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It Depends on What the Meaning of the Word “Al-Qaeda” Is

January 01, 2014 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

iraq_al_qaeda_connectionNew York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick recently published a lengthy piece arguing that President Obama’s original al-Qaeda-free description of the September 11, 2012 attack on our Benghazi consulate was accurate, and that National Security Advisor Susan Rice’s claim that the attack was instigated by a YouTube video was correct.

Do we have to explain the Bush Doctrine to liberals all over again?

Since September 11, 2011, the major provision of the most brilliant foreign policy doctrine of the past half-century asserts that the U.S. will make no distinction between local thugs-for-hire who perpetrate terrorist acts, extremist militia offshoots of larger terrorist networks, international terrorist organizations, and state sponsors of terror that train and fund and harbor the above.  Is that so hard?

Apparently it is.

Kirkpatrick wrote, “Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context, turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault.”

Kirkpatrick’s argument rests on the premise that Ansar al-Shariah, the group believed to have plotted the Benghazi attack, is not technically part of the formal al-Qaeda leadership structure, but rather a local Libyan branch of a network closely allied with and supportive of al-Qaeda’s goals.

This is like saying that Organizing for Action is not technically a Democratic Party outfit, because it isn’t listed in the Democratic National Committee’s org chart.

Ansar al-Shariah is an extremist militia that is known to be part of al-Qaeda’s fundraising network.  Therefore, according to the Bush Doctrine—which Obama has endorsed in practice—we do not distinguish between the two.

As head of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers noted, “It is accurate that of the group being targeted by the bureau (FBI) at this point, there’s strong Al Qaeda ties.  You can still be considered to have strong ties because you are in the ring of operations of [the] Al Qaeda core.”  Fox News also reported that two of the key suspects in the Benghazi attacks had histories of working with al-Qaeda leadership.

Kirkpatrick also produced the following laughable line: “The attack also suggests that, as the threats from local militants around the region have multiplied, an intensive focus on combating Al Qaeda may distract from safeguarding American interests.”  So Obama’s obsessive focus on tracking down an arthritic Yemeni hermit living in a cave who no longer had any role in al-Qaeda was key in winning the War on Terror, but stopping the terrorist network and its affiliates who were responsible for the September 11 attacks and dozens of others is a “distraction.”  Got it.

Kirkpatrick also claimed that the attacks were instigated by the infamous 13-minute, low-budget YouTube movie trailer populated by out-of-work actors from a local L.A. repertoire.  He wrote, “And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, [the attack] was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam.”  His evidence?  After Egyptians in Cairo protested at the American embassy, some random looters and arsonists in Benghazi who had seen the video ransacked the compound following the initial attack.

But these Johnny-come-lately thugs were the equivalent of disaffected teens who wander into a flash mob half an hour after the organizers start it and grab sneakers and radios.  Their haste to take advantage of a chaotic situation doesn’t mean there weren’t instigators who carefully planned it.

As Kirkpatrick wrote, “Men looted suits of clothes and carried them out on their hangers.  They lugged out televisions.  Some emerged from buildings clutching food they had found, and one poured what appeared to be Hershey’s chocolate syrup into his mouth.  Others squabbled over trophies as small as a coil of rope left on the ground.”  If this behavior reflects proud Muslims upset over a religious insult high-mindedly defending their faith, I don’t see it.

Note also the independent analysis from December 2012 showing that the anti-Islam video didn’t garner a single reference in Libyan social media outlets until a day after the Benghazi attacks.

In sum, Kirkpatrick claimed that there is “no evidence that al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault,” but he provided no evidence to support such a claim.  Kirkpatrick gave the most generous possible interpretation of Obama and Rice’s remarks, and held those who believe the attack was planned by an al-Qaeda affiliate to the strictest standards of evidence.

But this is not a criminal trial, in which the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and the slightest bit of contradictory evidence sets the defendant free.  Even if the truth lies halfway between Obama’s initial telling and the House Intelligence Committee’s version, the administration is guilty of grave distortion of the facts and possibly impeachable efforts to prevent the country from learning the truth in advance of a Presidential election.

As Kirkpatrick admitted, “The investigation by The Times shows that the reality in Benghazi was different, and murkier, than either of [the two] story lines suggests.”

Or, as President Clinton might put it, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘al-Qaeda’ is.”

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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So Now Liberals Want to Talk About Benghazi

November 13, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

Lara-Logan-60-Minutes-Benghazi-618x400Now that CBS reporter Lara Logan has frittered away her credibility by conducting a sloppy background check on a fraudulent eyewitness to the terrorist attack on our consulate in Libya, suddenly liberals are salivating to talk about Benghazi.

Last fall, investigations by the U.S. State Department and the House committees on Armed Services, Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, the Judiciary, and Oversight and Government Reform all concluded that the administration’s claims that the attack had been precipitated by spontaneous protests over an inflammatory YouTube video were false, and that the premeditated attack had been the product of growing Islamic radicalism in the region.  Liberals just yawned.

When Anderson Cooper reported that murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens’ diary had documented his fears of growing instability in the region and of being on an al-Qaeda hit list, liberals sniped that CNN was invading Stevens’s family’s privacy.

When multiple news sources produced evidence that al-Qaeda-linked groups were involved with the attacks, liberals sneered, “What difference does it make?”

Nine days before the 2012 election, every major Sunday news show except Fox News declined to cover the Benghazi story.  Liberals preemptively declared the attack a “sideshow” and a “phony scandal.”

Hundreds of heavily armed attackers had carried out the assault on the anniversary of September 11, but liberals couldn’t see the connection.  Libya’s president attributed the attack to al-Qaeda and was infuriated by the U.S. claiming it was caused by a video, but liberals told us to get a life.  A group of SEALs reported that the administration had denied their request for backup during the attack, but Facebook suspended their account.

But now that a feverish reporter has foolishly trusted a witness one year after the 2012 Presidential election, when it can’t possibly benefit Republicans electorally, liberals have suddenly decided it’s time to jabber about Benghazi.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes opened his show Monday night with a segment on Dan Rather’s pre-2004 election presentation of forged National Guard documents showing that President George W. Bush hadn’t fulfilled his military service.  Hayes segued to Logan interviewing now-discredited eyewitness Dylan Davies and then a clip of her apologizing.  He gasped, “We all remember the last time 60 Minutes made a blunder this big…  That time around, CBS News then embarked on a mission to do everything possible to prove to the public it was worthy of their trust…  Given the obvious similarities with this Benghazi story, many were expecting a similar level of self-examination and explanation…  There are still a lot of questions about how this happened, [including] why CBS News doesn’t think we deserve an answer to how that happened.”

I still have a lot of questions about how Benghazi happened, including why the Obama administration doesn’t think we deserve an answer to how it happened, but I’m not holding my breath for answers.

Logan, you may recall, is the reporter who flounced around in Tahrir Square during Egypt’s “democratic” uprising interviewing supposedly moderate young male protestors, and subsequently found herself being groped and assaulted by these idealistic reformers.  So Logan’s blind acceptance of a fraudulent witness’s testimony isn’t exactly evidence of a blinkered right-wing Benghazi conspiracy movement.

The major difference between the Rather and Logan stories is that Rather trotted out the former just weeks before a Presidential election, in a calculated attempt to impugn Bush’s character and sway the results.  In contrast, the latter involved a center-left news outlet agreeing to talk to a witness who had approached them a year after an election.

Showcasing the forged National Guard memos fifty days before the 2004 election was the equivalent of detonating a block of C4 in a powder keg.  Interviewing nobody Dylan Davies a year after the 2012 election is the equivalent of tossing a wet cigarette butt in a flowerpot.

Hayes then made the hilarious point that Republicans kept “shifting their story” as to why Benghazi was a scandal.  He cited the following reasons offered by Republicans: Obama didn’t appreciate the growing threat of Islamic radicalism in the region; the administration failed to increase security in the face of increasing violence; Obama didn’t put enough troops in Libya and depended on unreliable local militias; Obama failed to react quickly enough to the situation; Obama didn’t want to admit that al-Qaeda’s influence was on the rise; Obama rebuffed Republican Congressmen’s attempts to gather information about the attack; and the administration delayed its investigation into the attack until after the election.

In fact, Benghazi was a scandal because of all of the above reasons, which conservatives highlighted one by one as investigators uncovered the facts behind them.  That doesn’t mean conservatives were shifting their story; it means Democrats were stonewalling and covering up.  If the administration had been a bit more forthcoming from the start, Republicans might have been able to weave a more consistent storyline from Day 1.

But give liberals credit for their impeccable timing: just when Americans are getting tired of talking about Benghazi, the left drags out the whole affair again as though the past twelve months of Republican evidentiary hearings never happened.

Remember those old Olympics scandals when the U.S. would accuse some Communist Eastern European country of cheating?  The accused country would lob counteraccusations at us but still be found guilty—because only guilty parties make accusations requiring investigation when their misdeeds have been exposed and they have nothing to lose.

Similarly, Democrats are fighting back on Benghazi, only because they know they lost on this issue a long time ago, and they might as well lob grenades at Republicans in the hope that some of them hit their targets.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Always Putin America’s Interests Last

September 11, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

putin obama contrastEverything about liberals’ foreign policy is at best indirect and ineffective, at worst backward and harmful to our national interest.

Apparently President Obama doesn’t think it’s suicidal enough for the U.S. to refuse for five years to directly confront Iran, the largest state sponsor of terror, over its development of nuclear weapons.  It’s not enough for Obama to decline to at least lend vocal support to the masses in Tehran protesting the crooked presidential election of 2009.

It’s not enough for Obama to fail to confront Iran indirectly by at least addressing her ally and proxy Syria for the two years during which President Bashar al-Assad slaughtered hundreds of Syrian rebel fighters and civilians.

It’s not enough that when Obama finally decided to do something about Syria, he chose to aid the rebel fighters after they had been infiltrated by al-Qaeda operatives, who stepped in to fill a vacuum in fighting strength for the increasingly desperate rebels.  Now the arms and vehicles Obama recently started sending rebels will surely find their way into al-Qaeda’s hands.

No, all this isn’t enough for Obama, because it doesn’t weaken the U.S.’s standing in the world sufficiently, and it fails to fully embody his strategy of “leading from behind.”  Now we have to watch our foreign policy being written by the communist, anti-American leader of Russia.

Here’s how we got to this point: After proposing doing something about Syria’s weapons of mass destruction, but failing to make an elementary case for taking action, Obama watched public, Congressional, and international support for strikes hover at dismally low levels, and decided he needed a graceful way to skirt his own demands for an attack.

Secretary of State John Kerry accidentally made the casual suggestion that the West might avoid military action if al-Assad agreed to submit his chemical weapons to international supervision.  Russian President Vladimir Putin, who opposes U.S. military action in Syria, jumped on the idea, gave it his endorsement, pledged Russia’s cooperation, but warned that his acceptance was conditional on the U.S. abandoning all plans to attack Syria.

And thus was formed Obama’s weasel way out of his own self-created conundrum.  At the end of his Syria speech Tuesday night, Obama announced that the potentially embarrassing upcoming Congressional votes on military strikes would be postponed indefinitely so a diplomatic solution could be worked out.

And all this for the low price of capitulating to Russia and letting Putin dictate the terms of our containment strategy toward rogue Middle Eastern regimes such as Syria’s.  That tradeoff should work out about as well as trusting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to let the United Nations inspect his weapons production facilities.

Thus Obama has accomplished two goals—squirming out of his prior, unpopular ultimatum and diminishing the U.S.’s status to the point that Putin is now lecturing the U.S. in the New York Times about its unhealthy addiction to the concept of American exceptionalism.  (Obama of course believes in American exceptionalism, just as he suspects that the Russians believe in Russian exceptionalism and the Syrians believe in Syrian exceptionalism.)

Obama isn’t content to give Iran a pass on developing nuclear weapons, Syria a pass on slaughtering civilians for two years, and the rebels a pass on demanding arms from the U.S. while allying with al-Qaeda.  He is now happily siding with an al-Assad ally to figure out how to neutralize… al-Assad.  What could possibly go wrong?

Putin also recently reopened his offer to send Iran surface-to-air missile systems and help build them another nuclear reactor.  We are officially letting our foreign policy be written by a material supporter of two of the largest state sponsors of terror on earth.

To be sure, even when Obama proposed striking Syria, he didn’t want to do it in a way that would actually achieve results helpful to the U.S.  In the earlier part of his speech on Tuesday, Obama hedged all bets, announcing to Syria the limits of his proposed attack, the campaign’s narrow scope, and the U.S.’s circumscribed moral culpability for improving the country’s situation.

Thus, Obama contrasted his proposed strikes with other recent U.S. conflicts: “I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria.  I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan.  I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo.”  He also insisted that the U.S. should not remove al-Assad because “we learned from Iraq that doing so makes us responsible for all that comes next.”

But at least Obama seemed resolute in his desire to do something that he believed, however dubiously, would be effective.

But now he’s concluded that our resolve is moot, because some anti-American ally of al-Assad’s has a more effective idea for making sure al-Assad doesn’t misbehave again.

Why is striking Syria off the table only because Syrian ally Putin opposes it?  Why is Obama sending arms to rebels who will funnel them to our mortal enemy al-Qaeda?  Why didn’t Obama do something about Syria for two years while the conflict was manageable?  Why didn’t Obama support the Iranian protestors in 2009?

The answer is the same: Liberals don’t really oppose tyrannical governments, so long as they hate the U.S. and make us look bad; and they don’t really support our allies, not if they favor liberty-promoting, limited constitutional governments.

The left doesn’t support limited constitutional government or liberty at home.  Why would we expect them to support these ideals abroad?

The most positive thing you can say about liberals’ foreign policy is that they don’t wish any worse on the rest of the world than they do on the U.S.

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Killing a Washed-Up Old Yemeni Hasn’t Slowed al-Qaeda’s Progress

January 30, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

AQ-in-SahelPresident Obama, you may have heard, personally and with his bare hands made the phone call ordering Navy SEALS to execute former al-Qaeda leader and September 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in Abottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011.

Over the six years of the Iraq War before he took office, Obama railed against the Bush-initiated conflict, insisting that the good war was in bin Laden’s adopted home of Afghanistan.  Obama maintained that we wouldn’t make significant progress in the War on Terror until we had killed al-Qaeda’s former leader, whom all evidence indicated was a graying arthritic hermit dwelling in a cave somewhere.

Upon bin Laden’s death, Obama became strangely detached from Middle Eastern affairs, as though his work fighting Islamic jihad were done and Americans could at last breathe a sigh of relief.  (It was almost as if he had flashed a “Mission Accomplished” sign!)  But bin Laden’s former terrorist group appears to have marched on without him in the face of Obama’s utter lack of interest in exerting any effort to halt their progress.

Counterterrorism expert Bruce Riedel argues that, since bin Laden’s death, we are witnessing the third incarnation of al-Qaeda—al-Qaeda 1.0 lasted until the fall of the Taliban, and al-Qaeda 2.0 until the death of bin Laden—and that al-Qaeda 3.0 is the most dangerous version yet.  Al-Qaeda has fanned out to new regions and established fresh bases of operation in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, in Syria, Libya, Algeria, and now Mali.  Al-Qaeda has exploited Obama’s shortsightedness in dwelling obsessively on whether bin Laden still had a pulse, and has built safe havens, expanded the ranks of its recruits, and multiplied its financial resources from a decade’s worth of kidnapping ransoms.

Following the Muslim Brotherhood’s hostile takeover of Egypt—which Obama facilitated via his encouragement of Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow and his friendly discussions with the group’s candidate Mohamed Morsi—the nation now faces renewed threats from a resurgent al-Qaeda.  After bin Laden’s successor Ayman Zawahiri recently called for members of the network to kidnap and kill Westerners worldwide, a horrific Mumbai-style terrorist plot to murder hundreds of British tourists staying at the Sharm el-Sheikh resort was narrowly thwarted.  The presence of Safali Islam fundamentalists tied to al-Qaeda remains strong in Egypt, and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups have been attacking soldiers, gas pipelines, and churches.

In Syria, al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra is exploiting the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime by fighting alongside rebel forces, riding their momentum and waiting to grab power when al-Assad falls so they can restore an Islamic Caliphate.  Al-Nusra has committed dozens of suicide bombings, ambushes, raids, and assassinations in Damascus, Aleppo, and other Syrian cities, and has videotaped shootings and beheadings of al-Assad soldiers and posted them online to intimidate the opposition.  Al-Nusra hopes to replace something bad—al-Assad—with something even worse—a Taliban-style theocracy—in the same way that the Muslim Brotherhood helped protestors topple Hosni Mubarak in Egypt only to elbow their way into power and impose their own heavy-handed agenda.

Meanwhile, in Benghazi, al-Qaeda is targeting British and German tourists, whose governments are urging them to leave Libya for their own safety.  Benghazi, you may recall, is the site of the embassy storming last September that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, and was planned by al-Qaeda—or maybe it was a spontaneous protest over an amateur video; what difference does it make?

Then there’s the shocking hostage-taking at an Algerian gas plant last month, one of the largest and most sophisticated such operations in the region, which resulted in the murder of dozens of Westerners.

And Gadhafi’s ouster freed gun-runners to smuggle caches of Libyan arms, and legions of resistance fighters to flee, to Mali.  French troops are currently beating back al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists in the North African country, an effort Obama won’t commit the U.S. to making.

One military commander in Benghazi notes, “Libya became a haven for [al-Qaeda].  The Westerners are fearful that what happened in Algeria will take place in Libya.  And here, just like Mali and Egypt and Iraq, these groups have extensions.”  These groups have extensions in many other countries in the region, and we are soon about to find out the hard way which ones.

Liberals cite Obama’s bin Laden killing as proof that Democrats are tough on terror—maybe even tougher than misguided Republicans.  But in fact, bin Laden’s assassination made no dent in the War on Terror.  It will merely serve as a shield to hide Obama’s noninterventionist, ineffectual, crisis-precipitating Middle East policy for the next four years.


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Obama Foreign Policy Not Optimal

October 24, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

Mitt Romney may have been too polite in Monday night’s presidential debate to critique the Obama administration’s mishandling of the Benghazi terrorist attack, but I’m not.

Immediately after presidential candidate and potential Commander-in-Chief Romney opined on the Libya attacks last month, Democrats tripped all over themselves to condemn him for opening his mouth:

Watchblog.com declared, “Republicans Have Embarrassed Themselves Over Benghazi.”

OpEd News announced, “Mendacious Mitt Politicizes Benghazi.”

Joan Walsh bemoaned “Benghazi madness,” which she labeled “the latest right-wing conspiracy porn.”

Democratic Underground decried “Romney’s Ghoulish Opportunism Over Benghazi Deaths” and claimed “The Republicans have lost their minds over this Benghazi thing.”

Oh, please.  Claiming that the other side is politicizing an issue your side has bungled is the last refuge of a political scoundrel.  Democrats are masters of this ploy, as evidenced by other clichés they employ with abandon, such as accusing the opposition of “going on a fishing expedition,” “conducting a witch hunt,” or “mudslinging.”

The Benghazi attack is an issue being dealt with by politicians in the political arena, for which Americans will be deciding whether to hold political parties responsible in an upcoming election.  Saying that Republicans are politicizing Benghazi is like saying that Weight Watchers is “calorizing” the weight loss process.  Of course Republicans are politicizing the Benghazi assassination.  How could one even discuss Benghazi without politicizing it—through interpretive dance?

Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter, the most frequent abuser of the politicization charge, slandered Romney by implying that he was hoping for a foreign policy disaster like the Iranian hostage crisis to help him win the election.  Why can’t we take Cutter’s periodic flimsy accusations against Romney as a model and announce that every Democratic attack is merely “cutterizing” the issues?

Here’s something that is genuinely politicizing the Benghazi issue: appearing on a late-night comedy show and announcing that the assassination of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other American personnel is “not optimal.”  Obama has tried to downplay the severity of this crisis and its causal roots in his administration’s strategic blunders and tactical failures in the Middle East, so he’s loath to summon the proper outrage—which Romney has displayed in droves—over this historic attack.  Calculating the precise tone that will allow Americans to believe he’s upset, without escalating the issue to the level of severity it warrants, is politicizing the issue.

As Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler noted, “For political reasons, it certainly was in the White House’s interests to not portray the attack as a terrorist incident, especially one that took place on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.”  Obama’s clinical, detached answer on Jon Stewart’s show fit this narrative perfectly.

Here’s something else that’s politicizing the issue: excoriating Romney for rushing to judgment and “shooting from the hip” about the administration’s role in the incident, while jumping to the conclusion that the attacks were caused by an online video and not a coordinated assault.

If Commanders-in-Chief are supposed to be measured and to reserve judgment till facts are known, why did the administration send U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice out on five talk shows mere days after the attacks to insist that the protests were instigated by “The Innocence of Muslims,” a claim that contradicts the facts?

The Benghazi cover-up may not be a case of “What did the president know and when did he know it?” but “What did the president’s lackeys say and when did they open their yappers?”

But what makes the charge that Republicans are politicizing Benghazi especially preposterous is that it ignores that the GOP is the party that has traditionally called for stronger military and security operations, waged a more aggressive war against Islamic terrorism, and criticized Western military involvement in the Libyan protests.

It would be one thing if conservatives feigned outrage over Obama’s handling of wind farm permits or fuel efficiency standards.  That would be a bit rich.  But if anything, going overboard on military precautions is the GOP’s métier.  So I think most Americans accept that Republicans are genuinely concerned about attacks and protests in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen, three countries that had supposedly been cleansed by the Arab Spring conservatives were vocally skeptical about last year.

Cutter insists that we can’t talk about what happened in Benghazi, because there’s an ongoing investigation that will uncover all the facts—no doubt safely after the presidential election has concluded.  Heaven forfend that the challenger critique the incumbent’s handling of the incident and offer a contrasting approach to governing.  God forbid that voters be allowed to use an ongoing crisis to choose between two politicians’ vastly different approaches to foreign policy.

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Dems Prematurely Replace “Blame Bush” With “Blame Romney”

September 20, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

Has Mitt Romney sewed up the 2012 election and begun issuing policy pronouncements via the Office of the President-Elect?  That’s what you’d think to hear mainstream news commentators tell it.

Witness the media uproar over Romney’s absolutely true, courageously firm observation that President Obama’s State Department is more interested in sparing the feelings of Muslim terrorists than standing up for American values.

Rather than evaluating and refuting his charges; rather than critically reexamining Obama’s approach; rather than considering the repercussions of the President’s conciliatory stance toward our enemies; liberals… blamed the crisis on someone who doesn’t even work for the government.

Rachel Maddow cried that we were in the middle of a tense, hair-trigger confrontation requiring suave diplomatic prowess, and that Romney may just have sent rioting protestors over the top.

Newsflash, MSNBC hosts: Rioting protestors were already over the top—literally, in the case of the embassy walls they scaled and the black Al Qaeda victory banners they hoisted after tearing down and burning American flags in Egypt and Libya.

Fanatic Muslim savages don’t need an excuse to wreak havoc against the West.  A few boilerplate conservative statements by an American presidential candidate don’t rouse them from a stance of tranquil tolerance to one of prickly outrage.  They’re already perpetually in a state of prickly outrage.

Rioters didn’t require a shoddy 14-minute YouTube film trailer to cause mayhem on September 11.  They were already sufficiently motivated to murder American ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and drag his body through the streets.  Even the Obama administration now admits that Stevens’ murder was a terrorist attack, and new evidence suggests that Al Qaeda was behind it.

But by liberals’ calculation, the real policy-driver, the de facto Commander in Chief, the actual mover and shaker who’s screwing up the Middle East, is an unemployed father of five struggling to keep even with Obama in the polls.

Consider the essence of Democrats’ “Blame Bush” strategy, which they initiated at the height of the 2008 presidential campaign season and have continued right up through August’s lousy job numbers.  Remember that their approach did not merely take Bush to task for things he did wrong.  Most conservatives will happily rattle off a laundry list of complaints about Bush, from his expanding government entitlement programs to his failing to win the Iraq War early and decisively enough.

No, “Blame Bush” was the catchall excuse Democrats evolved to protect Obama from unflattering comparisons to the far more experienced Republican candidate Senator John McCain, and from criticism of his handling of the economy and international relations once President.

Obama wasted four years spending the country into oblivion; but when we failed to recover from the recession, Democrats blamed Bush for leaving him an economy much worse than was imaginable by anyone, including liberal economists we were supposed to trust regarding the restorative effect of Obama’s stimulus bill.

Obama spent four years bowing and scraping before our enemies; but when he pledged to sit down and talk with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions, and Iran responded by defying the international prohibition on continuing its nuclear weapons program, Democrats blamed Bush for creating a hostile negotiation environment.

If Mitt Romney is elected president, Democrats’ strategy will transition from blaming everything on Bush to blaming it on Romney, as though Obama’s four-year stint in the White House left no trace.

But I don’t know anyone who anticipated that Democrats would be desperate enough to start blaming the unelected Romney for Obama’s failures.

Of course the real culprit behind the foreign policy debacle in Libya and Egypt is not Romney but Obama.  It was Obama’s State Department that failed to adequately secure the breached embassies ahead of 9/11, despite warnings of attacks; failed to deploy Marines to secure the premises; released from Gitmo a detainee involved in the attacks; fell all over themselves to issue apologies for Americans’ trampling on Muslim sensibilities; harassed the director of the trailer for making the video, Pastor Terry Jones for promoting it, and Google and YouTube for hosting it; and spent four years denying that America stands for any particular virtues that are superior to those of any other country.

(Does Obama really think having a half-Indonesian sister so endears him to the Muslim world that his State Department doesn’t need to raise the security level a notch at Middle Eastern embassies every time 9/11 rolls around?)

Mitt Romney’s Libya statement—like his 47% “gaffe” earlier this week—provided a badly needed kick in the pants to a nation accustomed to four years of Obama.  Romney’s clarification of the situation in Libya and Egypt constituted the proverbial wakeup call: “The first step in realizing our country is weak under Obama is realizing we have a problem.”

But who will Democrats blame Obama’s failures on for the next four years if Romney loses?

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Time Magazine’s Person of the Year: The Rabble-Rouser!

December 28, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Miscellaneous

Time magazine recently awarded its vaunted Person of the Year title to “The Protestor.”

The increasingly irrelevant weekly has been moving away from traditional designations of actual, individual human beings as Person of the Year for a while now.  Apparently the left-leaning journal has been ever more swayed by the collectivist notion that there are no individual heroes or titans that drive the world—just influences, movements, and groundswells.  Recent winners of Time’s award have consisted of The Peacemakers (including founder of modern terrorism Yasser Arafat), The Whistleblowers (including an Enron staffer who warned about bad accounting practices), and The Good Samaritans (including certified bobblehead Bono).

At least those titles went to groups of several persons each.  Time’s latest choice encompasses literally millions of human beings.  It’s as vague and vacuous as the phrase “War on Poverty.”

(I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised at Time’s latest addle-headed selection; this is the same magazine that chose Vladimir Putin as Person of the Year in 2007 and, um, “You” in 2006.)

Throughout its lengthy cover story, Time boosts “protesting” as if it were just another Internet craze, like planking, owling, or Batmanning.

In saluting The Protestor, Time recklessly combines the following disparate groups: pro-democracy protestors in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, and Bahrain; anti-corruption protestors in Russia and India; Tea Party protestors; Occupy Wall Street protestors; “Real Democracy” protestors in Spain; public sector union benefit cut protestors in Wisconsin; and austerity cut protestors in Athens and London.  Practically kissing cousins!

In a related photo essay, the editors casually juxtapose portraits of figures from different groups: an Egyptian democracy demonstrator next to an Occupy Wall Streeter; a Tunisian women’s rights advocate beside a Greek austerity protestor.

The spurious comparison of democracy advocates to anti-capitalist ne’er-do-wells is no doubt a means for liberal Time editors to pat themselves on the backs.  By placing leftist rallies in the same league as pro-freedom demonstrations, they grant the former a degree of legitimacy unobtainable through these mob movements’ flimsy philosophical grounding or scant public support.

Predictably, Time focuses on the superficial similarities between Arab Spring and Occupy/austerity protestors, such as their relative youth, use of social media to mobilize, display of slogans, clashes with police, and impatience with “the system.”

In a video explaining the reasoning behind his choice, the author of the Time piece—whose nephew was a figure in the Occupy movement—claims that the Arab protests are a more “extreme” version of what happened in New York.

This is utterly wrongheaded.

Pro-democracy protestors and Occupy/austerity protestors not only have nothing in common, they’re polar opposites.  Arab Spring demonstrators protested for more freedom; Occupy parasites protested for less.

Occupy Wall Street protestors want more government regulation of the financial sector, tougher restrictions on bank lending practices, greater taxation of high-income earners, more wealth confiscation and redistribution, and more government control of health care, college tuition, and private sector wages.  Public sector union members crave more taxpayer dollars for lavish benefits and pension packages few in the private sector receive and more power to bully employees into joining unions.  Austerity protestors demand more government-mandated support for slothful Southern European lifestyles.

Pro-democracy protestors, meanwhile, desire freedom of speech and freedom to run a business without the government throwing them in jail or confiscating their property.

Lumping pro-democracy protestors in Arab dictatorships with Occupy Wall Street malcontents is like massing Martin Luther King followers with Ku Klux Klan marchers and naming Person of the Year “The Racial Justice Advocate.”

Yes, Occupy and union protestors were “inspired” by the Arab Spring and conferred with several of their leaders.  But these groups clearly were stimulated by Arab protestors’ techniques, not their pro-liberty message.

Even the Time piece’s author seems to recognize on some level that he’s comparing apples and oranges.  As he notes, “The protesters in the Middle East and North Africa are literally dying to get political systems that roughly resemble the ones that seem intolerably undemocratic to protesters in Madrid, Athens, London and New York City.”  Then why dishonor the former by tossing them in with the latter?

If protest was on Time editors’ minds—and there certainly was a lot of noisy protesting this year—then their Person of the Year title should have gone to Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire after bureaucratic authorities repeatedly quashed his efforts to sell his wares and make an honest living.  Bouazizi was the single person most responsible for setting off the chain of pro-democracy protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, et al., and the subsequent elections and tumultuous regime changes that will alter the course of Middle Eastern history for better or for worse.

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Obama to the World on Libya: You First

March 23, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

gadhafi

Here’s a fun fact regarding President Obama’s Saturday announcement that the U.S. would finally be getting around to joining the international coalition to use military force against Libya’s Colonel Moammar Qaddafi in retaliation for his having unleashed government firepower against rebels.  Guess how many times Obama used any of the following words in his speech: victory, victorious, win, winning, defeat, right, just, moral, triumph, success, good, evil.  (Hint: it’s the same number of controversial NCAA Final Four picks he made last week.)  That’s right—0!

In contrast, he managed to squeeze in all of these words and phrases: international (10 uses), allies (6), partners (6), community (5), United Nations (3), not acting alone (3), coalition (2), league (2), council (2), coordinate (2), agree, join, meet, part, and union.

With so little emphasis on what we’re actually doing in Libya, how we’re going to do it, and with what expected results, an alien visiting Earth might be forgiven for wondering why we need to engage in so much coalition-building to do it.

What kind of corporation launching a new product deemphasizes: the product, the technology required to develop it, the need for it in the market, and the projected sales; yet fills up their business plan with reams of details on which contractors they’re going to generously give business to, which stores they’re going to offer their product to, which companies’ toes they’re going to avoid stepping on, and which corporations they might someday merge with?

The message Obama has been sending the world is: we’re not necessarily going to do anything about Libya, and we’re definitely not going to take the lead on it, but if there are lots of others of you who are going to do something, then we’re right there with you.

There are good arguments for and against bombing Libya; a sane case can be made either way.  A surprising number of liberals have come out in favor (Hillary Clinton, John Kerry); a surprising number of conservatives have come out against (Andrew McCarthy, Haley Barbour).

I happen to favor air strikes, though not without being able to see the other side’s point.  The idea that we should butt out of Libya, Egypt, Iran, etc. is premised on the notion that no matter what we do, Middle Eastern dictators will be replaced by worse dictators of the hard-line Islamic variety.  I reject this idea, and I don’t care about the warning the do-nothing crowd has offered that radical Islamist groups favor removing these tyrants.  Just because those groups support toppling Ahmadinejad, Mubarak, and Qaddafi doesn’t mean we can’t support it, but for different reasons.  They support it because it’s their best chance to install Islamic leaders; we support it because it’s our best chance to install pro-liberty leaders.  The choice isn’t “Do nothing” or “Topple the dictator and let the chips fall where they may”—the missing alternative is “Topple the dictator, and make sure someone better gets in there.”

That said, if I were Leader of the Free World, I think I would have circulated an inkling to the globe what my position was one way or another, pretty early on, before any action were too late.

Instead, Obama has given the impression that he wanted to find out what the cool kids were doing so he could join them and be part of the crowd.

It wouldn’t be so bad if we could believe that Obama has been seriously, meticulously scrutinizing the situation in Libya, weighing his options, not committing until the exact right time.  (It wouldn’t be so bad, in other words, if Obama hadn’t been spending his time playing golf, announcing his bracket picks, and practicing his Brazilian Portuguese.)  But given his talk during the 2008 campaign about the necessity of international consensus and the arrogance of acting alone, odds are he was waiting until a critical mass of world players signed on before sticking his scrawny neck out.

There are three possibilities that explain Obama’s dithering on Libya, none reassuring.  First: he had no idea what to do, was being pushed back and forth by pro- and anti-invasion camps in his administration, and simply went with the international consensus once it coalesced.  Second: he favored invasion, but didn’t want to take action until there was international support.  Third, and most disturbing: he didn’t favor invasion, but decided to go with that option once the world’s players came out for it.

Given Obama’s hemming and hawing on Afghanistan, whereby private accounts suggest he didn’t want to initiate a troop surge in 2009 but did so anyway, and given his indirect ties to Qaddafi via Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan, I fear the third possibility most likely.

Behold a president who acts, not because he believes the United States has a unique historical and moral standing in the world and should take the lead on rectifying injustice, and possibly not even because he thinks it’s the right thing to do, but because… everyone else is doing it.

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