Obama’s Carter Moment in the Middle East
While it’s not happening practically on the eve of the election, the attacks in Cairo and Benghazi are rapidly shaping up to be like President Carter’s situation with Iran in 1980. But, before the Romney camp can start celebrating, there are some very important issues that need addressing when it comes to the fumbling of the current administration. And there are some loose ends that need to be tied together.
First, let’s take a look at the events of yesterday, before the attacks. In the morning here in the States, Obama delivered remarks at the Pentagon. The more cynical among us were probably surprised that he limited himself at least a little, when it came to taking credit for the death of Osama bin Laden.
Most of the Americans we lost that day had never considered the possibility that a small band of terrorists halfway around the world could do us such harm. Most had never heard the name al Qaeda. And yet, it’s because of their sacrifice that we’ve come together and dealt a crippling blow to the organization that brought evil to our shores. Al Qaeda’s leadership has been devastated and Osama bin Laden will never threaten us again. Our country is safer and our people are resilient.
Perhaps the reference to the devastation of Al Qaeda’s leadership was alluding to the most recent death that has been brought up in context with the Cairo attack. But, that is something to consider a little later. For now, let’s leap to much later in the day, but still before the Cairo attack.
Only images of this tweet remain, this one from Andrew Kaczynski on BuzzFeed. The debate over government accounts deleting tweets, and the Library of Congress archives of those electronic communications can wait for another time. By the morning of September 12th eastern time, the Obama administration was backing down from this initial statement. It is not a reaction. The embassy doubled-down on the sentiment after the attack. But, this one came before it started, presumably because the embassy personnel knew there might be a riot in the first place. Questions and reprisals flew over this, and the administration’s attempt to back down from this position arguably is falling flat. Diplomatic personnel do not communicate with the world without guidance, period. Claiming that this was “unauthorized” is worse than admitting to the position, because it implies that there is a rogue element within the diplomatic corps that has the ability to communicate on behalf of this administration without any sort of guidance or supervision. And, bluntly, it is silly. This statement is typical of this administration, that has bent over backwards to appease Islamist organizations. One has to suspend disbelief to take this morning’s quasi-retraction of the statement seriously, especially since paraphrased forms of it were in both Obama’s and Secretary Clinton’s statements on these events – or event, depending on how one interpreted them.
That brings us to the tragedy that overshadowed the Cairo incident, and monopolized the official statements from the administration. Over the coming months, there is no doubt that there will be arguments over whether the Iran Hostage Crisis was better or worse than the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three diplomatic staff members. Secretary Clinton was quick to point out that Libyans stepped up to help Americans, and defend the Consulate, including a mention that they carried the Ambassador’s body to the hospital. But, it’s unlikely that is the whole story. Before her speech, news had already broken that contradicted at least part of the Secretary’s comments. The whispers are already out there that the Libyans might have been involved in the attack, and that security at the Consulate wasn’t sufficient.
Given that, there is a possibility that these two attacks may be utterly unconnected, not even sharing cause. The anti-Mohammed movie is a rather thin excuse, even with many radicals in play in both nations. One of the filmmakers is in hiding, and another that has been attributed with the work is associated with a Coptic Christian organization in America. The fact that the film had been promoted to one extent or another by Terry Jones, of “Burn a Q’uran Day” fame, further muddies the water. Regardless, all accounts state that the film itself is laughable, poorly made, and definitely wouldn’t have been destined for anything but demise in obscurity if it wasn’t for these events. Perhaps it was enough to spark the flag desecration and chanting about Osama bin Laden in Cairo, but buying that it sparked the armed attack in Benghazi would be foolhardy. Conversely, accepting Secretary Clinton’s contentions that Ambassador Stevens was well-liked and accepted in Libya might not be intelligent either. That is by no means an implication that Stevens was doing anything wrong. It is a suggestion that maybe he was meeting more resistance in his attempts to help the Libyans than the administration is willing to admit publicly. That certainly makes more sense than blaming this all on an obscure, poorly made film.
And, in all of this, it seems that the media is happily avoiding one subject that this administration probably has no desire to cover. That is the question of the Muslim Brotherhood. Obama would have everyone believe that this an innocuous social service organization, that many current and former Islamic terrorists just happened to be associated with at one point or another during their lives. On the other side, alarmists cry that the organization is kin with Satan himself, and is hell bent on the destruction of the West. As with most things in life, the truth probably lies somewhere in between. For the purposes of bridging cultural gaps, perhaps it would be better to compare it with another organization that Americans are probably a little more familiar with – Sinn Fein, the political arm of Irish Republican Army. This suggestion is in the context of defining the function of the Muslim Brotherhood, not to imply direct connection between that organization and any terrorist groups. The MB has been scrupulous about keeping itself separate from those groups, and that is plainly illustrated by the fact that terrorists are apparently not welcome in the organization. They move on to more radical action after leaving the MB, period. But, that doesn’t change the fact that many Islamic terrorists get initial experience in Islamic activism within the MB. Sinn Fein was also careful to stay above the fray, and did not dirty its hands directly in the terrorist activities of the IRA. That is where the similarity lies, and there alone. Where Sinn Fein was implicated in funding IRA activities, the MB has not been connected financially or otherwise with any known terrorist organizations – at least that has not been uncovered, or reported widely.
The story behind these events is still unfolding, and it is possible that details may continue to filter out to the public even beyond November. But, the current take away is that yet again, the Obama administration has shown itself to be wholly disorganized, as shown with the initial communications from the Cairo Embassy via Twitter. To suggest that the President is beyond his depth is probably an understatement. Cairo and Benghazi do not exist in a vacuum, and Obama has done a great deal of harm to this nation’s diplomatic relations with the only true ally in the region – Israel. And that in itself is yet another story illustrating the amateurish foreign policy management in this administration. Whether or not this becomes a coffin nail for the Obama camp in November remains to be seen, but it would be bluntly insane if the Romney camp did not leave it alone for now, only to resurrect it late next month.