Yesterday, when most of the mainstream media busied themselves pounding Mitt Romney for having the chutzpah to denounce the initial apology for American freedom of speech issued by the U.S. embassy in Cairo, they were missing a much more important story. As Islamist attacks on the U.S. escalated throughout the Middle East, it became apparent that the Obama administration’s recent bout of back slapping celebration over its foreign and defense policy was completely unjustified. Not only were the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department sleeping while terrorist forces plotted a full-scale assault on our mission in Benghazi, Libya but other al Qaeda operatives were at work throughout the region plotting mischief.
As the New York Times reports today, the assault on the U.S. embassy in Sana, Yemen was apparently fomented by one Abdul Majid al-Zandani, whom they describe as, “a onetime mentor to Osama bin Laden” and someone who, “was named a ‘specially designated global terrorist’ by the United States Treasury Department in 2004.” Would it be considered in bad taste to ask why, if the Obama administration’s counter-terrorism policy is such a raging success, such a person is still on the loose? Equally interesting is the answer to the question of how it is that in Libya, a country where American influence is supposed to be currently strong, this administration found itself surprised by the appearance of armed foes. Though Democrats spent the last week furiously patting themselves on the back for having such a tough and successful leader at the helm, it appears that not only is the country just as unpopular in the Middle East as it was when George W. Bush was president, but that the security situation there may be rapidly unraveling. Though no one in Washington is allowed to say the phrase “war on terror” anymore, it appears that Islamists have no trouble in continuing their war on America.
These events in Libya, Egypt and Yemen may be just the tip of the Islamist iceberg. We now know that the kerfuffle over a trailer for an anti-Muslim movie was merely a cover for attacks on American targets in the Middle East by an al-Qaeda movement that is, despite the death of Osama bin Laden, very much alive and well. As the Times relates, U.S. forces continue to try to battle al-Qaeda. Earlier this week, one of the group’s top operatives in Yemen was killed by a U.S. drone strike. But not all of America’s security problems can be solved with remote control bombs.
Rather than this topic being a source of strength for President Obama, the embarrassing and tragic events of the past few days show it to be a weakness. This is a president who came into office desperate to ingratiate himself with the Arab and Muslim worlds, but who has discovered that a policy of engagement with Islamists has utterly failed.
In Egypt, Obama equivocated while the Muslim Brotherhood rose to power. He has chosen to embrace the now Islamist government there with debt forgiveness and continued aid only to see it stand by and watch while our embassy was assaulted.
In Iran, the president spent years on failed policies of engagement and diplomacy. Rather than set red lines on the Iranian nuclear program that would trigger action rather than more talk, he has made it abundantly clear he is more interested in stopping Israel from forestalling Tehran’s bomb than he is about the threat itself.
It is true that Osama bin Laden is dead, but that creditable action hasn’t ended the Islamist threat. The president has lost his way in the Middle East and is too full of self-regard to acknowledge the problem. Rather than dumping on Romney for stating the obvious about a disgraceful apology, the media needs to start scrutinizing an administration with a floundering foreign policy. Whether he knows it or not, the president’s long-running touchdown dance over bin Laden is over.