Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Decoding the media: Biden's "expertise"

Obama’s selection of Joe Biden as his running mate unleashed a painfully predictable round of braying by the media about Biden’s “foreign policy expertise.” Let’s take a moment to dissect this euphenism.

For a foreign policy expert, Biden has managed to concoct the most brutal and stupid Iraq plan of any presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican.

Of Biden’s “soft partition” plan, Marc Lynch of Abu Aardvark had this to say

I've never understood the appeal of "soft partition" to anyone other than dedicated pro-Kurdish activists. It sounds like such a nice, clean exit strategy. But near as I can tell, it would actually mean heavy and active involvement of US troops in facilitating "transfer" of peoples (ah, how delicate that sounds) and a long-term military commitment to protecting the new entities (especially the Kurds). It would simultaneously exacerbate Shia-Shia conflict while enhancing Iranian influence in the Shia areas. It would infuriate the Sunnis who cling fiercely to the principle of a unified state and fuel the most radical trends in those areas while undermining more moderate leader. It would guarantee that the crisis of the internally displaced and refugees will never be solved, promoting instability in the country and the region for decades (while also rewarding sectarian cleansing strategies and encouraging them in the future). And - most ironically - it would probably go along quite nicely with the current Bush strategy of ignoring the national government and focusing on the local level.
Toby Dodge told the following to Foreign Policy magazine
If you look at the three communities that are allegedly going to be partitioned, go down to the supposed Shiistan in the south. What we have in the south is a low-level civil war between the two main Shiite parties led by members of the Badr Brigade and al-Sadr. So, are we going to partition the south into a Badristan and a Sadristan? When we come up to supposed Sunnistan, we have a fight between al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a largely indigenous organization with foreign leadership, and the so-called sheikhs of Anbar— that is an intra-Sunni fight. Then we have Kurdistan. The Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan fought a vicious civil war in the 1990s, where the KDP actually asked Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard to come in and help them. The idea that we have three neat communities is sociologically and politically illiterate.
Iraqis greeted Obama’s pick of Biden with dismay, still wary over his plan for ethnically-cleansing Iraq.

So, does being head of the Senate Foreign Relations committee mean one is going to have a progressive, informed opinion on international affairs? It turns out that “foreign policy experience” or “expertise” does not mean knowledge or wisdom. After all, Biden’s predecessor on Foreign Relations was Jesse Helms.

Biden’s “expertise” is that he is a long-time cheerleader of American imperialism. As Stephen Zunes points out, Biden was calling for U.S. invasion of Iraq back in 1998, years before that wily Colin Powell hoodwinked us all with his UN Security Council presentation. Before the war, liberal criticism was based on an argument that this was “a rush to war” and that Bush was creating a new, dangerous doctrine of unilateral intervention. However, Biden attacked even these milquetoast criticisms in a Senate debate
I do not believe this is a rush to war. I believe it is a march to peace and security. I believe that failure to overwhelmingly support this resolution is likely to enhance the prospects that war will occur. ... [Saddam Hussein] possesses chemical and biological weapons and is seeking nuclear weapons. ... For four years now, he has prevented United Nations inspectors from uncovering those weapons...

Mr. President, President Bush did not lash out precipitously after 9/11. He did not snub the U.N. or our allies. He did not dismiss a new inspection regime. He did not ignore the Congress. At each pivotal moment, he has chosen a course of moderation and deliberation.
And just weeks ago, Biden was in lock-step with Bush and the rest of the Washington establishment over the invasion of Georgia.
Declaring that "Russia's actions in Georgia will have consequences," Biden has called for $1 billion in new U.S. aid to Georgia. Biden has long wanted Georgia to be admitted to NATO and considered a U.S. ally--a deliberate provocation toward Russia.
Given Obama’s recent trouble in the polls, the casual observer might wonder why Obama would pick someone who could further alienate his own anti-war base, particularly when Biden comes from a state with only three electoral votes. The pick is another sign of who Obama is really trying to woo, not the mythical swing-voter, but the American ruling class.