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Heavy Lifting On the Sidelines

Jul
5
2004

There has been a great deal of talk about whom Democratic nominee John Kerry will pick as his vice president. Who cares? Far more interesting is the talk that Delaware Democrat Sen. Joseph Biden, a long-time member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, might become Kerry’s Secretary of State. Biden, more than any Democrat out there is formulating, in his stop and start way, a sophisticated foreign policy of muscular Liberalism.


As a warm-up, Biden gave a long interview to Joshua Micah Marshall in March discussing the possible Kerry administration’s foreign policy. It is a fine discussion in which Biden lays out his points, one by one, for moving the Democratic Party away from its turn-the-cheek isolationism to an engaged, almost aggressive (for Democrats) U.S. foreign policy. Biden is especially good on the difference between Bush and Kerry on terrorism in the networked age, the implications of which have always been obvious to those of us living and working on-line.
The fundamental flaw — forget flaw, the fundamental difference between Joe Biden, John Kerry on the one hand, and the neoconservatives on the other is that they genuinely believe — and put it in the negative sense — they do not believe it is possible for a sophisticated international criminal network that will rain terror upon a country, that has the potential to kill 3,000 or more people in a country, can exist without the sponsorship of a nation-state.
They really truly believe — and this was the Axis of Evil speech — if you were able to decapitate the regimes in Iraq, Iran, North Korea, you would in fact dry up the tentacles of terror.
I think that is fundamentally flawed reasoning. If every one of those regimes became a liberal democracy tomorrow, does anybody think we wouldn’t have code orange again in the United States? Rhetorical question. Does anybody think we don’t have to worry about the next major event like Madrid occurring in Paris or in Washington or in Sao Paulo? Gimme a break. But they really believe this is the way to do it.

[snip...]
[Fighting terrorism] It’s more like organized crime. They love this thing about, you know, it’s not law enforcement. It’s not law enforcement in the sense that we have to have a warrant to go get them— that’s the implication. But it is basically gumshoe work.
It is intelligence; it is cutting off the source of their supply of money. It is infiltrating their organizations beyond bombing their training bases. That’s a good thing. They bomb their training camps — that’s a good thing. We did a good thing in getting rid of Saddam. That son-of-a-bitch was a butcher. But it had nothing to do with our central problem, terror.
And the reason why it’s so dangerous what they’re doing, their approach — it’s not intentional — but it takes their eye off the ball. It’s the wrong focus. If you take a look at —it’s presumptuous of me to say this —take a look at the speech I delivered on the 10th of September 2001, the day before, actually about 14 hours before, 20 hours before what happened. And my argument there was, these guys — like most of us — their greatest strength is their greatest weakness. And their greatest strength is the ability to focus.

Biden’s remarks echo comments made, most notably by Robert Wright and George Packer about the need to focus away from state and look at organizations. Biden’s understanding of the perils the world now faces and the possible solutions is particularly welcome. This is a networked world where that idealistic babble about how the state would fade away and individuals take prominence is coming horribly true in ways that proponents of a stateless society never imagined. Biden’s conversation with Marshall – and I’m not entirely convinced that Marshall himself really gets where the Senator is headed — is far more important and intelligent than the sound bite bickering you will see in any Big Media forum featuring President Bush and Sen. Kerry. Marshall will run a second installment of the interview early this week. Please pay attention. It’s important.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 3:34 PM | Permalink

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