Barack Obama gave his first major foreign policy speech last week at the Chicago Council of Foreign Affairs. Though I have been intrigued by Obama, my main complaint has been that we really didn't know where he stands on most issues, which is understandable given his lack of national and international experience.
From a purely political perspective, this is smart. It allows people to focus on his charisma and inspirational qualities, filling their own beliefs and desires into a mostly empty vessel.
I'm glad to see he's started speaking more substantively, and the content of last week's was both surprising and heartening.
Given the almost incredible unpopularity of the Iraq war and America's overall foreign policy strategy, one would expect Democratic candidates to disavow as much of Bush's strategy as possible. Obama did not do this, and essentially argued that Bush has the right overall philosophy of spreading freedom (though we should work more through our allies), but hasn't taken a nearly expansive enough view of what is required to do so.
This is exactly what someone like me wants to hear as someone who believes Bush was right to go into Iraq, but unbelievably (in the literal sense) incompetent in planning, subtlety, management, and overall execution. It is not clear that a well-executed Iraq war would have succeeded, but it is easily arguable.
Though his inexperience and more liberal views on other issues deserve close scrutiny, I give him provisional credit on last week's speech.
Robert Kagan has a good article on the speech here.