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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Oct. 8, 2007 / 26 Tishrei, 5768

Joe Biden, The Grown-Up In The Race

By Jonathan Rauch


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Here's a fun puzzler for the whole family. The boxes to the right on this page contain quotations from two leading Democratic presidential contenders' plans for Iraq. One column excerpts a July speech in Iowa by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York; the other, a September speech, also in Iowa, by Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. See if you can tell which senator is which. (Answers at the end of this column.)

Then there is Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del. To paraphrase Sesame Street, one of these candidates is not like the others.

By now, even cynics can't help noticing something different about Biden. Different from his previous presidential run, in 1987, and different from the other candidates today. The glibly garrulous wonder boy of two decades ago can still talk a blue streak; but age (he is 64), his institutional position as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and the prospect of a devastating U.S. setback in Iraq have made him the leading contender for the most beloved (among columnists) and dreaded (by candidates) designation in American politics: that of the grown-up in the race.

While other Democrats talk Iraq, health care, and change, Biden talks Iraq, Iraq, and Iraq. At a press conference this month on the steps of Iowa's Capitol in Des Moines, he seized the occasion of an endorsement by the state's House majority leader to proclaim, "I know how to make America safer!"

He continued, "Immediately begin to draw down American combat troops.... Immediately give the troops all the protection they need while we're drawing them down." So far, just like Clintama. But then he veered sharply off Hillarack. "Make sure you recognize a fundamental flaw in the strategy," he said, "and that is, there will not be a central government in Iraq, out of Baghdad, capable of governing that country in anyone's lifetime standing out in front of this Capitol. You must change the policy to put in place a federal, decentralized Iraq, giving the warring factions breathing room to establish their own security [and] control over the fabric of their daily lives."

For a year and a half, Biden (along with Leslie H. Gelb, a former president of the Council on Foreign Relations) has advocated devolving power to autonomous regions in Iraq. The presidential campaign has brought the plan into sharper focus -- and, as Biden argues, into sharper contrast with what he plausibly regards as the wishful thinking prevalent in both parties.

Senator A

• "The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq's leaders to resolve their civil war is to immediately begin to remove our combat troops. Not in six months or one year -- now."

• "While we change the dynamic within Iraq, we must surge our diplomacy in the region."

• "The final part of my plan is a major international initiative to address Iraq's humanitarian crisis."

• "We must get out strategically and carefully, removing troops from secure areas first, and keeping troops in more-volatile areas until later."
Senator B

• "It is long past time that the president ended American combat involvement in Iraq's multisided, sectarian civil war.... It is time to begin ending this war. Not next year, not next month, but today."

• "As we redeploy our troops, we will replace our military force in Iraq with an intensive diplomatic initiative in the region."

• "As we are leaving Iraq -- and after we have left -- we need to engage the world in a global humanitarian effort to confront the human costs created by this war."

• "Withdrawing troops is dangerous and difficult....We should redeploy our troops steadily and consistently, not in fits and starts."

The Bush administration has spent most of the past four-plus years trying to stand up a national government in Baghdad: first a unity government, then a Shiite-led government. Biden says, as he told NBC's Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" this month, "There is no possibility, no possibility, of a central government governing Iraq in any near term." Which means President Bush's strategy is "pushing on a rope."

More recently, the administration has segued toward tactical alliances with Sunni tribes and fighters, giving them de facto local police power, plus military training and money, in exchange for opposition to Al Qaeda and a de facto truce with the Shiite central government. This de facto devolution has produced security gains in Anbar and Diyala provinces. Biden, like most analysts, welcomes it as a reality-based adjustment.

Bush, however, still sees the local alliances as bridges to a national rapprochement. "Local politics will drive national politics," he said at a press conference last week. "As more reconciliation takes place at the local level, you'll see a more responsive central government." For Bush, the alliances are a military tactic, useful steps along a road that leads back to Baghdad.

Biden is saying that the alliances need to be not just tactical but part of a whole new political strategy, which would give up on Baghdad and enshrine decentralization as an end, not just a means. Only if Sunnis see autonomy and responsibility for their own security as the endgame, goes the thinking, will they feel safe enough to lay down arms.

A stable federalism is "not going to happen organically," said a Biden aide. As in the Balkans a decade ago, the United States, in Biden's view, must embrace regionalism, get allies and neighboring countries on board, and lock Iraqis in a room -- figuratively -- until they agree on a devolutionary framework.

The result, Biden stresses, should be federalism, not partition. Iraq would remain one country, and the central government would distribute oil revenue and patrol the borders. Such an arrangement is already provided for in the Iraqi constitution, he says.

The plan offers, he acknowledged in Senate remarks this month, just "the possibility, not the guarantee, of stability." But it is better than Bush's wishful thinking, which, he recently told a Nebraska audience, will leave the country "right back where we started" once the military surge subsides next year.

It is also better, he argues, than a brand of wishful thinking offered by his Democratic competitors. This holds that Iraqis will get their act together once U.S. forces withdraw, or that if Iraqis don't get their act together it won't matter much, or both.

Dangerous illusions, says Biden. In Iowa, he has run a television spot alluding to the parents of killed U.S. troops and intoning, "We must end this war in a way that doesn't require us to send their grandchildren back." Elaborating at a Democratic debate last month, he sounded like, dare one say it, Bush: "If we leave Iraq and we leave it in chaos, there will be regional war. The regional war will engulf us for a generation."

This is not something many Democratic activists and primary voters want to hear. "What they want is red meat, and he's giving them a sober reality check," says Will Marshall, the president of the Progressive Policy Institute, a centrist Democratic think tank. "Biden is hands down the most candid candidate when it comes to Iraq. There's all this glib promising to end the war immediately and bring the troops home. There's an air of unreality about it. Biden, to his credit, has refused to indulge in these kinds of fantasies."

Even an inexpert Washington columnist can come up with a dozen reasons the Biden plan might fail. What if Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds can't agree on a regional framework, or on a revenue-sharing deal? What about Baghdad and other mixed areas? What if the autonomous regions go to war? What if the Shiite or Sunni region degenerates into intrasectarian chaos? What if Iran colonizes the Shiite region?

A conversation with Biden's aide yielded answers that were plausible but iffy. The more relevant answer, however, is the one Biden gave in a speech at the Brookings Institution [PDF] in February: "To those who disagree with my plan, I have one simple question: What is your alternative?"

Morris Udall, John Anderson, Bruce Babbitt, Paul Tsongas, Richard Lugar: All won editorial writers' praise for their seriousness, and all lost their presidential bids. Maybe Biden will be the exception. Maybe, on the other hand, this column's headline is the kiss of death.

Sometimes, though, grown-ups earn history's respect for surfacing important problems or innovative solutions; and sometimes they shape the agenda of whoever wins the White House. If Bush proves unwilling or unable to rethink his Iraq strategy, and if he manages to hold Iraq together with a large U.S. deployment until the end of his term, then his successor will have some hard choices to make. Biden's plan crossed party lines Wednesday to win the Senate's nonbinding support; no one should be surprised if it ends up providing the next administration's road map.

In any case, "Get out and jawbone" and "Stay in and pray," the leading partisan positions, are not very convincing solutions to the Iraq conundrum. Biden's candidacy will earn its keep if it does nothing more than elicit better ones.

"Senator A" is Obama; "Senator B" is Clinton.

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JWR contributor Jonathan Rauch is a senior writer and columnist for National Journal. Comment by clicking here.

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