By Paolo von Schirach
November 2, 2012
WASHINGTON – If the US elections were focused on US foreign and security policies, President Obama would be in big trouble. But it is safe to say that very few voters care about the costly yet miserably unsuccessful Afghanistan campaign, and even fewer about the security debacle that led to the death of four Americans, including the US Ambassador, in Benghazi, Libya. This is regrettable, because this hardly stellar record should matter.
Badly managed Afghanistan
I’ll be brief. In Afghanistan, President Obama inherited a disastrously managed operation. However, instead of rethinking the fundamentals and reorient the US effort, so that we would concentrate on counter terror goals, he redoubled the commitment, vastly increased US forces on the ground and continued throwing money at a primitive, hopelessly corrupt government. This is not smart.
Insufficient security in Benghazi, despite warnings
The Libya tragedy, Obama’s own 9/11, (as the attack against the US Consulate in Benghazi occurred on September 11), reveals something different; but equally troubling. There was a poorly protected US diplomatic facility sitting in the middle of a post conflict Arab country with a weak central government and all sorts of heavily armed militias, including some inspired by Islamic radicalism, running around and doing as they please. The US officials on the ground pointed all this out and asked for stronger protection –repeatedly. The powers that be in Washington did not get it and did not provide the additional security that might have made a real difference on the eve of the 9/11 attack against the US Consulate in Benghazi. This is a major screw up.
To make it worse, after the fact the administration refused to come clean, (most likely for fear of political repercussions, as the event occurred so close to the elections), and decided to stonewall and obfuscate.
So, there you have it: manifest incompetence coupled with political interference aimed at deflecting responsibilities. I would not go as far as saying that the Benghazi incident shows that the entire foreign policy of the Obama administration is a disaster, as many have claimed. This would be totally unfair. But it certainly shows incompetence in a high priority a matter in which we have had a long and hard experience spanning over a decade of counter terror operations.
When the first 9/11 occurred in 2001 America was completely unprepared. The al Qaeda conspiracy had gone on right under our noses and nobody had noticed. Our domestic intelligence and counter terror abilities were primitive. The disaster was spectacular.
But now it is different. The Obama people cannot have the excuse that they did not know about radical groups in Libya. They did know; and yet they failed to prepare.