The Washington Post

Mr. Biden had little choice


Karen Attiah’s July 17 op-ed, “Biden’s fist bump with MBS was a crass betrayal,” was understand­ably indignant about President Biden’s perceived promise being broken to make Saudi Arabia and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, internatio­nal pariahs. Ms. Attiah wrote with passion fueled by the brutal murder of a colleague.

But Ms. Attiah and the Biden critics don’t have the ultimate responsibi­lity for the welfare of more than 330 million American lives. If Mr. Biden erred, it was in making an absolute promise, one that doing his job as president would not allow him to keep. I don’t know what other option(s) he had to attain his objectives of reinsertin­g a meaningful U.S. presence into the Middle East to counter Russian and Chinese influence there. Clearly, his fist bump with Crown Prince Mohammed was distastefu­l to him, but he ultimately decided to do it because, realistica­lly, he could not do an end run around Saudi Arabia and achieve his objectives. He decided based on his best judgment. It remains to be seen if he was right.

Mr. Biden, like the rest of us, is human and fallible. Unlike the rest of us, he is the commander in chief of the armed forces and chief executive of the U.S. government and required to balance competing interests domestical­ly and internatio­nally for the good of the American people. Unlike his immediate predecesso­r, he cares and is competent. We should give Mr. Biden a break.

Robert F. Tropp, Silver Spring

I learn from Max Boot’s insights and perspectiv­e because he’s a seasoned and sensible observer. However, I have to say I recoiled, to use Mr. Boot’s word, when he described in his July 18 op-ed, “Cut Biden some slack on dealing with dictators,” Presidents Harry S. Truman and Richard M. Nixon meeting with dictators who “had far more blood on their hands than MBS.”

This outdated and inaccurate characteri­zation of the United States and its presidents as free from “blood on their hands” casts this country as somehow above moral reproach and always doing what is honorable. Certainly, that is not the case, as history and historians have shown us. The atrocities, subversion­s, coup attempts, mass killings and other irresponsi­ble and deadly interventi­ons perpetrate­d by the United States were done with the assent and encouragem­ent of U.S. presidents.

It’s time for all of us — and, in particular, journalist­s — to stop perpetuati­ng this myth of American moral superiorit­y. Our presidents have as much blood on their hands as any other dictator. Our enlightene­d historians have demonstrat­ed this time and again.

Allen M. Spivack, Boston

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