WASHINGTON -- The United States needs to add at least 7,000 troops in Afghanistan, make aid to Pakistan conditional on its progress evicting terrorists, and double spending on foreign aid to $50 billion, Barack Obama said in a major speech this morning laying out his plan for fighting terrorism.
The thrust of Obama's 35-minute speech was that America is more at risk today than it was before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 -- that the "misguided" war in Iraq has made the world more dangerous and diverted attention from tracking down Osama bin Laden and his followers.
"Because of a war in Iraq that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged, we are now less safe than we were before 9/11," Obama said to a roomful of journalists and scholars at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. "When I am president, we will wage the war that has to be won."
The speech comes amid a fierce debate over foreign policy between Obama and rival Hillary Clinton, who have clashed over when it's appropriate for an American president to sit down with leaders of rogue states such as Syria and Iran. He continued to sharpen their differences today by obliquely connecting Clinton's reticence to talk with what he called the failed policies of President Bush.
"It’s time to turn the page on Washington’s conventional wisdom that agreement must be reached before you meet, that talking to other countries is some kind of reward, and that presidents can only meet with people who will tell them what they want to hear," Obama said.
Obama was introduced by Lee Hamilton, the former US representative and who served on the 9/11 commission and the Iraq Study Group. Hamilton gave Obama's speech high marks afterward, but Hamilton has not endorsed a candidate in the presidential race.