This morning it seems that his campaign ran afoul of Australian Prime Minister John Howard, who says that Obama's proposals for withdrawing from Iraq will destabilize the region:
I think that [Obama's announcement of a deadline for removing all troops from Iraq] will just encourage those who want to completely destabilize and destroy Iraq, and create chaos and a victory for the terrorists to hang on and hope for an Obama victory," Howard said on Nine Network television."If I were running al Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and be praying as many times as possible for a victory, not only for Obama but also for the Democrats."
Senator Obama's campaign staffers were quick to fire back at Howard in surprisingly harsh terms:
[Obama Spokesman] Gibbs went on to say that Howard was not in a position to be overly critical." If Prime Minister Howard truly believes what he says, perhaps his country should find its way to contribute more than just 1,400 troops so some American troops can come home," he said. "It's easy to talk tough when it's not your country or your troops making the sacrifices."
Let us see how long before someone from the Obama campaign speaks out to "qualify" those remarks. The United States is fortunate to have any allied support in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, and none of the allied forces, let alone Australia, should be disparaged for the sake of domestic American politics. Australia has been a stalwart ally for decades, and the nation also continues to provide combat forces in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM as well. The Obama campaign should have sidestepped Howard's criticism, instead of questioning the level of sacrifice of the Australian military and her people.
In most military operations America finds itself involved in, our military inevitably provides a lion's share of the forces; (SEE: Haiti, JUST CAUSE, DESERT STORM, WWII, KOREA, VIETNAM, OEF/OIF, et al); criiticicizing an ally's contribution to war when a politician insults your worldview reflects ia certain ignorance of how things work outside of Chicago.
Obama's insult was a misstep, the likes of which can sink a campaign quick in primary season, when people start paying attention to everything said.
UPDATE: Belmont Club has a great analysis of the Obama/Howard Row, a large part of which covers the troops per capita angle, which I had not given much thought about. Wretchard's conclusions:
I think this dust-up has the potential to play in very unpredictable ways. First, many Americans will resent commentary by any foreign leader on a US Presidential campaign. Captain Ed is already of that view and in fairness, he would probably feel the same way if the commentator were Jacques Chirac or Osama Bin Laden. On the other hand, many Australians, including people who might be John Howard's domestic political opponents, will probably say "who the hell does Barack Hussein Obama think he is?" Many Australians are acutely aware of the commitments by this small nation, in population terms, not only in Afghanistan, but in Fiji, East Timor, Afghanistan, Indonesia and the Philippines. If there is one country in the world Barack Obama ought not to have twitted about not pulling its own weight, it would be Australia.
How things go from here depend to some extent, on how well Howard and Obama handle the follow-up events.
I'm sure the right wingers will have their panties in a bunch tomorrow about "insulting a valued ally." We'll probably have a few days of "is Obama bigoted against Australians".
To the right wing noise machine, no sin is as great as fighting back against a slur. If they don't punish that, then OMFG, everyone will do it.
But hopefully people will take note. Talk smack against Barack, he'll talk it right back.
Hey, that's pretty good. Somebody give me a beat!