Joe Biden recently made comments to donors that Obama will be tested by an international crisis within the first 6 months of his presidency. He compared it to Kennedy who – as history shows – was tested in Vienna by the Soviets and apparently failed the test since not long after this meeting the Soviets built the Berlin Wall. So, the comparison was probably not ideal for Biden to make. But I agree with his basic notion. Bush was tested early in his presidency, as was Clinton. So I think it’s safe to assume the same will happen to Obama. Our enemies are no doubt curious to see how Obama responds to certain actions. I don’t think they have any doubt how McCain will respond.
What concerns me is Biden’s other comments. Basically he said Obama’s response won’t seem right initially and it will be important to stick with him through it all. What is Biden saying? Is he suggesting that perhaps Obama will respond in a “weak” manner? If so, then the comparison to Kennedy would be accurate, although this doesn’t bring me much comfort. After Kennedy’s weakness at Vienna, we got the Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis. These aren’t things that I would be eager to see replayed. It certainly gives voters something to think about.
Which brings up another point about Obama that I’ve been meaning to make for a while. Obama likes to boast that he was right about Iraq. I have a problem with that. First, Obama wasn’t in the Senate at the time so he never had to actually cast an up-or-down vote. He would have us believe that if he were in the Senate, then he would have voted against the Iraq War. Fair enough, but therein lies the problem. Bush was given intelligence that basically said Iraq had WMDs and the potential to use them posed a significant threat to the US, its allies and the surrounding region. The same intelligence was given to Congress. Every major intelligence organization worldwide concurred, and based on that information the Congress voted overwhelmingly for action to protect our nation. Obama says he wouldn’t have done so. Does this concern anyone besides me? What compelled Obama to dissent? Did he not believe the intelligence reports or did he simply not think that action was necessary against the “threat” that was being described? Suppose a similar situation presented itself - this time without the convenient hindsight - and Obama was faced with a threat supported by loads of evidence.
Granted, hindsight showed that the intelligence was wrong, but nobody knew that at the time. All we knew at the time was what we were told, that Iraq had WMDs and was dangerous. Even the most liberal, most dovish of our political leaders voted to take action, yet Obama says he would have ignored this intelligence and opted for something different. Sorry, but I don’t count that as good judgment. It doesn’t bring me comfort to think Obama may be in charge when Iran continues to pursue nukes. Suppose the CIA comes to President Obama and says that Ahmadinejad has succeeded, and he now has nuclear capability. What will Obama do? Will he believe the CIA and take action or will he dissent as he did regarding Iraq? Or will he wait for definitive proof of Iran’s nukes like a test detonation or, perhaps, an actual attack? He says a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, would be a “game-changer”, but his judgment on Iraq doesn’t back that up. So is this what Biden is talking about?
Today, discussing Iraq is difficult because that means distinguishing between what we know now and what we knew at the time. Bush didn’t have the luxury of knowing then what we know now and he had a decision to make regarding our national security. I’m certain that he considered the possibility that the intelligence could be wrong; but counting on that and doing nothing carried with it potentially disastrous consequences. Imagine the uproar if he had ignored the reports and Iraq subsequently launched a WMD attack. That would have been an impeachable offense. He opted to trust the intelligence and take action to protect American citizens. I think it was the right decision. Yes, he should have listened to Powell instead of Rumsfeld and ironed out a distinct exit strategy. Yes, he should have reacted faster when evidence of insurgency first developed. There are many things he should have done differently, but the core initial decision was right. And Obama says he wouldn’t have done the same.
Certainly, there were many mistakes regarding Iraq, but the initial decision to go in wasn’t among them. The government’s primary responsibility is to protect its citizens. The government was given significant information that its citizens were potentially in danger and they responded appropriately. Some things were mishandled, but the initial decision was the right one. I’m concerned that Obama would fail in this regard, and Biden’s comments seem to be somewhat prophetic.