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Obama's "intern" trip to Mideast, Europe
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17:10, July 22, 2008

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After his two-day trip to Afghanistan, U.S. Senator Barack Obama arrived in Iraq on Monday or July 21, for a visit to the Middle East and Europe in his capacity a member of the U.S. Senate from Illinois.

As the US Democratic Presidential candidate, Barack Obama has drawn wide attention in the United States and elsewhere in the world from his first-ever overseas tour. During his ongoing trip, he has not been taken as an ordinary US Senator in a "routine" visit but is treated as a promising presidential hopeful. Special coverages filed by his accompanying reporters from mainstream US media organs on the great, high-profile reception he was accorded amid tight security arranged by the Afghanistan government is just an indisputable proof.

Why should Senator Obama, who is now so busy and engrossed with his presidential race, squeezed time of his packed schedule for an overseas trip? It is owed to his two weak factors, or rather the "two soft ribs" exposed during his past half-year race, which were subjected to incessant rebuttals by his Republican rival.

The first is his "military and security soft rib." Compared with a Vietnam War veteran, John McCain, note Republican supporters, Obama is only a "rock star" with a ready tongue, who does not possess the competence and experience for the post of the US commander-in-chief. Obama has never been to Afghanistan and did not visit Iraq over recent years and so he does not know much about the situation on battlefields and his troop withdrawal proposal hence lacks a sufficient base, said an ad from McCain's election committee. He can only indulge in empty talk at home but does not go to heed opinions of US servicemen and officers at battlefields. So, it is a matter of urgency for him to have an "interning" in the military and security realm.

Shortly after his arrival in Afghanistan, Obama flew to a base in hostilities-ridden eastern Afghanistan, close to the border with Pakistan, where he visited barracks and had breakfast at Camp Eggers with the soldiers and heard a briefing from US officers and soldiers and their Afghan peers. In his words, he would very much like to talk to troops and talk to commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq to know what their biggest concern was. "I am more interested in listening than doing a lot of talking," he said.

Today, there are altogether 36,000 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan, far fewer than the U.S. troops that have been deployed in Iraq. Obama has all along opposed to and criticized the Iraq war, and took Afghanistan as the main battleground in the war on terror. He censured the Bush administration for having turned its full-born attention to Iraq instead of Afghanistan.

Obama will immediately begin to remove U.S. troops from Iraq. He said that, if elected, he will remove one or two combat brigades each month, and have all of the U.S. combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 month. Meanwhile, he will send additional two brigades with a total of 7,000 troops to Afghanistan. In a recent period of nearly two months, the number of violent attacks in eastern Afghanistan rose 40 percent over the same period in 2007, and the monthly casualties in Afghanistan have for the first time exceeded the casualties on the Iraqi battlefields. So it is taken for granted that this view of his will be well received by the Afghan government.

What makes Obama happy and joyous is that his delegation arrived amid controversy over Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Mailiki's published comments in a German magazine that appeared to endorse Obamas's 16-month timetable. "The fact is US presidential candidate Obama has a 16-month timeframe that has some flexibility in it..." said al-Maliki, who endorsed support for Senator Barack Obama's 16 month troop withdrawal timeline accidentally. Meanwhile, it is by chance that the U.S. government at this moment also agreed to work out an outlined timeline owing to pressures it was confronted with. Hence, Obama has already gained an initial success in his trip though he cannot be said to "have won immediate victory".

Obama's second "soft rib" is his lack of experience on the international exchanges arena and with foreign affairs as a Senator for the first time. Obama once claimed his readiness to talk to leaders of Cuba, Iran and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), and it posed another evidence his Republican opponents got against him and accused him of being "naive in diplomacy". The foreign policy of multilateralism he has opted appeases to and delights the European allies, which have suffered a great deal from the American uni-polarity, but Israel however does not feel somewhat at ease. For this reason, he will travel especially to Jordan and Israel after his Iraq visit to make the security guarantee in a hope of winning more votes from American Jews back home.

Obama is likely to be accorded with much hospitality on his tour of Europe, and leaders of Germany, France and Britain are all looking forward to their meetings with him. He will possibly have two major results: One is to show his competence in contacting leaders of major powers to acquire more diplomacy expertise and skills, and the other is to avail himself of the opportunity to mend existing ties with the U.S.' allies, which have been impaired because of the Iraq War and improve the image of his country globally. Consequently, his current trip can be said to "kill several birds with one stone".

Obama's Republican rival, Senator John McCain, nevertheless, does not sit idle. "In a time of declared war," he acknowledged, "the perimeter of the president's role is the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces", who is not permitted to have an arcing cycle of internship. But McCainm declared himself as having this advantage and can bring his military and political experience to his job (the U.S. Commander-in-Chief).

But as a matter of course, who is entitled or qualified to assume the US presidency and concurrently the post of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, it is up to the American voters themselves to make the final decision in the Presidential campaign in early November.

By People's Daily Online and its author is Li Xuejiang, chief PD resident reporter in U.S.

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