Obama's "Bad Cops"

Biden & Hillary talk tough

By Robert A. George
|  Monday, Jul 27, 2009  |  Updated 10:53 AM EDT
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Vice President Joseph Biden seemingly committed a faux pas by speaking harshly about Russia's economy -- surprise, Hillary backed him up.

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A funny thing happened on the way to President Obama's "resetting" of America's relationship with the rest of the world: While he's made some obvious overtures that could be seen as "peaceful" to some parts of the Middle East and other areas, there's still a heck of a lot of hawkish rhetoric coming from other parts of his administration.

Over the weekend, Vice President Joe Biden declared that Russia's monetary policies and gloomy economic fortunes would force it to acquiesce to the influence of the U.S. and the West. This seemingly dismissive statement seemed contrary to President Obama's (and Secretary of State Clinton's) reworking of American-Russian relationship. 

One would be tempted to think that this was just another Biden-open-mouth-insert-foot moment. However, on Sunday, Clinton "clarified" but pointedly didn't completely knock Biden's comments -- certainly not the way the president walked back Biden's apparent green-light to Israel to attack Iran).

Indeed, Clinton's comments were uttered Sunday, not too long after she had issued the administration's strongest words yet denouncing Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon: "We are going to do everything we can to prevent you (Iran) from getting a nuclear weapon. Your pursuit is futile." She also offered relatively warm words of support of China's attempt to reign in North Korea. 

All told, the Biden and Clinton statements taken together seem to project the idea that Obama may want to have his own pair of "bad cops" to show contrast in U.S. policy to Obama's previously demonstrated "good cop."

Now, if the administration is confused about its strategy, that's not a good thing -- either for the country or the administration. 

However, the multiple messages are coming so often -- and Hillary Clinton doesn't have Biden's historical gift-of-gaffe --- one has to wonder if there's not a certain strategy going on here. 

Keeping Russia, North Korea and Iran guessing as to the true motives of the United States is not a bad thing. 

In fact, it's good strategy. Obama may prove to be much more adept, nuanced and security-focused in foreign policy than his harshest critics assumed. 

New York writer Robert A. George blogs at Ragged Thots. Follow him on Twitter.

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