Monday, July 6, 2009

Say It Ain't So Joe

Joe Biden, the man who defines the term “foot in mouth disease,” said on a Sunday Morning news show that there was nothing we could do if Israel wanted to bomb Iran. Actually there is quite a bit the U.S. could do to prevent the Israelis from bombing Iran. Our AWAC planes rule the skies over Iraq. We have an airbase in Turkey plus some more in Iraq. We have aircraft carriers in the Med and the Gulf.


Nothing in the region flies without our say-so. The Israeli air force would lead a very short if exciting life were it to challenge our air power.


Secondly the Israeli economy in general and the Israeli Defense establishment in particular absolutely depend on the US for financial support. The Israeli settlements are bought and paid for by U.S. aid dollars. Cut off U.S. aid and the Nation of Israel goes bankrupt.


Despite the "truth" of Biden's statement one must look at it from the prospective of others. Many in the Arab world saw this statement as a green light to Israeli action. They see it as Washington using Tel Aviv as a cat's paw against Tehran. They see it as further proof of a Neo-Colonialist, anti-Muslim, Crusader mentality in the USA.


Biden's statement was extremely careless. It was not what one would expect from a man who was advertised as foreign policy expert. In diplomacy it is critical to choose one's words with precision. Wars have been started over careless statements, especially careless statements of support. Not only was the statement factually false, the U.S. can do many things both in a military aspect and in economic aspect to stop an Israeli attack on Iran, the statement was the wrong thing to say even if were true. Boiled down Biden cried havoc and let slip the (Israeli) dogs of war. It implied that the US supported the idea of an Israeli attack on Iran. It implied that there would be no consequences for such an Israeli action.


The "truth" of the matter is that an attack by Israel on Iran in the near (and quite possibly distant) future would be an epic foreign policy disaster for both Israel and the U.S. The blowback from the Arab and the Muslim world would make the fiasco in Iraq look like a lovers tiff. The citizens of Iran would rally around the flag, the Mad Mullahs would gain the legitimacy that they so cravenly threw away in the last election, the entire Muslim world would be set alight and the OBL would become the new Saladin. The burning rage of the Muslim community would soon be displayed by the burning of American Embassies and American businesses.


The final insult to our aims is the fact that an air strike would not really stop Iran's drive to a nuclear device. The Iranian nuclear infrastructure is too dispersed, too massive with too many hardened sites to be knocked out by air power alone.


If Biden were not so glib with his Sunday morning ruminations he might have at least brought some of these points up. A simple "air strikes at this time would be unwise" would have served the truth better and kept the "option" of air strikes later on as a possibility. He could keep even the NeoCon Likudnick extremists in AIPAC happy by pointing out how air strikes now would actually harm Israel's long term security. Instead Biden talked out of turn and caused HRC's State Department infinite amounts of heartburn. President Obama may have also reached for the Tums after Biden's comments. Obama was forced to walk Biden's statement back via the comment of another Administration representative.


Biden’s comments were an unfortunate repeat of the cowboy diplomacy of the last administration. If Obama preferred method is to envelope policy in a word fog, Biden seems to prefer speaking first and thinking later. The reserve and nuance of Obama is ill matched to Biden’s stream of consciousness verbalization. Netanyahu has already taken Biden’s statement and ran with it. Ran away and hid with it if we are to be truthful. Obama will now have to wrench Biden’s green light out of Netanyahu’s iron grip. Good thing for us that the Israeli Prime minister has acted like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings, he is merely stroking Biden’s gift and muttering “my precious” over and over again.


Yes the sites could be bombed, the Iranian drive for a nuclear device would be set back but not halted, but at what cost to the U.S. and Israel? The military option is no option at all. The military option is the very definition of the feckless and foolhardy foreign policy we have endured for eight long years. It is the reckless saber rattling and the full Tarzan yell that chickenhawks like Cheney and his ilk love to engage in. It is the facile thought that all we have to do to make the world right is kick some ass. Military options eventually leads to military overstretch. Military overstretch leads to political and economic decay and to eventual national collapse.

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