On September 12, 2012, Obama stepped out into the Rose Garden and told the millions of Americans watching at home, “We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. And make no mistake, justice will be done.”
More than half a year has passed since then and justice is nowhere in sight. The perpetrators of the attack openly walk the streets of Benghazi long after the FBI team sent there has gone home.
It may well be a coincidence that the first major successful terrorist attack comes as the administration plots a withdrawal from its second lost war. The Boston marathon massacre may have succeeded by a simple roll of the dice. Or it may have inaugurated a new series of terrorist attacks on the homefront.
For over a decade, Islamic terrorists who wanted to kill Americans headed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Obama’s grand security plan was to replace boots on the ground with drones carrying out pinprick strikes and then flying away again. It was a comfortable technocratic vision but it doesn’t account for what happens to all those fighters on the ground with no one left to fight and no reason to stick around except to act as drone targets.
Some have headed for Syria and others for North Africa. But the big question is how long will it be until they make another serious pass at the United States? Or have they made it already?
In Libya, Obama tried to avoid casualties by bombing from the air under the guise of a No Fly Zone. But once Gaddafi was dead and the zone was down, nothing protected the Americans in Benghazi. Obama had used the United Nations to sanction regime change, but without its sanction or the sanction of the Arab League, he refused to use air power to scare away the Salafist militias besieging the trapped Americans.
The new soft power strategy was big picture. It had nothing to offer the Americans fighting and dying while waiting for help to arrive.
Al Qaeda understood soft power as a weakness. Unlike the decrepit Clinton policy wonks, it was not impressed by the old strategy of refusing to engage while hiding behind the drones that were standing in for Bill Clinton’s favorite terrorist-fighting cruise missiles. It understood that limited engagement was not some bright and new philosophy, but an unwillingness to take casualties and inflict collateral damage.
“We will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people,” Obama announced in the Rose Garden and the terrorists laughed. They laughed because they had support from within the Libyan government. They laughed because the Libyan government had obstructed the arrival of rescue teams and denied the use of armed drones over Libyan airspace.
What sounded like a reasonable statement to an American audience was actually an admission that Obama would not act unilaterally to go after the killers. There would be no Abbottabad style raids. There was no reason to worry that they would wake up to find the Navy SEALS coming down on them.
Obama had been unwilling to flout the authority of the Libyan government to rescue the Americans in Benghazi. He was certainly not going to do it to find their killers.
The Jihadists had carefully assessed Obama’s weaknesses while searching for loopholes to exploit. In Afghanistan, the Taliban had outplayed him by refusing to negotiate. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood had outplayed him by claiming the mandate of the people. Iran had outplayed him by prolonging meaningless negotiations. Al Qaeda had outplayed him by using that same reliance on the meaningless formalities of international law.
Before the Boston bombing, Guantanamo Bay was in a virtual state of revolt with prisoners refusing to move to individual cells and covering up security cameras and windows to take control of sections of the prison. While some imprisoned terrorists staged hunger strikes, others wielded broomsticks and batons in clashes with guards.
In Guantanamo Bay, in Benghazi and Afghanistan and Mali and a hundred other places, the Jihadists were testing the nerve of their infidel opponents and probing for weaknesses. Weak opponents can be hemmed in by their own laws and hamstrung by their need to cling to the moral high ground. The greatest weapon of the terrorists is their ability to exploit our rules, leaving us unable to act.
As the surviving Boston bomber lies in his hospital bed, Republican senators and congressmen are calling on the administration to treat him as an enemy combatant. But the same administration that refused to violate Libyan airspace to rescue its own people is showing no signs that it is willing to push the envelope in Boston and transfer Dzhokhar Tsarnaev into military custody.
When Obama spoke in the Rose Garden on September 12, all he had to offer were worthless words spewed from a teleprompter. On April 15, he delivered much the same speech, with entire sentences seemingly lifted from the original. Once again there were vows of justice, tributes to the American spirit and all the other formalities of an administration covering up its failures with heaps of words.
The media cheers every one of Obama’s utterances, as do the Jihadists, but where the media sees strength, they see weakness.
The Taliban won in Afghanistan. The Muslim Brotherhood won in Egypt. Al Qaeda won in Benghazi. And they don’t intend to rest on their laurels. Whether or not the surviving Boston bomber was one of theirs, the old war that was put on hold when American troops went to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan is about to go hot again as Al Qaeda franchises gain the spare resources and breathing room to develop and deploy the next generation of terrorist plots.
The United States is the only country in the world that rewards the weakness of its opponents. The opponents we face today lack any such chivalrous notions. They have exploited the weakness of our leaders in Afghanistan, Egypt and Libya. And they intend to exploit that weakness on American soil.
After September 11, President George W. Bush made it clear that the United States would do whatever it took to protect the homeland. This administration has sent the opposite message over and over again. The Clinton Administration’s ineptitude in dealing with the World Trade Center bombing and the African embassy bombings invited September 11. The Obama Administration’s ineptitude in Benghazi may have invited the marathon massacre of April 15.
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