Foreign policy follies
We're entering the fourth week of the “CSI: Benghazi” hostage crisis. That's how long an FBI forensic team has been trying to gain access in Libya to what the State Department still calls a crime scene — the Obama administration's term for the location of the first assassination of a U.S. ambassador since 1979 and the first successful al-Qaida-backed attack on U.S. soil since the 9/11 strikes. (Our embassies and consulates are sovereign U.S. territory.)
It is perhaps not accidental that the State Department cites the need to complete the investigation as an excuse to stay silent on the whole matter.
“There's a chance we never make it in there,” a source described as “a senior law enforcement official” told The New York Times. “Never” may be unacceptable even to this White House, but anything past Nov. 6 will do just fine.
Unfortunately, the rest of the administration's PR operation isn't going nearly as well. It's not clear whether U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice lied or made a fool of herself — and the administration — when she unequivocally blamed a YouTube video for the Sept. 11 Libya attack and denied that the administration's security precautions were scandalously insufficient.
On a slew of Sunday shows on Sept. 16, Rice said the two former Navy SEALs who were also killed were providing security for Ambassador Christopher Stevens. But former Navy SEAL bodyguards do not die in safe houses far from the person they're protecting, just as spontaneous mobs do not orchestrate a sophisticated ground assault complete with rocket-propelled grenades.
The Libya follies are merely the most visible flashpoint of the larger unraveling of the Obama administration's foreign policy. The U.S.-Israel relationship has become a bad soap opera. Afghanistan is slipping away as our troops are being killed by the men they're supposed to be training for the handover. Egypt is now run by the Muslim Brotherhood. Russia casually mocks and defies us. China is rapidly replacing us as an Asian hegemon and rattling sabers at our ally Japan.
Most troubling, as Fred and Kimberly Kagan document in the current issue of National Review, Iraq is becoming an Iranian vassal state. When President Obama entered office, we had nearly 150,000 troops in Iraq and much sway over the course that nation took. Now we have 150 and almost no sway. Sectarian violence is up, and al-Qaida in Iraq is resurgent.
They also note that Iraq has become an essential pathway for Iran to circumvent the sanctions intended to prevent it from pursuing a nuclear bomb.
There's a dark irony to all of this. The quiet yet massive increase in drone-strike killings, the reluctance to support democratic regime change in Iran, saying yes to the Afghan surge while insisting on an expiration date, Obama‘s unwillingness to push for a continued presence in Iraq, his capitulation to Bush policies on Guantanamo Bay and domestic terror trials, the administration's reflexive spinning of thwarted and actual terrorism attacks (the Times Square and “underwear” bombers, the Fort Hood shooting) as “isolated incidents” — all gave the impression there was nothing to worry about with Obama at the helm.
But making problems easy to ignore isn't the same thing as solving them. How fitting, then, that the game of kick the can faltered just five weeks from Election Day.
Jonah Goldberg is the author of the new book “The Tyranny of Clichés.”
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