Is it beyond hope that something serious may yet emerge from the portentously trembling mountain of U.S. rumination about Iran? Whatever may be said about George W. Bush, and he certainly had his infelicities, he identified Iraq as an international outlaw in violation of 17 U.N. Security Council resolutions and the Iraq War ceasefire agreement, and he told the U.N. General Assembly that he wished the U.N. to avoid the fate of the League of Nations as an ineffectual talking shop. The number of U.S. forces in Iraq has now declined below 100,000 military personnel for the first time in seven years, and although many dangers and challenges remain, a satisfactory — if unnecessarily delayed and expensive — end to that conflict, a result of which the current Democratic leadership noisily despaired for years, appears to be in sight.
In 2007, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared the war to be “lost.” Candidate Barack Obama wanted to cut and run until he became commander in chief. And then-senator Joe Biden proposed to divide Iraq into three countries and flee the theater. This was a warm-up to his inspired suggestion, which caused Newsweek
to declare him the second most important vice president in history (after Dick Cheney), that the war against the Taliban be conducted by firing cruise missiles at the caves of Waziristan from offshore. This was an equivalent level of Napoleonic strategic insight to that which caused Bill Clinton to respond to escalating terrorist outrages by using missiles to rearrange rubble at an abandoned campsite in Afghanistan and kill a night watchman and a camel by lifting the roof off an aspirin factory in the Sudan, an under-response that effectively encouraged the 9/11 attacks.
A couple of weeks ago, Joe Biden told Larry King — who, with David Letterman, seems to be this administration’s replacement forum for the Council on Foreign Relations — that Iraq would be “one of the great achievements of this administration.” This cagey attention to national-security interests and scrupulous fidelity to historical fact incited me to a different conclusion from Newsweek’s about the VP. I wondered if it was just a coincidence that no one seemed to have lamented the 40 years in American history when the vice presidency was vacant, and especially the twelve years of good government in the 20th century when there was no V.P.: the best presidential years of the newly elevated Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson. I suppose a coincidence, but Joe Biden’s great service to the nation and the world is to stand foursquare and lay down his life every day between the incumbent and the toe-curling nightmare of a Pelosi presidency.
The Clinton administration bequeathed to the country the unmitigated strategic disaster of its quadruple boycott of the two main powers of the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Iran, and the two main powers of South Asia, India and Pakistan. This diplomatic quadrifecta ensured immaculate U.S. impotence across a broad arc from Saudi Arabia to Thailand. The world’s only superpower faced a Bahrain-to-Bangkok Bermuda Triangle, a U.S. no-influence area in the midst of which al-Qaeda busily planned and trained for its ever more ambitious outrages.