Posted: Aug. 1, 2003

In a speech at the Brookings Institution Thursday, Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-Del.), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned that "there is a war being waged in Washington over the future of U.S. foreign policy" and issued a strong rebuke to Bush administration "neoconservatives" whose policy of unilateral preemption in Iraq has resulted in "the loss of a signification portion of support around the world." 

Biden reaffirmed his support for the war in Iraq, saying that "anyone who can't acknowledge that the world is better off without [Saddam Hussein] is out of touch...It is worth it and in our national interest to stay the course." 

He called for a new UN resolution to create a stronger and more diverse international coalition to deal with Iraq. "We may not like it, but most of the rest of the world needs it if we expect them to send the troops we need and to help pay for Iraq's reconstruction." 

Biden criticized the Bush administration's approach to foreign policy and diplomacy, saying that although he does not believe President Bush lied, presidential advisers "hyped the intelligence to create a sense of urgency and a sense of an imminent rally the country to war sooner rather than later." 

"What happens now when we need to rally the world about a weapons program in North Korea or Iran?" the Democratic senator asked the assembled crowd. "Will anyone believe us?"

"This administration has turned preemption from a necessary option into an ill-defined doctrine," said Biden, who instead called for "a prevention doctrine that diffuses problems before they explode in our face." 

Biden expressed his support for "a more enlightened nationalism, one that recognizes international organization" and that will "bring in the international community and empower Iraqis to bolster our efforts and legitimize a new Iraqi government." 

"The stakes are too high and the opportunities too great to conduct foreign policy at the extremes," said Biden. 

Biden also noted that "we are still at war" and, referring to President Bush's May 1 appearance aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, said, "I wish that the president, instead of standing on an aircraft carrier in front of a banner that said 'Mission Accomplished,' would have stood in front of a banner that said 'We've Only Just Begun.'" 

Speaking about current obstacles facing the United States in Iraq, Biden said that "there is a short-term fix: more foreign troops to share our mission, and more Iraqis to guard hospitals, bridges, banks, and schools." 

He urged the Bush administration to provide a sufficient police force and army in Iraq and to improve local water and electricity capabilities. 

The United States is also losing the propaganda war in Iraq, Biden said. "The [American] programming makes public access television look good! Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera and Iranian TV dominates the airwaves 24/7 with more sophisticated programming." 

Biden, who recently visited Iraq, noted that "Iraqis simply can't understand how the most powerful nation on earth, which toppled Saddam in three weeks, can't get the lights turned on." 

Failure to implement his recommendations, in Biden's opinion, would result in a "paralysis of progress" that would "lose not only the support of the Iraqi people but the support of the American people as the discontent and the death toll rise." 

He also called on President Bush to "keep the American people fully informed of the risks, the costs, and the importance of staying the course in Iraq." 

"The American people are tough as nails, and they will do whatever is expected of them to maintain our security," said Biden, adding that "no foreign policy can be sustained without the informed consent of the American people. We learned that lesson in Vietnam, but we haven't applied it to Iraq." 

Biden, who spoke as part of Brookings Leadership Forum, also criticized members of his own party who opposed going into Iraq in the first place. "The cost of not acting against Saddam would have been much greater," he said, "and so is the cost of not finishing the job."