Normally I believe that elections should be more about choosing the person most qualified to fill the position in question and less about symbolism. However, in this case I might make an exception.
I believe Obama is capable of running the country, but I think there is a more important function of electing him. And no, it’s not because he’s black. In protecting America’s security, it is important to have allies. And I’m not talking about politicians as allies (as per Sarkozy), but rather allies in the hearts and minds of people in other nations. In 2004, America voted to re-elect president Bush after seeing exactly what he stood for. We punished Kerry for daring to suggest that American soldiers were dying for a mistake. We have lost 4,180 soldiers, including 26 Montanans. We have spent untold billions of dollars (estimates vary widely on the long-term cost, but it is at least hundreds of billions). Perhaps most importantly, we have caused the violent deaths of a bare minimum of 88,263 Iraqis, and an unknown number of indirect deaths to boot. Millions of Iraqis remain homeless either in their own country or as refugees in neighboring states; one can only imagine what kind of attitudes they are developing about America (and also about their countrymen, who drove them from their homes but with whom they will likely have to rebuild their country about their return). If there are no other casualties in Iraq, if we spent no more money there, would this have been a reasonable price to pay?
John McCain, in his support for the war, has already answered that question. This reflects exceedingly poorly on his judgement and the value he places on human life. But nations are not their governments; America is a Democracy and for better or worse our elections reflect our people. A vote for John McCain is to callously refuse to admit that the price of Iraq was too high. If America votes for McCain, we will have spoken both to our leaders and to the people of other nations. To our leaders we will have said, “We will accept thousands of American casualties, and we will not even ask about the casualties of foreigners. Lead us to war, and there will follow you for fear of not supporting our troops.” Presidents for decades will take that lesson to heart, as will opposition politicians and media members who, in America, failed to stop the Iraq war.
Secondly, it will say to the leaders of other nations, “Don’t count on us to finish off our wars; if we are in trouble, don’t bother rallying to our aid, because we will not finish one war before starting another. And we do not regret the horrors of the Iraq war; we accept the price we have paid there and will continue to behave in this way.” This is not a way to increase our security; if we urgently needed to take action somewhere, like we did in Afghanistan, how many nations would be willing to follow us and lend us aid if we refuse to admit that Iraq was a mistake?