialist, through and through, and is sure to find ways to expand American power abroad, even if it risks overstretching our military even further and perhaps bankrupting the country.
With some pushing from the public, I believe it is possible that Obama will eventually withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq. With McCain, no amount of pressure will help. McCain will keep the U.S. in Iraq for the duration of his term. And he could make moves, foolish moves, which could tie the hands of future Presidents from ever withdrawing.
Undoubtedly, there will be some former Ron Paul supporters who will flirt with the idea of writing in Dr. Paul in November, or perhaps even voting for Bob Barr. In my mind, either move would be foolish. Even if you are a conservative who against the warfare state, Obama should be your clear choice. To elect McCain would assuredly lead to more conflict with the rest of the world, and could lead to a very disastrous confrontation with Iran.
I for one am not willing to take such a risk and so will proudly cast my ballot in November for Barack Obama.