Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Biden on Pakistan

CHINATOWN, New York (August 20, 2008) Politix

Last November, Joe Biden predicted that the South Carolina primary would pick the next president. He also directly answered the question: "What the hell do we do about Pakistan?" Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) replied.

"The single most significant thing that we could do to change the international environment according to most scholars is literally to empower women in countries where they're not empowered at all," he said after dealing with the latest round in the Biden-Giuliani street fight. And then, there was Pakistan -- which, unbeknownst to either of us non-Blackberry-wearing fellows, was at that very moment going down the kind of spiral that Biden had warned, in a debate four days earlier, was more frightening than Iran's furtive nuclear program. I asked him, on the heels of Karen Hughes's second departure from the Bush administration, how we worry about Pakistan as a threat while bringing up our 15% favorability rating among its people.

"You've got to have a Pakistani policy and not a Musharraf policy. This administration has a General Musharraf policy. So what you have to do is -- there's a vast majority, a significant middle of the population of Pakistan, [that] is democratic and middle-class. But what's happening is, absent free elections, you're forcing them underground, radicalizing them, and you're giving great sway to that portion of the population that's already radicalized," he said, and argued that aid to education with an eye toward economic development is more conducive to long term goals in the country."

Biden's response was to the question by Off-the-Bus's Shelby Highsmith (HuffPo Off-the-Bus) who reported it directly ("Biden: SC Will Pick the Next President" posted November 6, 2007). My commentary at the time follows.

Commentary reply to BIDEN in HuffPo nov6-07
Regarding Pakistan, Senator Biden must surely have dreaded the day that Musharraf's "emergency" came to fruition. With Islamists now controlling the Swat Valley and expanding areas in North-East Pakistan, the stakes cannot be higher. Biden knew very well the likelihood of such tension.

Biden, Edwards and Dodd are the Democratic candidates that show the most capacity to think beyond the present into the near-future difficulties that confront our next president. They recognize the interconnectedness of Iraq-Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan-Kashmir. Uzbekistan and Tadjikistan will certainly be the next fronts if Afghanistan goes badly. The Taliban resurgence is remarkable for its resilience but also for the Bush administration's failure of focus.

The Iraq War has damaged America's moral reputation, decreased our national security, and increased terrorism worldwide. That's pretty well acknowledged but Senator Biden goes deeper.
To his credit, Biden's proposal to federate Iraq into tripartite administrations is not dissimilar to Turkey's Ottoman solution (pre-WWI). As Senator Biden is aware, the British held onto Iraq for the oil and especially Kirkuk. My oppositon to the invasion was grounded in knowing that without a post-conflict solution for Kirkuk and Mosul that Sunni-Shia conflict of the worst sort was inevitable.

"We must dedicate this nation to the policy of the 'good neighbor' - the neighbor who respects his obligations and respects the sanctity of his agreements in and with a world of neighbors.” - Franklin Delano Roosevelt

That must be balanced with realistic hard choices on the part of the next American administration. ///

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