The bloody events in Libya on Monday night are another reminder, as if one is ever needed, of how volatile that part of the world remains. It’s also a stark reminder of how quickly the political fortunes of Western leaders can change in that neck of the woods when things go wrong.
President Obama now faces what may be the most serious test of his presidency yet. The violence and protests that ignited in Libya and Cairo over an anti-Islamic film have spread to Yemen, and could engulf the Middle East if cooler heads don’t prevail.
For starters, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was so eager to seize the moment of crisis for political leverage that he scored another huge foreign policy blunder. His grandiose attack on Obama using the same tired line, that Obama is an apologist, has backfired.
Romney accused the Obama administration of apologizing to protestors after they breached the embassy in Benghazi. But as many national and international reports have shown, the sequence of events undercuts Romney’s claim. The National Journal’s account of the timeline makes that point clear.
But Romney and his craven supporters have never let the facts deter them from criticizing the president. This case, however, has even given many Republicans reason to be concerned. Romney not only showed a stunning lack of sensitivity, he’s also proven that he has an amazing lack of foreign policy instincts. More and more, Romney sounds like a relic from the Cold War, and his critiques of Obama don’t resonate with reality.
Meanwhile, describing the situation as explosive is no exaggeration when you look at it in the broader context. And exploiting it for political gain is dangerous. The US has already been involved in a decade of unfunded wars in the region, thanks to President George W. Bush.
Republicans in Congress are now backpedaling on their votes to cut military spending to reduce the deficit: a vote that even Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan seems to have forgotten in an expedient case of amnesia.
And let’s not forget that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is busy wooing Romney while pushing Obama into a strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
It’s one thing listening to the bizarre ramblings of actor and director Clint Eastwood and his chair, but if Americans don’t disregard the desperate political puffery coming out of the Romney camp, we’ll be waking up to gasoline at $8 a gallon.
And we’ll spend another decade building roads, schools, and hospitals over there, while ignoring them here.