Amid the yammerings of various Congressmen who pettishly feel that they should have been consulted in the making of Middle Eastern policy, the statement of Secretary Dulles at Friday's hearings strikes a note of comparative rationality. Although his views on Russia's sudden change of philosophy appear overly-optimistic, at least his position on the shipment of arms to the Middle East is heartening. While defending the questionable Saudia Arabian tank shipment, he emphasized that arms must not be sent to Israel or to countries directly adjacent because this would precipitate an arms race, in which Israel could not hope to hold her own. Forthright as this statement may be, however, the State Department's encouragement of the shipment of French jets to Israel makes Dulles's peaceloving policy seem a snare and a delusion.
Possibly the State Department feels that this active acquiescence in the arming of Israel will fool the Arabs, while calming Israeli fears. It is unlikely, however, that the guise will be any more effective than Russia's use of Czech arms. Worse, this attempt to use the French as a decoy represents not only diplomatic ineptitude, but moral cowardice. If we are unwilling to commit ourselves fully to Israeli interests, it is indeed base to attempt to force the French into it. France with her Algerian problem, is as interested in maintaining Moslem goodwill as the United States, and hence is most unwilling to make the shipment, in spite of American pressure. Thus, by urging the French to this distasteful action, the State Department is irritating not only the Arabs, but also the French, who already are at wit's end politically and resent oppressive American interference.
While the State Department's position on the jets will enrage the Arabs and aggravate the French, it cannot further either of its conflicting aims in the Middle East--mutual security or the protection of Israel. Israel is not a part of the vital northern tier which Dulles feels must be armed to save the Middle East from Communist attacks. Nor would the jets really give Israel internal security: she could never maintain enough to forestall a large-scale aggression, while just a few warplanes might stimulate that aggression. As Dulles himself has pointed out, Israel is too small to hold her own in an arms race; her only hope is U.N. or tripartite protection.
If Dulles really feels that an arms race in the Middle East is inadvisable, the proposal that France sell jets to Israel is inconsistent and incomprehensible. It indicates that the State Department really has no policy except to accede passively to demands created by Soviet actions.