Bewildering Biden

Delaware’s Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden isn’t the most scintillating or disciplined speaker in the world, but Washingtonians have to pay some attention to what he says because he thinks he’s the smartest guy in Washington, happens to chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and apparently aspires to be secretary of State.

Some of what the man has said over the years is just plain silly or embarrassingly goofy, but every once in a while he astounds anyone with the stamina to actually listen to him.

And that’s exactly what Biden did last week at the Mayflower when, appearing as a surrogate for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the man he hopes will be elected and appoint him secretary of State, Biden gave Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) some advice. Coming from a man Democrats like to introduce as one of the most intelligent foreign policy experts in Washington, what he had to say was based on a weird and troubling assumption.

Biden’s party’s current talking points apparently require Obama surrogates to dismiss Iraq as a sideshow in the war on terror that has cost us thousands of lives, billions of dollars and the respect of peace-loving people everywhere. What’s more, of course, is the assertion that by focusing on Iraq, we have foolishly failed to devote the resources, manpower and attention we should have to the real battle against terrorists in Afghanistan. In other words, President Bush not only lied, but got the whole thing backwards.

The fellow from Delaware apparently digested, refined and strengthened the talking points before rising to speak last Tuesday. After denouncing Bush and McCain for aspiring to give us what would amount to little more than a third Bush term, Biden suggested that neither man could either identify or understand the nature of the threat we face from terrorists because they don’t even know where to look for them.

“If John wants to know where the bad guys live,” Biden intoned, “come back with me to Afghanistan [because] we know where they reside. And it’s not in Iraq.”

It is always a challenge to follow Mr. Biden’s logic, but this time the man outdid himself. Perhaps what he said depends not so much on the words themselves, but on the meaning of those words. The key question, of course, is just what he means by “bad guys.”

Thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of civilian men, women and children have been killed or maimed in Iraq, but apparently not by “bad guys.” One wonders if Biden thinks these murderers and terrorists were “good guys” or whether it’s somehow improper to use moralistic language to describe someone who would plant a bomb in a public marketplace.

Or perhaps Biden means that there are no longer any “bad guys” in Iraq. After all, he was an early supporter of the invasion of that country and presumably thought the folks we were fighting then were “bad.”

If that’s the case, maybe what Biden meant to do was praise the Bush “surge” for driving the “bad guys” out even though he had opposed that very surge. It’s really hard to say.

The argument about whether Iraq was the best place to confront the “bad guys” or whether there are more of them in Afghanistan, Iran or even Syria is legitimate, as is the argument over the effectiveness of our strategy, but at base Biden’s comments are not just silly or an insult to the families of the Americans who have died in Iraq, but a dangerous reflection of the liberal tendency to refuse to acknowledge the existence of any enemies at all.

After all, Biden didn’t just suggest that the “bad guys” were in Afghanistan rather than Iraq, he made it clear in his remarks that he doesn’t consider any of them much of a problem regardless of where they reside. The crux of what he had to say concerned what he called Bush’s and McCain’s “fixation” on a small number of radical groups and “turning them into 10-foot-tall giants,” not just on their seeing bad guys everywhere.

In Biden’s eyes, and possibly in his candidate’s as well, there are no real problems out there save those of our own creation. By moving our troops to Afghanistan, we might not find “bad guys” there, but their removal from Iraq, according to the brightest foreign policy thinker the Democrats have to offer, “will enhance, not diminish, our prospects for leaving behind a stable situation in Iraq.”

If Obama agrees with this analysis, he should say so, and if not, he should disassociate himself from his Delaware buddy.

Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, can be reached at Keeneacu@aol.com.