NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE H ard to fathom which notion is more hilarious. Is it that Joe Biden would get tough with the Taliban, or that Joe Biden would get tough with Russia?
The former veep wants you to know that he’s furious that President Trump sat on his hands for the past four months despite knowing that the Kremlin was paying bounties to the jihadists for targeting American troops in Afghanistan. Biden is sure this must have happened. No, he conceded at a rare press availability this week, he does not have access to classified information, nor has he been given an intelligence briefing on the subject. But Biden knows it must have happened because the New York Times and the Washington Post say so, relying on their crack anonymous intelligence sources.
Hmmm . . . The Times and the Post, relying on uncheckable sources of unknowable veracity, are peddling a story that Donald Trump has betrayed his country for the benefit of Vladimir Putin. Who wouldn’t take that to the bank after three years of collusion?
In this new and improved narrative, you’re to believe that Trump, who has dramatically beefed up military spending over Obama/Biden levels so that our forces can protect themselves, would knowingly endanger those forces; but that Biden, who last worked as a top official and strategist in an administration best known for imposing rules of engagement that made those troops sitting ducks, would back them to the hilt — against those diabolical Russians, who know Biden well, and who therefore know that, why, if they try any of that rough stuff, by God ol’ Joe would . . . um . . . you know . . . uh . . . the thing!
The thing being . . . he’d do nothing. And that’s if we’re lucky. His idea of doing something is to enrich the world’s leading state sponsor of anti-American terrorism while putting its regime on a glide path to nuclear weapons . . . all the while knowing that the mullahs are backing Taliban terrorists targeting our troops . . . and that the Russians are backing the mullahs.
On balance, I am not a fan of President Trump’s foreign policy. He’s done some good things — among the best was withdrawing us from the dreadful Iran nuclear deal that the Obama/Biden administration had to end-run the Constitution and collude with Russia to pull off. And, since the Putin regime is utterly corrupt and untrustworthy — just ask any Democrat, at least since November 8, 2016 — Trump is wise to have pulled us out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty and the Open Skies Treaty. After all, it is counterproductive to remain strait-jacketed by an arrangement that the other side flouts at will.
Still, for all the babble about “principled realism” regarding radical Islam, on the Taliban, Trump is just as delusional as any transnational-progressive: pretending that we can negotiate a satisfactory settlement with incorrigible jihadist enemies who (a) knowingly gave al-Qaeda the launchpad they needed to attack our homeland and our overseas facilities; (b) are still confederated with al-Qaeda; and (c) are content to put aside internecine Sunni–Shiite strife when it comes to collaborating with Iran against the Great Satan. The president is so mulishly committed to his “endless war” blather, so hot to cut a deal with the Taliban and pull our few remaining forces out, that he was ready to host our jihadist enemies at Camp David until panicked aides managed to talk him out of it.
It is not my intention to make a case for Trump’s Afghanistan policy. Just to say the idea that a Biden Afghanistan policy would be an improvement does not pass the laugh test.
Biden acts like he’s suddenly outraged that Russia would back the Taliban. But according to him, the Taliban is not our enemy and poses no threat to U.S. interests, so it’s hard to see what the problem is, right? Don’t take it from me. Here’s Biden speaking to ABC in late 2011, as he and President Obama geared up for their reelection campaign:
Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens U.S. interests.
As if to put its money where Biden’s mouth was, the State Department under Obama/Biden — like State under Bush 43 before it and Trump after it — declined to designate the Taliban as a foreign terrorist organization, notwithstanding its years of culpability in anti-U.S. atrocities. Why? Because Biden and the rest of the Obama administration wanted to negotiate with the Taliban but didn’t want to run smack into the American policy against negotiating with terrorists. So . . . let’s just make believe they’re not terrorists . . . problem solved!
To its credit, the Bush/Cheney administration at least enabled the Treasury Department, when the 9/11 attacks were still raw, to designate the Taliban as a “specially designated global terrorist,” which gave us some tools against terror funding. By contrast, the Obama/Biden administration took the position that the Taliban are not terrorists, denying the reality that there is a sharia-supremacist ideology that knits major jihadist organizations together into a threat against the West. By Biden’s lights, the Taliban — despite (a) having been created by Pakistan as a strategic weapon against India and Afghan rivals, (b) being largely underwritten by Persian Gulf Sunni states, and (c) abetting al-Qaeda’s attacks against the U.S. — is a parochial insurgent movement focused solely on the politics of controlling Afghanistan, not a spearhead of the global jihad.
That was the Obama/Biden approach to terrorism that Biden would revive: Pretend there is no animating fundamentalist Islamic ideology. Miniaturize the jihadist enterprises as if they were more interested in local zoning disputes than war on the West. And hope for the best — hope that highly trained mujahideen backed by Islamist state sponsors turn out to be “the jayvee team.”
While the Taliban was colluding with Russia-backed Iran to kill American soldiers, the Obama/Biden administration encouraged Taliban leaders to open a political office in Qatar, where the administration could negotiate with them through intermediaries, including Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the sharia-supremacist Muslim Brotherhood heavyweight — big of him to help out, since it took time away from urging suicide strikes against American and Israeli soldiers.
The Taliban had no intention of laying down their arms, but they made clear to Team Obama/Biden that even the mirage of negotiations would require the release of Taliban commanders detained at Guantanamo Bay. No problem: The Obama/Biden administration swapped five of them for Bowe Bergdahl, a deserter lauded by Obama national-security adviser Susan Rice as having “served with honor and distinction.” Bergdahl has since been found guilty by a court-martial and dishonorably discharged; Rice is in the running to be Biden’s vice president.
And let’s not forget Biden and Russia.
As I recount in Ball of Collusion, the Obama/Biden team entered office with Moscow just having invaded Georgia, which had broken away from the collapsing Soviet Union in 1989. The new administration’s reaction — communicated by, among others, notorious Mr. Tough Guy Joe Biden — was to “reset” relations, shelve Bush administration plans for missile-defense installations in Eastern Europe, and swoon over the possibilities of strategic partnerships and new arms treaties with the Kremlin.
With Russia continuing to occupy and effectively annex the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Obama/Biden not only revived the inane U.S.–Russia Civilian Nuclear Power Agreement; it ushered Russia into the World Trade Organization, in spite of the fact that it is a mafia state that undermines market-based norms, menacing and extorting other nations while crushing domestic dissent. Obama/Biden followed this up in 2012 by extending to Moscow Permanent Normal Trade Relations status — as if it were a normal trading partner.
In the interim, Team Obama/Biden had the Hillary Clinton-led State Department collude with Russia’s foreign ministry in the development of “Skolkovo” — Moscow’s answer to Silicon Valley. This enterprise was certain to enhance the Putin regime’s military and cyberespionage capabilities. As the Defense Department’s European Command observed, “Skolkovo is arguably an overt alternative to clandestine industrial espionage . . . . Why bother spying on foreign companies and government laboratories if they will voluntarily hand over all the expertise Russia seeks?” EUCOM elaborated that the Russian government’s policies of “external aggression and internal repression” added to “the risks that Russia could leverage transferred scientific knowledge to modernize and strengthen its military.” An alarmed senior FBI official wrote that Skolkovo was “a means for the Russian government to access our nation’s sensitive or classified research and development facilities and dual use technologies with military and commercial applications.”
Yet, the Obama/Biden administration pressed ahead, certain that appeasing Putin was the best approach. The Kremlin’s cooperation, after all, would be essential to achieving the Obama/Biden crowning “achievement,” the Iran nuclear deal. In stark contrast to the Trump/Pence administration’s pattern of extricating the U.S. from treaties with Russia because Moscow habitually violates them, the Obama/Biden administration entangled the U.S. in the so-called New START Treaty to reduce strategic offensive arms. Naturally, Russia is widely suspected of violating New START by adding new missiles.
The Obama/Biden administration also signed off on the Uranium One deal, Russia’s acquisition, through its energy giant Rosatom, of a fifth of America’s stock of uranium ore, even though we do not produce enough uranium for our needs, and even though the Obama Justice Department had a viable racketeering prosecution against Rosatom’s U.S.-based subsidiary for its corruption of the American uranium sector.
As Obama and Biden campaigned for reelection in 2012, the president had his now infamous “hot mic” moment with Putin’s factotum, Dimitri Medvedev — assuring that if the Kremlin would just keep its usual provocations to a minimum in the run-up to Election Day, he would have more “flexibility” to accommodate Putin in his second term. Putin, predictably, thumbed his nose at Obama. He joined Iran in vigorously backing the monstrous Assad regime in Syria. He then stepped up his aggression against another former Soviet satellite, Ukraine, by annexing the Crimean Peninsula and waging a separatist war in the eastern Donbass region — exploiting, as part of his rationale, the Obama/Biden administration’s ham-handed meddling in Ukrainian electoral politics.
Part of the Russian retaliation for that fiasco was, of course, the Kremlin’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election. Or at least our intelligence agencies believe the Kremlin meddled. It would not be possible to prove the meddling in court because the Obama/Biden administration did not follow rudimentary law-enforcement procedure by taking possession of and physically examining the Democratic Party servers said to have been hacked. Instead, Team Obama/Biden relied on a DNC contractor, CrowdStrike, which — we finally learned in recent weeks — admits that it cannot prove Russia actually “exfiltrated” (i.e., electronically seized) the Democratic emails.
I have never been enamored of President Trump’s approach to Russia. The ingratiating rhetoric toward Putin is nauseating, the president’s performance in Helsinki at his initial meeting with Putin was dismal, and his bad-mouthing of the just-fired FBI director James Comey for the consumption of Russian diplomats was one of the administration’s lowest moments. But that said, it is laughable for Biden, of all people, to claim that Trump’s administration has been a gift to Putin. It would be hard to imagine how things could be better for Putin than they were during the Obama/Biden administration — except for the prospect of more of the same, this time with Biden at the helm.
Trump has canceled the aforementioned treaties, in addition to ratcheting up sanctions against Russia. He has beefed up the defense budget that Obama gutted, and pressured NATO allies to meet their defense commitments, all to Russia’s chagrin. He has authorized defense missiles for Poland, in addition to shifting U.S. troops there and supplying the Poles with advanced U.S. warplanes, infuriating Putin. He has provided Ukraine with Javelin-2 antitank missiles to use against Russia (weapons that the Obama/Biden administration denied for fear of provoking Putin). Under his command, our forces engaged in a firefight with Russian mercenaries in Syria and have fired missiles on Syrian installations supported by Russia. Trump withdrew from the Obama/Biden Iran nuclear deal and slammed Tehran with sanctions despite Russia’s objections. And Trump continues to rally opposition to Russia’s coveted Nordstream 2 gas pipeline project with Germany, which would increase Moscow’s leverage over Europe.
Is it true that Russia is paying bounties to the Taliban for attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan? That sort of play by those malevolent actors would not surprise any informed observer and can certainly not be dismissed out of hand. The question is under investigation, including the significant matters of what our intelligence agencies did with the information, whether appropriate force protection measures were taken, whether the intelligence was sufficiently reliable that the president should have been briefed — and whether he was, in fact, briefed.
Good. There absolutely should be a thorough inquiry. But it would be foolish to assume the worst based on anonymously sourced reporting by the anti-Trump media-Democrat complex, which has already spent years flogging a bogus Trump–Russia narrative. The only thing that may be more bogus than that narrative is the notion that a Joe Biden presidency sends shivers down the spines of the Taliban and the Putin regime.