A hundred dead on the ground in Gaza in events that will shake the foundations of diplomacy worldwide, but the big reports this week are on the rise and fall of the Twinkie. Does anyone under 30 even know what a Twinkie is? Possibly a monument to Twinkie — a giant Twinkie by Claes Oldenberg perhaps, or something thrown together on the National Mall by Frank Gehry — will appear; Twinkie as a remembrance to the rise and decline of the American Century.
It’s the final presidential debate on American foreign policy tonight and you can expect Iran’s nuclear program to come up.
But there’s an equally topical and important issue that is extremely unlikely to be discussed by President Obama and Mitt Romney in the context of Iran: the 2012 Helsinki conference on a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. This conference, planned since May 2010 under a consensus decision at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference, would bring Iran and Israel to the table for the first time to discuss nuclear disarmament in a region threatened by a nuclear arms race.
More than a month after the 9/11 al Qaeda attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, which left the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead, we are still no closer to knowing who knew what and when, and who should be accountable.
President Obama, speaking after Hillary Clinton took responsibility for the State Department’s security lapse at the Benghazi Consulate, said quite clearly last night that the buck stops at the Oval Office. Yet by refusing to answer a question from an undecided voter during the presidential debate with Republican nominee Mitt Romney at Hofstra University, the president muddied the waters still further. The questioner wanted to know: Who was it who denied enhanced security, and why?
The media are partially to blame for allowing the Obama administration to get away with a narrative that was so clearly ridiculous. The Muhammad movie on YouTube was clearly a pretext for violence. Evidence was apparently known to elements within the administration within the first couple of days that indicated it was a terrorist attack, but the Obama administration purposefully denied that and blamed the violence on the Muhammad movie.
The instinctual inclination to apologize for the movie and offending Muslims and to focus public statements on the movie are indicative of the administration’s tendency to apologize for America.
As a proud, patriotic American, I am embarrassed by the calls that are being made for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice to resign. Not even a month after the murder of our ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans, many are politicizing their deaths rather than honoring their service — hardly the behavior that one would or should expect from the citizens of the nation that leads the free world.
An extraordinary wave of change continues to sweep across the Middle East and North Africa. It is a heady time for many who wish to cast off their chains of repression and deprivation and usher in a new age of freedom and democracy. But unless such developments ultimately occur in the context of virtue-driven changes, it is all too easy to reproduce old patterns and replace the current strongman or dictator with another or an oligarchy of exploiters.
Luckily for President Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Afghanistan is not a burning issue on which the November election will be decided.
But while Americans look the other way, U.S. strategy is in disarray. Consider the treatment of Britain, whose defense secretary was only informed at the eleventh hour of Sunday night’s decision to curb joint patrols with Afghan military and police forces after 51 insider killings of NATO soldiers this year. The whole thing smacks of improvisation.
Officials in the Obama administration were warned of a possible or imminent attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, given specific warning 48 hours in advance of the planned attacks on the anniversary of 9/11, according to the UK Independent newspaper, and were warned on Sept. 4 of possible attacks on U.S. interests in the region, according to the Jerusalem Post.
We now know that while President Obama was campaigning in Norfolk, Va., on Sept. 4, and was mugging for the cameras and getting lifted off the ground in a bear hug on the campaign trail in California on Sept. 9 — the dates both warnings came — he was also skipping at least six of his daily security briefings (now claiming to have read them, but declining in-person, face-to-face briefings), and did not even inform Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and other officials of the threat or put them on high alert in any way, shape or form.
Worth noting: fascinating parallels in comments on Wednesday from “Morning Joe” regular Mike Barnicle and the same day from Kadima party’s Shaul Mofaz.
BARNICLE: Who is the more dangerous player on the world stage right now, the supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] in Tehran or Bibi Netanyahu?
(UNCLEAR): Don’t answer that.
JOE KLEIN: It’s not Netanyahu. The supreme leader is a fascist. And he right now is causing great pain to his people in a way that Bibi Netanyahu never would.
DONNY DEUTSCH: I understand the point of your question, but that was a silly question.
The recent attack on the United States Embassy in Libya, which resulted in the death of our ambassador and three senior staff members, is a proximate act of war that has not engendered much of a response from the White House.
Let us not forget the attack on our Embassy in Egypt this week, which is a dark reminder of the weakness of our foreign policy. Is this not reminiscent of the Jimmy Carter years?