One cannot expect much from a man who suggested to split Iraq into three autonomous regions but even by Biden’s generally low foreign policy standards, his comments on the Middle East in last week’s VP debate were breathtakingly oversimplified and disingenuous.
Biden started the debate with a desperate attempt to cover-up the debacle surrounding the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi. The Vice President failed to answer at least two crucial questions: a) why did Obama, Clinton and Rice apologise to a mob of extremists? and b) why did the US embassy staff had inadequate security?
Biden told an outright lie when he refused to call the attack what it was – an act of terrorism – and instead defended the administration’s discredited narrative. He carefully avoided mentioning the YouTube video which was, after all, nothing but a cover-up for a pre-planned assault against America on the anniversary of 9/11.
He further denied the allegation that the States Department had refused to tighten security, after repeated requests from personnel on the ground. Two officials, however, testified before Congress that Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Charlene Lamb, was aware of the delicate security situation and failed to take appropriate action.
Ultimately, the negligence cost Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other servicemen their lives and someone in the Obama administration must be held accountable for it.
Biden’s quality of answers did not change appreciably when the moderator turned to Iran. For reasons only known to him, the Vice President started giggling when Martha Raddatz questioned him on the ayatollahs’ intention to acquire nuclear capabilities. He relativised the threat post by the Islamic Republic, despite the regime being the greatest risk to peace and stability in the Middle East and the most active state sponsor of terrorism in the region. His assessment of the status of Iran’s nuclear programme struck me as startlingly and dangerously naïve. There is credible evidence which suggests that Iran continues to stockpile uranium enriched to up to 20% purity, a nonessential procedure, unless one plans to build an atomic bomb. 225 kg of 20 percent is sufficient to make 25 kg of 90 percent enriched uranium.
Continuing the trend, the Vice President’s comments on the humanitarian and strategic crisis in Syria can be described as nothing but utterly shameless. According to Biden, the US government is doing everything in its power to stop the bloodshed and cooperates closely with its Arab allies. But if that were true, why would Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, amongst others, complain that the administration’s Syria policy is counterproductive, even destructive, and impedes their efforts to support the Syrian opposition?
Biden made it sound as if there was nothing else the US could do without sending troops to Syria. This, however, is a false choice. In fact, no one, not even the most hawkish supporters of intervention, like Senator John McCain, consider boots on the ground. What they suggest is arming the rebels, setting up humanitarian corridors along the Turkish-Syrian border, and establishing a NFZ to protect civilians from the wrath of Assad’s air force. NFZs worked well in the past, as for instance in Iraq, in the Balkans, and Libya, without zero Western casualties. So again, Biden resorted to overblown assumptions and scaremongering tactics to justify the Obama administration’s colossal moral failure and total absence of leadership in the Middle East.
And just when you thought things could not get any worse, Biden outlined his deeply cynical and reckless approach on the on-going war in Afghanistan. “We are leaving in 2014 – period”, he said. What message does that send to the Taliban? Not only does it strengthen our enemies in the sense that they know that they can play on time, as we will pull out in 2014 no matter the situation, but it also raises the moral question of whether our Afghanistan policy should really be determined by a fixed timetable or degree of success.
Our fallen shall not have died in vain.
Biden reached a climax of hypocrisy when he boasted about the Iraq pull-out. What he did not say, however, was that pulling troops out too quickly allowed al-Qaeda back into the country and now threatens the carefully-constructed peace. On top of that, the Vice President attacked Ryan on the Republican’s legacy of war. “No, we can’t afford that”, he apparently said when George W. Bush invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Too bad that, in fact, Biden voted in favour of both the Afghanistan and Iraq resolutions which authorised military action.
Post-revisionism at its finest.
In sum, Biden’s performance was embarrassing and unprofessional. One can engage in serious debate or mock and ridicule one’s opponent. The Vice President clearly chose the latter approach. He may have won the drama class award but Ryan convinced with facts and figures.