Obama's YouTube Defense Talk 'Bizarre,' Analyst Says

July 7, 2008 - 7:32 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) is facing renewed criticism regarding his national security policies as he continues his campaign for his party's presidential nomination.

In a YouTube video Obama made for a liberal pacifist organization last year, the senator called for major cuts in defense spending, slowing the development of future combat systems, and cutting investments in America's ballistic missile defense program.

Some conservatives have expressed surprise at the degree of Obama's proposals on the video, and this past weekend, Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y.) campaign released an ad criticizing Obama's alleged national security inexperience and trumpeting her as the person who could deftly manage emergency global crises.

In his video, Obama repeats his support for ending the Iraq War, saying, "I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat system. ...

"I will set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons," Obama says in the video. "To seek that goal, I will not develop new nuclear weapons. I will seek a global ban on the production of fissile material, and I will negotiate with Russia to take our ICBMs off hair-trigger alert and to achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals."

Obama also promises in the video to institute an independent defense priorities board to ensure that the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is not used as a vehicle to justify unnecessary spending.

The video is posted on the official "Obama '08" campaign's YouTube channel but not in the BarackObama.com Web site's video section. The "Obama '08" channel labels the video "Obama-Caucus4Priorities."

Defense cuts

Caucus4Priorities.org, also called Caucus for Priorities, was a campaign of Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities (BLSP), which is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

It describes its mission as follows: "To change US budget priorities to reflect a national commitment to education, healthcare, energy independence, job training and deficit reduction - at no additional taxpayer expense - by eliminating funding for unneeded Cold War era weapons systems."

And the specific campaign, Caucus for Priorities, describes its mission as follows: "To redirect 15% of the Pentagon's discretionary budget away from obsolete Cold War weapons towards education, healthcare, job training, alternative energy development, world hunger, deficit reduction."

The BLSP advocates reducing America's stockpile of nuclear weapons to less than 1,000 warheads; reducing the National Missile Defense program to a basic research program; cutting spending on platforms like the F-22 Raptor, the Virginia-class Submarine, the V-22 Osprey airplane/helicopter hybrid, the DDG-1000 destroyer, and the Army's Future Combat System.

Also, the group advocates reducing America's force structure by eliminating two Air Force fighter wings and one aircraft carrier battle-group.

The $60 billion that could conceivably be reused as a result of BLSP's proposed cuts would then be diverted into other initiatives, according to a proposal on the group's website, such as children's health programs, modernizing schools, alternative energy research, budget deficit reduction, veterans' health care, and to "alleviate the global challenges of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, disease, and disaster."

Sensible Priorities reported before the Iowa Caucuses that Obama supports reinvesting $8 billion of current defense spending.

Sensible Priorities cites a report from a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, Lawrence Korb, which says that such reductions "would make our military stronger, allowing our forces to focus on the weapons, training, and tactics they need to do their jobs and defend our nation."

Furthermore, the BLSP urges eliminating pork project earmarks in the Defense budget.

According to an analysis of the FY2008 budget by Taxpayers for Common Sense, Obama appropriated $2 million for "nano-medical technologies research" at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champlain in the Defense Appropriations Bill.

Obama publicly disclosed his earmark requests via press release, which can be accessed on his Senate Web site.

Obama's campaign press campaign office did not return repeated requests for comment on this story. However, his defense and foreign policy positions are available on his campaign Web site.

Conservative criticism

In an interview with Cybercast News Service, Baker Spring, a national security research fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, described Obama as "somebody who's a mouthpiece for arms control advocacy groups that probably put this litany of commitments in front of him, and he more or less read them without thinking."

Spring said Obama's proposed cuts in missile defense spending would be "a profoundly destabilizing decision [which] basically says that any state - or, for that matter, non-state actor - that wants to attack the United States, he gets the free first shot, including with weapons of mass destruction."

Regarding Obama's promise to reform the QDR process, Spring said, "Obviously, necessary and unnecessary is, to some degree, in the eye of the beholder. I don't think that any administration would put out a Quadrennial Defense Review that would explicitly endorse unnecessary programs.

"In a sense, Sen. Obama is, in his comment, is so logically contradictory, that he is saying that he is going to take preemptive action to prevent his own administration, assuming he's elected, from issuing a report in terms of the future U.S. defense structure, that would include unnecessary and wasteful programs," said Spring. "It strikes me as a little bizarre, to put it mildly."

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