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Biden vs Lieberman

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Republicans and Our Enemies


May 23, 2008; Page A15




On Wednesday, Joe Lieberman wrote on this page that the Democratic Party he and I grew up in has drifted far from the foreign policy espoused by Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and John Kennedy.


In fact, it is the policies that President George W. Bush has pursued, and that John McCain would continue, that are divorced from that great tradition – and from the legacy of Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.


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.


At the heart of this failure is an obsession with the "war on terrorism" that ignores larger forces shaping the world: the emergence of China, India, Russia and Europe; the spread of lethal weapons and dangerous diseases; uncertain supplies of energy, food and water; the persistence of poverty; ethnic animosities and state failures; a rapidly warming planet; the challenge to nation states from above and below.


Instead, Mr. Bush has turned a small number of radical groups that hate America into a 10-foot tall existential monster that dictates every move we make.


The intersection of al Qaeda with the world's most lethal weapons is a deadly serious problem. Al Qaeda must be destroyed. But to compare terrorism with an all-encompassing ideology like communism and fascism is evidence of profound confusion.


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.


Beyond Iran, al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan – the people who actually attacked us on 9/11 – are stronger now than at any time since 9/11. Radical recruitment is on the rise. Hamas controls Gaza and launches rockets at Israel every day. Some 140,000 American troops remain stuck in Iraq with no end in sight.


Because of the policies Mr. Bush has pursued and Mr. McCain would continue, the entire Middle East is more dangerous. The United States and our allies, including Israel, are less secure.


The election in November is a vital opportunity for America to start anew. That will require more than a great soldier. It will require a wise leader.


Here, the controversy over engaging Iran is especially instructive.


Last week, John McCain was very clear. He ruled out talking to Iran. He said that Barack Obama was "naïve and inexperienced" for advocating engagement; "What is it he wants to talk about?" he asked.


Well, for a start, Iran's nuclear program, its support for Shiite militias in Iraq, and its patronage of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.


Beyond bluster, how would Mr. McCain actually deal with these dangers? You either talk, you maintain the status quo, or you go to war. If Mr. McCain has ruled out talking, we're stuck with an ineffectual policy or military strikes that could quickly spiral out of control.


Sen. Obama is right that the U.S. should be willing to engage Iran on its nuclear program without "preconditions" – i.e. without insisting that Iran first freeze the program, which is the very subject of any negotiations. He has been clear that he would not become personally involved until the necessary preparations had been made and unless he was convinced his engagement would advance our interests.


President Nixon didn't demand that China end military support to the Vietnamese killing Americans before meeting with Mao. President Reagan didn't insist that the Soviets freeze their nuclear arsenal before sitting down with Mikhail Gorbachev. Even George W. Bush – whose initial disengagement allowed dangers to proliferate – didn't demand that Libya relinquish its nuclear program, that North Korea give up its plutonium, or even that Iran stop aiding those attacking our soldiers in Iraq before authorizing talks.


The net effect of demanding preconditions that Iran rejects is this: We get no results and Iran gets closer to the bomb.


Equally unwise is the Bush-McCain fixation on regime change. The regime is abhorrent, but their logic defies comprehension: renounce the bomb – and when you do, we're still going to take you down. The result is that Iran accelerated its efforts to produce fissile material.


Instead of regime change, we should focus on conduct change. We should make it very clear to Iran what it risks in terms of isolation if it continues to pursue a dangerous nuclear program but also what it stands to gain if it does the right thing. That will require keeping our allies in Europe, as well as Russia and China, on the same page as we ratchet up pressure.


It also requires a much more sophisticated understanding than Mr. Bush or Mr. McCain seem to possess that by publicly engaging Iran – including through direct talks – we can exploit cracks within the ruling elite, and between Iran's rulers and its people, who are struggling economically and stifled politically.


Iran's people need to know that their government, not the U.S., is choosing confrontation over cooperation. Our allies and partners need to know that the U.S. will go the extra diplomatic mile – if we do, they are much more likely to stand with us if diplomacy fails and force proves necessary.


The Bush-McCain saber rattling is the most self-defeating policy imaginable. It achieves nothing. But it forces Iranians who despise the regime to rally behind their leaders. And it spurs instability in the Middle East, which adds to the price of oil, with the proceeds going right from American wallets into Tehran's pockets.


The worst nightmare for a regime that thrives on tension with America is an America ready, willing and able to engage. Since when has talking removed the word "no" from our vocabulary?


It's amazing how little faith George Bush, Joe Lieberman and John McCain have in themselves – and in America.


Mr. Biden, a Democratic senator from Delaware, is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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Sen. Biden has apparently laid the maximum smackdown on Joe Lieberman -- Muslim hating Jew in the senate repping CT. Likewise he put McCain and his newly found Neocon friends and the far right Conservatives on notice with this:


Beyond bluster, how would Mr. McCain actually deal with these dangers?
You either talk, you maintain the status quo, or you go to war
. If Mr. McCain has ruled out talking, we're stuck with an ineffectual policy or military strikes that could quickly spiral out of control.

Watch out folks Obama has big time surrogates speaking on his behalf :D

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^He does have great surregates - For the first time I was really impressed with the democrats rapid response, when the president launched his political attack from the Knesset last week. And within hours Biden, Kerry, speaker Pelosy, senate majority leader Reid and Chris Dodd all responded. For now it looks like Obama will not get swift boated easily.

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Biden comes out punching

By Scot Lehigh

May 23, 2008


JOE BIDEN is mad as - well, mad as a compulsively collegial US senator, one who is on a first-name basis with seemingly everyone in Washington, can be.


more stories like this"I am so goddarn sick and tired of Democrats being portrayed as being weak on terror, weak on national defense, weak on foreign policy," the Delaware Democrat tells me. "I ain't taking it no more."


Instead, the man who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is determined to push back.


"We are a weaker, less secure, more vulnerable nation today under these bravado Republicans than we have been in the last half-century," says Biden, who vows to provide any interested Democratic candidate with an overview of the ways in which Republican foreign policy has proved counterproductive.


In his pointed critique, the Bush administration's approach has us stuck treading water in Iraq, with little post-surge progress toward building a country that can defend, govern, and sustain itself in peace. Meanwhile, the war has damaged US credibility and thus its ability to lead in the world, while straining our military, draining our resources, and preventing us from doing all we need to in Afghanistan.


The real effect of the administration's approach to the region?


"Just look at the objective results," Biden says. "Freedom is not on the march in the Middle East. Iran is on the march in the Middle East."


As part of his self-appointed role as defender of the Democrats, Biden spoke this week at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, where he criticized the Republicans for "an emerging, ugly pattern of political attacks masquerading as policy."


There, he chastised Republican nominee-to-be John McCain for his recent attempt to paint Barack Obama as a patsy by saying that Hamas and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega favored the Democrat.


"What the hell is that?" he says now, in obvious disgust.


He also rebuked President Bush for remarks last week to the Israeli Knesset in which he compared those who would negotiate with Iran to those who had hoped to appease Hitler before World War II. Although the president didn't mention Obama by name, those remarks were widely seen as a broadside aimed at the Democratic front-runner.


"What is stunning is that this is the only president I know - and I've served with seven - who would engage in this kind of activity while overseas in the Knesset," Biden said in his speech. "What is disheartening is that John McCain, a man I admire, endorsed the president's remarks instead of repudiating them."


Despite attempts by McCain and Bush to make an issue of Obama's willingness to engage diplomatically with hostile nations, Biden pointed out that important Bush administration officials have taken a similar view.


"The day before the president spoke, his own secretary of defense called for engaging with Iran," he said. "His secretary of state has done so repeatedly." What's more, "the president himself authorized American diplomats to meet with their Iranian counterparts about Iraq. And he struck a deal with Libya's Khadafy and wrote polite letters to North Korea's Kim Jong Il . . ."


When it comes to Iran, the administration's saber rattling only drives up the price of oil, while uniting the Iranian people behind a leadership many of them otherwise hate, Biden says. The United States shouldn't treat Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as though he is the sole power when "the fact of the matter is that Iran is a fractured government," he says. Rather, we should try to engage on a number of different levels.


Although Biden's underfunded presidential campaign never caught fire, his foreign policy prowess won consistently strong reviews. And his lethally funny line skewering Rudy Giuliani - "there's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11" - remains one of the campaign's most memorable.


As a man who knows many of the world's leaders and has a formidable grasp of geopolitical complexities, Biden has the expertise to help the Democrats propound - and defend - a very different foreign policy. This country badly needs that debate, which is why it's good to see him stepping into the fray.



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Biden is auditioning for a gig at the State Department, and these latest torrents of abuse are meant to be a preview of the venom McCain will be buffeted with if Biden is chosen as the attack dog for the Obama camp. I think Bill Richardson should get the Secreteray of State post (maybe even VP), not Biden. Biden brings no electoral advantage to the table (yeah he is a foriegn policy neutralizer) unlike Mr. Albuquerque who could energize another sleeping giant group (the latinos) in the critical west. If the African American and Latino turnout can be maximized in this election, McCain is a toast.

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^^ Well so far everyone is noticing his auditions. :D




The Wisdom In Talking

By John F. Kerry

Saturday, May 24, 2008; Page A21


As President Bush commemorated Israel's 60th anniversary by attacking Barack Obama from overseas, here at home he found an all-too-frequent ally: John McCain.


When Bush accused "some" -- including Obama, Bush aides explained -- of "the false comfort of appeasement," McCain echoed this slander.


"What does he want to talk about with [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad?" McCain asked, fumbling to link Obama to the Iranian president's hateful words. Soon, a GOP talking point was born.


Lost in the rhetoric was the question America deserves to have answered: Why should we engage with Iran?


In short, not talking to Iran has failed. Miserably.


Bush engages in self-deception arguing that not engaging Iran has worked. In fact, Iran has grown stronger: continuing to master the nuclear fuel cycle; arming militias in Iraq and Lebanon; bolstering extremist anti-Israeli proxies. It has embraced Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and spends lavishly to rebuild Afghanistan, gaining influence across the region.


Instead of backing Bush's toxic rhetoric, McCain should have called George H.W. Bush's secretary of state, James Baker. After years of stonewalling, the administration grudgingly tested the Baker-Hamilton report's recommendation and opened talks with Iran -- albeit low-level dialogue restricted to the subject of Iraq. Is James Baker an appeaser, too?


While the president attacks political opponents from the Knesset, responsible members of his own administration meet face to face with Iranians. Yes, Ahmadinejad's words often are abhorrent, and often Iran has played a poisonous role in Middle East politics. But when our ambassador to Iraq meets with his Iranian counterpart, he isn't courting "the false comfort of appeasement" -- he is facing the reality that Iran exerts influence in Iraq. That's why Defense Secretary Bob Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have called for engaging Iran. Appeasers all? Nonsense.


Direct negotiations may be the only means short of war that can persuade Iran to forgo its nuclear capability. Given that a nuclear Iran would menace Israel, drive oil prices up past today's record highs and possibly spark a regional arms race, shouldn't we be doing all we can to avoid that conflagration?


Opponents of dialogue often quip that talking isn't a strategy. Walking away isn't a strategy, either. McCain says that "there's only one thing worse than the United States exercising the military option, that is, a nuclear-armed Iran." But for all his professed reluctance, when McCain disavows diplomacy, he is stacking the deck in favor of war.


What might we achieve by talking with Iran? Some say our engagement to date has not been productive -- but a less half-hearted and less conditional approach might well break the stalemate. We won't know until we try.


Dialogue helps us isolate Ahmadinejad rather than empowering him to isolate us. More important, even if we fail to reach an agreement, engaging Iran will spark three conversations likely to strengthen our position.


The first is between our leaders and Iran's. From nonproliferation to counterterrorism, frankly, Iran won't care for much of what we have to say -- but at the right moment, it is not unreasonable to think Tehran would cut a deal in exchange for economic incentives, energy assistance, diplomatic normalization or a noninvasion guarantee.


Second is the conversation America's president should be having with the Iranian people. We should seize the chance to tell some of the region's most pro-American people how their own president has isolated them, denying their great culture its place in the world and the region a constructive dialogue.


There's a reason the late Tom Lantos, Congress's only Holocaust survivor and a formidable diplomat, applied for a visa to enter Iran every year for the last decade of his life. What better way to puncture the petty lies of a demagogue than to force him to confront a man who has lived the very history he denies and trivializes?


Some have asserted that meeting with Iran's leaders would legitimize Ahmadinejad, who is neither Iran's supreme leader nor someone whom Obama specifically promised to meet. Curiously, many critics then hype Ahmadinejad as a threat of historic proportions, thereby granting the stature they seek to deny. Iranian elections in mid-2009 could yield a less objectionable president; engaging Iran makes that more likely.


The third conversation is with the world. By engaging Iran, we reclaim the moral high ground -- no small feat. If Iran refuses to budge, we have new leverage to expose it as a threat whose bad intentions cannot be explained away.


Those who say they take no option off the table should not put America in a straitjacket by denouncing diplomacy.


As Iran's centrifuges churn out enriched uranium, we're asking the wrong question. Instead of wondering why Barack Obama wants to talk with Iran, we should ask: "What are George Bush and John McCain waiting for?"


The writer is a Democratic senator from Massachusetts.

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Interesting OP-ed from our newly minted chairman of the Foreign Relations Commitee

==================== ==================== ==================== ===



June 18, 2009

Op-Ed Contributor

With Iran, Think Before You Speak




THE grass-roots protests that have engulfed Iran since its presidential election last week have grabbed America’s attention and captured headlines — unfortunately, so has the clamor from neoconservatives urging President Obama to denounce the voting as a sham and insert ourselves directly in Iran’s unrest.


No less a figure than Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee in 2008, has denounced President Obama’s response as “tepid.” He has also claimed that “if we are steadfast eventually the Iranian people will prevail.”


Mr. McCain’s rhetoric, of course, would be cat*****c for any American policy maker weary of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hostile message of division. We are all inspired by Iran’s peaceful demonstrations, the likes of which have not been seen there in three decades. Our sympathies are with those Iranians who seek a more respectful, cooperative relationship with the world. Watching heartbreaking video images of Basij paramilitaries terrorizing protesters, we feel the temptation to respond emotionally.


There’s just one problem. If we actually want to empower the Iranian people, we have to understand how our words can be manipulated and used against us to strengthen the clerical establishment, distract Iranians from a failing economy and rally a fiercely independent populace against outside interference. Iran’s hard-liners are already working hard to pin the election dispute, and the protests, as the result of American meddling. On Wednesday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry chastised American officials for “interventionist” statements. Government complaints of slanted coverage by the foreign press are rising in pitch.


We can’t escape the reality that for reformers in Tehran to have any hope for success, Iran’s election must be about Iran — not America. And if the street protests of the last days have taught us anything, it is that this is an Iranian moment, not an American one.


To understand this, we need only listen to the demonstrators. Their signs, slogans and Twitter postings say nothing about getting help from Washington — instead they are adapting the language of their own revolution. When Iranians shout “Allahu Akbar” from rooftops, they are repackaging the signature gesture of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.


Mir Hussein Moussavi, the leading reformist presidential candidate, has advocated a more conciliatory approach to America. But his political legitimacy comes from his revolutionary credentials for helping overthrow an American-backed shah — a history that today helps protect protesters against accusations of being an American “fifth column.”


Iran’s internal change is happening on two levels: on the streets, but also within the clerical establishment. Ultimately, no matter who wins the election, our fundamental security challenge will be the same — preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. That will take patient effort, and premature engagement in Iran’s domestic politics may well make negotiations more difficult.


What comes next in Iran is unclear. What is clear is that the tough talk that Senator McCain advocates got us nowhere for the last eight years. Our saber-rattling only empowered hard-liners and put reformers on the defensive. An Iranian president who advocated a “dialogue among civilizations” and societal reforms was replaced by one who denied the Holocaust and routinely called for the destruction of Israel.


Meanwhile, Iran’s influence in the Middle East expanded and it made considerable progress on its nuclear program.


The last thing we should do is give Mr. Ahmadinejad an opportunity to evoke the 1953 American-sponsored coup, which ousted Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and returned Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to power. Doing so would only allow him to cast himself as a modern-day Mossadegh, standing up for principle against a Western puppet.


Words are important. President Obama has made that clear in devising a new approach to Iran and the wider Muslim world. In offering negotiation and conciliation, he has put the region’s extremists on the defensive.


We have seen the results of this new vision already. His outreach may have helped to make a difference in the election last week in Lebanon, where a pro-Western coalition surprised many by winning a resounding victory.


We’re seeing signs that it’s having an impact in Iran as well. Returning to harsh criticism now would only erase this progress, empower hard-liners in Iran who want to see negotiations fail and undercut those who have risen up in support of a better relationship.


John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.



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