Although I would have preferred New Mexico governor Bill Richardson as the Democratic nominee for Vice President, I think Senator Joe Biden brings international policy experience to the ticket that bolsters Obama's good ideas for bringing America back to a position of responsibility and respect.
By contrast, McCain's pick—a shrewd one that brings in someone who, like him, is willing to break ranks with his/her party but who also brings in parts of the Republican base that don't trust McCain—is woefully unprepared for international policy. Like Dubya before her, she could easily be misguided by savvy handlers who take the country down the wrong path. That is, if she becomes president, which is no small chance given McCain's relatively advanced age and questionable health.Sphere: Related Content
But there are a couple little things that prevent me from wholeheartedly supporting Barack Obama, and on the basis of at least one of these, I'm withholding my vote so far.
One of them is the Iraq situation. I never supported the war and was surprised at both the speed and the blind ignorance with which the Bush administration pursued it. Once it started, though, I at least thought that one good thing to come from it would be the removal of the murderous Saddam Hussein and the restoration of human rights in Iraq. Though one obviously happened, the mounting death toll that continues to climb negated the other. We may be at the point where as many Iraqis have died on average each year since our invasion as died each year in the years preceding it. Not all of them are innocent babes in the woods, but many are. Furthermore, our screw-ups in Iraq (largely stemming from Rumsfeld and Cheney and Bush not listening to their own military leaders) have prolonged the war and caused us to pay too little attention in Afghanistan, which was a legitimate military operation, I believe.
But at the same time, pulling out too quickly causes its own problems. Not least of which, it teaches our future adversaries that if they keep up their daily attacks instead of putting down their weapons and coming to the table to find a workable peace, they won't defeat America but they can make America defeatist enough to leave. And that's dangerous for all (and it has parallels with the anti-American civil forces in Korea, Okinawa, mainland Japan, Guam, etc.).
In 2004 I had hoped for a candidate who would swoop in with the right set of credentials: he/she would have opposed the war before it started but would support staying in Iraq until we can leave responsibly —both in terms of America's aims and Iraqis' needs—and with the Iraq intact. I had hoped that Al Gore, who was very vocally opposed to the war before it began, would be that candidate. John Kerry's noodly support of the war when it started disqualified him from my consideration although I did end up voting for him.
In 2008 I had again hoped for such a candidate, but none materialized. Even my favorite—Bill Richardson—had plans to get the hell out as soon as possible. Same with Hillary, Biden, and anyone else I would have considered. The Republicans were nowhere near such an approach, but they had all supported the foolhardy war from the beginning.
The second niggling annoyance with Obama was his scapegoating of South Korea and Japan on issues of trade. Truth be told, Korea and Japan could do a lot more to get rid of trade barriers (though the United States isn't always guilt-free when it comes to free trade, such as the steel tariffs placed on Korea, Japan, Brazil, and other countries in 2004). But South Korea is trying to pass a free-trade agreement (FTA) to get rid of those trade barriers—the same FTA that Obama is suggesting he won't sign because of unfair trade. How's that for logic.
This post will be edited later, to include parts of the presidential debates where Obama singles out South Korea and Japan.
The FTA, to me, is an important issue. It's not a perfect document, but it goes a long way toward permanently removing a number of hot-button issues that have been thorns in the side of ROK-US relations for decades. It's notable that a very leftist Korean government negotiated the final deal and that the conservative government that replaced them is even more gung ho about the deal.
The FTA can go along way toward bringing South Korea and the United States economically and politically closer, especially after the last five or six years of neglect and mismanagement of the ROK-US relationship (for which I blame Roh Moohyun and, to a lesser extent, the Bush administration). I want to see South Korea firmly oriented back in the direction of the United States and Japan, and I hope that the current Lee administration will work on finalizing a similar FTA with Japan, for much the same reason.
Obama should no that there is a bad history of bashing Asian nations over economic troubles in the United States. The case of Vincent Chin, the Chinese-American murdered by two auto workers who thought he was Japanese, is the most infamous example of this. Detroit has problems, to be sure, but their inability to sell cars in Korea and Japan no longer has to do with government audits of people who buy expensive foreign cars, as was done in Korea in the 1990s but is still sometimes cited as a current barrier by Korea's critics.
The small cars that American carmakers manufacture are already produced in Korea. It is the oversized and inefficient muscle cars that are being produced in Detroit and few people in Korea want those. Ditto with Japan. Note to Detroit: gasoline hovers around $6/gallon in Korea. Koreans are buying foreign cars—smaller Hondas, Lexuses, and German cars—and the number doing so is growing rapidly.
Detroit could sell some US-manufactured cars in Korea or Japan if they marketed them with the right image. Cadillac has some cool commercials with a good-looking White ajumma (I am so trying to avoid saying M.I.L.F.) that makes 30- and 40-somethings want the luxury car. Maybe that could work in South Korea, especially with American cars lower in cost than before.