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Wicker: Terrorist Attack in Libya Reveals Obama’s Flawed Foreign Policy

Lack of Information from Administration Raises Serious Questions About U.S. Security

Monday, October 1, 2012

The violent deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, in Libya last month are a heartbreaking reminder of the hate harbored by terrorists who seek to wage war on our ideals.  The public deserves an honest explanation from President Obama about the attack and what intelligence existed beforehand.

A wave of anti-American protests in nearly 20 countries raises serious concerns about the future of U.S. foreign policy and whether terrorism is back on the rise.  Instead of reaffirming America’s bold resolve to defeat terrorism, the Obama Administration’s response has been fraught with missteps, unwarranted apologies, and outright deception.  This so-called “humble foreign policy” puts American interests at risk.

Missing Leadership

Following the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, President Obama repeatedly downplayed the unrest as a spontaneous reaction to a grossly provocative film.  A full five days after the attack, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice still described the deadly assault as unplanned, even though mortars and advanced tactics were clearly utilized.

More than a week passed before Administration officials acknowledged that the attack was an act of terror, likely tied to al-Qaeda.  In his address to the United Nations last week, President Obama again failed to describe the killing of four Americans as terrorism.  

Sidestepping deeper issues of extremism and instability in the Middle East reveals significant flaws in President Obama’s naive foreign policy.  It sends the wrong signal to our allies and diminishes our power to protect U.S. interests in the world.

Standing With Israel

The recent turmoil in the Middle East is not the only instance in which President Obama has mishandled American interests abroad.  The Administration’s hesitancy to toughen its stance against Iran’s nuclear program continues to test the longstanding relationship between the United States and Israel.  Last week, President Obama avoided meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently announced that the United States is not “setting deadlines” for Iran to halt its race toward a nuclear weapon.

Israel is a beacon of free-market democracy in the Middle East, and its security matters to America’s own national security interests.  Threats against Israel’s existence – including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hostile rhetoric that Israel is an “insult to all humanity” – reflect the ill intentions of enemies with dangerous agendas.  

The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran poses a grave threat to the United States and our allies, and America should not abandon its support of Israel’s right to defend itself.

Failed ‘Reset’ With Russia

Similarly troubling is the Administration’s misguided approach toward Russia – a relationship that President Obama has tried unsuccessfully to “reset.”  Earlier this year, the President was overheard on a live microphone in Seoul, South Korea, promising Russian President Dmitry Medvedev “more flexibility” after the election.  President Obama needs to explain what policy changes he doesn’t want American voters to know about until later.  

The reckless comment swiftly raised alarm about the President’s willingness to make one-sided concessions to an authoritarian government that has frequently caused American concern.  Like China, Russia has repeatedly blocked international action against the brutal dictatorship of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, where civil war has claimed more than 20,000 lives.

Ultimately, the Obama Administration has failed to assert America’s unique role as a global leader.  Attempting to blame away an act of terrorism distracts from serious questions about our national security.  This recent attack demonstrates the need for a decisive foreign policy that protects Americans at home and abroad.

October 2012 Weekly Columns