Whether the or not the administration minimized the account of the attack on Benghazi for political gain, they’ve as good as admitted to it. In fact, Obama’s foreign policy has been traumatized by it. That is reflected, according to the National Journal, in its paralysis toards Syria. “The president, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and other senior officials continue to be haunted by the lessons of both Iraq and Libya, said this official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.”
Their whole interventionary model has collapsed and they are trapped between watching the world burn and turning their incendiary hoses on it.
While the White House continues to maintain the Libyan events were only a flesh wound, a regrettable incident caused by a mischievous junk moviemaker in LA, their behavior suggests differently. They have been deeply shaken. Writing in the New York Times, Tom Friedman advocates putting the term “Arab Spring” out of its misery. It’s giving winter a bad name.
I guess it’s official now: The term “Arab Spring” has to be retired. There is nothing springlike going on. The broader, but still vaguely hopeful, “Arab Awakening” also no longer seems valid, given all that has been awakened.
Enough already,says Friedman. It’s the Arab inferno, not any sort of spring. It’s a sad end to Obama’s efforts to take credit for it. About all Friedman can say now is that the poor President never stood a chance. Friedman writes, “’we’ did not unleash the Arab Spring, and ‘we’ could not have stopped it.” At the time Obama stood behind the teleprompter to bask in the glow of Tahrir Square if was “I”, not just “we”. I guess its back to “we”. And soon enough the talking points will dump the blame on George Bush.
Friedman is full of frank astonishment. He declares himself unable to imagine that the Muslim Brotherhood could prove so incompetent. But it’s not ethnic disparagement since Abdel Latif el-Menawy at El Arabiya fully agrees. “Egypt’s current management of the state is a failure par excellence. I even expect that the Brotherhood’s style of governance will be used as a model to teach future generations how to avoid failure, how not to rule a country.”
There were people who anticipated that detail from the beginning. But the list does not include, alas, the administration.
Speaking of which the news agencies are even now reporting that Western diplomats are preparing for an upheaval in the country. Britain is withdrawing some embassy staff from Tripoli. AP says that US forces in Europe have been put on alert “in response to a deteriorating security situation in the Libyan capital of Tripoli”
There is no talk about a video now. The administration is itself behaving like Benghazi proved exactly the lessons they deny. The countries liberated by “leading from behind” are in complete meltdown mode. Bloomberg says even the Libyans are under siege.
Libya’s defense minister resigned as gunmen extended their siege of ministries in Tripoli for a second day, demanding the government’s resignation and tougher rules to bar Muammar Qaddafi-era officials from state jobs.
No wonder the administration is gun-shy over Syria, Iran or Hezbollah. They’re almost afraid to sneeze. And don’t mention unrest in Saudi Arabia or Yemen. Don’t even think about breathing a word about chemical weapons or nuclear bombs because that’s just too much to deal with right now. How different is their behavior from the words words they utter. It’s almost like the true story of Libya was much worse than we can imagine.
The Obama foreign policy in the Middle East is coming apart at the seams. And maybe Friedman is right in saying there’s not a whole lot Obama can do about it. But the administration can stop digging; it can mitigate the inevitable consequences by facing the facts. No more denial. No more spin. No more “deep background” instructions to journalists.
Like a man who’s blown borrowed money on the strength of a lottery ticket he felt sure of winning, the administration must accept that the chickens they were counting on to hatch have turned out to be a clutch of voracious raptors.
The West now faces a critical period of adjusting to a failed and belligerent region; to mitigate its troubles,to containing it if necessary.