Published December 20, 2012
The Benghazi Report has condemned the State Department for “systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies.” Four officials have resigned, and a few more lesser heads are likely to roll. Secretary Clinton may have said she takes full responsibility, but she has successfully managed to avoid taking the blame. With the holidays fast approaching, she and senior White House officials can now wash their hands of the matter.
But the Benghazi report misses the point. The events of September 11 are a symptom of a much larger problem -- the Obama administration’s entire Middle East policy has failed. And the problem is about to get much worse as the as yet unpunished but ascendant Al Qaeda and its affiliates contemplate what they might do next to attack Americans.
Less than two years ago, the entire region was at peace. Granted, it was an uneasy peace, but it’s a region where for thousands of years an uneasy peace was as good as it gets. Granted, many countries were governed by dictators, but at least they were pro-American dictators. Granted, some countries continually railed against Israel, but none of them were actually in a fighting war with Israel.
Fast forward to today. Everything has changed. The entire region is in upheaval. With our help, Egypt has replaced a pro-American dictator with what promises to be an anti-American Muslim Brotherhood dictator and Islamist constitution. We helped Libyan rebels topple their dictator, yet their new government is has failed to consolidate control. They are cowed by Al Qaeda affiliated militias and couldn’t - or wouldn’t - prevent the Benghazi attack and assassinations of our diplomats. Syria’s vicious civil war threatens to go from horrific to hellish as Al Qaeda sympathizers and Islamic extremists take over the rebel cause, chemical weapons go missing, and the ethno-sectarian violence spills over to infect Syria’s neighbors and threaten our NATO ally Turkey. Iran is on the cusp of becoming a nuclear power and the dominant power in the region. Any hopes that a post-Saddam Iraq would be a pro-American ally have vanished as Iraq falls increasingly into the Iranian orbit. We will end up fighting our way out of Afghanistan, as it descends into multiparty civil war once the last American soldier takes the last helicopter out. At best, countries will be governed by the anti-American Muslim Brotherhood. At worst, chaos will ensue. Political and economic chaos are waiting in the wings, and radical Islamists, terrorists and Al Qaeda expand their influence throughout the region.
If the chaos and upheavals continue, which seems likely, we could in a few years see a region stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to Pakistan which is anti-American and consumed by ethno-sectarian violence. The region extends from North Africa to the Middle East to the Arabian Peninsula to the Persian Gulf to Central Asia. It’s home to terrorists, much of the world’s exported oil and our long time ally Israel.
That’s the real story, and the real scandal – not Ambassador Rice’s talking points or the State Department’s security failures. It not even the not attack on a Consulate’s American soil and murder of American diplomats – tragic as those deaths may be. It’s that we are losing the Middle East to radical extremists and opening the door to more attacks against Americans.
President Obama’s lead-from-behind policy may be the opposite of President Bush’s lead-from-the-front, but it, too, has been inadequate to the job. President Bush invaded countries and toppled dictators, and swept away the entire administrative and governing structures of Afghanistan and Iraq . He replaced them with American protectorates, handpicked new leaders and imposed his Freedom Agenda on countries unable or unwilling to accept it as their own.
A decade later President Obama embarked on his own Freedom Agenda by helping topple dictators in Egypt and Libya, but rather than offer a helping hand to transition to stability and self government, stood aside. As a result, the hopes of the Arab spring are one after another being smothered by Islamic extremists and the Muslim Brotherhood to create a despondency of the Arab Winter.
As for the Benghazi attack itself, it is prudent to remember why the original September 11 attacks occurred. After the bombings of two U.S. Embassies in East Africa in 1998 and the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, the United States beefed up security at our embassies and changed the Navy’s rules of engagement. But we failed to hunt down, retaliate or punish those responsible. As a result, Usama bin Laden released a recruitment video bragging about the attacks and calling for more attacks on Americans.
The Benghazi Report calls for beefed up security and new rules of engagement, but as yet we have failed to punish those responsible, although we know who they are and where they live. Should anyone be surprised if in 2013 we see more attacks on Americans and on American soil?