The upcoming election was about the sorry state of the economy. The headline is that unemployment has remained above 8% for almost four years; Americans know it is much higher.
Then our ambassador was killed in Libya, a country we helped liberate from long-time dictator Qaddafi. The secretary of state asks, “How could this happen?” The president is AWOL.
Suddenly foreign policy is center stage.
I usually don’t comment of foreign policy issues: with so much wrong in our country, one has to pick battles. But with this blunder, my background of twenty-two years with the intelligence community and two degrees in international relations compel me to speak out.
The last time a U.S. ambassador was killed, Carter was president. A friend of mine was among the hostages in Tehran; another barely got a flight out as the crisis unfolded. A classmate was killed at Desert One. This situation is personal.
It was also avoidable. Easily.
First, a bit of background. Foreign Service officers are highly trained and motivated professionals. They know their job takes them to dangerous places. They are protected not only by a few U.S. Marine guards, but by the law of civilized nations, which affords special status to ambassadors and embassies. Even in the age of the Internet, that’s how nations officially communicate with each other.
First and foremost, then, it was the responsibility of the Libyan government to protect embassies on their territory. They failed but they did at least try to warn us. In countries like Libya, the government is not in complete control. The State Department knows this. They have plans for these kinds of situations.
The State Department failed. The Secretary of State owns the failure.
Instead, she asks what happened, thereby highlighting her incompetence. She ought to tender her resignation immediately. She won’t. She wants to run for president in 2016.
Within the intelligence community, we have a standard that says that critical intelligence has to reach the White House Situation Room within ten minutes of discovery. That standard applied in 1980, even without the instant forms of communication we have today and it was almost always met. The Sit Room passes the information to the president via his daily briefings or sooner as required.
Only this president wasn’t taking his briefings. He failed as well.
Instead, he chose to go to Las Vegas to attend a fund-raiser. It is true that wherever the president goes he is in contact with the White House and anyone else in government he needs to contact. Yet the symbolism of gong to Las Vegas, of all places, was terrible. Las Vegas: party city to many Americans, but also Sin City to other Americans and symbol of the degeneracy of the West to the Muslim world.
Las Vegas was the target of a foiled post-911 terror plot. Like The World Trade Center was to capitalism, so Las Vegas is to the moral corruption of the West in Muslim eyes.
This was in no way redeemed by Obama making time in his re-election campaign schedule to attend a ceremony for the State Department and Marine dead on Friday.
His and Secretary Clinton’s actions in this crisis are a huge slap in the face of everyone who works for the national security and diplomatic interests of this country. They weaken our security. We have already seen the result as the protests have spread throughout the Middle East and even to London.
What has been the administration’s response? Two-fold, as we see it so far.
First, the political part of the administration has sought to shift the blame in the typically cowardly way we have come to expect. Jay Carney has been trotted out to hem and haw, to mince words, to parse questions, and ultimately to say that the protests were not against the United States but against some film maker in California.
I’m sorry to have to tell you this, Mr. Carney: you couldn’t be more wrong.
They protest against the United States because we have a First Amendment and we allow people to stay and write anything they like, regardless of whether our government or anyone else in the world likes it. You don’t have to believe me: read statements coming out of the Middle East by individual Muslims who are outraged.
I don’t put the word outraged in quotes because their culture and religion encourages genuine outrage whenever anyone “disrespects” the Prophet. It is, after all, so much worse than putting a crucifix in a bottle of urine. Christians rioted and burned art museums after that one. Or not.
Ugly as religious bigotry may be, we allow it in the name of free speech and we don’t riot in the streets and burn things when they happen. The administration seems not to understand these fundamental differences in culture between Islam and the West.
Second, as a consequence of that lack of understanding, the government has sought to appease the Muslim community. They’re bringing in one person associated with the online video “for questioning.” Anyone who watches the myriad of TV cop shows knows it’s a form of intimidation. Can’t get him for speech violation? No problem: bring him in for parole violations.
I have another piece of news for the administration: appeasement doesn’t work. Never has. It only encourages the aggressor. Look up “Chamberlain” on the Internet. (Hint: the first name is “Neville,” not “Wilt.”)
With any lucK, and a lot of hard work, we may be able to send these amateurs packing in November. I remember the collective relief Americans felt as Ronald Reagan was sworn in and the hostages took off from Tehran at precisely the same moment.
Welcome back, Carter. Even Carter knows that Egypt really is an ally.
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