Joe Biden’s CODEL to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan: Working All the Angles. . .Like He Should!

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biden twn 2002a.jpg
Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of US Senators including Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John Kerry (D-MA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Jack Reed (D-RI) are leaving soon on the last CODEL (Congressional Delegation trip) that the soon-to-be-but-not-yet Vice President will make in his career as a Senator.
Biden and his delegation will travel to Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan – and the White House and Obama transition office has made clear that he is traveling there in his current capacity as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and not as the incoming Vice President.
Some protocol snobs at the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute are blasting the Vice President-elect for making this move. They suggest that any comment he makes on the trip will undermine the current “only one President at a time” mantra that Obama and Bush aides have been repeatedly issuing. They think Biden’s branding as Foreign Relations Committee Chair rather than VP is not only disingenuous but confusing to foreign leaders that the CODEL will be meeting.
This is silly. These Republican pranksters both inside the White House and out in think tanks are trying to pull with their Biden heckling the equivalent of taking the “W’s” off of typewriters as Bill Clinton’s outgoing team did to Bush – but targeting Biden instead of Obama.
Biden’s bipartisan trip of national security heavyweights in the US Senate is an important step in reestablishing some trust and common purpose in US foreign policy across party lines. This is vital and Biden is creating important outreach – as Obama has said he is doing to key Republicans – particularly Lindsey Graham who was a top tier player in John McCain’s campaign.
Secondly, one source familiar with the White House’s role in helping to facilitate the trip made clear that after January 20th, it could be 30-60 days before Biden or other senior officials could get to the chronically unstable countries of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. To hit the ground running, Biden and Obama felt it was vital to get as much real time information on the tectonic tensions in each of these fragile nations.
And that meant traveling there with the authority Biden has today – not what he will have after January 20th.
Afghanistan has devolved into a major cesspool of problems – and while many suggest throwing a few more military brigades into the mix – Biden and his South Asia focused Senate staff know that this is inadequate and will not change the incentives of key warlords. All of these Senators – and the Vice President-elect need to see and understand that just ratcheting up a military deployment probably will not help stabilize Afghanistan. I’m glad this team will get a first hand look at this worsening situation.
Pakistan and India have been flirting with the same potential tenor of escalation as dangerously happened in 2002 – and to call Pakistan’s political situation delicate is probably a vast overstatement. Biden and company should absolutely go there — no matter what hat he wants to wear.
And Iraq is still a mess and needs attention. One can see that “success in Iraq” looks less rosy from the view point that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad can go to Iraq with his schedule released publicly weeks in advance while America’s visiting dignitaries move in secrecy.
Joe Biden is smartly using whatever tools he has at his disposal to be able to help the Obama team govern from day one – something fully consistent with the transition team’s objectives and something encouraged by President George W. Bush as well. Obama will need baseline assessments of the situation on the ground in these countries from experienced foreign policy hands who have the ability to move to these places NOW.
In fact, I have learned from one source that it was Obama’s national security team that conceived of this trip and its purpose – not Joe Biden. It makes great sense and deserves a salute both for the Foreign Relations Committee ownership of the trip – but also for its bipartisan group and the support from Bush’s team who has facilitated much for the CODEL.
So to my friends at Heritage and AEI, criticism is part of Washington’s healthy back and forth debates – but suggesting that Joe Biden and this group of Senators would confuse foreign leaders on who is boss until 20 January and thus muck up the Bush administration’s waning days in control is wrong-headed and neglects the vital importance of facilitating contact between our bipartisan national leadership with political leaders in big stakes nations whose convulsions and internal strife have huge consequences for America.
And to my friends at Politico, where was the balance in this piece?
— Steve Clemons

Comments

24 comments on “Joe Biden’s CODEL to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan: Working All the Angles. . .Like He Should!

  1. Jake Barlow says:

    Politico balanced? Really?
    We all have our biases, and Politico tries hard to mask theirs, but lets be real. This isn’t a personal attack on Politico, it’s just a statement. Politico is a tad more fair than Fox, but certainly no more balanced than either Fox or MSNBC.
    Sorry for having to get that out first, but I’ve reached my limit for the incessant, vapid coverage of the quaint theater surrounding the Obama administration.
    Seriously.
    This country is at a crossroads potentially more perilous than any it has ever experienced since its founding, and we’re all still bleating about rules and tradition and proper deference and other nonsensical BS that is not going to keep the mighty US from becoming Argentina circa 80s or Mexico circa now.
    Focus, people. Focus. This country is the Titanic sinking, and everyone is arguing over when’s the proper time for the quartet shift change, and who should be on bass.

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  2. Susie in Oregon says:

    Right on point, Steve. Biden hasn’t resigned for a lot of excellent and explicit reasons. A physical fact-finding, as Senator and Chair of the Foreign Relations Comm., is an essential, mandatory duty. To the poster who wondered at the connection between the Foreign Relations Comm., this is what foreign relations are about – repairing, building, fostering, pro-actively engagng in relations with all other countries. Especially the ones with which we are militarily engaged.
    In the excrutiatingly long 11 days until Bushco is gone, Obama’s eyes and ears need all the periferal opportunities they can garner, and Biden will do his job, regardless of the Repubs who tag along.
    Wage Peace.
    Yours in Democracy,
    Susie

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  3. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    Steve makes solid points and it is good Senators are getting out there for a look. I am just back from India myself.
    The Afghanistan situation is not going to be improved without the participation of India, Iran, China, and Russia. IMO, any serious Afghan initiative under President Obama will require some astute regional diplomacy with India and Iran and consultations with Russia and China.
    The US is going to have to put its foot down with Pakistan and require the Army to shut down the terror operations against India. Mumbai was a wake up call for the world as to Pakistan as an “epicenter” of international terrorism. Some of us were saying this after 911 but…

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  4. stevie says:

    Minor Correction:
    Clinton staffers only took the “W’s” off a couple of keyboards. Karl Rove lied when he claimed it was widespread – because that’s what he does, lie. It was his and BushCo’s feeble attempt to imply to everyone that the “adults” were taking power now. Except their attempt was based on a lie, and that continued for pretty much the next eight years.
    Me? I would have sabotaged Rove’s office with the scent of (m)Ann Coulter – sorta smells like a dumpster in the back of a Red Lobster on a hot August day, you know, mixed with sewer gas.

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  5. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    It would be a postive departure if Mr Biden ‘s visit to Pakistan may restart the US’s pragmatist policy approach regarding the promptitude of peace in South Asia and the fact that the incoming US administration may have positive realisation of the political correctitude in terms of Pakistan’s sovereignty concern/Islamabad reservations over Nato’s inadvertant/deliberate intervention inside the Pakistani territories and the US’s unjustified drones’ attacks in Fata.

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  6. DavidT says:

    I am at a loss here.
    Of course this effort is part of the Obama security team’s initiatives. However is it appropriate for Biden to do so as chairman of the Foreign Relations committee? That issue you don’t address.
    I don’t know why the president-elect can’t send his vice-president elect on such a trip without having to use the cover of his old job at the Foreign Relations Committee. To me that’s a bit odd and gives one the feeling of old style Washington stuff.
    And yes, if he makes comments they will be interpreted as speaking for the new administration as they should be. Frankly I don’t think this would be a big story except for Biden’s history of speaking out of turn. But Obama chose him to join his ticket so he has to take what he gained from that choice with whatever downsides there are.
    What makes the Politico piece unbalanced I don’t know. If Al Gore had gone on a special visit to various countries before being sworn in as vice-president in his capacity as a Senator and had the history that Biden does of making inappropriate remarks some eyebrows would likely have been raised then as well and a piece highlighting those concerns would have been on the mark (and if it turns out that the Biden trip is a big success for the incoming administration then we’ll read about that as well).

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  7. TokyoTom says:

    You are exactly right, Steve.
    It is important to our national interests that the Obama administration be prepared to govern, and that requires getting up to speed before the official hand-off.
    So Biden’s trip with a bunch of other Senators, including Republicans, is actually the RESPONSIBLE thing to do. I for one am applauding. Presumable the White House will (or could if it wanted) have someone tagging along.

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  8. JohnH says:

    I was going to “charge” that you were probably one of “them” already, but I didn’t want to get personal.
    Yep, the BS sure is deep. And the beltway’s only distinct competence seems to be in the recycling of it. Unfortunately it won’t help the economy recover.

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  9. daCascadian says:

    JohnH >”…If you suggest otherwise, you might be cast as…”
    No problem since it wouldn’t be either the first or I`m sure the
    last time that happened. Such are the “rewards” of speaking truth.
    If the beltway BS gets any deeper airliners won’t be able to fly
    below FL 390.
    “Fear not the path of truth for the lack of people walking on it.” –
    Robert F. Kennedy

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  10. JohnH says:

    daCascadian: I am shocked that you would suggest that America is occupying Afghanistan to make the “area safe for the large international oil firms {to] build pipeline(s).” Steve Clemons might call it “poor form.”
    You should know by now that you can’t be taken as a serious foreign affairs person, if you say that America’s foreign policy is driven by crass commercial interests such as oil. Take your cue from Clemons. He NEVER mentions oil in the context of American foreign policy.
    Of course, it’s fine to say that our enemies are driven by crude (pardon the pun) ambition. They are reprehensible–simply reprehensible, I say–in their desire to use energy assets for strategic purposes. Why, they even want to maintain sovereignty over their own energy assets, and, even worse, to control production, distribution and pricing! Shameful!
    America’s foreign policy, on the other hand, strives to serve only the noblest of aims: freedom, democracy, and Israel (not necessarily in that order).
    So, daCascadian, learn from your betters, like Rumsfeld, who once said, “It’s not about oil.” If you suggest otherwise, you might be cast as a lunatic, or, worse, an anti-American, communist terrorist.

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  11. Paul Norheim says:

    “Where have you been for the last 8 or so years ?”
    Where have YOU been, daCascadian?
    As far as I know, JohnH have been busy talking about a certain
    elephant in the room: oil.

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  12. daCascadian says:

    JohnH >”…why Afghanistan is of vital strategic interest to the United States ?…”
    Oh come on, it is very clear that the issue is making that area safe for the large international oil firms so they can build pipeline(s) out of the reach of Russia et al. Well that and, of course, control of the drug trade.
    *sheesh*
    Where have you been for the last 8 or so years ?
    [Third attempt – captcha still buggy, doesn`t know what it displaying]
    “…Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard…” – H. L. Mencken

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  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Well, dang it, give my tax dollars to the porn kings, at least they ain’t killin’ anyone.
    Or better yet, why not just give the money back to us? We get screwed everyday anyway. We might as well get paid for it. After all, Washington gets paid for screwin’ us, don’t they? Its kind like hookin’ in reverse.

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  14. JohnH says:

    As I said, keep the money flowing to DOD. Better to waste it in Iraq and Afghanistan than in America where it might do some real good.
    The beltway, once in the trall of massive illusions of grandeur, is now in an equally massive state of denial.
    Gates has gotten in line to ask for cash–‘more money, please! But the difference is that he has company in that line–financial scam artists, porn kings, and, oh yes, GM.
    http://www.cqpolitics.com/wmspage.cfm?parm1=1&docID=cqmidday-000003003320
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/07/porn-bailout-larry-flynt_n_155878.html
    One thing for sure, Gates will get his $70B, though no one can say for certain what he’s trying to accomplish in Afghanistan.

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  15. JohnH says:

    If we’re lucky, Biden will have an epiphany on his trip to Afghanistan–he’ll discover the point of occupying the place.
    But will he or Obama communicate why Afghanistan is of vital strategic interest to the United States?
    Not a chance! Either they can’t figure it out, or they can’t say. But keep the big bucks flowing to DOD while the economy tanks…

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  16. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Hey! How about this jellyfish Harry Reid??
    He drops his drawers for Roberts on the Phase Two issue, naps through the whole torture thing, stands impotently by as we are wiretapped, gives his unwavering and slobbering support to Israel as they incinerate another batch of Palestinian women and children….
    …..but lo and behold, his balls are the size of Mt. Rushmore when it comes to blocking Burris, who has done absolutely NOTHING wrong.
    Ya gotta love ‘im. The guy is a picture perfect example of how screwed up Washington is.

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  17. Nancy Philippe says:

    Sorry to be such a nit-picker, but shouldn’t it be “as he should” and not “like”? Remember the flap about Winstons tasting good…
    Also, just one more nit: how about “Bush’s team which”, instead of “Bush’s team who” ?

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  18. Outraged American says:

    I’ll guess that Joe ‘I am a Zionist” (Biden stated that on Shalom
    TV last year) will not be looked on with favor by the
    predominately Muslim countries he’s visiting, given the ongoing
    genocide of the Palestinians by the Zionist regime.
    As a private citizen, I tried to get a comment out of Biden’s office
    yesterday about the genocide in Gaza, and some little schmuck
    said that Biden wouldn’t comment, not even as a Senator. So
    there you go. Has he?
    The word “bipartisan” should be replaced with “unipartisan”
    because that’s the political system we live under: two sides of
    the same Israel Uber Alles coin. We could begin to address our
    domestic issues if we didn’t spend what will amount to at least a
    trillion on wars. This includes our financial support of the
    “nabka” (catastrophe) currently happening to the Palestinians,
    and the war in Iraq for Israel.
    Don’t take my word that our invasion of Iraq was fought for
    Israel, read “The Israel Lobby & U.S. Foreign Policy” by Stephen
    Walt of Harvard, and John Mearsheimer of the Univ. of Chicago.
    If I remember correctly, that rumor about the Clinton staff taking
    the W out of the White House keyboards was proven to be either
    a myth or a prank perpetrated by Bush’s staff to make the
    Clintonistas look like goons. Which in my opinion they were,
    although, in hindsight, Clinton’s team seem almost like pacifists
    compared to Cheney’s death squads.

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  19. rich says:

    Obama’s not even Prznt yet, and here’s John Dickerson saying that “Obama has only himself to blame” if the stimulus package is delayed.
    Yet Obama’s winning kudos for an extraordinarily fast and well-prepared transition. Dickerson can’t have it both ways.
    http://www.slate.com/id/2207790/
    Understimulated
    Obama has only himself to blame for the delay in the spending bill.
    By John Dickerson
    “. . . if it takes awhile to put the stimulus package together, the delay is of Obama’s own doing. To produce the thoughtful, bipartisan bill he has called for, Congress will have to take some time.”
    Contradiction, anyone? How is it “his own doing,” if even Dickerson notes Congress takes time? If only Obama’s give in, instead of sticking to principles–Dickerson’s implied preference.
    Looks like the gloves are coming off in the anti-liberal media.
    Obama hasn’t been sworn in yet, and they’re looking for ways to hang any delays or bumps or intransigence around his neck. And what about George Bush?? He IS Prznt–and is totally unwilling to act on a stimulus bill that’d mean soemthing. Uh, Mr. Dickerson?

    Reply

  20. liz says:

    Steve, I find it interesting that Kerry ,Biden and Reed are taking Lindsey Graham and Susan Collins with them on this trip. Graham is pro war. He wars with his constituents as well. Don’t know Collins as well but has she ever made a big statement on this war?
    Out of all the Republicans to choose from, why Graham and Collins?>? Graham is not a benign entity. He’s cancerous . He is after ” big things” and making a big name for himself. He’ll now “use” the Dems if they let him.

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  21. TonyForesta says:

    Sorry, but for clarity, I meant to say – {Now that forces beyond the wingnut hordes will (NOT) have voice and say in these assessments and how these assessments are articulated and dissemintated is the only reason all these failed desperate wingnut FAILURES are so eager to criticize Biden for doing his job.}

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  22. TonyForesta says:

    Why would anyone take anything pimped or bruted by the wingnuts in the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute as having any validity, or credibility, or fact? These wingnut propaganda, disinformation, and slime covens – I mean think tanks have never been right about anything. Will anyone – please anyone show me and print here one instance, – one single instance where either the Heritage Foundation or American Enterprise Institute were ever right about anything. Please, name one! I double dare you!!
    Biden is performing his duty as US senator and Vice President elect. The fact that wingnut elites are offended by Bidens’ “fact finding mission” has nothing to do with fact finding and everything to do with accepting that all their wayward and predatory policies are proven catastrophic FAILURES, and globally discredited.
    Biden and this delegation must fact find, and report back on their assessments. Now that forces beyond the wingnut hordes will have voice and say in these assessments and how these assessments are articulated and dissemintated is the only reason all these failed desperate wingnut FAILURES are so eager to criticize Biden for doing his job.

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  23. eberit says:

    Common’ POA….Steve is addressing a SERIOUS matter here. You have a minor point but it is but dust in the face of the matter at hand.

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  24. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Perhaps they can arrange the logistics of getting the heroin paste out of country and into the hands of the CIA.
    I’d hate to see our premier intelligence agency lose a primary source of funding for covert acts of international crimes, assasinations, and coups.

    Reply

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