Tuesday, July 7, 2009

An Explanation That Makes Sense

I've been wondering what to make of this statement by Vice President Joe Biden over the weekend, as quoted by Taylor Marsh:

“Whether we agree or not. They’re (Israel) entitled to do that. Any sovereign nation is entitled to do that. But there is no pressure from any nation that’s going to alter our behavior as to how to proceed. What we believe is in the national interest of the United States, which we, coincidentally, believe is also in the interest of Israel and the whole world. And so there are separate issues. If the Netanyahu government decides to take a course of action different than the one being pursued now, that is their sovereign right to do that. That is not our choice.”

Biden Statement Unleashes Nervous Nellies

Being something of a nervous Nellie when it comes to the Middle East, I had to wonder what was going through his mind. On one level, Biden was stating the obvious - Israel is a separate country. We have no jurisdiction over them. On the other hand, it's clear that, as the leading arms dealer and source of aid to Israel, we have some influence. It's easy to see why some folks might assume this was Biden saying that Israel was free to do what it wanted.

That doesn't fit my image of Joe Biden, though. He's far too astute to give Israel the green light to do something like that. For that matter, President Obama's not that stupid, either. Juan Cole seems to have found a plausible explanation, as quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle:

Biden's comment "has a dual function of sending the message to Netanyahu that if he wants to cowboy it he is riding alone, and of warning the Iranians that Netanyahu might just be wild man enough to risk such a unilateral if Iran continues to be so intransigent with regard to seeking enrichment capabilities," Cole told me in an e-mail. "It is actually quite elegant."

Biden His Time On Iran ...

That sounds more like it. We'll see whether the leaders of Israel and Iran take it that way, but this is at least the sort of message that we ought to be sending.


Russ said...

Biden's statement also hints of, go ahead Isreal and do what you want. I know you're most likely going to do it anyways. Just don't call me or Barack up and tell us you need some help because frankly our plat is full right now. You'll just have to muddle through on your own.

Cujo359 said...

I hope he doesn't mean that Israel is most likely to do it anyway, but yes, he's certainly hinting to them that they're on their own if they do. How credible that threat is remains to be seen, however. The Israel lobby certainly hasn't had any credible opposition lately.