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Op-Ed: Joe Biden - The Wall Street Journal - A Democratic Foreign Policy - September 9, 2004

  • Joe Biden
    Person
  • Note
    Person
Unknown

Note

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[This Op-Ed was published in The Wall Street Journal on September 9, 2004. It is available online here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB109468409834412963] 1

Joe Biden

Slightly Positive
America faces two overriding national security challenges: win the death-struggle between freedom and radical fundamentalism and keep the world's most dangerous weapons away from its most dangerous people. To prevail, we need a new approach -- and a new president. 2

Joe Biden

Very Positive
After 9/11, I believed -- and still do -- that if we exercised the full measure of our power, including our ideas and ideals, we could have united this nation and other nations in common cause. Ultimately, history will judge this administration harshly not for the mistakes it made, but for the opportunities it squandered. Had they been asked, Americans were ready to join a new program of national service, and to spread the cost and hardship of the war on terror beyond our soldiers and their families. Had they been treated with respect, old allies and new friends were ready to join us in a new compact for freedom and security. 3

Joe Biden

Somewhat Negative
Today, after a necessary war in Afghanistan and an optional war in Iraq, Americans are rightly confident in the example of our military power. But we have forgotten the power of our example. And for all of America's great might, we are more alone in the world than at any time in recent history. As a result, we are less secure than we could or should be. 4

Joe Biden

Very Positive
A Democratic foreign policy would seek to recapture the totality of our strength and restore our nation to the respect it once enjoyed by building effective alliances and international organizations; forging a prevention strategy to defuse threats to security long before they are on the verge of exploding; reforming failed or antidemocratic states that are sources of instability, radicalism and terror; and retaining the right to act pre-emptively in the face of imminent danger. 5

Joe Biden

Very Positive
Such an approach will require not only a fundamental shift in American foreign policy but a reconsideration by our allies of their own foreign policies. A Kerry presidency would stand a far better chance of facilitating that reconsideration than this president, who has thumbed his nose at the world and asked us to accept it as diplomacy. The Bush administration has shown little interest in international alliances, organizations and treaties. To them, our military might is the most important tool in our foreign policy kit. Because that might is so much greater than anyone else's, they see allies and international agreements as more burden than benefit. 6

Joe Biden

Very Positive
As a result, this administration said "no thanks" to NATO when it invoked Article V after 9/11. It rejected France and Germany's initial offer of troops for Afghanistan. It served "freedom fries" on Air Force One at the very time it should have been seeking more help in Iraq. And it rejected a litany of treaties without even attempting to negotiate responsible compromises. 7

Joe Biden

Very Negative
Democrats disagree with this approach. Most of the threats we face -- from radical fundamentalism to the spread of weapons of mass destruction to rogue states that flout the rules -- have no respect for borders. Not one can be met solely with unilateral, military force. Even when we can succeed by ourselves, there are compelling reasons not to act alone -- from basing rights to burden-sharing to the need for legitimacy. 8

Joe Biden

Very Negative
Iraq demonstrates the price we pay for a unilateralist foreign policy. There was never any doubt that we could defeat Saddam Hussein without a single foreign soldier. But because we chose to wage war virtually alone, we have been responsible for the aftermath virtually alone. The price is all too easy to calculate: 90% of the troops -- and 90% of the casualties -- are American. 9

Joe Biden

Very Negative
This has been the core of the Democratic message. But we also believe that the credibility and effectiveness of alliances, treaties and international organizations depend on a willingness not only to live by the rules, but to enforce them. That's the principal reason many leading Democrats in Congress voted to authorize the president to use force in Iraq, if he deemed it necessary. We did not need a doctrine of pre-emption to use force against Iraq, for Saddam posed no imminent threat to American security. 10

Joe Biden

Very Positive
This administration's effort to turn military pre-emption from a long standing option into a one-size-fits-all doctrine says to rogue states that their best insurance policy against regime-change is to acquire WMD as quickly as possible -- which is one reason North Korea's nuclear arsenal has apparently increased by 400% under this administration's watch. It gives a green light to India and Pakistan, Russia and Chechnya, China and Taiwan to use force first and ask questions later. And it requires a standard of proof for intelligence that may be impossible to meet unless we cut corners, as we did in Iraq. 11

Joe Biden

Very Negative
Democrats would forge a comprehensive prevention strategy with much more emphasis on programs to secure and destroy loose weapons and materials in Russia and beyond; fully funded homeland security budgets to detect and respond to terrorist attacks; new international laws to seize suspect cargoes on the high seas and in international airspace; new international law enforcement, intelligence and financial alliances to uproot terrorists and end their funding; tougher non-proliferation strategies, including no-notice, on-site inspections and a reformed Non Proliferation Treaty; reinvigorated diplomacy to explain our policies and expose lies; and a sustained commitment to development and democratization to prove to people around the world that we offer hope, and that our enemies offer nothing but hatred and despair. 12

Joe Biden

Negative
No one should doubt that under a Kerry administration, America's military will remain second to none and that force will be used -- without asking anyone's permission -- when circumstances warrant. John Kerry will not go looking for trouble, but he will never flinch in its face. 13

Joe Biden

Very Negative
Today, every citizen of the free world faces a nexus of new threats -- terrorism, rogue states and WMD -- that demands a new response. Containment and deterrence got us through the Cold War, and they still make sense most of the time. But they do not suffice when the enemy is a stateless actor, with no territory or people to defend, amassing stealthy weapons instead of visible armies. That's why a broad prevention strategy is so important. It is also why our allies must be willing to get much tougher with rogue states who harbor terrorists, seek to acquire WMD, or pose a proliferation risk. 14

Joe Biden

Very Negative
In the 1990s, the U.S. and Europe agreed, with great difficulty, that a state cedes its sovereignty when it systematically abuses the rights of its own people. Now we should apply that same logic to states without democratic checks that seek to amass WMD or harbor terrorists. Democrats would develop and use every tool short of force to convince a Milosevic, a Saddam or a Taliban to meet minimum standards of responsibility. But if these steps fail to persuade, a Democratic foreign policy would be prepared to coerce. Failing states are cracks in the foundation of our international system. There have always been poor countries whose people suffer under corrupt, incompetent and ruthlessly barbaric dictators. What is new is the effect on our lives and the threat to our own security as a consequence of such regimes. 15

Joe Biden

Very Negative
The very symbols of our technological prowess -- from the Internet to the jet plane -- have become weapons in the hands of stateless actors who reach out from weak and failed states to attack us in our cities. The potential spread of WMD makes the threat literally existential. 16

Joe Biden

Very Negative
Democrats would challenge the American people and our allies to refocus our attention, reallocate our resources and reform our institutions to address this challenge. Together, we have to take seriously the task of economic development, commit to broader and deeper debt relief, buffer countries against economic shocks, give them tools to combat corruption, dramatically expand our investment in global education, reorient the Bretton Woods institutions and the U.N. to stabilize weak states, and lead the world in a massive effort to combat the scourge of disease, especially AIDS. 17

Joe Biden

Very Negative
We also have to take seriously nation-building. This administration came to office disdaining the concept, only to be confronted with the two biggest nation-building challenges since World War II. Thus far, it merits a failing grade in both Afghanistan and Iraq. A Democratic foreign policy would empower experts to plan post-conflict reconstruction ahead of time, not on the fly; it would build a standing roster of international police to handle security after we topple a tyrant; it would create a system to rapidly stand up indigenous security forces. And Democrats would make sure that when it comes to a war of choice, we think twice about initiating the conflict if we're not prepared for the post-conflict. 18

Joe Biden

Somewhat Negative
Democrats also would strongly support the forces of progress in non-democratic countries -- not with reckless campaigns to impose democracy by force from the outside, but by working with modernizers from the inside to build the institutions of democracy, over the long haul. Above all, John Kerry and Democrats understand that those who would spread radical fundamentalism and weapons of mass destruction are beyond the reach of reason. We must defeat them. But hundreds of millions of hearts and minds around the world are open to American ideas and ideals. We must reach them. 19

Note

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[Mr. Biden is the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.] 20