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Obama’s Foreign Policy Gamble on the Moderate Islamists

As you probably already know, the US Embassy in Cairo Egypt was stormed today by Islamists supposedly angry about a video on Youtube supposedly made or endorsed by anti-Muslim Quran-burner and bigot Rev. Terry Jones. The embassy, deliberately left without sufficient protection by the Egyptian government of Islamist President  Mohamed Morsi, was overrun, Islamists tore down the US flag and hoisted the black flag of al Qaida while a senior Muslim Brotherhood official has called on the US to “apologize”. All on the anniversary of 9/11.

The US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked by an Islamist militia with RPGs and small arms, sacked and burned, killing at least one American.

The Obama administration has gambled heavily upon a Mideast policy of engagement verging into appeasement and sponsorship of Sunni Islamist groups’ political and even revolutionary aspirations in the hopes of  co-opting “moderate” or “pragmatic” Islamists into a durable partnership with the United States. The new regime of American-educated Mohammed Morsi, represents the cornerstone of this policy, alongside the Libyan Revolution that toppled Gaddafi. This initiative has been delicately balanced, Nixon-style, with a very tough campaign of unapologetic targeted drone strikes on hard-core al Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

If you have a sense of deja vu, you are harkening back to 1979, when another Democratic administration and an arrogantly uninformed group of senior State Department officials severely misread another, that time Shia, Islamist revolution. We lost several embassies then as well and endured a national humiliation of the Iranian hostage crisis.

But give the Carter administration, it’s due: when the embassy in Teheran was seized or the one in Islamabad burned by military-sponsored Islamist mobs, no State Department official at the time responded with quite this level of truckling moral cowardice and incompetence:

@Mbaha2

@USEmbassyCairo you say all humans are equal but the truth is you hate Muslims and describe us as terrorists when u are the real terrorists

@USEmbassyCairo

@mbaha2 No, that’s not true. We consistently stand up for Muslims around the world and talk abt how Islam is a wonderful religion

Perhaps the time for anxiously politically correct FSOs describing Islam as “a wonderful religion” to an online Salafist hater could wait a few days, at least until Egypt restored the American embassy to it’s sovereign status with an apology and the body of the slain American diplomat is returned to their family from Libya for a decent burial?

The administration’s policy teeters on a knife’s edge. Their so far craven and confused response today to two of our diplomatic missions being attacked by the forces they themselves have engaged could potentially cause a snowball effect across the region. Their would-be “allies” are  currently calculating the costs of biting the hand that fed them vice the dangers of their own swarming fanatics in the streets. The administration’s officials as of today seem to have little awareness of the effects of their bizarrely conciliatory words and a stubborn determination to double-down rather than correct their course  have begun to reevaluate at least their rhetoric. The policy is another question.
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Perhaps for our next hostage crisis, we will see an American ambassador beheaded live on al Jazeera……
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UPDATE:
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Events in Libya were worse than news reports yesterday indicated. Ambassador Stevens and three other diplomatic personnel were killed and the security situation in Libya remains dicey.
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When this terrible incident is examined by Congressional committees, one focus will be on the security provided to the embassy and Ambassador Stevens by the State Department and the government of Libya, whose security minister reported that the government safe house sheltering American diplomatic personnel had been discovered by the attackers. “Where were the Marine guards?” is a question already being asked privately by national security and defense professionals which will soon be put forward in public.
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UPDATE II:
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Now policy may be changing sharply in the direction of realism. Good
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13 Responses to “Obama’s Foreign Policy Gamble on the Moderate Islamists”

  1. Pundita Says:

    Mark, Obama is toast. State yanked the Kumbaya statement from their website but people got a screen shot of it before it was taken down.  Wait’ll you read it.  The WH has disavowed it but that’s made it worse. People are asking who’s in charge.  And there’s actually three rumors and counting about who made the video.  There’s the Terry Jones version. Then there’s the version that the Coptic Christians in Egypt made it. Then at 10:10 PM Politico ran with a story that it was put up by an Israeli-American real estate developer.  It’s absolute chaos. They need to yank Ryan Crocker off his sickbed or wherever and force him to go to Cairo. There’s got to be an adult in charge.   

    Beautiful essay by the way.  Great points. But you know nobody’s gonna listen.  It’s like a Marx Brothers film speeded up and run backward.       

  2. Pundita Says:

    From WSJ this explanation seems to resolve the contradictory versions of the film that reportedly touched off the rioting:
    .
     The movie, “Innocence of Muslims,” was directed and produced by an Israeli-American real-estate developer who characterized it as a political effort to call attention to the hypocrisies of Islam. It has been promoted by Terry Jones, the Florida pastor whose burning of Qurans previously sparked deadly riots around the world.
     

  3. Ken B. Says:

    The American ambassador to Libya gets killed by a mob and this is your response? Do you have even the vaguest idea of what your talking about?  Pull you head out of you ass and try again.
     

  4. zen Says:

    Ken. B
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    kindly remove your own head sir; this post was written prior to reports of the murder of the ambassador in Libya in an ambush and that, sadly, only served to prove the point. If you wish to be angry at someone, put the blame where it squarely lies – the islamists who carried out the attacks and the ineptitude of those in the administration steering Mideast policy and giving the POTUS bad advice.
    .
    Pundita,
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    You are right. no one will listen and it is extremely depressing 

  5. J.ScottShipman Says:

    My sense from the reporting is the movie had less to do with this than the day. There are reports the attacks were coordinated (at least in Libya). These movies are nothing but fodder “to make the points” of religious/political leaders in the region. 

  6. Mr. X Says:

    It is very hard to accept that ‘no one is in charge’ and that people in the Administration can be this naive. If there is no conspiracy whatsoever, than I’ll put on a tin foil hat anyway. I mean seriously people where the heck does Egypt get a billion dollars to buy a German submarine from? Or are the Daily Caller bots just pushing a story they know to be BS (they do have a history of trolling people outside Bildeberg, for example, instead of y’know reporting on it).

    http://dailycaller.com/2012/09/10/obama-aids-egypt-as-it-tries-to-buy-u-boats/

  7. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    Mark, perhaps you could propose a different ME strategy?  I’m curious.
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    (Besides including more security for consulates and embassies, which seems like a no-brainer, although I’m wondering how many we would need considering the multitudes that could possibly scale the walls.   Haven’t read all the reports, but it seems as if some Egyptian security forces were pulled away from the Embassy there just before the attack.   This, and the general lack of a decent response from the Egyptian government —unlike that in Libya, which condemned the attacks there—has me doubting the viability of any strategy directed toward Egypt.  Withdrawing our economic aid might be a start.)
    .
    You do know that your heavy-handed link on “to reevaluate at least their rhetoric” is to information which has since been corrected.  The embassy’s statement appeared about 6 hours before the embassy was attacked and was an attempt to forestall/prevent an attack.  Now, if you want you could say the embassy should have done the opposite—say, give a public presentation of the full film on the outside of its walls (a la “drive-in movie” style)….?  No.  Didn’t think so.
     

  8. zen Says:

    Sure, I could propose a better strategy. It would be a good abstract exercise. The problem though is we have one in mid-stream and isn’t working, as evidenced by the behavior of the Egyptian government. The administration began engaging the MB long before Mubarak was toppled and the MB government was complicit in the attack on the embassy, having previously done the same to the Israeli one without pushback
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     Security was deficient at the embassies, but ultimately, they are supposed to be protected by the host nation and not be a fortress in enemy territory. The embassy rhetoric that the Obama administration disavowed specifically has been a PC theme of theirs for some time, and continued on twitter and was completely inappropriate as well as counterproductive to the unfolding situation in Cairo and Benghazi. The White House shut them up for a good reason and took over the messaging

  9. Dave Schuler Says:

    I thought that most embassy security these days was provided by private contractors.  Ah.  See here
     
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marine_Security_Guard
     
    1,000 marines, 150 locations.  That’s an average of 7 Marines per location whose primary responsibility is to protect the secret information in the embassy more than the personnel.
     
     

  10. Dave Schuler Says:

    BTW, I think it’s worth mentioning that under the provisions of the Vienna Convention the host country is primarily responsible for external security.   IMO there’s a serious question as to whether the governments of Libya or Egypt are willing or able to provide adequate security for our embassies.

  11. J.ScottShipman Says:

    Hi Dave,
    .
    “Willing or able”—the Egyptians are attempting a $1B sub buy from the Germans (with American underwriting), so my guess is, able-yes, willing-no.
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    And I hate to say it, but our intelligence capacity in “liberated” Libya probably did not help our decision to establish the Consulate. I believe most Libyans are glad to be free of the Colonel, but his loyalists and outside enablers will probably be with us for some time. We should probably pace ourselves—with more Marines going forward.  

  12. zen Says:

    Hi Dave
    .
    The “local contractor” security is an inadequate “workaround” where State’s primary criterion is cost savings, a practice having been condemned numerous times by various IGs, task forces etc. It would be more effective to hire Gurkhas and tell them to shoot those who swarm over the wall. The fault is partly State’s senior leaders who make this a backburner issue (they aren’t in danger) and partly that of the Congress which refuses to appropriate money for better security.
    .
    The host nation is supposed to handle angry, armed mobs. unless our embassies are to come equipped with Marine infantry companies, they are designed to handle occasional intruders or unruly visitors, not militia attacks 

  13. Pflegestufe 0 Says:

    Pflegestufe 0…

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