Belmont Club

Two Elevens

Here are some reactions to the news of the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and to what the Daily Mail calls Obama’s foreign policy crisis. Steve Kornacki at Salon exemplifies one train of analysis: it’s all Romney’s fault.

It has since been learned that a total of four people – the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three of his staff members – were killed in the attacks. President Obama has now issued a statement condemning the assault, praising Stevens, and pledging “all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe.”

The foolishness of Romney’s reaction is glaring. Pretending that the statement from the U.S. embassy in Cairo was anything other than a completely understandable and reasonable attempt by its occupants to save their own lives borders on disgraceful. Romney’s implication that the statement was issued at the height of the attacks is also false; it was actually released earlier in the day, a preventive measure aimed at keeping the protests from turning violent.

Volsky and Armbruster at Think Progress represent another variant: dissent is unpatriotic. They write that “the campaign’s response disregarded Romney’s self-imposed pledge not to engage in partisan mudslinging on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, though it came before news broke that four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed in the violence.”

Any comparisons between 9/11/2012 and 9/11/2001 founder on an obvious difference. Today there’s not even a pretense of unity against the enemy. Nobody bothers with the flowers and hymns. Just partisan politics. Speaking of which, who is the enemy? Come to that, who was the enemy on the original September 11? And why use the word “enemy”? Are we not dealing with criminals? Daniel Greenfield at FrontPage writes about the “still unnamed enemy.”

“I have always said that America is at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates,” Obama declared, “and we will never be at war with Islam.” But that really isn’t up to him. What the left never seems to understand is that war doesn’t have to be mutual. No matter what you do or what defeatist foreign policy you adopt, the enemy still gets a vote. And the enemies of this country have voted with their bombs and bodies.

The left resisted calling it a “war,” describing the murder of 3,000 people as a criminal matter. Obama even attempted to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the attacks, in a civilian court in downtown Manhattan. But then Obama embraced the war and rebranded Rumsfeld’s Special Forces and drones operations as his own innovative technocratic “smart” war.

On none of these subjects is there unanimous agreement. Not on the existence of an enemy, his identity, or the strategy of combating him. All that September 11, 2001, suggested, and which September 11, 2012, has emphasized, is that there may be a “near” and a “far” foe. And for some partisans, the near enemy takes precedence.

If the response of the Left to events in Libya and Egypt is any indicator, they are prepared to double down on their recent policies no matter how badly they are working out. “Yes, it is Islamophobia that is to blame for the current crisis. Yes, it is Romney who is clueless about the world. Yes, we are smarter than others. Yes, we are the reality-based community. And yes we can.”

Actually, no they can’t, but they won’t admit it until they are facing absolute, utter, and stark ruin — and by then, no one will care what they will admit. Too bad we have to live in their world, but until someone starts a passenger service to Mars that’s how it will be.

The unfortunate thing about history is it depicts wars as conflicts between obvious “sides.” But in reality, the bright lines are not contemporaneously obvious. They only seem so in retrospect. To a large extent, the history of conflict is about creating the “sides” in the first place. The Revolutionary War was not in the first instance about the Continental Army versus the British Army, but about the birth of the United States and the emergence of a distinct American idea. The conflict was a byproduct of birth.

From that perspective, the question is not who is the “unnamed enemy” as much as “what is the world that is waiting to be born?” Personally I don’t think it will be a warmed-over version of the New Deal with Obama instead of FDR at the helm. But people live in the past largely because they cannot imagine the future.

Related: MSNBC Liberal Pundits, Muslim Brotherhood on the Same Side Against Free Speech


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