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Senator Biden is the Right Man at the Right Time

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Senator Joe Biden's foreign policy experience and wisdom are unmatched in American politics. There is no one in Congress who has been around as long, who understands the international realities better, or whose judgment has proven sounder than Joe Biden's.

Having worked with him for five years and remained in close touch ever since, I am convinced he is the kind of leader America needs right now. A quick look at his record proves the point.

In the early part of his career, he was a Senate leader in the fight for nuclear arms control with the Soviet Union. What could be more relevant -- and prescient -- than that in an era where the threat of nuclear terrorism has grown and meanwhile Russia has become more dangerous under Vladimir Putin?

After the fall of communism, Senator Biden focused on two crucial issues. First, he led Senate efforts to provide assistance to the new democracies of the former Soviet Union. Second, he was the leading Democrat calling for confronting Slobodan Milosevic. During the crises in Bosnia in 1992 and Kosovo six years later, he was an early advocate of using military force to stop the mass murder of Muslims. Indeed, on a trip to Belgrade as his staff adviser, I saw him confront Slobodan Milosevic with a combination of ferocity and tact. His leadership during that period made it possible for President Clinton to act despite nearly overwhelming opposition from Senate Republicans.

More recently, in 2002 Senator Biden understood the dangers and the folly of using military force against Iraq without the support of the world. It was his resolution, co-authored by Senator Richard Lugar, that the Bush administration knew could affect their rush to war. That Biden-Lugar resolution wisely linked the confrontation of Saddam Hussein to a careful diplomatic plan. Iraq and the United States would have been much better off had President Bush followed Senator Biden's advice.

Knowing that the Senate had little leverage, he at least consistently pushed the administration to adopt the kind of Iraq strategy that was sadly missing for five years. He was an early advocate of more troops -- what later became known as the surge -- and a focus on a political solution among the competing ethnic groups in Iraq.

Most important of all, though, Senator Biden was aware of the threat from terrorism before 9/11 and urged the administration to focus less on extremely unlikely attacks from ballistic missiles (the missile defense program) and far more on terrorists attacking our country through ships or planes.

Since 9/11, Senator Biden has also sought to focus American national security policy on the real threats from al-Qaeda. He never accepted the Bush administration's false claims of a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Ladin. Instead, he advocated the kind of counterterrorism plan that the experts know would have worked much better. That is, winning the war of ideas in the Muslim world, using military and law enforcement against the al-Qaeda group, and maintaining international solidarity. Unfortunately, again, the Bush administration didn't listen to him.

All in all, Senator Biden has his priorities in the right place. He knows there is a time for diplomacy and there is a time for the use of military force. He knows that our military power should only be used as a last resort. He knows that America will be stronger when we have the support and respect of our friends and allies around the world. He knows that America is not just a military power but also a peacemaker. And he knows that American ideals must be tempered by a hard-headed realism about the way the world really works.

That is why I believe Senator Biden will make a great Vice President. He is the right man at the right time to help a future President Obama restore American prestige. Whatever happens in the election, I know he will be fighting to protect America's interests for years to come.

James P. Rubin served as Senior Foreign Policy Adviser to Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) from 1989-1993 and Assistant Secretary of State under President Clinton.