Thursday, October 02, 2008

Biden: Experience vs. Judgement

Tonight is the big debate--not the one between McCain and Obama, but the one between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin. The focus of course will be on Palin and how she does; does she present herself as someone who is knowledgeable about world affairs. Of course, no one questions Biden's experience. Even with the regular flow of his gaffes and misstatements, no one doubts Biden's knowledge and experience.

But Biden's judgement in foreign affairs is open to question. I have written about this before, quoting an article by Peter Wehner, a former deputy assistant to President George W. Bush. I see that Tom Gross also wrote about this, back in August.

In Soft on Iran: Serious concerns in Israel, Gross writes that granted Biden has 36 years experience in the Senate--
But on many key issues, Biden got it wrong:
* In the 1980s, he opposed Ronald Reagan’s tough stance against the Soviet regime. Biden advocated détente and called for Western subsidies that would have enabled the Soviet empire to survive longer.

* In 1990, Biden opposed the senior George Bush’s decision to use force to liberate Kuwait after Saddam Hussein invaded it.

* Last year Biden strongly opposed the troop surge strategy in Iraq, which is now widely considered a success.
Were Biden to have had had his way, eastern Europe and Kuwait may have remained occupied for many additional years and the death toll in Iraq during the last year would probably not have decreased so dramatically.
Biden has shown a similar unwillingness to take a stand when it comes to dealing with Iran:
* Biden was one of only four senators to vote against the 1998 Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act, which was intended to punish companies or organizations that provided missile technologies to the Iranian regime. The bill was passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. 96 senators out of 100 voted for it, but Biden was not among them.

* In June 2004, Biden was among the minority who refused to sign the “Letter Urging the President to Highlight Iran’s Nuclear Program at the G-8 Summit.”

* Last year, Biden opposed the Senate resolution that labeled the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization. That resolution passed 76 to 22. His vote, he said, was designed to make it difficult for George W. Bush to attack Iran’s nuclear program.
In this regard, Gross goes on to quote some of the Israeli media--including Yossi Melman, the intelligence correspondent for Ha’aretz:
“[Biden’s] positions regarding Iran, whose acquisition of nuclear weaponry tops Israel’s list of security concerns, cannot be encouraging to the policy makers in Jerusalem. This is especially so in the context of the danger that in 2009, when Biden could well be vice president, Iran is liable to reach or even to go beyond the ‘technological threshold’ - i.e., to achieve the capability that will enable it to develop nuclear weapons.

“... If the Obama-Biden team is elected, the combination of the new president’s inexperience in foreign policy and his vice president’s positions and record do not auger well for Israeli’s foreign and security policy, which is trying to persuade the U.S. administration that a tough policy toward Iran must be pursued – increasing the sanctions on Iran and, if necessary, as a last resort, attacking its nuclear installations.”
And Iran has noticed. Gross refers to Michael Rubin, who notes that Iran has referred to Biden favorably by name:
Biden’s political games have made him Tehran’s favorite senator. As Gen. David Petraeus struggled to unite Iraqis across the ethnic and sectarian divide, Iran’s Press TV seized on Biden’s plan for partitioning Iraq and featured his statements with the headline “US plans to disintegrate Iraq.” Biden’s attack-dog statements about U.S. policy failures emboldened Iranian hard-liners to defy diplomacy. In the Dec. 7, 2007, official sermon, Ayatollah Mohammad Kashani speaking on behalf of Iran’s supreme leader, declared, “This Senator [Biden] correctly says Israel could not suppress Hizbullah in Lebanon, so how can the U.S. stand face-to-face with a nation of 70 million? This is the blessing of the Guardianship of the Jurists [the theocracy] . . . which plants such thoughts in the hearts of U.S. senators and forces them to make such confessions.” The crowd met his statement with refrains of “Death to America.”
The years that Biden has spent in the Senate are not the issue. The point is what are the stands that Biden has taken on the issues. When you take a good look at Joe Biden's record, it is clear that the 'experience' of being in the Senate for 36 years is in no way a guarantee of good judgement and leadership.

By all means, take a good look at Sarah Palin during the debate--at her knowledge of world events and take into account her experience. But also take a good look at what Palin has done as mayor and governor and make up your own mind about what kind of judgement she has shown in office.

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