OK, for those of you too lazy to follow links, I’m talking Lieberman and Biden, respectively. Both of them are good guys. We endorsed the first Joe in his presidential bid in 2004, and might well have endorsed the other this time around if he hadn’t dropped out before the S.C. primary (we went with Obama instead, you’ll recall). Both are blessed with essential Joe-ness, as I’ve explained before.
And although these pieces are set against each other, there is much to love in each of them, infused as they are with Joe-ness. In other words, they are written by rational men who are not entirely enslaved by the idiotic partisan extremes of our times. Joe is much more inclined to support his party’s nominee, but that’s because he hasn’t made the radical break that Joe was forced into. But you still don’t find the kind of polarized claptrap that you usually hear from the party faithful on either side.
OK, I’ll start using last names, although it sounds unfriendly…
Here’s one of the best parts of Mr. Biden’s piece. It repeats a point that I’ve praised him for making in the past, which is that President Bush blew a once-in-a-lifetime chance to lead this nation, and the Western alliance, into a far better place than the sad situation that Joe, I mean Tom, Friedman described the other day. Anyway, here’s the Biden excerpt:
Sen. Lieberman is right: 9/11 was a pivotal moment. History will judge Mr. Bush’s reaction less for the mistakes he made than for the opportunities he squandered.
The president had a historic opportunity to unite Americans and the world in common cause. Instead – by exploiting the politics of fear, instigating an optional war in Iraq before finishing a necessary war in Afghanistan, and instituting policies on torture, detainees and domestic surveillance that fly in the face of our values and interests – Mr. Bush divided Americans from each other and from the world.
As with Lieberman, though, there are weak spots. In particular, there’s this contradictory passage:
Terrorism is a means, not an end, and very different groups and countries are using it toward very different goals. Messrs. Bush and McCain lump together, as a single threat, extremist groups and states more at odds with each other than with us: Sunnis and Shiites, Persians and Arabs, Iraq and Iran, al Qaeda and Shiite militias. If they can’t identify the enemy or describe the war we’re fighting, it’s difficult to see how we will win.
The results speak for themselves.
On George Bush’s watch, Iran, not freedom, has been on the march: Iran is much closer to the bomb; its influence in Iraq is expanding; its terrorist proxy Hezbollah is ascendant in Lebanon and that country is on the brink of civil war.
The problem is that on the one hand, he feels constrained (since he’s still in the party) to state the party line that terrorism is a means, not an end, or even a coherent enemy — all of which is true, but his litany of all the different contending actors is belied by the truth he later embraces: That through it all, Iran has been on the march, and gaining against us. That would have been an excellent point to make; it’s just too bad he weakened it by making the situation seem less coherent than it is two paragraphs before (this incoherence of the enemy is essential to the modern Democratic ideology that Lieberman abhors — the refusal to clearly see and clearly state the degree to which we face a coherent, albeit complex, enemy).
I refer to another recent Friedman column, which — thanks to the fact that he isn’t carrying anybody‘s political water — states how all of these superficially disparate issues are connected, to our nation’s great disadvantage (largely due to the Bush failures that Biden refers to):
The next American president will inherit many foreign policy challenges, but surely one of the biggest will be the cold war. Yes, the next president is going to be a cold-war president — but this cold war is with Iran.
That is the real umbrella story in the Middle East today — the struggle for influence across the region, with America and its Sunni Arab allies (and Israel) versus Iran, Syria and their non-state allies, Hamas and Hezbollah. As the May 11 editorial in the Iranian daily Kayhan put it, “In the power struggle in the Middle East, there are only two sides: Iran and the U.S.”
Anyway, if the link works for you, I recommend you read this one as well as the last one. Between the two of them, you’ll see an intelligent way to debate foreign policy, as opposed to the idiocy of left and right, Democrat and Republican.