The shocking events yesterday in the Middle East threaten to upend what is supposed to be (but substantively isn’t) a strong point for Obama—foreign policy. The Administration’s pathetic response to the embassy sackings and killing of diplomatic staff in Egypt and Libya, combined with the hastily-arranged phone call between Obama and Netanyahu after refusing to hold a face-to-face meeting, reminds of nothing so much as Jimmy Carter—and especially the infamous UN vote against Israel in 1980, which, like the platform embarrassment last week, denied Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. People have speculated for a long while now about a possible foreign “October Surprise” from Obama to cement his re-election. Looks right now like the surprise might run the other direction.
Welcome Back, Carter
If this week reminded you a lot of 1979, you are not alone. While the media seems intent on beating up Romney for his eminently justifiable criticism, here are some good reads on 9/11/12 Day of Infamy and Cravenness.
It’s Starting to Feel Like 1979
The incomparable Victor Davis Hanson writes about Storming Embassies, Killing Ambassadors, and ‘Smart’ Diplomacy
Obama’s effort to appease Islam is an utter failure, as we see in various polls that show no change in anti-American attitudes in the Middle East — despite the president’s initial al Arabiya interview (“We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect.”); the rantings of National Intelligence Director James Clapper (e.g., “The term ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ . . . is an umbrella term for a variety of movements, in the case of Egypt, a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.”); and the absurdities of our NASA director (“When I became the NASA administrator . . . perhaps foremost, he [President Obama] wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science.”) — to cite only a few examples from many.
At some point, someone in the administration is going to fathom that the more one seeks to appease radical Islam, the more the latter despises the appeaser.
These terrible attacks on the anniversary of 9/11 are extremely significant. They come right at a time when we are considering an aggregate $1 trillion cutback in defense over the next decade. They should give make us cautious about proposed intervention in Syria. They leave our Arab Spring policy in tatters, and the whole “reset” approach to the Middle East incoherent. They embarrass any who continue to contextualize radical Islamic violence. The juxtaposed chants of “Osama” and “Obama” in Egypt make a mockery of the recent “We killed Osama” spiking the football at the Democratic convention. And they remind us why 2012 is sadly looking a lot like 1980 — when in a similar election year, in a similarly minded administration, the proverbial chickens of four years of “smart” diplomacy tragically came home to roost.
Today, Obama finally coughed up a slightly more resilient response, saying “Justice will be done.” Aside from cliches, his comments were rambling, hardly a sign of resolve. It, frankly, underscored how weak is this president’s approach to national security. Even worse he echoed the condemnation of insulting religion, but gave no defense of free speech. And he took no questions. They might be impertinent.
No matter how hard he tries to rule out criticism as “partisan,” this is the nub of the election and his presidency: Has he failed to lead? Is he not responsible for the safety of Americans abroad?