A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Policy lessons from the V-P debate

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on October 3, 2008

Along with much of the population of Lebanon, not to mention Syria, Palestine, and probably a good chunk of Iran, we have been hooting at Joseph Biden’s inadvertent conflation of Hizbullah and Syria during last night’s vice-presidential debate.

For those of you who missed it, here are his words, from CNN’s transcript:

When we kicked — along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, “Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don’t know — if you don’t, Hezbollah will control it.”

Now what’s happened? Hezbollah is a legitimate part of the government in the country immediately to the north of Israel.

Aside from the confusion between Hizbullah and Syria – which, to their discredit, neither Gwen Ifill nor Sarah Palin appear to have considered a problem – Biden’s assertion that Obama suggested putting NATO troops in Lebanon as peacekeepers flummoxes me. I can’t imagine that this would be a good idea for America – nor for Lebanon. UNIFIL is doing good work – and in any case, Hizbullah was a legitimate part of the Lebanese government long before 2005.

As much press as Biden’s slip-up seems to be getting in Levantine blogs and news sources like Naharnet this morning, I think its important not to lose sight of the fact that Lebanon was a mere side-note to the larger issue that both Biden and Palin were addressing: the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the question of the Bush administration’s record of success or failure in foreign policy.

Here’s what Palin, who answered first, had to say:

Israel is our strongest and best ally in the Middle East. We have got to assure them that we will never allow a second Holocaust, despite, again, warnings from Iran and any other country that would seek to destroy Israel, that that is what they would like to see.

We will support Israel. A two-state solution, building our embassy, also, in Jerusalem, those things that we look forward to being able to accomplish, with this peace-seeking nation, and they have a track record of being able to forge these peace agreements.

They succeeded with Jordan. They succeeded with Egypt. I’m sure that we’re going to see more success there, also.

It’s got to be a commitment of the United States of America, though. And I can promise you, in a McCain-Palin administration, that commitment is there to work with our friends in Israel.

She wants to move our embassy to Jerusalem? That doesn’t look to me like a commitment to an equitable two-state solution.

And lest you think that I am playing favorites, here’s what Biden had to say:

Gwen, no one in the United States Senate has been a better friend to Israel than Joe Biden. I would have never, ever joined this ticket were I not absolutely sure Barack Obama shared my passion.

Please excuse me while I vomit quietly onto my keyboard. And no, my nausea isn’t particularly about Israel: its about the idea that we would put our own national interests behind that of any other country. No matter how good an ally we might think them – and whether that country be Israel, Great Britain, or any other long-term partner – we need to put our own interests first. We should not elect our country’s leaders – in the White House, on Capitol Hill, or even in city and state positions – with the expectation that they will abandon our citizens in favor of blindly supporting a foreign country.

More on the debate later, when I organize all the photos I took of Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya’s coverage.

3 Responses to “Policy lessons from the V-P debate”

  1. pacer521 said

    hey thanks, you post was very helpful as far as policy. Great blogging as well.

    http://culturedecoded.wordpress.com/2008/10/02/analysis-the-vice-presidential-debate/

  2. abu owlfish said

    According to an editorial in the NYT today, Olmert is in favor of withdrawing from most of the west bank and sharing Jerusalem. So there would be nothing wrong with opening one of the US embasseys to Jerusalem if the other one’s there as well. That’s obviously what Palin meant to say.

    (One of the advantages of a candidate saying almost nothing is that you can read whatever you want into that nothingness.)

  3. Hehehe Abu Owlfish, I’m having a hard time thinking of you as Sarah Palin’s interpreter. Also, I’m not sure whether Olmert’s opinion really has an impact in the Israeli political sphere these days.

    But on a larger scale, you’re right: sharing Jerusalem would make having an embassy there (or two!) a good idea.

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