Vice President Joe Biden’s speech in New York last week reflected the fact that the Obama Administration’s foreign policy record and the Obama Doctrine is so weak that it does not offer much material to run on in an election year.
Three and a half years ago, when President Obama and I took office, our nation had been engaged in two wars for the better part of a decade. Al Qaeda was resurgent, and Osama bin Laden was at large. Our alliances were dangerously frayed. And our economy—the foundation of our nation’s security—was on the precipice of a new depression.…
President Obama ended the war in Iraq responsibly. He set a clear strategy and end date for the war in Afghanistan. He cut in half the number of Americans serving in harm’s way. He decimated Al Qaeda’s senior leadership. He repaired our alliances and restored America’s standing in the world. And he saved our economy from collapse with bold decisions, including the rescue of the automobile industry—and that has made us stronger abroad.
Stronger abroad? The level of the Vice President’s dishonesty is staggering. Yes, the country was at war, but the successful surge strategy in Iraq (opposed by Senator Obama) was pushing the Iraq war toward a conclusion. Al-Qaeda was not resurgent but in retreat, and though Osama bin Laden was at large, the intelligence was being gathered that later would allow President Obama to authorize the U.S. raid on his compound.
U.S. alliances, particularly in Europe, had been painstakingly repaired in the second Bush term. The U.S. economy was limping, but it was nowhere near the collapse claimed by the new Democratic Administration to justify the government’s grab of vast sectors of the economy.
As for the precipitous drawdown in Afghanistan, it has more to do with the U.S. election cycle than progress in Afghanistan, which will be far less safe after American troops leave. Indeed, Obama’s massive defense cuts will leave all of us less safe.
Just as dishonest as his defense of the Obama record was the Vice President’s caricature of the Republican record. A Republican in the White House, Biden said, would mean “back to a foreign policy that would have America go it alone. Shout to the world you’re either with us or against us. Lash out first and ask the hard questions later, if at all. Isolate America instead of our enemies. Waste hundreds of billions of dollars and risk thousands of American lives on an unnecessary war. And see the world through a Cold War prism that is totally out of touch with our times.”
To set the Bush record straight, while Afghanistan was initially an American military action, NATO and the U.N. soon became involved. And regarding Iraq, President Bush tried tirelessly to bring on board the U.N., whose resolutions on weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein was violating with impunity. When the U.S. finally and decisively did go into Iraq, having exhausted every other option, it was with an international coalition, which counted at one time or another as many as 39 countries.
By contrast, the Obama Doctrine—which is based on multilateralism, disarmament of the U.S., and “humility” in foreign policy—has achieved very little. The Administration’s handling of its most breathtaking international opening, the Middle East uprisings, was characterized by weakness, stumbling, and reactiveness.
As a consequence, the Muslim Brotherhood is set to takeover in Egypt. The democracy movement in Iran has been squashed, and the Syrian government is massacring its own people. Meanwhile, back in Washington, the President sets up an interagency group in response to atrocities. The Obama approach, rooted in state-based multilateralism, has been described even by The Washington Post as suffering from a “lack of passion for freedom.”
These days, Vice President Biden is adding some heat to the foreign debate but, regrettably, not much light.