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Scrutiny into Biden’s Record Should Include Obama Era Foreign Policies

Photograph Source: Daniel Schweb – CC BY-SA 4.0

Since Joe Biden has entered the race for the presidency, some media outlets have been pointing to his atrocious legislative record as a Senator, including his support for tough-on-crime bills, loose gun control measures, opposition to school desegregation, and his vote in favor of the Iraq War, among other things.

Greater scrutiny, however, should be placed on Biden’s role in supporting dubious foreign policies during his tenure as Vice-President under Barack Obama.

In Iraq, for example, where he took the lead on foreign policy initiatives, Biden curried favor with the corrupt Nouri al-Maliki whom locals considered to be a “Shia Saddam.” After Arab-Spring style protests erupted, Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry quietly worked to help install Haidar al-Abadi who was committed to privatizing Iraq’s economy in line with the original goals of the 2003 U.S. military invasion.

On Afghanistan, Biden was the supposed dove of the administration; however, his blueprint called for heavier reliance on Special Forces, air power and drone strikes. He ultimately sided with military commanders in authorizing a broader mission that came to assume many parallels to the Vietnam War.

As one who came of age in the 1960s and opposed the Vietnam War during his first run for Congress, Biden should have known better.

However, as the ultimate Washington insider, Biden long ago had learned to make friends with the military and to master the rhetoric of framing overseas military interventions in a liberal humanitarian rhetoric.

Following the ouster of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi in the Operation Odyssey Dawn, Biden bragged that the United States “didn’t lose a single life,” and that“this is more of the prescription for how to deal with the world as we go forward than it has been in the past.” However, Libya has since fallen into sectarian warfare, with over 180,000 Libyans risking their lives to escape to Italy. The country is being taken over by a brutal CIA-trained warlord, Khalifa al-Hiftar, whose forces have been accused of committing unlawful executions, torture, beheadings and bombing schools.

Biden’s Russophobia was apparent in a January-February 2018 essay in Foreign Affairs,where he claimed that Russia had refused cooperation with the West at the end of the Cold War and was now “brazenly assaulting the foundations of Western democracy around the world” including by invading neighboring countries such as Georgia and Ukraine.

However, it was the United States which failed to abide by a promise made by the George H. W. Bush administration that it would not expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) into Eastern Europe, and a European Union investigation blamed then-Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili for instigating the 2008 Russia-Georgia war after trying to seize South Ossetia.

Sober analysts such as historian Stephen Cohen have also made clear that Russia acted primarily in a defensive capacity in Ukraine where the Obama administration supported an illegal coup in February 2014 that ousted the corrupt but democratically elected pro-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, and led to a civil war when the Eastern Donbas and Luhansk provinces voted to separate.

Biden visited Kiev numerous times during Ukraine’s subsequent military campaign that had a destructive local effect and became close with the new Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, CEO of a chocolate conglomerate with a net worth of $1.3 billion who was so unpopular that he lost the recent 2019 election to a comedian with no previous political experience.

Right after the coup, Biden’s son, Hunter joined the board of one of Ukraine’s most profitable and corrupt energy companies, Burisma, which gave the potential to the Bidens of becoming billionaires. Journalist Peter Schweizer points out that Biden regularly consulted with Poroshenko by telephone and made five trips to the Ukraine while his son’s business partners prepared to strike a profitable deal with controversial and reportedly violent oligarchs Ihor Kolomoisky and Mykola Zlochevsky.

Joe Biden may want to tout his foreign policy experience during the 2020 campaign and present himself as an elder statesman who can bring dignity back to the Oval Office and repair America’s relationships around the world.

However, his record as Vice-President and his long record as a Senator demonstrate that both his judgment and ethics are dubious and that we need a new generation of leaders.

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Jeremy Kuzmarov is the author of The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce (Monthly Review Press, 2018) and Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting for the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State (Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2019).

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