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On the plane with Obama: 'We Have a Daunting Task'

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DeepModem Mom Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 09:20 AM
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On the plane with Obama: 'We Have a Daunting Task'
TIME: Obama: 'We Have a Daunting Task'
Tuesday, Jul. 22, 2008

....I caught up with Obama as he flew from Amman to Tel Aviv aboard his newly remodeled campaign plane....

* In The Audacity of Hope, as you wrote about your first trip to Iraq, you talked about how the most enlightening conversations that you had were not part of the official program and I was wondering if there were any moments like that on this trip.

Well, you know, in Afghanistan, I think I was talking to the troops who were on the front lines day to day, and the absolute consensus that without a solution to the border problems, we're not going to solve the problems there. That I think I knew intellectually, but I think it was when you heard troops specifically talk about seeing people who are firing at them running across the border; they're in their sights across the border, not being able to go into the border knowing they may engage in a raid again the next day, and the frustrations involved in that.

* Were there any specific conversations?

I want to be careful not to talk about specific briefings where somebody tells a story that was part of a classified briefing. But you really did get a sense uniformly among just the average guy out on patrol to the NATO commander that this is a critical problem that has to be solved. So that's one. The second thing was, I think, the degree that Afghanistan has to start from such a deficit when it comes to development. You know, we're rightfully focused on narco-trafficking. But you've got a 30% literacy rate. We actually had dinner with a very fine minister of education who is genuinely committed to education for all children, but particularly for girls. Listening to him describe not only the barriers presented by the lack of women teachers and you've got to have women teachers to teach girls in a traditional Islamic society but also, the fact that they have to produce enough schools so that girls don't have to travel a significant distance. Because in that traditional society for a girl to travel alone or even in groups is unacceptable. It really just gave me a sense in microcosm of all the barriers to development that are taking place there. And finally with respect to Iraq, I think the conversations we had at the end of the day with the governors in Anbar or elected officials in Anbar, or the tribal leaders in Anbar, really gave you a sense of how close to the surface the animosity between Sunnis and Shias remains. ... The way that the tribal leaders and the provincial officials describe the Shi'as in Baghdad was indicative of a deep-seated lack of trust. And the fact that the violence has lessened and that AQI really has been routed does not answer the larger possibility of a return to sectarian violence unless that trust issue is resolved.

* How would you describe it? Was this hatred? Was it prejudice?

It was more; it went deeper than just objective analysis.

* President Bush has often said that his whole view of Israel changed back when he was governor of Texas and he took a helicopter ride with Ariel Sharon and from the air he could see how tiny and vulnerable it was. Were there any moments like that for you on this trip where seeing something was able to get you past intellectualizing it?

I think in Afghanistan, looking at the landscape and the extraordinary poverty involved, makes you realize what a daunting task our efforts there are going to be. And it redoubles my belief, or deepens my belief, that if we're going to get that done we're going to have put in more resources. Both issues (Iraq and Afghanistan) are very difficult. Both situations are very difficult, but it is not clear to me that in the long term Afghanistan isn't a tougher job than Iraq is....

* But is there anything where you really feel like you've changed your mind?

Look, I feel as if I had a good grasp of the situation before I went. It confirmed a lot of my beliefs with respect to the issues. I will tell you I was reminded I think this is an important reminder because you forget on the campaign trail sometimes just how high troop morale remains despite the difficulties. I spend a lot of time talking to families who are trying to work through the mom or dad being gone for the third time and it creates a huge burden on them at home. But when the troops are in the field, they are energized and they are working hard and they believe in the small slice of work that's been given them. And that I think at least gives me some hope that if we get our strategy right, we still have the most valuable possible resource to get the job done and that's our men and women in uniform.,8599,182573...
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speedoo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 09:27 AM
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1. This man HAS TO BE our next President. nt
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dkf Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 09:29 AM
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2. I wonder if morale is as high as it looked or if the troops were just happy to see him.
I'd be thrilled myself.
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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 09:29 AM
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3. Wow, an insightful man, who looks at a situation from all sides and
Edited on Wed Jul-23-08 09:31 AM by babylonsister
actually considers different perspectives. How I long for someone like that!
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calimary Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jul-23-08 11:47 AM
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4. No kidding! I think we all long for someone like that.
And mcsame Just. Is. NOT. It.

He says he "knows how to win wars." Is that why he's so open to more of them?
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