10 new questions Congress needs to ask Clinton about Middle East policy

Secretary Clinton is finally testifying before Congress on what happened in Benghazi. You can picture it now, how this will play out:  The senators and congressman will sternly ask her what went wrong? Why was security inadequate? Why were no efforts made to rescue Americans under attack? These are all good questions, but in the end we will not get answers. Secretary Clinton will hem and haw her way through them, and play for time.

In the end, she’ll accept full responsibility, but she’ll manage to avoid taking any blame.  When that happens the senators and congressman should avoid the temptation to drill down on the specifics on timelines and talking points. They can keep asking the same questions over again, but they'll get the same pat answers.  It will be waste of everyone’s time.  That train has already left the station.

Instead, they should use this opportunity to broaden the scope of these open hearings to discuss the administration’s entire policy toward the Arab world.


Two years ago North Africa and the Middle East were relatively calm and stable. Granted, some of the countries were run by dictators, but they were pro-American dictators. Most of them were in fact cooperating with us by sharing intelligence on terrorists and Islamic extremists.

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They were at peace with Israel.

Some were even enjoying relatively high levels of economic growth, despite the economic downturn in much of the rest of the world. For example, Egypt’s economy was growing at nearly 8% immediately before they ousted President Mubarak.

Today the entire region, from North Africa to the Middle East to the Persian Gulf all the way to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia is in upheaval.  Another Arab-Israeli war threatens. Al Qaeda has expanded is reach and intensity throughout the region.  Anti-Americanism is on the rise.  What has gone wrong in just two short years?

This is Congress’ last opportunity to hear from one of the chief architects of the administration’s much vaunted Arab spring policy.  It’s a program that the administration heralded with great fanfare two years ago. Today it looks like the entire region is descending into political and economic chaos.

So instead of beating a dead horse on what went wrong in Benghazi, the Senators and Congressmen should ask Secretary Clinton ten new questions:

1) Why was the Administration quick to embrace the anti-American, anti-Israel Muslim Brotherhood as the new leadership of Egypt? Why have we stood by while Al Qaeda is setting up shop in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula?

2) Why were no efforts made to secure Qaddafi’s large weapons caches in Libya before he was removed from office?

3) Are we about to make the same mistake again with Assad’s chemical weapons in Syria? Will his chemical and other advanced weapons fall into the hands of terrorists and Islamic extremists as his government collapses?

4) Why has the administration failed to punish those responsible for killing Americans and attacking American soil in Benghazi?

5) You have chosen to have a ‘light footprint’ throughout North Africa and the Middle East to avoid making the mistakes the Bush Administration made in Iraq and Afghanistan.  But hasn’t this ‘light footprint’ been insufficient to help the new, fledging governments in Arab spring countries consolidate control and establish security?

6) Has the administration taken any steps to provide for the safety of thousands of American civilians being left behind in Iraq and Afghanistan after our troops withdraw?

7) Why has the Administration chosen to distance itself from Israel, America’s long time, closest ally in the region?

8) What if sanctions prove insufficient to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons?  What will the US do if forced to choose between bombing Iran and letting Iran get the bomb?

9) What contingency plans does the administration have to rescue Americans in the event they are taken hostage in North African and Middle Eastern countries?

10) The drone wars have been effective in killing Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Pakistan and Yemen.  Is the Administration planning to expand the drone wars to North Africa, the Middle East and the Saudi Peninsula?

Secretary Clinton has a lot of explaining to do. So does the national security team nominated for President Obama’s second term. If Congress and the American people don’t get answers now, they never will. If so, in just a few years time we will be asking ourselves, “who lost the Arab world”?  It is crucial to get Secretary Clinton on the record now.