This past week and weekend the airwaves were filled with hype and hyperbole from armchair quarterbacks seeking advantage from the tragedy in Libya.
Fact: The US has friends and enemies within the Middle East.
Fact: The Government of Libya was not involved in the killing of Ambassador Stevens.
Fact: The Government of Egypt was not involved in the attack on the US Embassy.
Fact: The US is in better shape in the Middle East now than four years ago (Obama has not been perfect, but his team has made more right choices than wrong choices).
It is critical to recognize that wrong choices matter.
The Bush Administration made a series of wrong choices and we continue to pay the price – today.
Despite the earnestness of the Neo-Cons and their leaders (the Vulcans), wrong is still wrong.
There is a clear difference between strength and stupidity – and we have already tried the stupidity path. Truth be told, we are licking our wounds from misadventures and we have spent the better part of four years working to repair the damage done.
Obama has implemented a consistent foreign policy. It is neither irrational, nor weak.
And the comparison between Obama and Jimmy Carter is laughable on its face. W and Carter had much more in common: both led with their heart, viewing foreign policy through the lens of faith – Carter the New Testament, W the Old Testament.
Obama makes choices with his head, not his heart. Think Woodrow Wilson, not Carter and a closer comparison is revealed.
For good or ill, populism is not the same as democracy. And Americans often expect results we have no right to expect: revolutions are not easy, nor quick. Most are messy, and democracies evolve as a result of the conflict and strife.
Democracy is a hard-won thing. In the final analysis, democracy takes a cultural capacity to accommodate and apportion freedom – a shared willingness to seek change through the power of the ballot, instead of the bullet.
And the US is making progress in the Middle East. This can – and will – be accelerated the more often we live up to our own ideals.
While we may need to attack Iran, an attack absent a rational implementation of sanctions would be accepted by the region as “just another attack on Muslims” from the US.
Americans must remember that our reality is far different than theirs. Muslims – in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and other places are being killed by US forces in military operations. Note: we are targeting enemy combatants – but the majority of these targets are Muslim and that fact is not lost on our friends or enemies.
Our war is not with Islam, but many of our enemies practice the faith. This circumstance requires something lost on the previous administration: subtlety and patience.
Beating our chests demanding people understand our “strength” is a recipe for failure: always was, still is.
Showing strength through resolve, targeted responses (when appropriate), and lifting the economies of the Middle East is a strategy for long-term success.
With respect, the US cannot bomb our way into a lasting peace in the Middle East.
A hyper-aggressive posture may be good politics for inciting the Republican base, but it is bad foreign policy.
Romney made a mistake this past week. Rather than facing it, he doubled-down and insisted that the US should stop “apologizing” for our actions.
His sophomoric behavior demonstrates his un-readiness for the job of Commander-in-Chief: leaders of the most powerful military in human history do not have to shout, whispers are listened to – and received far better.
Adding fuel to the fire, the frustrated Neo-Cons piled on.
A small army (including) Bay Buchanan, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Kristol, and even the Republican Nominee for Vice-President Paul Ryan are now making irrational, unsubstantiated arguments based upon a naïve understanding of the world.
These people are powerful voices for a wrong cause. They are hurting America and Americans as a result.
Once upon a time, members of both parties rallied around a President when our interests were threatened, even more so when our people were killed.
There is always a time for debate and discussion about policy – but these conversations are best accomplished in a rational, intellectually honest manner.
This lesson has been lost on the Romney Campaign.
And it is shameful.
America deserves a President that understands the world as it is and can operate within reality.
We cannot allow the charges to go unanswered, and we cannot allow the US to take another wrong turn – we will lose precious ground made in the Middle East.
Let us improve the security of our facilities abroad and at home.
Let us collaborate with the Egyptian and Libyan Governments on finding the killers and holding them responsible – through a legal process. If it fails, we can always implement action unilaterally.
And let us keep our head during this period. We have real issues in Afghanistan/Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, and Yemen but we cannot act as if there is a singular solution for all.
We live in challenging times, we need a leader up to the job.