The past month has been dominated by concern over the economy and America’s long-term financial solvency — and rightfully so. But our country’s national security is inextricably linked to our economic vitality — especially in an increasingly interconnected world. In order to project power, we must have the ability to build wealth at home.
However, the credit crisis has overwhelmed any serious debate on the merits of the presidential candidates’ competing foreign-policy approaches. From engaging our adversaries to our global military posture, Senators McCain and Obama have significant differences that merit thorough public examination.
Thankfully, this week, Senator Biden has revived the discussion — and on a very truthful and telling note. Speaking at a Democratic fundraiser on Sunday, Senator Biden said:
Mark my words, it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. . . . Watch, we’re gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. . . . I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate, and he’s gonna need help.
In a stunning admission, Sen. Biden outlined — in no uncertain terms — that our enemies would test America in the first few months of an Obama administration.
Why didn’t Biden suggest the same would hold true for a McCain administration? The answer is obvious, and hugely important.
Biden knows — as should voters — that our enemies see Barack Obama as a more accommodating, and weaker, foe. Unfriendly regimes and networks — from oil-rich dictators to radical Islamists — will seek to exploit a tepid American foreign policy. Biden knows Obama’s “peace through engagement” policy will invite attacks, not deter them.
Biden’s admission is born of his experience on and exposure to issues of national security. While no foreign-policy sage — he was wrong on the Cold War, wrong on the Gulf War, wrong on Iraq partition, inter alia — Biden is experienced enough to know that projecting weakness on the international stage invites aggression. Biden knows that “engagement,” while a good diplomatic word and a winner among the anti-war crowd that carried Obama to the Democratic nomination, is a clear signal to our enemies.
The historical comparison to Kennedy is also apt. As Biden noted, both Obama and Kennedy are “brilliant,” yet completely untested on the global stage. Kennedy came to power amidst a bristling Cold War, and Obama would take the reigns during wartime. Kennedy met face-to-face with our enemies, and Obama has pledged to do the same.
The question is then: Did Kennedy’s approach work? As Ed Morrissey points out at HotAir, his oft-cited meeting with Nikita Khrushchev turned out to be, in Kennedy’s words, an “unmitigated disaster.” The brilliant new president told the New York Times after the meeting, “He just beat the hell out of me. I’ve got a terrible problem if he thinks I’m inexperienced and have no guts.”
He did have a terrible problem, because the signals were equally clear to the Soviet side. Khrushchev and his aides left the “no preconditions” negotiation with an impression that Kennedy was “too intelligent and too weak.” The result was an increasingly assertive Soviet foreign policy that led to the construction of the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Well-meaning talks, interpreted as weakness by our enemies, resulted in crisis.
Does Obama really believe that Ahmadinejad, Chavez, Castro, or the Dear Leader would react differently to him? Kennedy, at least, entered his talks with the Soviet Union from a position of rhetorical strength. In his 1961 inaugural address, JFK famously “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.” That is a far cry from Obama’s “timelines for withdrawal” and “the surge has failed.
Does Obama really believe that we improve our position in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere by listening to the demands of radical and hateful enemies? Thus far, it appears that he does — and with Joe Biden’s recent comments, the ticket officially confirms it.
But Biden didn’t stop there, he continued:
You literally can see what these kids are up against, our kids in that region. The place [Afghanistan] is crawling with al Qaeda. And it’s real. . . . We do not have the military capacity, nor have we ever, quite frankly, in the last 20 years, to dictate outcomes. It’s so much more important than that. It’s so much more complicated than that. And Barack gets it.
Apparently the man who claimed on Sunday to have “forgotten more about foreign policy than most of my colleagues know” believes our military doesn’t have — nor hasn’t had for 20 years — the “capacity to dictate outcomes.” To a veteran, and to military personnel across America, this is a direct affront.