Y‘all saw where I bragged on Joe for his fine piece in the WSJ the other day. Well, today we have a counterpoint from Joe in that same publication, so our cup overfloweth.
OK, for those of you too lazy to follow links, I’m talking Lieberman and Biden, respectively. Both of them are good guys. We endorsed the first Joe in his presidential bid in 2004, and might well have endorsed the other this time around if he hadn’t dropped out before the S.C. primary (we went with Obama instead, you’ll recall). Both are blessed with essential Joe-ness, as I’ve explained before.
And although these pieces are set against each other, there is much to love in each of them, infused as they are with Joe-ness. In other words, they are written by rational men who are not entirely enslaved by the idiotic partisan extremes of our times. Joe is much more inclined to support his party’s nominee, but that’s because he hasn’t made the radical break that Joe was forced into. But you still don’t find the kind of polarized claptrap that you usually hear from the party faithful on either side.
OK, I’ll start using last names, although it sounds unfriendly…
Here’s one of the best parts of Mr. Biden’s piece. It repeats a point that I’ve praised him for making in the past, which is that President Bush blew a once-in-a-lifetime chance to lead this nation, and the Western alliance, into a far better place than the sad situation that Joe, I mean Tom, Friedman described the other day. Anyway, here’s the Biden excerpt:
Sen. Lieberman is right: 9/11 was a pivotal moment. History will judge Mr. Bush’s reaction less for the mistakes he made than for the opportunities he squandered.
The president had a historic opportunity to unite Americans and the world in common cause. Instead – by exploiting the politics of fear, instigating an optional war in Iraq before finishing a necessary war in Afghanistan, and instituting policies on torture, detainees and domestic surveillance that fly in the face of our values and interests – Mr. Bush divided Americans from each other and from the world.
As with Lieberman, though, there are weak spots. In particular, there’s this contradictory passage:
Terrorism is a means, not an end, and very different groups and countries are using it toward very different goals. Messrs. Bush and McCain lump together, as a single threat, extremist groups and states more at odds with each other than with us: Sunnis and Shiites, Persians and Arabs, Iraq and Iran, al Qaeda and Shiite militias. If they can’t identify the enemy or describe the war we’re fighting, it’s difficult to see how we will win.
The results speak for themselves.
On George Bush’s watch, Iran, not freedom, has been on the march: Iran is much closer to the bomb; its influence in Iraq is expanding; its terrorist proxy Hezbollah is ascendant in Lebanon and that country is on the brink of civil war.
The problem is that on the one hand, he feels constrained (since he’s still in the party) to state the party line that terrorism is a means, not an end, or even a coherent enemy — all of which is true, but his litany of all the different contending actors is belied by the truth he later embraces: That through it all, Iran has been on the march, and gaining against us. That would have been an excellent point to make; it’s just too bad he weakened it by making the situation seem less coherent than it is two paragraphs before (this incoherence of the enemy is essential to the modern Democratic ideology that Lieberman abhors — the refusal to clearly see and clearly state the degree to which we face a coherent, albeit complex, enemy).
I refer to another recent Friedman column, which — thanks to the fact that he isn’t carrying anybody‘s political water — states how all of these superficially disparate issues are connected, to our nation’s great disadvantage (largely due to the Bush failures that Biden refers to):
The next American president will inherit many foreign policy challenges, but surely one of the biggest will be the cold war. Yes, the next president is going to be a cold-war president — but this cold war is with Iran.
That is the real umbrella story in the Middle East today — the struggle for influence across the region, with America and its Sunni Arab allies (and Israel) versus Iran, Syria and their non-state allies, Hamas and Hezbollah. As the May 11 editorial in the Iranian daily Kayhan put it, “In the power struggle in the Middle East, there are only two sides: Iran and the U.S.”
Anyway, if the link works for you, I recommend you read this one as well as the last one. Between the two of them, you’ll see an intelligent way to debate foreign policy, as opposed to the idiocy of left and right, Democrat and Republican.
One more thing I meant to say about the two pieces: Considered together, they constitute excellent UnParty reading, since between them they indict both parties pretty effectively. One Joe’s piece is headlined "Democrats and our enemies;" the other Joe’s piece is titled "Republicans and our enemies." Each party is thoroughly taken apart, and deservedly so.
That’s more like it. A brilliant summation of the more rational approach to our foreign policy challenges, by a man who may well be the next Secretary of State, but at the very least someone who will absolutely have the ear of President Obama on such matters.
His basic point at the beginning is what I was trying to say in the response to the Lieberman column on the other post, that it has been the W approach that has represented a radical departure from the kind of bipartisan foreign policy Lieberman longs for.
I don’t see the contradictions to which you refer, Brad. Yes, Iran always was the more dangerous country vis-a-vis the US compared to Iraq; Bush’s reckless miscalculation in launching the wrong war has helped elevate Iran from nuisance to genuine threat. Now we have to deal with it as a serious problem. It still doesn’t mean that every terrorist issue, even every Islamic terrorist-related situation or issue, links back directly to Iran.
Friedman is right, in a sense we are in a new cold war with Iran. If anything, that means more than ever that the multiplicity of sophisticated approaches we took vis-a-vis the USSR and China in the past (including diplomacy where appropriate, and most importantly multilateral approaches) are called for.
It doesn’t contradict anything Biden said about the dangers of lumping together disparate terrorist threats. The point is that Iran got to this point in part BECAUSE of oversimplistic, miscalculating American policy. What other threat will similarly balloon if we follow the Bush doctrine on into another administration?
… which of course, is not the choice before us.
It was highly ironic recently when everybody seemed surprised that McCain has made clear he would take a very different approach to diplomacy from that of Bush. The surprise resulted from people believing as you do — that somehow McCain equals Bush. The truth is that, among Republicans, McCain is and has always been the anti-Bush, just as Obama is in many ways the anti-Hillary.
McCain is the president we should have had eight years ago. The world would be much better off if things had gone that way, and most people, if they are well informed, acknowledge that fact.
Perhaps you are blinded by the fact that McCain agreed with Bush about going into Iraq — as did Biden (note that he doesn’t think Iraq was the “wrong war;” he only criticizes the timing, and that only with hindsight), and as did Friedman. But from Day One, McCain criticized and pushed against the Bush/Rumsfeld way of prosecuting that war, and he was right to do so. Another irony is that anti-war types criticize McCain for “supporting Bush” on the surge, when in truth the surge is so obviously a case of Bush FINALLY supporting the McCain approach to Iraq…
Fair point. I certainly would agree 100% that had McCain become President in 2000 we would be in better shape geopolitically than at present. I also concur that McCain would represent an improvement over the current administration, that he has a greater grasp of the realities of the world than the current occupant of the White House.
But that’s not much of a threshold to surmount, is it? And I’m concerned that McCain occasionally has been lapsing into some rhetoric seemingly fed to him from the right-wing blogosphere (the Hamas “endorsement” of Obama, etc.) or surrogates like Lieberman talking as if every Democratic approach to foreign policy constituted a “blame-America-first” attitude (a favorite right-wing rhetorical device aimed at immunizing the US from any critical self-examination at the way it conducts foreign policy). The point is that Lieberman knows better, and I think McCain knows better. If they keep hammering on the theme of “appeasement,” the demagoguery inherent in such appeals may well backfire on them.
Granted McCain has a tricky balancing act to pull off, as he is still trying to woo the right wing base of his party. I try to reassure myself that sometimes McCain is giving lip service to the right, and I was delighted to see him finally repudiate Rev. Hagee.
My hope with McCain is that he would turn out to be an Eisenhower; a military man acutely aware of the costs and horrors of war, and perhaps even as astutely aware as Ike became of the dangers of the dominance of the military-industrial complex, basically a common sense person.
But it’s a moot point. If the economy doesn’t dramatically improve this summer, McCain has no chance.
Brad, I am trying to be sanctioned by the media as a Contrarian. Denny Clements at the Sun News has endorsed me for the label. Now, I’m seeking your support for this coveted label. Remember, I cannot support any of the candidates for the White House and I believe smoking bans are unconstitutional. I believe that second hand smoke is a hoax. These are just some of my qualifications for the label.
But I covet it as well…
I’ve been waiting for years for people everywhere to start calling me “Conan the Contrarian,” spontaneously, without my having to ask them to, but to no avail.
Top this: I believe that Lawrence Summer was right, that boys just might have a greater affinity for math than girls do. Oh, wait — most people believe that, just not the people at Harvard…
I supported the war in Vietnam! I loved it when McCain said we should be in Iraq 100 years! I still prefer golf woods made of WOOD! I… wait, gimme a sec…
This isn’t fair! You’re cheating! You don’t believe secondhand smoke is a hoax! Nobody could believe that; it would be crazy! You made that up! I demand a recount…
This is pure Biden Stuff, BS, and HotAir’s Ed Morrissey takes him on quite nicely, catching Biden in several of the tricks he plays. One is to pretend that Bush and McCain can only see an enemy in “terrorism” and can’t name, much less see, the various groups that using that word masks. That’s a preposterous charge.
Biden tries to walk back — provide context? — Obama’s clear statement on talks with certain undesirables, but Obama clearly agreed to talks without precondition. The “conduct change” is particularly idiotic because we’ve been using the Europeans to talk to the Iranians for the last several years.
Biden’s had some tough personal challenges, but that does not excuse the fact that he’s a blowhard and weasel. The one charge he made that set me off was domestic surveillance, because he knows what’s really going on there, that’s why he voted for the FISA relief. Folks have forgotten that it was US intercepts of cellphone calls that led to the terror trial that started in England last month.
Trial, what terror trial? This one, the guys who were planning to blow up airliners originating at Heathrow bound for New York, Washington, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal and San Francisco by assembling the components during the flight.
I’m not arguing that the folks now in charge are perfect, just that they’ve been on watch just enough, a point that Biden knows but won’t recognize.
Brad I am willing to call you a Contrarian. However, If this cigarette tax goes through I will lose my choice to smoke. As for second hand smoke that is not that far fetched. I simply do not believe a parial exposure to a few whiffs of smoke a few times a week is going to hurt anyone.
I think that we should go back to Constitutional government, that Ron Paul is still better than all three pretenders to the throne and we should mind our own business. I do not think that legally or morally we have any responsibility to run the world. I don’t believe the government has any business in regulating morality and I cannot understand why people cannot pray in school.
I not only believe that second hand smoke is a hoax, but I also believe that evolution and global warming are junk sciences at best.
Finally, my continuing posts will make it clear that I deserve the label of Contrarian.
Mike, was it really US intercepts that led to the bust of the Heathrow plot gang? I’m under the impression it was a British informant and primarily UK undercover work that did it, but would be happy to see the info on the US intercepts.
You can fairly argue against Obama’s flirting with the idea of direct talks with rogue leaders. But to say it’s “preposterous” to charge Bush with lumping together disparate terrorist threats? Oh, I guess I must have misheard when I heard “War on Terror.”
The only possible defense against that charge is that Bush did indeed know better, but that this idea of a central War on Terror was pushed deliberately in order to lump things all together in the public’s mind.
There has been a consistent pattern of demagoguery from this administration for several years, and Bush’s latest “appeasement” speech (giving advice not even being followed by Israelis nor even totally observed by his own administration, thus certifying the speech as pure political theater) shows he’ll follow that road all the way to the end.
If McCain can argue in a substantive manner on the inadvisability of direct talks at the leadership level, on the wisdom of staying engaged in Iraq for longer than Obama would, on the need for missile defense, etc., he can score points and persuade many. But if tries to either defend the indefensible or embraces Bush/Rove demagogic and divisive tactics and rhetoric, he’s forfeited any serious consideration as a potential leader in these troubled times.
Mike, you know darn well Bush did everything he could to conflate all Mideast terrorist concerns into one giant threat in the American public’s mind. It’s hardly “preposterous” to acknowledge that much, at least.
Philip – Sorry for the delay, but I participated in real life today, went outside, generated CO2, did family stuff.
Here’s a contemporaneous source:
You can Google around for more recent references like this one.
The US and UK cooperate in SIGINT operations, but only the US has access to voice and data because it has direct access to the big carriers. In the old days one merely needed to have an antenna, receiver, and recording devices in the right location (the latter was the key variable, because the range of transmitters is a function of frequency range, distance, and sometimes time of day, something you’ve experienced with AM radio; it’s not the AM, but the frequency that the transmitter uses and the sensitivity of the receiver that determined reception success it’s the ionosphere, baby!).
What we have here is a rare instance of the proper use of the word “synergy”, because it was the glut of fiber-optics that occurred in the 1990s along with the success of cell phones and the Internet that wiped out point-to-point communications. Other than broadcast (TV, AM, FM, and shortwave), what’s left of radio is very short-range cellular transmitters / receivers tied into a carrier’s fiber-optic network.
Access to the carriers’ streams is a hacker’s paradise. But what’s most important is that it’s the only — I repeat only — way to intercept the bad guys’ communications. (They rarely use satellite phones anymore.) What flies over the head of the public, but what Biden and others on judiciary, intelligence, and other committees in the Congress know, is that it’s quite difficult and expensive to intercept the bad guys’ phone calls in Baghdad within Baghdad — you’d have to “tap” every cell tower in and around the city, and that would mean having an antenna, receiver, and recording or forwarding device within range of each cell tower.
Digression A: For the sake of argument, even if you could tap all the cell phone calls in Baghdad from Baghdad, some of the calls would be to or from the US, meaning that under the Dem’s public interpretation of FISA you’d have to get a warrant, by which time the call would be over. (Okay, you might say, let’s record the call and wait for the warrant. Nice try, but the US legal definition of “intercept” includes recording, so you can’t do that.) In fact you would really not know if a call was going to the US because the US phone number might be from a cell phone purchased in the US with a US area code but physically located in Baghdad. Tourists and business travelers aside, there are thousands of US-linked cell phones overseas.
Digression A over, there’s a legal morass surrounding SIGINT because of technological progress. What’s disturbing is that the folks who have found ways to capitalize on the changes and exploit the communications are not partisans, but civil servants who just want to do their jobs and find out what the bad guys are up to. Behind the scenes there’s bipartisan support, but the idiot Dems have been making a public scene. Biden more than most should know better.
The Hammer puts Obama’s remark (and Biden’s defense) in perspective:
Not only does Obama’s expansive approach to diplomacy break three UN Security Council resolutions, it certainly represents a step back from his previous position:
My fellow Chicagoan seems to have forgotten the dictum of one of our forebears, Al Capone, who observed:
But I think that Obama’s, and Biden’s main problem, is one that Carly Simon sang about.
Thanks ever so much for the link to the Jack Kelly column, Mike. A spirited debunking of the man and the mainstream media, that. Downright intravenous.
I wonder why Mr. Warthen has never brought up the long list of gaffes. Obama lives by his talent for speaking, but eventually his talent for sticking his foot into his mouth will derail him.
Here’s hoping it happens before it’s too late.
Mike, thanks for the link and the explanation. While I won’t pretend there has been no partisan posturing on this issue—on both sides—the new challenges (and opportunities) presented by technological developments that may render certain FISA provisions obsolete do not render moot incredibly serious considerations of civil liberties and movement with extreme caution.
1) If the US did not already have a history of exploitation of technology to monitor and disrupt political dissent, we wouldn’t be having such an argument about this. (Remember folks on the right…Hillary or Obama would have this power too).
2) If the Bush Administration did not already compile a record of secrecy and a rather casual attitude towards such certain civil liberties, the Geneva Conventions, etc., there would have been a greater spirit of co-operation on FISA reform.
3) As you yourself point out, there has been a lot of potential for common ground to be found, bipartisan support for incorporating the new technological realities with strong judicial and congressional oversight that does not hamper the time-sensitive nature of the process. We have to keep working on this front, and I believe the next administration, whether McCain or Obama, will be in a better position to lead towards bipartisan consensus on this.
4) you speak of the civil servants who are “not partisans” and simply want to further the developments on the surveillance front…but civil servants can be ordered to turn their attentions this way or that. The overall oversight of the program, even if modified to allow the quickest possible reactions and pre-actions (monitoring), has got to be divided between the three branches of government for our security.
Yes, I use the word security deliberately. Being protected from potential terrorist attack is an easy sell for a government to make…but Americans who understand our history and the REAL uniqueness of our nation would agree that it is just as essential that we have continued security of our domestic civil liberties…not as easy to persuade on that front because most people view that threat much more vaguely, yet the loss of THAT security would be ultimately more lethal to our society than even a whole rash of deadly terrorist attacks. I think we can agree on that, right?