Biden's disingenuity on "talks"

Joe Biden tries rescuing Barack Obama from himself in the Wall Street Journal today, and predictably does so by attacking the Bush administration. He gives a long list of the woes of the world, blames them all on Bush, and then pulls a sleight-of-hand to distract from Obama’s own position. Suddenly, all Obama wants are “talks” between the US and Iran:

Beyond bluster, how would Mr. McCain actually deal with these dangers? You either talk, you maintain the status quo, or you go to war. If Mr. McCain has ruled out talking, we’re stuck with an ineffectual policy or military strikes that could quickly spiral out of control.

No one has ruled out “talks”. Even the Bush administration has encouraged “talks”. We have had direct diplomatic contact with Iran on issues of Iraq’s security, from which Iran withdrew, not the US. The Bush administration has repeatedly endorsed the EU-3 negotiations with Iran over their nuclear-weapons program and uranium enrichment activities. Obama wanted a lot more than talks:

QUESTION: In 1982, Anwar Sadat traveled to Israel, a trip that resulted in a peace agreement that has lasted ever since.

In the spirit of that type of bold leadership, would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, in Washington or anywhere else, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, in order to bridge the gap that divides our countries?

OBAMA: I would.

Obama pledged direct, presidential talks with the heads of states that support international terrorism, including that which kills American soldiers — without preconditions. Biden tries walking that back, too:

Sen. Obama is right that the U.S. should be willing to engage Iran on its nuclear program without “preconditions” – i.e. without insisting that Iran first freeze the program, which is the very subject of any negotiations. He has been clear that he would not become personally involved until the necessary preparations had been made and unless he was convinced his engagement would advance our interests.

No, in fact Obama was very clear that he would conduct talks with these leaders because the talks themselves would advance our national interests. Besides, why would we want to give presidential meetings to leaders who fund Hezbollah, Hamas, and FARC in proxy wars with our close allies without demanding an end to terrorist support first? Are we so weak that we have no standing to demand an end to their backing of international terrorism before we raise their standing with presidential summits?

If they can access the president of the United States and the free world while still funding terrorism, hasn’t that endorsed those very policies?

Instead of regime change, we should focus on conduct change. We should make it very clear to Iran what it risks in terms of isolation if it continues to pursue a dangerous nuclear program but also what it stands to gain if it does the right thing. That will require keeping our allies in Europe, as well as Russia and China, on the same page as we ratchet up pressure.

It also requires a much more sophisticated understanding than Mr. Bush or Mr. McCain seem to possess that by publicly engaging Iran – including through direct talks – we can exploit cracks within the ruling elite, and between Iran’s rulers and its people, who are struggling economically and stifled politically.

This is just obtuse on several levels. Since at least 2005, the Bush administration has publicly pledged sponsorship into the WTO, a restoration of full diplomatic relations, and an end to economic sanctions for Iran if they verifiably give up their nuclear weapons programs. They have refused to do so, and we have made “very clear” the consequences of that decision. That has been the policy of the Bush administration for the last several years. Has Biden been on vacation since Kerry lost the election in 2004?

Biden completely jumps the shark when he attempts to explain how Obama meeting with Ahmadinejad will “exploit cracks within the ruling elite”. How exactly will it do that? Such a meeting will only bolster the standing of Ahmadinejad and the hardline clerics that support him. It will discourage the very people Biden hopes to help from pressing for change in the mullahcracy. People do not rebel against success, they rise up in response to failure.

Obama’s foreign policy hasn’t just revealed him as an inch-deep, mile-wide politician. It has exposed Joe Biden as much the same — and he’s supposedly the frontrunner for a Secretary of State nod in an Obama administration.