Houston, We Have A Problem!
When Joe Biden becomes the administrations source for intelligent (intelligence) analysis, what does that say about the other players that are involved? The idea behind a presidents War Room is for him to get the down and dirty, nitty gritty truth about a crisis, consolidate it and make a decision. Those present are supposed to be some of the top minds that the country has to offer in different areas of expertise, having been chosen by the president for the quality of their thoughts and willingness to relate them. They are to relate honest opinion and strategy regardless of the anger they may incurr from the chief executive. They are there to do whatever it takes to protect and secure the American people and not their own hides. Period the end.
Newsweek Article: Joe Biden, White House Truth Teller
This article was written to convey a message about the stature of Joe Biden. My read, however, was a little bit different. In my mind it tells more of a story about the quality of the administration and its foreign policy. One particular paragraph would seem to summarize the opinion of many when it concerns Biden, a key player in the foreign policy debate, and his foreign policy acumen. It reads:
"Biden, it should be noted, has not always showed the most clear-eyed judgment. In 1990 he voted against American involvement in the first Gulf war, which turned out to be a relatively low-cost success, whereas he voted for the invasion of Iraq, which turned into a near fiasco. He opposed the 2007 Iraq surge, which rescued the American effort from near defeat."
In questions of policy, the Biden position has often been the wrong position, and yet he is the seeming voice of reason within the Situation Room.
Another annecdote from the article describes a discussion concerning the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ideas were being bandied about when Biden stepped in and asked a bombshell of a question:
"Joe Biden had a question. During a long Sunday meeting with President Obama and top national-security advisers on Sept. 13, the VP interjected, "Can I just clarify a factual point? How much will we spend this year on Afghanistan?" Someone provided the figure: $65 billion. "And how much will we spend on Pakistan?" Another figure was supplied: $2.25 billion. "Well, by my calculations that's a 30-to-1 ratio in favor of Afghanistan. So I have a question. Al Qaeda is almost all in Pakistan, and Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And yet for every dollar we're spending in Pakistan, we're spending $30 in Afghanistan. Does that make strategic sense?" The White House Situation Room fell silent. But the questions had their desired effect: those gathered began putting more thought into Pakistan as the key theater in the region."
This is a question that a fourth grader could have come up with, let alone our top foreign policy and national security advisors. I applaud Biden for bringing the attention of the meeting to an important question, but why should he have had to. While it was a nice fluff piece, I don't think the Newsweek article painted any of the participants in a very good light. It took the Vice President to point out such a mundane fact, and after he did the other members of the meeting jumped on board.
It doesn't give me that warm and fuzzy feeling to know that a man who has typically been on the wrong side of the debate is the point man in framing the debate for the president.