Vice President Joseph Biden delivered the Obama administration's first major foreign policy address last week at the Munich Security Conference. It was just the sort of thing Europeans tend to like. Biden offered bouquets to diplomacy, to multinational institutions, and to respecting other cultures. "It was not an accident," he told his continental audience, "that (Obama) gave his very first interview as president to Al-Arabiya."
The new administration is entitled to pursue whatever foreign policy they think best in the next four years (God help us). But attempting to falsify the history of the Bush years should not go unremarked.
Just as he did during the campaign, when then-candidate Biden declared that we had "kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon," among other whoppers, Biden is again (presumably with the full support and encouragement of President Obama) inventing his own history to suit his political purposes.
"Our administration is reviewing policy toward Iran," Biden declared, "but this much I can say: We are willing to talk."
Unlike whom? Obama's predecessor? The Bush administration held at least 28 separate meetings between Americans of ambassadorial rank and Iranian officials during the eight years of the Bush presidency. According to the Middle East Forum, more than 16 meetings were held in Geneva and Paris from November 2001 through December 2002 between Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ryan Crocker and senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials. A number of high-level direct negotiations were conducted in 2003, and a number of indirect contacts were maintained through the Europeans between 2003 and 2007. In March 2007, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad held a meeting with an Iranian team at a conference of Iraq's neighbors in Baghdad. Khalilzad's successor, Crocker, also met with the Iranian ambassador. Thus the U.S. gave full backing to a (fruitless) European Union initiative to negotiate with Iran about its nuclear program.
Biden announced last week, as if there were something new under the sun, "We are willing to talk to Iran, and to offer a very clear choice: continue down your current course and there will be pressure and isolation; abandon your illicit nuclear program and support for terrorism and there will be meaningful incentives."