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Bush Administration Alienating Allies, says Senator Biden - 2003-03-04

The top-ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Joseph Biden of Delaware, says the Bush administration is alienating allies needed to help fight the war on terrorism. Mr. Biden says the United States will remain vulnerable to terrorist threats until the president defines long-term foreign policy and national security strategies that include international cooperation.

Senator Biden says the United States has yet to formulate an offensive strategy that recognizes what he calls the "new borderless threat" of international terrorism. Real national security, he says, requires international cooperation. But instead, the Delaware Senator says the Bush administration has alienated traditional U.S. allies by making unilateral decisions, failing to recognize regional concerns, refusing to negotiate on the International Criminal Court and pulling out of the Anti-ballistic Missile Treaty and the Kyoto agreement.

"It will take a sustained effort to build new kinds of international cooperation that will be our best and most effective weapons in the war against terrorism. In that war, we have to learn how to share intelligence much better, cooperate on law enforcement issues much better, on disturbing financial networks much better, on extradition," he said. "This should have been the number one priority of this nation immediately after 9-11. We could have, should have and still must rally our allies, the United Nations, NATO and others to build this cooperation."

Senator Biden says the al-Qaida terrorist network and North Korea are the top threats to U.S. security, not Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. But he says because of Iraq, the Bush administration is putting pressure on allies such as Pakistan and Turkey that is weakening their leadership.

Unlike a number of his Democratic colleagues, however, Mr. Biden generally supports the Bush administration's Iraq policy. But he says the administration has not prepared the American people for the aftermath of a war with Iraq, which, he says, requires a long-term commitment. In Afghanistan, Mr. Biden says, a growing power vacuum is allowing fundamentalism and terrorism to once again take root.

"If we go to war in Iraq, we cannot repeat this mistake," he said. "We are going to have to stay in this country to assure that it is secure, its weapons of mass destruction destroyed, its borders intact, and a stable, pluralistic government, if not a democracy, which I think will be virtually impossible to guarantee, but a pluralist government in place of Saddam Hussein. For a failure to do so will not just be letting down the Iraqi people. We will be jeopardizing our national interest in the extreme in the region. Winning the war but losing the peace in Iraq is not an option. To avoid that mistake it will be timely and costly, very very costly."

Senator Biden says the U.S. president must build a consensus from an informed public and prepare Americans for sacrifice, not the tax cuts called for in President George W. Bush's budget.

Senator Biden made his comments in an address to faculty and students at New York University.