September 12, 2012

Rushing to blame, Romney disgraces us all

The attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya have reinforced the sense of danger and uncertainty in the Middle East, and should spark a renewed -- and ideally bipartisan -- about how the United States can continue to repair its influence and effect lasting stability in this often chaotic region.

Even before we could know the extent of brutality and barbarism involved in the lynching of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens -- let alone all the other facts and factors involved --  the Republican Party Chairman and the Republican nominee for President were rushing to blame President Obama's "failed" policies for these outrageous assaults on the honor and person of American diplomacy.

Leading the pile-on were many of my friends from the right wing of the Jewish, pro-Israel community. Had Obama only listened to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and shown him more respect while showering Israel with unprecedented military support and security cooperation, none of this would have happened. Ironically, this came hours after the eleventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks -- despite President George W. Bush's uncompromising and single-minded campaign against Saddam Hussein. Even more ironically, these attacks came nearly a year to the day since Israel's own ambassador to Egypt was nearly lynched by a Cairo mob -- and only saved through the personal intervention of... President Obama. What a way to say thank you.

Of course, the right wing has blamed all negative Mideast developments on Obama's Cairo speech, which -- while emphasizing the significance of the Holocaust and Israel's right to security -- supposedly sparked the Arab Spring across the whole region. And yet, the Arab Spring -- like the disastrous 2006 Hamas election in Gaza -- was a fulfillment of the Bush doctrine of spreading democracy, and would never have happened without the shock of our post-9/11 invasion of Iraq. The related retrenchment of U.S. influence in the region also helped.

But without knowing all the facts, Likud supporters and Republicans are happy to say "I told you so" -- as though the President wasn't aware by now that the Middle East is a dangerous place. As if he weren't already doing twice as much as President Bush did to stop Iran. As if putting his fist through the wall would make us any safer. If this were easy, Bush would have fixed it ten years ago.

Mitt Romney really is rich, but not just in a Swiss Bank kind of way. Our U.S. troops were virtually absent from the recent Republican Convention, even the speeches, but Romney seems to be ready to use them everywhere, all the time. U.S. diplomats are lying murdered, still not repatriated to American soil, and Romney wants to tell their colleagues and their boss what they just did wrong.

But in reality, every President -- even "Bring 'em on!" Bush -- comes to realize the willingness to act and sound defiant doesn't guarantee a positive outcome.Would Romney have landed troops last year in Libya instead of joining with NATO allies, or would he have stayed away entirely? Would he risk further assets in Syria, possibly risking Israel's own safety in the process? Will he pray the Palestinians all disappear or suddenly become grateful and obedient subjects under partial autonomy? Maybe it's enough just to promise he'll move the U.S. Embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, just as his predecessors from both parties have done in the past.

If Romney truly wanted Obama to "succeed", he has a strange way of showing it. Either way, what could have been Romney's -- and America's -- finest hour this year has now been squandered, and the road ahead just became that much more difficult.

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