What we know about Joe Biden is none too flattering. On his rocky road to the Democratic Presidential nomination, which promises to be even rougher on the way to the election, he has stumbled in speech and action. Critics deride his snarled syntax and lapses of thought. A former Senate staffer claims he sexually assaulted her 27 years ago. And there’s no explaining how he used his Washington influence over Ukraine to add to his wealth at the expense of this distraught nation.
Yet there is something more to the Vice President that has been hidden from view but becomes clear in Bob Woodward’s 2010 book “Obama’s Wars.” This inside look at the White House debate over the Afghan war is filled with the endless, windy pronouncements of the President, his aides and top military commanders. They circle round and round the topic without deciding why we were in the eight-year war and what it was expected to accomplish. Just continue what we’re doing. was the consensus. Only try harder.
One voice stands out for independence and freshness of thought, and that is Biden’s. The room, he complained, confuse al Quaeda with the Taliban. Al Qaeda terrorists threaten the U.S., the Taliban do not. The U.S. has pushed al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan, and they’re not likely to return. So why continue with nation-building and remaking Afghanistan when it’s not really working even with ten thousand troops on the ground.
Biden insisted the Taliban is not monolithic as commonly portrayed. There are hard core believers at the top, but down the line many others are far from committed and open to change. Their differences are exploitable as opposed to trying to kill them all. And the top echelon who will fight to the end are all in Pakistan. Yet we’re at war in Afghanistan. For what?
There were no answers to Biden at the meeting, just some shrugs and eye rolling. Obama rather condescendingly urged him on without seeming to mean it. “Verbosity” was the charge against him, as it is today, but was it the length and style of his talk that offended or the content? With consistency he went on to oppose the war in Libya as “madness” since the U.S. was already engaged in two other wars – Afghanistan and Syria. Considering the shambles of Libya today, he knew what he was talking about. He also noted that the extensive U.S aid to the rebels against the Assad regime in Syria was largely going to terrorists. Once again, a policy that made no sense.
What if Biden, instead of being ignored, had prevailed? The world would look different today – no ruined, inflamed Middle East and North Africa with a flood of refugees adding to the global burden. But sadly, this point rarely comes up in the current Presidential campaign where Biden is mainly seen to be faltering, unsure of the message he once strongly conveyed.