Announcement of Embassies Closing Prompted Partisan Reactions In Washington – This Is Sad President Obama accused of misrepresenting al Qaeda threat. "He said we had practically won". Sadly, America no longer has a bipartisan foreign policy

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By Paolo von Schirach

August 6, 2013

WASHINGTON – So, al Qaeda is not quite dead, after all. The unprecedented announcement that the US Government would shut down its Embassies in almost all Muslim countries as a precaution, because of intelligence of an imminent attack, is a reminder that Islamic radicals are still out there, reasonably well organized, and up to no good. In a normal political climate, given the recent history of plots and attacks, this would not come as a shock. In fact, President Obama and his administration would be praised for taking all the necessary measures to prevent the loss of American lives. 

Partisan reactions 

But, sadly, it is not so. This announcement has been followed by sarcastic partisan commentary coming from the Right. “Hey, didn’t Obama tell us that we had decimated al Qaeda’s leadership? Didn’t he tell us that, after he ordered bin Laden killed, we were essentially home free? And what’s with this “closing everything down”? Shutting  all our Embassies manifestly is a US capitulation in front of a threat. Americans don’t cut and run. They stand up and fight the bad guys. What good does it do to us to have the largest military on earth if that’s not enough to defend our diplomatic posts around the world? Closing our Embassies is a sign of weakness that will simply embolden the bad guys…

Well, no…wait a minute. There is a better explanation for this…In truth, Obama closed the Embassies out of political calculation. He ordered the shut down because he is really afraid of having to explain yet another “Benghazi fiasco”. The very idea of having a few more American diplomats killed, after the still poorly explained tragedy of the destruction of the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, (with four Americans killed, including the Ambassador), was so unpalatable that Obama chose to overdo it this time, and so he closed everything down, even though this conveys to the whole world American weakness”. 

Using the terror threat to score political points 

And so, here is the sad story. A very complicated, ongoing fight against Islamic terrorists who come and go, regrouping here and there in the vast Muslim Universe, and who still pose an “asymmetric” threat to America, is manipulated to score points, by both sides.

Indeed, it is true that Obama, when he was running for re-election in 2012, told America that we were winning against al Qaeda and that all the drone strikes targeting the bad guys in Pakistan and Yemen, plus the killing of bin Laden proved it. It is also true that the administration hasn’t come clean regarding the mistakes that led to the Benghazi tragedy. Even worse, after that event, clearly the White House, mindful of an upcoming election, (the Benghazi attack took place on September 11, 2012), did its best to consciously misrepresent what happened, so that the President’s image, only a few weeks before the vote, would not be tarnished.

And the Republicans now are just happy to point out that we have been lied to by our President; that al Qaeda is still a real threat; and that Obama is so afraid of another Benghazi-style failure that he had to close everything down, even though this is a public relations disaster for America. The superpower has to cut and run because of a threat coming from a bunch of radicals.

America needs a bipartisan foreign policy consensus 

If we could recreate a modicum of bipartisan consensus in Washington, we would stop this nonsensical finger pointing. Regarding al Qaeda, we would come to the conclusion that, as the terror threat is going to be with us for a long time, we have to be prepared to resist it. With good intelligence –yes, that includes NSA intercepts– we may foil a few plots and hopefully catch some of the bad guys. But, realistically, we should also acknowledge that  we cannot catch everybody every time before they act, (witness the recent Boston massacre). We cannot be ahead of the game all the time. Some plots may succeed. As we confront this elusive enemy, we should be united in recognizing that we have to do our best to prevent attacks, and not engage in constant second guessing or in politically motivated finger pointing if something bad does happen.

A united America would stand together, accept the fact that we –as a Nation– are engaged in a nasty fight of unknown duration and give our leaders the benefit of the doubt, trusting that they are doing the best they can to counter the moves of an elusive, fanatic enemy. Yes, a united America would do just that.

 

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