The foreign-policy differences between the two presidential candidates could not be more stark. And the chasm does not center on Iraq. It is about what ‘America first’ really means. Not hegemony. Not a disinterest in cooperation or insensitivity to regional differences. But believing in a set of values rooted in human dignity and respect – and being genuinely prepared to defend those values against our real enemies. Only one candidate has even committed to that task.
John Kerry told George Bush he would decide foreign policy on the basis of a global test – take the measure of our allies’ proclivities and then decide what to do. Barack Obama and Joe Biden have a similar yardstick – the United Nations. The U.N. — the god of multilateralism, that supposed moral high ground where 192 nations talk, adopt resolutions, have conferences and allegedly spare us from war. Obama, the lightweight on foreign policy, got off to a bad start when it came to matters of state. His “tiny” Iran speech brought Joe Biden onto the ticket to do the heavy-lifting on the presidential function of defining interactions with other governments. When we wonder what a President Obama might do at 3:00 A.M., Sen. Biden answers the call.
The number one issue in American foreign policy today is Iran and the imminent threat that the leading state sponsor of terrorism will acquire nuclear arms. Getting the full measure of a President Obama, requires getting the measure of our adversary. The man who hopes to soon have his finger on the nuclear trigger, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, told the United Nations General Assembly this week:
The dignity, integrity and rights of the European and American people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists. Although they are miniscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centers as well as the political decision-making centers of some European countries and the U.S. in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner.
Ahmadinejad’s grotesque antisemitism and subsequent call for Israel’s “collapse” were met by a round of applause from the assembled audience – the United States and Israel were absent – and a big hug from the President of the General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann.
How would Obama/Biden tackle the job of shutting down the genocidal plans of the Iranian President and saving the free world from a nuclear holocaust?
The world vision of Obama/Biden has the following characteristics – that ought to scare the pants off Americans from diapers to Depends:
An inability to recognize the enemy when it stares them in the face. “When the Senate votes to designate a large part of Iran’s military a “terrorist” organization… the main result is to increase tensions with Iran.” (Joe Biden, December 6, 2007)
The lack of straight talk about American values and the assault which has been launched upon them. “I don’t believe in a clash of civilizations.” (Joe Biden, March 10, 2005) Perhaps he should attend the UN Human Rights Council and watch the battle raging over defamation of religion versus freedom of expression and women’s rights versus cultural particularities?
Prioritizing optics over substance. “The way we position ourselves, we’re made to look like the bad guys.” (Joe Biden, July 9, 2008) News flash: America is made to look like the bad guy for doing anything at all – that’s the burden of having power and using it.
Treading lightly on Russia. “We need…Russia’s help on Iran… Pushing too hard, too fast on democracy risks alienating governments whose help we need.” (Joe Biden, March 10, 2005) First Georgia. Next?
Naiveté about Russian and Chinese intentions. “Direct U.S. engagement with Iran is something that the European Union, Russia, and China have told me they would welcome. In exchange, we should insist on firm commitments from those governments to impose serious sanctions.” (July 9, 2008) The Russians and the Chinese have made it clear for years that they will not allow serious sanctions against Iran to be adopted by the Security Council.
Showcasing America as weak and unwilling to use force. “The Folly of War: War with Iran is not just a bad option. It would be a disaster …Even talk of war is counter-productive to our interests.” (Joe Biden, December 6, 2007)
Putting the feelings of mobs and despots above the interests of the United States and its democratic allies. “Air strikes can set back Iran’s nuclear program, but … imagine the consequences beyond Iran …enraged Muslim populations would make it much harder for moderate leaders to cooperate with us …” (Joe Biden, December 6, 2007)
Grossly underestimating the enemy. “My concern is not that a nuclear Iran some day would be moved by messianic fervor to use a nuclear weapon…My worry is that the fear of a nuclear Iran could spark an arms race in the Middle East…” (Joe Biden, December 6, 2007)
Turning diplomacy into an instrument of self-destruction, where cheap talk gives the enemy legitimacy and time. “In 2005, while the Bush Administration was shunning Iran’s reformist President [Khatami], I held the highest-level meeting in 25 years between any U.S. and Iranian official when I met with Iran’s foreign minister.” (Joe Biden, December 6, 2007) Here is what his friend Khatami – the man in charge of nurturing Iran’s nuclear weapons program for eight years until 2005 – had to say in November 2000: “As the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, I wish to underline … we take pride in the heroic resistance of the children of the Muslim and Arab Ummah against suppression and bullying of the terrorist racist Zionist regime.”
No pre-conditions for talks with Iran and hand the enemy the tools he needs to run out the clock. “First, let’s end this false argument about “pre-conditions.” Senator Obama is right that the United States should be willing to engage Iran on its nuclear program without insisting that Iran first freeze the program.” (Joe Biden, May 20, 2008)
A long-time love affair with the United Nations. “The United States and other countries should commit military forces to the exclusive use by the United Nations’ Security Council.” (Joe Biden as reported October 29, 1992)
President Obama, and his authority figure on foreign policy, will sit down to chat with genocidal antisemites, shelve the use of force, pander to the rabble-rousers, embrace the United Nations, avoid confrontation with the enemies of Israel and genuine religious pluralism – and permit Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.