Orbital Matters

Saturn Smith
Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 8, 2009 6:26PM

Biden: All Changed, Changed Utterly

Rate: 38 Flag

Joe Biden, my favorite current vice-president, spoke1 this weekend at a security conference in Munich.  Coverage of the event has mostly focused on Biden's assertion that the U.S. will continue to seek a strategic missile defense initiative, but will also work with Russia.  That summary makes the speech seem a bit like a yawner -- certainly, an important thing to say, and possibly the most newsworth part of the speech, but the focus on Russia seems to belie what was the heart of Mr. Biden's speech: a whole-sale reversal of Bush-era foreign policy concepts.  For instance:

In meeting these challenges, the United States will be guided by this principle –- and the principle is: There is no conflict between our security and our ideals. We believe they are mutually reinforcing.

The force of arms won our independence, and throughout our history the force of arms has protected our freedom. That will not change. But the very moment we declared our war of independence, at that moment we laid out to the world the values behind our revolution and the conviction that our policies must be informed, as we said at the time, by a "decent respect for the opinions of mankind."

The emphasis is mine.  Biden goes on from there to say, loudly and clearly, "America will not torture."  That's a pretty broad and amazing statement in front of an international audiece for two reasons: first, it's shocking it had to be said at all; and second, it's a clear signal to the International community that, should we break that promise, we expect justice from without.  Think I'm reading too much into that?  Five paragraphs down, we find this:

We believe international alliances and organizations do not diminish America's power -- we believe they help advance our collective security, economic interests and our values.

So we’ll engage. We’ll listen. We’ll consult. America needs the world, just as I believe the world needs America. But we say to our friends that the alliances, treaties and international organizations we build must be credible and they must be effective. That requires a common commitment not only to listen and live by the rules, but to enforce the rules when they are, in fact, clearly violated.

I think Joe Biden just opened the door for International prosecution of the Bush Administration.

Reading the whole speech is certainly worth your time, if you're interested in American foreign policy.  One final highlight, just to remind everyone how far we've come in the last month:

To meet the challenges of this new century, defense and diplomacy are necessary. But quite frankly, ladies and gentlemen, they are not sufficient. We also need to wield development and democracy, two of the most powerful weapons in our collective arsenals. Poor societies and dysfunctional states, as you know as well as I do, can become breeding grounds for extremism, conflict and disease. Non-democratic nations frustrate the rightful aspirations of their citizens and fuel resentment. Smilin' Joe Biden

Our administration has set an ambitious goal to increase foreign assistance, to cut extreme poverty in half by 2015, to help eliminate the global educational deficit, and to cancel the debt of the world's poorest countries; to launch a new Green Revolution that produces sustainable supplies of food, and to advance democracy not through the imposition of force from the outside, but by working with moderates in government and civil society to build those institutions that will protect that freedom -– quite frankly, the only thing that will guarantee that freedom.

We also are determined to build a sustainable future for our planet. We are prepared to once again begin to lead by example. America will act aggressively against climate change and in pursuit of energy security with like-minded nations.

Our administration's economic stimulus package, for example, includes long-term investments in renewable energy. And we believe that’s merely a down payment. The President has directed our Environmental Protection Agency to review how we regulate emissions, start a process to raise fuel efficiency, appoint a climate envoy -- and all in his first week in office, to demonstrate his commitment.

As America renews our emphasis on diplomacy, development and democracy, and preserving our planet, we will ask our allies to rethink some of their own approaches -- including their willingness to use force when all else fails.

When it comes to radical groups that use terror as a tool, radical states who harbor extremists, undermine peace and seek or spread weapons of mass destruction, and regimes that systematically kill or ethnically cleanse their own people, we must stand united and use every means at our disposal to end the threat that they pose.

None of us can deny or escape the new threats of the 21st century. Nor can we escape the responsibility to meet them.

And we are not unmindful in the United States how difficult it is to communicate these notions to our public who don’t want to hear much of what needs to be said.

 1 The title is quoting Biden, who quoted William Butler Yeats's "Easter, 1916" in his speech: "All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born."  Please now take a moment and try to imagine Dick Cheney quoting Yeats.  

Your tags:

TIP:

Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:

Comments

Type your comment below:
Rated.

I can't imagine Cheney reading ANYTHING, never mind my favourite poet....
I can imagine Dick Cheney as the beast that slouches towards Bethlehem.
Thanks!
I think he read (and probably continues to read) a lot of Congressional reports and briefing memos.
Good grief, how long has it been since we've heard words like these from our primary elected reps?! It almost seems alienating in some strange way to hear our "elected" VP saying things like this.

RATED
Nice sleuthing, Saturn!
Wow. This is a fantastic post. Thank you! With all the drama surrounding our domestic economic woes, I’m kinda’ jonesing for foreign affairs stuff. (Especially since Cheney says new Dem policies have us one step closer to suitcase nukes in our morning cornflakes. Sheeesh.)
One, no one was a bigger fan of Russian than Bush who did everything but French kiss the leader. Second - Russia's government is near totalitarian again.
Thanks for pulling this out, Saturn! whew, it is hard to believe that we've come out of the long long dark tunnel we've been in.

as a side note, a friend just emailed who's in Central America and talked to some Europeans there as well, and noted how everyone from other countries that he meets is just so thrilled and happy that we elected Obama.
At the risk of sounding like an echo chamber. Wow. It is such a relief to hear the U.S. sounding like a partner in the international community again.
Thanks, all. It is exciting to hear this stuff, isn't it? Foreign policy isn't just war anymore, hurrah!

(Is anyone else not getting e-mail alerts of comments today?)

JimGalt, I agree that the Russian government has only gotten harsher in the past few years, but I think that's been in part due to very weird policies on our part -- Bush wanted to base Russian/U.S. cooperation just on what he felt was a strong personal relationship with Putin, who seems to have had little but disregard for him. It's going to be a whole new game for Russia and the U.S., it seems -- and I hope it will have positive effects for both.
Thanks for putting this up to read -- could there be any more of a contrast than Biden with Cheney? Every morning I wake up smiling. Yeah, it's all still a mess, but Bush and Cheney are gone. Poetry. Laughter that's not cackling and evil. And...oh God...coherent sentences!
Saturn, speeches are one thing, governing is another. Almost all Presidents proclaim humility and end up getting accused of arrogance. It is the way of the world.

In the 2000 election, GWB said this as part of a criticism of perceived arrogance overseas by the Clinton Administration, “If we're an arrogant nation, they'll resent us; if we're a humble nation, but strong, they'll welcome us. And our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that's why we've got to be humble, and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom.”

I assume you do not agree that he governed this way.

Regarding this from Biden: “To meet the challenges of this new century, defense and diplomacy are necessary. But quite frankly, ladies and gentlemen, they are not sufficient. We also need to wield development and democracy, two of the most powerful weapons in our collective arsenals. Poor societies and dysfunctional states, as you know as well as I do, can become breeding grounds for extremism, conflict and disease. Non-democratic nations frustrate the rightful aspirations of their citizens and fuel resentment.”

It doesn’t seem all that different from GWB’s philosophy.

Also, you say, “I think Joe Biden just opened the door for International prosecution of the Bush Administration.”

It is hugely unreasonable to believe that Barack Obama would let his Presidency get destroyed by shipping GWB to The Hague for prosecution. I do not believe Obama is up to the job and will be a Jimmy Carter-like failure but I also do not believe that he is an idiot.

Lastly, you quote Biden saying, “And we are not unmindful in the United States how difficult it is to communicate these notions to our public who don’t want to hear much of what needs to be said.”

So, we are replacing GWB “arrogance” toward foreign countries with a new arrogance that makes the problem the American people’s inability to understand. Not a great place to start from.
McGarrett, certainly I agree there's a sharp difference between speeches and governing -- just as I think there's a big difference between campaign speeches, as you're quoting, and the first major foreign policy speech of an administration, as delivered before several world leaders and in the midst of dozens of meetings with those same leaders. But yes, it remains to be seen whether they can carry through with their goals.

I think Bush governed in a way consistent to what you're quoting, in that he always made sure that American strength America was known and feared by our enemies and allies alike. Biden's statement is a complete reversal of Bush-Cheney policy, because he makes development a priority: that translates as "foreign aid" to most of the neocon persuasion, and you'll note that the budget for foreign aid declined sharply under Bush (unless you count the DoD funding into foreign aid somehow, which I think, probably, Bush did).

I'm not sure that Biden meant for that parallel to be in place -- and I don't know that Obama would happily hand over any ex-president to the Hague. But they have to know the risks of saying Justice Must Be Served in front of an international audience, don't they?
I had the opportunity to speak with Biden briefly and virtually in private after one of his campaign stops leading up to the Iowa Caucuses. I asked him specifically what the chances were of ever bringing Bush and his administration to justice over their lawbreaking, and he replied that there were certainly grounds for holding them accountable legally, and he alluded that as President, he would be willing to do just that. That threw me solidly in his favor for the caucuses. But 'ol Joe received only seven votes, including mine, at the caucus, and I then threw my support to Obama, who, of course, won the Iowa Caucuses. I felt as if I'd missed the bus somewhat after Obama's thrilling victory, thinking maybe I should have just given Obama my vote in the first place. But my original choice has been vindicated somewhat by Obama's choice of Biden for VP. And, judging by his speech a year after the caucuses, he wasn't kidding about holding BushCo accountable. Will that actually happen? Not likely, but it's gratifiying to at least hear the truth be told, and on an international stage to boot. It's nice to think that Bush and his old crew might be sweating just a bit.
Great post Saturn, as usual. But it is up to the Obama administration to belie a great line from another Yeats poem in the same volume, ironically entitled "The Second Coming."

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are filled with passionate intensity.

It will take passionate intensity aplenty to seek the conviction of agents in the terror regime. I'm not holding my breath.
Bush will never stand trial in The Hague. I doubt Bush will ever leave Texas except for family matters or to give a paid speech (and you know some idiot group will pay him 5 or 6 figures to yap inanities). An international arrest is highly unlikely. More to the point, whether or not Bush was paying any attention during briefings, whatever Bush does know is a direct national security matter. A former president knows too much for his person to be under foreign adjudication and possible imprisonment. If Bush is tried, it will be in an American court.
Yeah, Randy and Stim, I agree I don't think this is something that will happen (outside prosecution) but -- maybe they want that external pressure to force their hands into internal prosecution? Dunno.

Great point, libertarius -- it's definitely all still to be seen on foreign affairs efforts.
Saturn, thank you for bringing this to us. It is one of the brighter signs I have read recently.
Woo-hoo! Thanks for the post.
Woo hoo indeed! I'm glad you both found it as cheering as I did.
Thanks for picking out these details, since indeed (as you expected) there are those of us (to include me) who hadn't followed what Biden was up to... Probably all new administrations have things going on even when we're not paying attention; I'm glad the things I find out after-the-fact aren't making me cringe as much as some of the things I found out too late about the prior administration. I hope that trend continues.
Jingalt: Bush all but "french-kissed" Putin? What planet are you from? A policy that was even moderately pro-Russia would have shown some respect for Russia's bigger worries -- NATO missles in Poland. OR NATO membership for not only the former Warsaw Pact, but for parts of the former USSR. Let's not forget NATO was formed to "contain" or fight the Soviet Union, and Russia is the USSR's heir.

Russia's government is not the most diplomatically adept Gov't. They are constantly shooting themselves in the foot, fussing over stupid issues, and bullying when they think they can get away with it.

A good relationship with Russia would make concessions for things that matter and help Russia ignore the stupid stuff. Bush didn't do this. He went barging on ahead with what he wanted to do, assuming the Russians would recognize that their former enemy was "the good guy" from all those countless Good Americans/Bad Russian movies, when actually, in Russia, the Good, morally upright hero, out to save mankind (or his neighbors) was a Soviet fighting the evil, greedy, corrupt Capitalists (who were usually American).
Bold words. Wise words. Now let's see if they can manage to live by them. It seems our job now is to make sure these lofty ideals aren't sabotaged from within by the same agents of obstruction who hijacked the public dialog and subverted American values for the last 8+ years.
It is great to have elected leaders now using their life experiences, their love of country and their love of the written word to speak for the nation. V.P. Biden has always been that type of person; not hiding behind the vale of important power, but standing up for the 'everyday man' like himself.

If you read about Dick Cheney's early years, he was not more than a below average student, who got by through his athletic skills. I doubt he ever heard of Yeats, Bryon, Chaucer nor did Dick ever read The Illiad or The Odyssey. So, it is hard to be a visionary, if you never read of vision, love and hope.

Saturn, I really enjoyed this post.

rated
"I think Joe Biden just opened the door for International prosecution of the Bush Administration."

If he did, the door will bite him in the ass on the way out.

I can well understand the desire to "look back," given the events of Obama's "present." One flawed appointment after another, a laughable attempt at bipartisanship, and a retreat into campaign rhetoric that only emphasizes to the American public that running for, and executing, office are two very different things.

Bush did what every parent would do when a child is murdered. He went after the perpetrators with every fibre of his being. He exercised remarkable restraint in dealing with detainees whose evidence of guilt was overwhelming.

So Biden is out there begging for respect and his boss is out there promoting a non-stimulus populist spending plan that will cripple America's heretofore impressive productive machine.

The American public is beginning to measure the time between now and 2010 in minutes.
A pretty good speech, and a good post.
McGarrett50 keyed in on my favorite paragraph...and got it completely wrong. Biden's sentence reads that the public doesn't want to hear what needs to be said, NOT that they are unable to understand it.
A considerable segment of the American public wants to be pandered to and have their opinions fed back to them like dumb sheep, thus the ratings of idiots like Lamebaugh and O'Wrongly.
Biden nailed it. How unsurprising that I saw nothing of this speech on Mainstream Media. Just more of this newest pilot/Jesus/hero, Sully.
Rated Saturn.

I think the verbiage on torture that keeps being brought up could be setting the table for Bush Admin. indictments, but I think it's primarily a diplomatic and human rights stance they want to take early. Smart. We're not bowing to pressure by reaching out to Iran, North Korea or Russia, we are seeking to keep the peace. Before that can be done, repairs have to be made to our credibility after Guantanamo and Abu Gharaib in the world's eye. Joe is tough, but credible. Cheney was/is just gruff/angry/menacing/ etc...
I can imagine Cheney and Bush toiling as supers in one of those huge projects in Harlem or the Bronx. Sleeping on cots next to the heater. Drinking from cracked mugs. Having to slog up stairs at 3 am so that some single mother has hot water again. Forbidden to give interviews to the press. wearing matching grimy overalls. Doing honest work for the working poor. Community service til they drop. Crying at night.
Excellent, informative post. Thanks.
It looks like the same old imperialism to me. If you think back to 2000, it was Bush who was going to be the non-interventionist, who was going to avoid nation-smashing/building.

I don't know what you think is "changed utterly." That Cheney doesn't quote Yeats? It's all right to slaughter people for the sake of ruling-class power as long as the slaughterers quote Yeats?
"You really are stupid sometimes. "

Thanks for the "sometimes." In reviewing your posts another adverb comes to mind: one rhyming with "highways."

In the unlikely event you own a dictionary, you'll be pleased to discover that "fibre" is an acceptable varian of "fiber." I suggest you spare yourself the embarrassment of sparing with me on matters of English. You're way out of your league.

I pursue this fascinating subject on a new post entitled, "America's Credibility." You might want to join in. Deleting your meretricous comments is always a pleasure.
Damn! Variant. But at least I do proofread. Apologies to all who noticed the error.
""All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born."

Thank you, Saturn. Wonderful post full of great ideas and plans. I loved the embrace of international law and hope that Obama will see fit to begin the process of ratifying human rights conventions which bush ignored. I read that into this speech as well.
I hardly consider this to be "a whole-sale reversal of Bush-era foreign policy concepts." Sure, saying "we will not torture" and "there is no conflict between our security and our ideals" seems radical after eight years of rampant lawlessness under GWB, but it's not radical to right the ship. These are basics. Any Democratic President or VP would be saying the same.

You want to talk about some loony Bush-era foreign policy concepts? Well then let's talk about missile defense. The magical Star Wars missile shield seemed like some crazy, expensive, ineffective bat shit back in early 2001, and that was even before America was attacked by box cutters. So now Obama wants to spend millions (billions? I don't know) on a missile defense shield that doesn't work even when we have the coordinates of the offending missile, and that's change we can believe in? But Biden quoted Yeats, so let's all swoon....
The United States apparently is still torturing; see:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/08/binyam-mohamed-torture-guantanamo-bay. It includes this sentence:

"[C]onditions inside the Cuban prison camp have deteriorated badly since Barack Obama took office. Fifty of its 260 detainees are on hunger strike and, say witnesses, are being strapped to chairs and force-fed, with those who resist being beaten. At least 20 are described as being so unhealthy they are on a 'critical list' ...."

Obama should order an immediate end to all solitary confinement and to any American's even touching a prisoner, except in self-defense.
Gordon, Gordon, Gordon - it's generally not considered wise to lecture others on the English language until you've mastered it yourself. Variant/varian - OK, slip of the finger? But when you follow that up with "sparing" and "meretricous" it becomes rather obvious that you've not quite mastered the dictionary, although you're quite proud of your recent encounter with a few pages of the thesaurus. Oh, and "fibre" is only marginally acceptable in American English. Works for the Brits, though.
Let me get your "argument" straight - Bush was the daddy, and we're the kids? I don't think so. If he was, however, he's WA-A-AY behind on his child support.
A president can be impeached even after he leaves office. I've always thought this is what the House had in mind. Let things quiet down a bit after Bush leaves office, begin investigations and amass evidence.
Hey, Charles! Where have you been? You're absolutely right on the English and I bow to your superior analysis.

I'm going to be much more careful in the future, and if you're ever bored, you might want to consider contributing to my Invitation to a Picky Party blog.l

Thanks again.
Saturn, thanks for this post. At least a few commenters seem to be in serious denial about what transpired during the George W. years.
President Obama is not perfect, no one is. But the pragmatism of Joe Biden, and Obama's visionary-like ideals should meld well, together. We should all be grateful we have erudite, strong, capable leaders. First time, in a long time!
btw, Couldn't the international community charge George W.(and more importantly, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld) with war crimes, and prosecute them, WITHOUT our current Administration saying "yes"?? I mean, I know we enjoy "veto power" in the U.N., but if there is sufficient outrage by the international community, it seems there could be a way/venue for, prosecution....
Peace, kids.
www.lisananetteallender.blogspot.com
"I think Joe Biden just opened the door for International prosecution of the Bush Administration...."
Please, PLEASE!... don't offer me so much hope. If it doesn't happen I will lose all regard for any system of justice that aids the common man's triumph over evil.
(I have thoughts of an old Clint Eastwood movie.... )
Since people are busy giving themselves and their favorite politicians points for literacy, I guess I should note that Biden's allusion to Yeats was completely inappropriate to what appears to have been his intent and the context of the occasion. Yeats was writing about a small band of men who, by sacrificing their lives in a hopeless rebellion, rejected the contempt and derision in which their oppressed nation had long been held. In short, they were terrorists. Biden, on the other hand, was sitting in the seat of power, with force on his right hand and fraud on his left, speaking to others of his kind, the powerful rather than the powerless, the rich rather than the poor, the oppressors rather than the oppressed. He did not have any moral right to that poem, and if he had known what it was about he probably would not have mentioned it. Nor would you, his fans. It would be an embarassment.
To GordonO, regarding your 02/09/09 - 07:58 am comment...

I thought I had gotten to the point where I just shake my head when I hear a rabid republican pontificate about anything...and then I realize how many of your ilk there are in this country.....AND IT SCARES THE HELL OUT OF ME!
Tom

To quote Jeremy Irons portraying Klaus VB, "you have no idea." But you will. So prepare yourself by smarting up. It's never too late.
Cheney quote Yeats! Hah!

When this happens.
I don't know if one could say at all that Biden meant to say that U.S. officials who endorsed/engaged in torture policies should be prosecuted.

But it's clear that is the logical implication of what he said. Time will tell.
Pt. Obama and VP Biden are like
the yin and the yang
the sweet and the tang
the harshness of daylight on scratched lids
while your face is held and stroked

It's a tough love we need, and I love that Mr. McSquawky is the one quoting Yeats. That just tickles me to no end!
I'm not intentionally ignoring you all, I swear, but I'm very sick and busy today. It's a great conversation -- thanks everyone for the continuing comments. I'll drop in with comment later tonight. For now, back to work and a hefty dose of Dayquil.
Whilst I think we can all agree that the likelihood of seeing Bush, Cheney et al on trial in The Hague is remote, I thank you for letting us entertain the image nonetheless.
As to a VP who references Yeats (or any other non-bureaucratic lit, for that matter), I can only say, "Yeah!"
Saturn - thanks for this informative and insightful post and analysis.
I've been off doing family stuff for a while and not as tuned in as I usually am - was kind of wondering what Biden has been up to.

I've long thought that international prosecution of Bush and Cheney makes a lot of sense. I don't see it happening, but it is good to see that the current administration are not acting as apologists for them.

Lisa

p.s. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the footnote...Cheney - could possibly quote Machiavelli, Caligula, Stalin or Radovan Karadzic...
Yeats? not so much
Thank you for such a well put together and informative post. I will echo others in two areas: it is such a dream to have intelligent, articulate leadership again and i would not have picked up on any of this ahd you not taken the time to put it together. Thank you and I hope that you feel better soon.
Before you get all warm and fuzzy over Biden's speech, I urge everyone here to read Chris Hedges this week on Truthdig.com., for a more sobering take on the dry rot and "inverted totalitarianism" that is choking our government and our country. There's a strong dose of wishful thinking in Biden's words, but actions that actually signal and make change are what's required for the world to sit up and respond in kind, and the core question now seems to be if we've gone too far over the precipice to find our way back.

As for prosecuting Bush and Cheney...in your dreams. Is it possible to discuss the new administration "in reality", and not as some idealized fantasy of "good-doers" come to vanquish our own "evil-doers"? There has been so much structural and spiritual damage to our nation, our environment, our culture, our military, of course our economy, and essentially our basic trust that government can actually fix anything, do anything right, take care of its citizens (re-watch Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke" for a compelling confrontation with American despair and government impotence), that it's foolishly hopeful to believe it can be reversed in one generation, let alone one presidential term...if ever.

Millions have already lost their livelihoods in just the past year, and millions more will join them this year and next year. The thermo-nuclear consumer credit bomb is just forming in the atmosphere. No one can yet imagine, let alone calculate the eventual impact of these serial catastrophes on the lives and minds of Americans, especially younger Americans trying to get a foothold on the ladder to the American Dream. Focusing on the Vice President's rhetoric seems ingenuous, even naive, notwithstanding its welcome if somewhat toothless departure from the crass fearmongering of Cheney and Bush (Leon Panetta's weak, even sheepish recanting of his previous statement about the purpose of torture-centric rendition under Bush, during his Senate confirmation hearing this week, is painfully at odds with Biden's glowing exclamations).

I wish for the best with Obama and Biden. Sadly, I expect more of the same, just easier to swallow. I hope I'm dead wrong.
It seems like everyone has done a great job of, well, commenting and answering each other. The only thing left for me to add here is a clarification of Biden's use of the Yeats:

This conference started in the shadow of the Cold War. Now it takes place in a new century with new threats. As one great poet, an Irish poet, once wrote about another circumstance, he said: "All is changed, changed utterly: a terrible beauty has been born." Well, all changed, changed utterly. And we must change, too, while remaining true to the principles upon which this Alliance was founded.

So he did acknowledge, Anarcissie, that it was meant for a different context, lest I be setting Joe Biden up for accusations of not knowing his Yeats.

Thanks, all. I'm still monitoring comments from behind a Kleenex and a wall of decongestant fogginess.
Saturn, after reading and commenting on your post I happened to come across this article.

http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/02/08/asia/karzai.2-425172.php

The beginning is key. Sorry for the long quote. "A foretaste of what would be in store for President Hamid Karzai after the election of a new American administration came last February, when Joseph Biden Jr., then a senator, sat down to a formal dinner at the palace during a visit here.

Between platters of lamb and rice, Biden and two other American senators questioned Karzai about corruption in his government, which, by many estimates, is among the worst in the world. Karzai assured Biden and the other senators that there was no corruption at all and that, in any case, it was not his fault.

The senators gaped in astonishment. After 45 minutes, Biden threw down his napkin and stood up.

"This dinner is over," Biden announced, according to one of the people in the room at the time. And the three senators walked out, long before the appointed time.

Today, of course, Biden is the vice president."

There are a couple of ways to interpret this. One is that we should get tough with Karzai and back somebody else. Question then is whether it is arrogance or humility that drives us to change horse.

Bigger issue is that Karzai probably was being polite and neglected to point out that the whole US strategy in Afghanistan has been premised on bribing warlords to side with us against the Taliban. I'm not complaining, it was the right thing to do. But, for Biden to then criticize insult Karzai is kind of illogical. I have to side with Karzai's politeness on this one. Biden does not seem so smart in this case.
McGarrett -- but, Biden wasn't in charge of the policy that, in your view, was akin to the corruption of the Karzai government. So how does his negative reaction a year ago, as a Senator and not as spokesman to diplomatic policy, to a man favored by the president he didn't support, somehow now seem hypocritical or a reversal or less smart?

I'm sure America will feel a need to "back" someone in the upcoming elections, and I won't be surprised if it's not Karzai. He's had an absolutely terrible and thankless job and he hasn't had the support he thought he would have from the U.S. in doing it. But for someone who seemed very promising at the start, and who was willing to risk his life to take charge of the country, he has proven an inept and ineffectual leader. The U.S. struck deals to arrange for the overthrow of the Taliban that brought Karzai to power, so sure, that's not a great source to start from, but Karzai's government stands accused of accepting bribes not to arrest wanted criminals.

I think the "foretaste" referenced in the article is the taste of broader accountability.
Satrun Smith:
Thank you, again.
Let it be so,Oh God, let it be so.
Karzai wasn't deferential enough to his imperial overlords.

I read Biden's speech, and my criticism stands; just because Biden says it's irrelevant doesn't mean it isn't irrelevant. In any case, things haven't changed utterly -- the Imperium grinds on. What is most sad to me is to see so many people suckered by the use of a English 201 literary allusion, the product, most likely, not of Mr. Biden but one of his fresher speechwriters. Are you all bought that cheaply?
I love Joe Biden. I love having a Vice President with a SMILE, not a curled-lip sneer. (Just a buffoon, is he? I don't think so.) I love having a VP who actually CARES about the world and our place in it, rather than one who thinks his position means never having to say he's sorry.

Things are still crappy. But at least we have a Prez and VP who want to get the country turned around. Great post as always, Saturn. Thumbed.
Saturn, I think you missed the emphasis of my point. Obama/Biden are saying that they will listen and respect people more and involve them more. Given that we know that some cultures do not view doling out favors for kickbacks as bad and in fact view it as the way to get things done, one might think that Biden would have a bit more awareness and self-control when dealing with a leader who is our ally and risks his life every single day. Biden did not behave that way. So, I am simply observing that Biden reading a speech while have a history of behaving differently from the speech would not meet my threshold of "changing things utterly."
You have to believe in redemption when this plagarist gives credit for a quotation.
Didn't Blagavitch quote Kipling?
saturn, you really are something! great job, again and again and again. i can't wait to read your first collections of essays, bounded.