Up until the disaster in Benghazi, Libya, President Obama was doing as good a job as any president could have in the Middle East.
He downsized our presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan without endangering the security of the United States or exposing our troops on the ground to undue risk. To boot, he ordered the raid that whacked Bin Laden.
He also wisely resisted getting too involved in the bitter sectarian/secular struggle in Egypt, which would have led to a no-win scenario as far as US foreign relations go.
Our intervention in Libya was risky but at an appropriate scale and helped bring down one of the biggest thugs in that region, Maummar Gaddafi, who was responsible for the deaths of 270 people in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
But Obama dropped the ball in Benghazi. Security was totally inadequate. It was a dangerous place at a dangerous time. You don’t put people in Fort Apache without an ironclad plan to rescue them in a hurry, if necessary. There was no excuse for limiting protection to lightly armed security officers. It was gross negligence not seen since Les Aspin, the first Secretary of Defence in President Clinton’s administration, declined to provide armored support and heavily armed helicopter gunships to our troops in Mogadishu, Somalia in October 1993. 18 US Rangers were killed and 85 wounded in a gunfight where just a few tanks and modest air support would have prevented most of those casualties.
Aspin tendered his resignation soon after Mogadishu. Bill Clinton was only too happy to accept it.
Neither Secretary of Defense Panetta nor Secretary of State Hilary Clinton offered to resign after the tragedy in Benghazi. Their ultimate departures were planned and had nothing to do with the turn of events that resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Stevens and three others. The administration seemed more concerned with the presidential campaign than affixing responsibility for the poor decisions of either Panetta, Clinton or both.
Syria is now in Obama’s sights.
I wrote about the conflict earlier, before deadly chemicals were used against innocent civilians.
At that time, I expressed my deep concerns about getting involved. My position has not changed since 1,400 people were wiped out by the gas attack. There are no good guys in this fight, although a “moderate” faction is in play, no one can vet just how moderate it is.
Regardless, whoever wins – if there is even such a thing as winning – will still face unrest and violence from the remaining elements of the other factions. Does anyone think Al Qaeda will rest if Assad is booted out or the moderates seize control? Do you think the Russians will end their support of Assad and his faction?
We have as much chance of affecting the regime in North Korea as we do in Syria. Just as China holds the cards in North Korea, the Russians can deal aces to Assad whenever necessary.
To make matters worse, Obama backed himself into a corner with the “red line” statement he made last year, then tried to re-frame it in the context of the post World War 1 treaty barring the use of poison gas. This is an excellent example of moving the line for political expediency. It diminished the integrity of the president.
For the record, the Geneva Protocol, signed in 1925, while banning the use of gas, does not obligate any nation to take action against one that does.
So, why should the United States take action, especially if the end result will leave gas stockpiles untouched and Assad unharmed?
Russia will provide whatever it takes to replace or repair damage to Syria’s military capability.
If we were to take any action, it should directly target Assad. He is Bin Laden in a tailored suit. Yes, Russia and Iran would scream bloody murder, but it would send an effective message rather than lobbing cruise missiles at traditional military targets.
To Obama’s credit, he is asking Congress to approve a course of action (yet to be clearly defined). But I wonder if he would have taken that step if it had not been for the British House of Commons recent vote to oppose Prime Minister Cameron’s support for military action?
The president’s handling of foreign events is throwing away the international credibility he built up in his first term. He could well become the laughing-stock of the world’s leaders.