Okay. The speech is very impressive on several of the more technical aspects of military policy — stuff about the budget, the larger context of the national security budget, civil-military relations, that kind of thing. It’s also genuinely great to see a high-profile politician taking on the “war on terror” concept. That section of the speech even got my hopes up that as he outlined an alternative strategy he might really truly win me over by mentioning a phrase like “political grievances” but instead he kind of lost me with a segue into “new efforts to lead the fight against global poverty.” On the other hand, fighting global poverty is a good thing, and Edwards’ has gone farther down the right path on this subject than anyone else.
Edwards seems to me to have on display here a tendency to say something very smart and then to some extent take it back. After a strident call for withdrawal from Iraq, he said that, well, he actually might keep some troops in Iraq. After a great attack (“some politicians have fallen right in line behind President Bush’s recent proposal to add 92,000 troops between now and 2012, with little rationale given for exactly why we need this many troops”) on his rivals, Edwards winds up punting a little while later — “we might need a substantial increase of troops . . . proposals are worth close examination . . . need to avoid throwing numbers around . . . I will carefully assess the post-Iraq threat environment . . . determine the exact number of troops we need.”
The idea for a “‘Marshall Corps’ modeled on the military Reserves, of up to 10,000 expert professionals who will help stabillize weak societies, and who will work on humanitarian missions” seemed under-explained. The real worry for me, though, is on the nuclear proliferation front. Edwards didn’t really address this topic squarely at all. He did say we need better intelligence, and he said military force should be used “to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons” and it was a bit unclear to me what that means for, say, Iran.
All-in-all, I’m not in love, but I was impressed. Obama was much better on proliferation, but Edwards is doing a great job of pushing the envelop on topics like the need to get fence-sitters on our side, the need to move beyond “war on terror” rhetoric, etc.