Sunday, August 24, 2008

Joe Biden's Disastrous Foreign Policy Liabilities

Barack Obama's selection of Senator Joseph Biden was designed to bolster the Democrats' flagging standings on the national security issue. Biden, a 35-year veteran of the Congress, serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, looked to provide foreign policy gravitas to Obama's dangerous inexperience on the international stage.

Yet, as analysts and bloggers take a closer look, Obama's Biden pick may end up being a disastrous liability for the campaign.

For one thing, Biden's holds a near-religious commitment to diplomacy before the resort to military force in a crisis. Biden's hedging has left the Delaware Senator a legacy of vacillation and hypocrisy in foreign affairs. For some background, here's
Michael Gordon:

As the Bush administration was fine-tuning its plan to invade Iraq, Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. helped draft a proposed resolution that emphasized the need for diplomatic efforts to dismantle Saddam Hussein’s weapons programs but gave President Bush the authority to use military force as a last resort....

Mr. Biden is widely seen as a liberal-minded internationalist. He has emphasized the need for diplomacy but has been prepared at times to back it with the threat of force. An early advocate of military action to quell the ethnic fighting in the Balkans, he has not been averse to American military intervention abroad. As the debates over Kosovo and later Iraq showed, he has been loath to give the United Nations a veto over American policy decisions. But he has also sought to ensure that the United States acted in concert with other nations.

The Los Angeles Times has more:
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. joins the Democratic ticket as an acknowledged foreign policy sage whose 36-year record has won him bipartisan praise as a liberal internationalist who generally hews close to his party's center. But he has sometimes found himself at odds with members of his own party as well as with Republicans.

Biden has frequently favored humanitarian interventions abroad and was an early and influential advocate for U.S. military action in the Balkans in the 1990s. He also advocates U.S. action to stem the continuing bloodshed in Darfur.

Some liberal Democrats remain distressed by his 2002 vote for the Iraq war, which Barack Obama opposed. Other critics say Biden was misguided or even naive in his most recent proposal to resolve sectarian conflict by giving broad autonomy to Iraq's three major population groups, the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds. And he opposed last year's troop "surge," which by most accounts has contributed significantly to the reduction in violence in Iraq.

What appears to bind Biden and Obama in the realm of foreign affairs, however, is a shared belief in strong cooperation with America's traditional allies and in the use of force only as a last resort. The Democratic standard-bearers reject the belief of President Bush and some other conservatives that the United States should not hesitate to act unilaterally if other nations demur.
Biden's partition plan has not endeared him to Iraqis, as TigerHawk points out:
Reuters is reporting that Barack Obama's selection of Joe Biden is not popular among Iraqis, who very much dislike Biden's proposal to partition their country....

The Biden partition plan was a bad idea from the beginning, and all Iraqis should be grateful that - so far - it has gained no footing within the executive branch.

Anyway, it is a reflection of the diminishing political significance of the Iraq war that Barack Obama, who secured the Democratic nomination in part by making much of his opposition to the war and his plan to withdraw our troops on a fast schedule, is now able to pick as his running mate a senator who voted for the invasion in 2002 and whose favored "solution" would have required more rather than less American involvement in Iraqi domestic politics.
What's particularly bothersome about Biden is his shameless antiwar pandering.

Recall that Obama's greatest weakness on foreign policy is his awful judgment on the Iraq war. When the conflict was going poorly in 2004
he advocated sending more troops to rectify the "botched" Bush-Rumsfeld light infantry invasion and failed post-conflict stablity operations. Yet, when the administration made key strategic adjustements in 2006-2007, Obama was one of the most vociferous oppoents of the surge in the U.S. Senate.

Yet, by selecting Biden, rather than choosing a running mate who has consistently advocated firmness and careful resolve on the conflict, he's found a campaign partner who has eschewed strategic clarity and carried water for the antiwar hordes.

As the National Review noted, commenting on Biden's selection as veep:

...Biden is a typical liberal who has no claim to post-partisanship...

His vaunted foreign-policy judgment is seriously flawed. Although he was not as irresponsible as other Democrats in calling for an immediate pullout from Iraq, he opposed the surge and plugged for an unworkable plan to partition the country, one long ago overtaken by events, even though his office was saying as of only a week ago that he still supports it.

The cardinal rule of vice-presidential picks is: Do no harm. It remains to be seen if Biden will meet even this low standard.
Scott at Power Line agrees:

Rather than adding to Obama's attractions or neutralizing Obama's liabilities, if he does anything, Biden subtracts from Obama's strengths and contributes to his liabilities.
Obama's selection of Joe Biden may prove a disastrous liability, accentuating weakness in foreign policy rather than strengthening it. As Michael Rubin concludes:

Obama may have wanted Biden's foreign policy experience, but he may soon find that Biden's track record leaves a lot to be desired. On Iraq, on Iran, and elsewhere...
The New York Times has a lead story this morning entitled, "In Obama’s Choice, a ‘Very Personal Decision’.

Unfortunatly for the Democrats, Obama's choice may end up as a very personal disaster.