Foreign Policy area of interest
Stretching Oscar Wilde’s adage, “I never put off til tomorrow what I can do the day after,” some in the mainstream media have finally started to Think Again about the Benghazi attack launched last year on the anniversary of 9/11 – thanks to new revelations by high-ranking State Department whistleblowers including experts in security, counter-terrorism, and the number two-ranking diplomat in Libya under slain Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Contrary to the “spin” that the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam YouTube video, the truth is that American officials knew “from the get-go” it was a premeditated terrorist attack by al Qaeda-linked terrorists. In fact, failures to heed Ambassador Stevens’ calls for increased security due to heightened terrorist threats, and decisions to have Special Forces “stand-down” rather than respond to the attack, proved lethal for four brutally murdered Americans.
While most of the media prefers covering the Jodi Arias murder trial and the coming out of gay basketball player Jason Collins, CBS News elder statesman Bob Schieffer and colleague Sharyl Attkisson aren’t buying Whitehouse Press Secretary Jay Carney’s line that “Benghazi happened a long time ago.” Last Sunday on Face the Nation, Schieffer probed “whether there was a cover-up” based on “startling new details about the Benghazi attack... totally at variance with what some American officials were saying in public on this broadcast five days after the attack.”
Schieffer cited an investigative report by the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes describing the wholesale rewriting of the CIA’s post-attack talking points, edited to eliminate references to terrorism, Al Qaeda and five previous attacks in Libya. These talking points never mentioned an anti-Islamic YouTube video, providing fresh evidence that “senior Obama officials knowingly misled the country about what had happened in the days following the assaults.”
As if in the Soviet Union where dissidents joked, “the future is known; it’s the past that’s always changing,” the fraudulent narrative about a YouTube video was peddled by Secretary of State Clinton before the victims’ caskets and their grieving families, UN Ambassador Susan Rice on five Sunday news shows, President Obama in his September address to the UN, and consistently by Press Secretary Carney.
Weeks later, those who disputed this false narrative because it jeopardized US national security – including Mitt Romney -- were accused by “media mavens” like Meet the Press’ David Gregory of “launch(ing) a political attack even before facts of embassy violence were known.” But wasn’t the administration guilty of politicizing Benghazi by deliberately misleading the world about a deadly terrorist attack they failed to anticipate?
Consider Watergate, another cover-up that preceded a presidential election, though there were no deaths or lost consulates. Imagine Woodward and Bernstein averting their eyes had Richard Nixon deflected responsibility for Watergate by accusing his opponents of “politicizing” the matter or asking, as Hillary Clinton asked about Benghazi, “What difference, at this point, does it make?”
Good journalists know what difference it makes, as did Abraham Lincoln who said, “If given the truth, [Americans] can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” Yet the media – CBS News notwithstanding – seem to have abandoned their constitutionally protected role to safeguard Americans from the government, inclining instead to protect the government from Americans.
Why else do they show scant interest that no senior administration officials have been held accountable for the four deaths, nor have the terrorists who launched the attack -- although the YouTube filmmaker is in jail. Considering the terrorist-infested region, why didn’t leaders equipped with the world’s strongest military have contingency plans available to rescue the two Navy Seals who lasted seven-hours before succumbing. Sixty-plus years post-conflict, we have military capacity in Germany, Japan and South Korea; why not North Africa?
As Vladimir Lenin understood, government accountability derives from an active media and an informed citizenry. That’s why the Soviet people were subjects, not citizens. As Lenin explained, "Ideas are much more fatal things than guns. Why should any man be allowed to buy a printing press and disseminate pernicious opinion calculated to embarrass the government?”
But America’s Founders guaranteed a free press so we’d be informed citizens -- not helpless subjects. As Thomas Jefferson said, “When the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.” All wasn’t safe for Americans abandoned in Benghazi, which reminds us that as a self-governing people, it’s our duty to be informed enough to safeguard one another’s life and liberty.
This is the answer to Hillary’s question -- “what difference does it make?” When armed with the truth, “We the People” can humble governments, secure justice, frustrate deceit, help the disenfranchised, and know the world that is, not the utopia politicians try to sell us.
Think Again -- Shouldn't all presidential aspirants be able to answer Hillary's question?
American revolutionary Patrick Henry famously declared, “Give me liberty or give me death!” This month, furious mobs throughout the Islamic world decree death, a sentence they imposed on four Americans in Libya, including US Ambassador Christopher Stevens – the first U.S. ambassador murdered in the line of duty since 1979. Before buying the spin that the deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was a spontaneous response to an anti-Islam video, Think Again.
According to Libyan President Mohamed Magarief, the video had “nothing to do with” the premeditated terrorist attack. Conducted on the anniversary of 9/11 in order to “carry a certain message,” the Benghazi attack and violent anti-American rioting elsewhere, reflect the ascendency of radical Islam in the wake of the Arab Spring. By attributing unrest to false pretexts -- not violent jihadists seeking to impose their totalitarian ideology – we incentivize further cycles of violence and legitimize the Islamists’ tactics.
As former Pakistani Ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani explains, “protests orchestrated on the pretext of slights and offenses against Islam have been part of Islamist strategy for decades.” Rather than condemn real victimization and powerlessness – like the Assad regime’s slaughter of 20,000 Syrians; Saudi persecution of women, homosexuals and religious minorities; or the Taliban who spray school-going Afghani girls with acid – Islamists stoke anti-Americanism and spread anti-Jewish and Christian hate speech to consolidate power and distract “from societal, political and economic failures.”
But if these failures are the root cause of Islamic rage, shouldn’t we encourage the Islamic world to adopt the civil and economic liberties that are prerequisites for a humane society? If mutual respect is the goal, shouldn’t American leaders denounce Islamic intolerance and stop bragging about Osama bin Laden’s assassination?
Despite recent foreign policies designed to promote American popularity and mutual respect – engagement, “resets,” and “leading from behind” – America is still the “Great Satan” to Israel’s “Little Satan,” and contradictions and questions abound. Yes, bin Laden is dead, but so is Ambassador Stevens, whose diary reveals worries about diplomatic security and assassination. As the 9/11 anniversary approached, why weren’t extraordinary precautions taken?
Throughout the “Arab Spring,” America supported rebels in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen – sites of the worst anti-American rioting this month – but didn’t secure power-sharing commitments to prevent Islamist domination. Having supported regime change in these countries, why didn’t America support revolutionaries in Iran or its client Syria, both of which pose graver security threats to U.S. and global interests, never mind Middle East stability?
As Iran’s nuclear weapons program nears completion, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promised on Monday that Israel would be “eliminated.” Rather than characterize these existential threats to Israel as mere “noise,” shouldn’t we “affirm America's dedication to blocking Iran's nuclear ambitions through military force if necessary,” as Alan Dershowitz encourages?
Though opposed by our commanders in Afghanistan, America’s military surge was precipitously undermined by a fixed timetable for withdrawal, giving the Taliban and terrorists organizations a date-certain by which they could resume operations. But why commit American forces to a conflict using tactics our military believes will undermine our mission?
Compounding the uncertainty and heightening suspicions were assurances (caught on an open-mic last spring) given to former Russian President Medvedev by President Obama that he’d have “more flexibility” after the election. Being no longer subject to electoral accountability grants flexibility to do what, beyond the already canceled missile-defense system our Polish and Czech allies had agreed to host?
Rarely has America exhibited such uncertainty and equivocation nor diverged so dramatically from the bi-partisan foreign policy consensus forged over the last century. President Reagan called it “peace through strength” and President Kennedy encapsulated it eloquently in his inaugural address: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
America’s capacity to project this authority and secure our interests around the world is predicated on strength at home. Yet unable to live within our means and more indebted than any other nation in the history of the world, we’ve mortgaged our children’s futures and jeopardized control over our destiny. At this critical moment, we must reclaim the America that inspires others to follow our lead.
As a refugee from Nazi Germany, Albert Einstein said, “The world is a dangerous place to live in; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Americans have always been a people willing to do “something about” evil. If we’re to continue, we must stand our ground in defense of our values.
Think Again – without America as a bulwark of liberty, how will the Islamic world ever come to embrace freedom and modernity?
One needn’t be a Holocaust survivor to know that when threatened with annihilation, believe it.
Yet as the world confronts the violent and stunningly ruthless Iranian theocracy in its quest to entrench itself and secure control over its oil-rich region, there are still leaders who appear willing to allow the world’s most dangerous regime to possess the world’s most devastating weapons capability. Preoccupied with the costs of stopping Iran, leaders who haven’t learned the historical consequences of inaction must Think Again, for the only thing worse than military action is a nuclear-capable Iran.
Unfortunately, as writer Aldous Huxley concluded, "That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history." When the world last faced a villainous regime intent on genocide and global hegemony, it too was war weary. Hopeful that Germany would abide by international law and treaties, Western powers didn’t assert their overwhelming military advantage to prevent a rearmed Germany from igniting World War II, causing Winston Churchill to lament, "There never was in all history a war easier to prevent by timely action than the one which has just desolated such great areas of the globe."
Today, Iran poses even graver challenges. Since its 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Iranian theocracy has been an implacable foe of freedom, peace, human rights, and international law. Its stated enemies are America (“Great Satan”), Israel (“Little Satan”) and domestic opponents, and its operating methods include brutal domestic suppression, terrorist proxies (Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon), global terrorist networks and dictatorial allies like Syria and Venezuela.
Iran is responsible for hundreds of suicide bombers, thousands of roadside bombings, and tens of thousands of missiles fired at civilians. To support Assad’s violent suppression of Syria’s protest movement, Iran is exporting the barbarous tactics used to quash its own 2009 Green Movement -- sexual abuse, torture and public executions.
The question before us is, would this Iranian regime be weaker or stronger, containable or more aggressive if it possessed nuclear capability? Furthermore, how much more emboldened would Iran’s allies and terrorist proxies be under Iran’s nuclear umbrella? Given their barbarity, political theology and hegemonic goals, isn’t it rational to assume Iran would deploy a nuclear-equipped suicide bomb to devastate Miami, Mumbai or Malmo, never mind Tel Aviv?
Consider what successive Iranian leaders say. They deny the last Holocaust while boasting of plans to cause the next one by “wiping Israel off the map” -- accomplishable, they assert, with only one nuclear bomb. Upon facing more severe sanctions in January, the self-described revolutionary state threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most strategic oil transit thoroughfare, knowing oil prices would spike.
After the Holocaust, and after 9/11, are these genocidal and belligerent threats just impassioned speachmaking, or genuine intentions?
Despite a decade of diplomacy, binding UN Security Council resolutions, nuclear non-proliferation treaty obligations and crippling international sanctions, the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded that the logical application of Iran’s ongoing nuclear program is a weapon, and that production of enriched uranium is accelerating at its underground and fortified nuclear plant in Qom.
The concern is that despite growing international pressure on Iran to peacefully abandon its nuclear program, the regime may have concluded from the overthrow of Gaddafi, Hussein and the attempted overthrow of Assad – all denied nuclear programs – that nuclear capability is essential to its survival. If Iran succeeds, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt have threatened to go nuclear, making the volatile region a nuclear cauldron.
With options dwindling to curtail Iran and time running out, there are no good remedies. Nevertheless, we have overwhelming bipartisan agreement in both the House and the Senate that it is a vital US interest to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear-capable -- a threshold far closer than possession of such weapon and one Iran has nearly crossed.
Unfortunately, differing timetables are a source of tension between America and Israel. Because the US Air Force is comparatively better equipped -- with an advanced fleet of aircraft and bunker busting bombs – its capability and moment of decision are beyond Israel’s. However, given election year politics and the likelihood a military strike would cause further escalation in oil prices, it’s hard for Israel to trust that America will act in time.
While the prospect of $10-per-gallon gasoline may be a price too high for American politicians to stomach, it’s a tradeoff Israel will accept to prevent a second Holocaust. “As Prime Minister of Israel”, Benjamin Netanyahu said last week, “I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation.”
So when Israel strikes Iran’s nuclear facilities, as it struck Iraq’s in 1981 and Syria’s in 2007, Think Again before complaining about temporarily higher gas prices. Not only will Israel have saved America and the world from the specter of a nuclear-capable Iran, it will give the Iranian people their best chance since 2009 of overthrowing their tyrannical oppressors.
Politicians are like New Year's revelers whose resolutions to get fit are as habitual as their unhealthy lifestyles. The most undisciplined merrymaker continually ups the weight-loss ante —10 pounds last year, 20 pounds this year — just as undisciplined politicians alleging fiscal prudence have upped their borrowing limit 4,967 percent since 1962, 67 percent since 2009.
If you thought politicians were pummeled into fiscal restraint after last summer's debt-ceiling debacle, which led to America's credit downgrade by S&P, Think Again. In fact, 2011 ended with debt reaching the new limit of $15.22 trillion compelling Treasury to request another $1.2 trillion debt ceiling increase. This time the increase will happen easily because new rules require both House and Senate disapproval to block it — not likely.
Like a long-running soap opera whose actors change though the story line doesn't, we spend $4 billion more than we have every day — and growing. Since 2008, spending skyrocketed past our historical average of 20 percent of gross domestic product to 25 percent.
The problem isn't merely the amount of debt — though as Sen. Obama asserted before voting against the 2006 debt-ceiling increase, “Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren” — it's the size of the debt relative to our economy that reflects poor economic health. With our debt-to-GDP ratio at 100.3 percent versus 69.8 percent in 2008, we're living on “borrowed” time unless politicians stop deluding themselves that a stagnant private sector can finance a growing public sector.
The eurozone crisis offers America a timely warning that the battle of the spending and debt bulge is an existential one. Europe's saga is our “Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” except America can avert doom by slashing spending levels and lifting private-sector burdens. If Sweden, Ireland and a new reform-minded Spanish government can do both — the reverse of what we've done during the Great Recession — America should, too.
Americans agree, as 71 percent told a Rasmussen poll last week that Washington should cut spending. Absent the political will to reform entitlements and lower spending to pre-2008 levels, “the country is going through one of its longest sustained periods of unhappiness and pessimism ever,” observed Democratic pollster Mark Penn.
Distracted as we are by domestic matters including the media-hyped Republican primary horse race, Americans aren't focused on the international implications of a downgraded superpower. An America in economic distress undermines our capacity to perform the valuable role we've played since World War II — to promote global economic growth and political stability, especially among the poorest nations.
America is the most important trading partner to the world, inducing countries to adopt economic freedoms that enabled our prosperity, including limited government, property rights, free trade and a stable currency. Economically free countries enjoy greater growth, opportunity, civil rights and life expectancy, as evident on the Korean Peninsula, where South Koreans have dramatically better lives than their northern cousins, and in China, where 450 million people were lifted out of poverty after economic liberalization.
America used to rank second in the Wall Street Journal/Heritage Index of Economic Freedom (behind Hong Kong) but fell to ninth this year (below Canada, Ireland and Denmark), reflecting deteriorating business freedom, increased government spending and a weaker currency. Reversing this trend is essential to growth and job creation, otherwise we risk becoming collectively poorer as the world becomes progressively dangerous.
Dictatorial regimes, strategic adversaries and state terrorism sponsors tread more carefully when America is strong; conversely appearing weak and distracted emboldens enemies, frightens allies and undermines U.S. interests. Being a downgraded superpower renders us vulnerable and less prepared for emerging global threats including: a nuclear-hungry Iran intent on Israel's destruction and the transformation of an extraordinarily volatile Middle East; a jihadist-infested nuclear Pakistan; an increasingly militarized China to whom we owe $1.1 trillion; and a nuclear North Korea whose new, 26-year-old dictator poses many challenges.
Stuffed with pork, America suffers from the economic equivalent of arteriolosclerosis, the kind that presages fiscal heart attacks. The symptoms include the loss of our AAA credit rating, fragile business confidence, economic stagnation, persistently high unemployment rates and chaotic financial markets.
Nevertheless, a coronary isn't inevitable. Bequeathing our children a weaker, divided and vulnerable America is a choice, not our destiny. America's economy is the world's largest, producing one-quarter of global GDP, thanks to a 100-year average growth rate of 3 percent. Therefore, our singular objective should be to reclaim the growth that creates jobs and opportunity, not redistribute an ever-shrinking wealth pie nor designate economic winners and losers. First, however, we must accept that even the most prosperous nation in world history can't afford the government we've acquired.
As this election year debuts, voters must implore elected officials to Think Again — return America to “fiscal fitness” or risk being “bypassed” next November.
When Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke before Congress in May, some were dismayed by his bipartisan standing ovations — more than any U.S. president since Kennedy. To Europeans who rank Israel with Iran and North Korea as the biggest threats to international peace, Netanyahu's rock-star reception was distressing. That's because many in the international community resemble the Mad Hatter for whom “nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't.”
If it seems curious that Americans are at odds with Europeans on Israel, Think Again. Americans don't see “through the looking glass.” We know that Israel's enemies are our enemies. We see Israel as our only stable and credible ally in the world's most critical and volatile region. So strategically valuable, “Israel equals five CIAs,” according to U.S. intelligence officials.
Congressional support mirrors grassroots support, which is overwhelming and growing. In a May CNN poll, 82 percent of Americans considered Israel a strong ally, up from 72 percent in 2001, and favored Israel (67 percent) over the Palestinian Authority (16 percent).
Those who attribute robust support of Israel to the “Jewish lobby” deny Americans' belief that, despite its ancient history and tininess (.17 percent of the land mass and 2 percent of the population of the Middle East), Israel is like us. Zionism and the Old Testament are rooted in America's founding, and inspired Jefferson and Franklin to propose a national seal featuring the Jewish exodus from Egypt because it reflected the triumph of liberty and religious freedom in the American Promised Land.
Unlike other Middle Eastern countries where women and minorities are often persecuted, Israel is a liberal, free, immigrant-friendly, multiethnic democracy, whose bedrock values resemble our own and where all citizens (regardless of sex, religion or race) possess universal rights. Not the Palestinian territories where homosexuals fear for their lives; not Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen or Egypt where female honor killings are endemic; not Iran whose execution rate is the highest, after China.
Americans identify with Israel's pluck, and admire its transformation from a poor, rural country into an economic powerhouse whose GDP growth has outpaced the developed world's average since 1995. Even without oil, Israel's GDP per capita ($30,000) exceeds that of oil-rich Saudi Arabia ($20,000). Hence, “Many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have a dream: to work or live in Israel,” reported Palestinian journalist Khaled Toameh.
American companies and consumers appreciate the incredible Israeli inventions — microprocessors, voice mail, wireless LAN, search engines, desalination plants, insect control, agricultural technologies, medical treatments — that spring from the human capital, vitality and entrepreneurialism that enabled Israel to exceed its wildest dreams.
However, Israel has one unrealized dream — to be recognized as a legitimate nation-state at peace with its neighbors, including a Palestinian state. That this dream has become an ongoing nightmare for Israel undermines the credibility of the international community. Alan Dershowitz argues, “Those who single out Israel for unique criticism not directed against countries with far worse human rights records are themselves guilty of international bigotry.”
Consider that most countries founded since Israel are failures delivering poverty, chaos, dictatorship and even genocide to their people. Yet nobody asks whether Burma or Zimbabwe have a right to exist or whether Serbia or Rwanda should be wiped off the map.
Americans are acutely aware of this hypocrisy. We know that Israel's main problem is the absence of peace-seeking partners, not its settlement policy. If territorial divisions were the problem, the conflict could be resolved by ceding territory and moving people, as Israel did with Gaza and the Sinai.
A recent poll of Palestinians clarifies their strategy to circumvent negotiations with Israel by unilaterally declaring statehood. Two-thirds reject Israel as the Jewish homeland. Even larger majorities: favor a two-state solution only as a stepping-stone toward Israel's eradication, deny Jewish history in Jerusalem, and support the Hamas charter's call for killing Jews behind every “rock and tree.” A majority support teaching schoolchildren to hate Jews.
With so many generations raised on victimhood and hate its understandable that many Palestinian children prefer jihad to jobs. Morally bankrupt, corrupt and despotic leaders exploited their people and stole their resources.
Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir said, “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.” As changes sweep the Middle East, Americans await leaders whose aim is a better society and who espouse respect and decency. The international community must condemn those who don't.
During his Congressional address, a heckler interrupted Netanyahu, rattling the lawmakers. Undeterred, Netanyahu implored them to Think Again. “I take it as a badge of honor, and so should you, that in our free societies you can have protests. You can't have these protests in the farcical parliaments in Tehran or in Tripoli. This is real democracy.”
Americans agree. Israel isn't what's wrong in the Middle East but what's right.