When the men who killed our ambassador to Libya were in the final stages of their preparation, Hillary Clinton was in the Cook Islands, being regaled by locals in traditional dress. Her seemingly endless world tour has prioritized symbolism and pageantry over substance. So too has the administration of her boss, Barack Obama, and the costs are now becoming clear.
This explains why Obama’s chief diplomat said of the Libya attack: “I asked myself—how could this happen? How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction?”
Madam secretary, it is time for you and your boss to wake up and smell the global jihad.
There are people in this world—and not a small number of them—who share the vision bin Laden had and have the will and means to act. No amount of apologizing for America, embracing our adversaries or mistreating our allies will change that.
It is worth recalling that Cairo, the city where a mob entered the US embassy compound and burned an American flag, was the epicenter of what critics call Obama’s “apology tour.” It was there that he apologized for critical steps American officials took in the Middle East to defend against the Soviets eight years before Obama was born. It was there that he criticized his own nation’s response to 9/11.
That was the reason US diplomats in Cairo instinctively put out an apologetic condemnation of those who “hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.” They were simply channeling the Obama view of the world.
Hillary also said that the attack was the result of a “small and savage group.”
Viewed correctly, the attack was perpetrated by a very large group. Terrorism as we have known it since 9/11 is but the violent vanguard of the Islamist political ideology. This ideology unifies diverse terrorists from Jemmah Islamiyah in Indonesia to Al-Shabaab in Somalia to Boko Haram in Nigeria to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to the Haqqani network in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
While the groups are diverse and at times antagonistic toward each other, their hatred of America unites them, and they work toward a generally common goal. Behind them is a large body of people who cheer on and support Islamists—a minority of Muslims, but hardly a body of people we should ignore.
The American people have instinctively understood this threat since Islamists took over Iran and took our diplomats hostage there in 1979. Our political class never has never understood this.
Instead, our foreign policy establishment, led by presidents of both parties, has spoken of “violent extremists” as if they had no common thread or clear ideological motivation. More recently, President Obama has thumped his chest about killing Al Qaeda’s founder and implied that Al Qaeda is our only real enemy. This is convenient and politically correct—but it is wrong.
If we killed everyone in Al Qaeda tomorrow, we would still have a problem that Obama, Hillary and the Washington foreign policy establishment refuse to recognize. There is a tyrannical political force in the world that is waging war on us wherever it can—both politically and militarily.
On Obama’s watch, the Islamists have done very well. They have taken over Egypt and are set to take over Syria and its chemical weapons arsenal without a change in US policy. They look ahead to the day U.S. forces leave Afghanistan—which Obama has conveniently announced to them. And in the country where modern Islamism first came to life at the nation-state level, Iran, the government is set to gain a nuclear weapons capability—another Obama legacy.
Hillary ought to park the plane and understand that diplomacy—or more accurately statecraft—ought to be about recognizing and fighting these problems. Pageantry, apologies and photo ops are obviously not getting it done.
Christian Whiton was a State Department senior adviser from 2003-2009. He is principal at DC International Advisory. Follow him on Twitter @ChristianWhiton.
Christian Whiton was a senior advisor in the Donald Trump and George W. Bush administrations. He is a senior fellow for strategy and public diplomacy at the Center for the National Interest and the author of “Smart Power: Between Diplomacy and War.”