Obama's Fog of War
There's been a whole lot written and said about Benghazi, but in my view, few are hitting the nail on the head. What is really going on is that President Obama's worldview is collapsing in the face of reality, and even he can't prevaricate enough to sustain that view in the public's mind.
Despite using both the words "terror" and "Benghazi" somewhere in a long speech on September 12, Obama later blamed the Benghazi attack on "the video" -- first on Letterman on September 16 and then at the U.N. on September 25. Anyone with eyes and ears knows that Obama and his people were blaming the attack on "the video" for days and weeks after the attack. If you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe Chris Matthews or the newspaper he tells us to read.
How many times do we have to hear that some attack by jihadis is a reaction to something we did? Did we allow someone to post a video on YouTube? Did we allow someone to draw a cartoon? Did one of our infidel Marines touch a Koran with an ungloved hand? Did we let girls go to school? How many ways are there to offend these people?
These jihadis tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. While not totally successful, that attempt killed six people and injured more than a thousand. Osama bin Laden wrote his first fatwa, declaring war against the U.S., in 1996 -- during President Clinton's first term. In his second fatwa, written in 1998, he said this:
On that basis, and in compliance with God's order, we issue the following fatwa to all Muslims: The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies -- civilians and military -- is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it[.]
And don't forget Black Hawk Down in Mogadishu (1993), Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia (1996), our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya (1998), and the USS Cole in 2000.
All that, all that, was during Bill Clinton's presidency. Before George W. Bush was president. Before we went to Afghanistan or into Iraq. Before Abu Ghraib. Before Gitmo. Before waterboarding. Before any cartoons or videos. And then we got 9/11, which had been planned since about 1996, eight months into Bush's presidency.
Get it? Jihadis need no excuse. It is beyond stupid to credit recent attacks and protests to a YouTube video. There will always be a YouTube video that "offends" Muslims. How about this one? Rest assured: every time jihadis kill more Americans, they'll have some "insult to Mohammed" they can blame it on. And also rest assured that American liberals will swallow that excuse.
The reality is that jihadis kill Americans because that is what jihadis do. To them, it is a Muslim's duty. It is "in compliance with God's order" and has been since 1998 at least. No new excuses needed.
The question we should have is, how much of the Muslim ummah shares Osama's sentiments? Obama's answer to that question is "only al-Qaeda."
That is why liberals thought we shouldn't be in Iraq. If Osama bin Laden was not in Iraq, why should we be? Saddam didn't plan 9/11; Osama did. Why weren't we tracking down Osama in Afghanistan or Pakistan, instead of "nation-building" in Iraq? (As it turned out, AQ was in Iraq, and there was "a sufficient basis for a reasonable jury to draw inferences that Iraq provided material support to bin Laden and al Qaeda." But never mind that for now. Those are mere facts.)
As recently as the October 22 presidential debate, Obama was still harping about AQ, to the point of berating Mitt Romney for not calling AQ "the biggest geopolitical threat facing America."
We ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on those who actually killed us on 9/11. And as a consequence, Al Qaeda's core leadership has been decimated[.] ... Governor Romney, I'm glad that you recognize that Al Qaida is a threat, because a few months ago when you were asked what's the biggest geopolitical threat facing America, you said Russia, not Al Qaida.
I therefore infer that Obama considers AQ "the biggest geopolitical threat facing America."
President Bush explicitly rejected this view. The War on Terror was not simply about AQ. It was not even solely about the 9/11 attacks. The 9/11 attacks were a wake-up call that we need to take terrorists generally much more seriously, and that we really could not let WMD get into their hands.
The law authorizing the use of force in Iraq said this (my emphasis):
... the President and Congress are determined to continue to take all appropriate actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001[.]
If you buy the view that the only real enemy in the so-called War on Terror is AQ, a tiny group of crazies in the AfPak mountains who follow some nut named Osama, Obama's policies make total sense.
(1) We should not have been in Iraq; instead, we should have gone after Osama bin Laden and AQ in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
(2) The only problem is AQ and not Saddam, the Taliban, Hamas, Hezb'allah, the Muslim Brotherhood, or anyone not explicitly in AQ.
(3) Killing Osama was all-important, since he was the leader of AQ, our only threat.
(4) We have nothing to fear from the "Arab Spring" because those Muslims are not AQ -- just people who want freedom and democracy.
On the other hand, if you believe that the "enemy" is a strain of radical Islam that goes well beyond a group called AQ, then the opposite of those points makes sense: we should have stopped Saddam. We should fight against all radical Islamic terrorists. Killing Osama was not all that strategically important. And we have much to fear about the Arab Spring.
In short, the "it's all about AQ" theory was a convenient excuse to do nothing other than the occasional drone-kill or SEAL-kill of an identifiable AQ operative and then "Disneyfy" all other Muslim movements as people who yearn only for freedom and democracy -- even people who killed Gaddafi by "bayonet stab to the anus" or sexually assaulted Lara Logan.
And here is how much the "it's all about AQ" crowd wanted that worldview to be true. They claimed that killing Osama turned the corner on terrorism. Here are the words from the State Department, just this July.
The death of Usama bin Ladin, al-Qa'ida's founder and sole leader for the past 22 years, highlighted a landmark year in the global effort to counter terrorism[.] ... The loss of bin Ladin and these other key operatives puts the network on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse.
Remember that phrase: "a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse."
And do you know what that State Department statement was based on? A report by the National Terrorism Center that said this:
Attacks by AQ and its affiliates increased by 8 percent from 2010 to 2011.
In what universe does an increase of attacks indicate "a path of decline"? In the same universe where an attack on a U.S. embassy in a Muslim country on September 11 was motivated by a YouTube video that no one saw.
It was just in July that the State Department said that AQ was on "a path of decline." By September, protesters would be flying AQ's flag over our own embassies in Tunisia, Egypt, Kuwait, and Libya while chanting, "Obama, we are all Osama." And four Americans, including our ambassador, would be killed in Libya, after which CNN ran this headline: "Pro-al Qaeda group seen behind deadly Benghazi attack."
Do we still think AQ is on a path of decline that will be difficult to reverse? Do we still think AQ is confined to small pockets in AfPak and maybe parts of Yemen and Somalia? Do we still think AQ itself is the only group of Muslims that thinks Allah commands Muslims to kill Americans? Do we still think that Muslims who want to kill Americans represent just some teeny-tiny slice of the ummah? Do we still think the "Arab Spring" is a freedom and democracy movement and not a jihadi/sharia-law/global-caliphate and anti-American movement?
I guess we can hope the answer to all those questions is "yes." But hope is not a strategy.
Randall Hoven can be followed on Twitter.