Sunday, June 26, 2005

Joe Biden's Criticism of the Iraq War

Last week Joe Biden spoke on the war in Iraq at the Brookings Institution:
"The disconnect between the administration's rhetoric and the reality on the ground has opened not just a credibility gap, but a credibility chasm. Standing right in the middle of that chasm are 139,000 American troops - some in their third rotations."
Biden isn't alone in his assessment:
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who supported the decision to go to war in Iraq, complained that the White House was "completely disconnected from reality." Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), another supporter of the war, charged that Bush had opened not just a credibility gap, but a "credibility chasm."
Joe Biden did not come easily to the decision to back the war in Iraq. At the time he said he supported the resolution, in part because he felt reassured by a speech Bush gave in October 2002:
He [Bush] said that war is neither imminent nor inevitable.
...
I also believe that we have time to deal with that problem in a way that isolates Saddam, not the United States, that makes the use of force the final option not the first one that produces the desired results, not unintended consequences.
Just as many onetime supporters turned against the Vietnam War in 1967-68, we are seeing more and more supporters turn against the war in Iraq.
I believe Biden felt conflicted over going to war in Iraq (as did many Americans) and his pungent criticism of the war reflects the frustration of a large number of citizens who were inclined to support the war but have lost confidence in President Bush. Opponents of the war tend to dismiss Biden's credibility on Iraq because of his support of the war resolution. However his early support gives him credibilty of a different sort: that of one who supported the use of force and has since been disillusioned by Bush's mismanagement and lack of candor, and who can point to his warnings about unintended consequences.
How will this erosion of support plays out in the campaign for 2008? The Democrats will face a choice between candidates
who were critics from the beginning and those who initially supported the war and then turned against it. This difference should not and will not divide Democrats in 2008.
The Republicans will face a similar but more difficult choice between those who like Hagel have lost confidence in the war and those who will support the war to the bitter end. This division will be very hard to overcome. Given the current state of the GOP, I cannot imagine a critic of the war gaining the nomination.

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