By Veronica Anderson
An issue that has frequently been discussed in the three major presidential debates has been the situation in Iraq, and it now falls to democratic candidate, Sen. Barack Obama, to prove that he can solve this conflict according to the best interests of the American voter.
During the second presidential debate on Oct. 7, Obama laid down his opinion about what issues lie at the heart of the conflict in the Middle East.
“I believe that part of the reason we have a difficult situation is because we made a bad judgment going into Iraq in the first place when we hadn”t finished the job of hunting down bin Laden and crushing al Qaeda,” Obama said.
Based on a poll conducted by CNN the day after the debate, 65 percent of voters who watched said they found Obama to be “more likeable,” and 40 percent felt that the democratic candidate was better informed on current issues.
Obama said his plan for resolution of the conflict centered on refocusing toward the initial goal of the incursions into the Middle East, which he said was to bring the terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks to justice.
“What happened was we got distracted, we diverted resources, and ultimately bin Laden escaped, set up base camps in the mountains of Pakistan, in the northwest provinces there,” Obama said. “They are now raiding our troops in Afghanistan, destabilizing the situation. They”re stronger now than at any time since 2001. And that”s why I think it”s so important for us to reverse course, because that”s the central front on terrorism.”
Contrary to popular opinion, Obama said that he does not want to pull U.S. troops out of the Middle East immediately, but instead refocus military efforts and put more responsibility into the hands of local government.
“As Secretary Gates, the defense secretary, said, the war against terrorism began in that region and that”s where it will end,” Obama said. “So part of the reason I think it”s so important for us to end the war in Iraq is to be able to get more troops into Afghanistan, put more pressure on the Afghan government to do what it needs to do, eliminate some of the drug trafficking that”s funding terrorism.”
Voters who supported the initial incursion into Iraq may disagree with Obama”s initial assessment of the problems with the war effort.
“The troop surge worked,” said Robert Cassidy, a 29-year-old manufacturing engineering technology major from Middlebury, Ind. “Nobody can deny that. There is significantly less violence going on there. It made me want to go tell those people, like Obama, who were opposed to fighting in Iraq ”You were wrong.””
But those who were in favor of a more diplomatic solution applauded Obama”s plan.
“I am independent of party affiliation and vote primarily on candidates” stances on issues important to me,” said Bryce Cox, a 25-year-old BYU graduate from Salt Lake City. “It is important to me that a candidate does not use the label ”terrorist” as justification of attack in place of negotiation.”
While Obama claimed the end of the conflict would be paramount in his strategy, he also gained the support of anti-terrorist voters by promising, “We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.”
This stance was influential to voters like Alex Braunberger, a 22-year-old student from Sandy, who said his biggest priority was “victory in the war against Jihad.”