- The Washington Times - Monday, October 24, 2011

Conventional wisdom has it that the 2012 presidential election will be all about the dismal economy, unemployment and the soaring deficit. That appears a safe bet because such matters touch the electorate, are much in the news at the moment and have indisputably become worse on Barack Obama’s watch.

It seems increasingly likely, however, that the American people will have a whole lot more to worry about by next fall. Indeed, the way things are going, by November 2012, we may see the Middle East - and perhaps other parts of the planet - plunged into a cataclysmic war.

Consider just a few of the straws in the wind of a gathering storm:

c Moammar Gadhafi’s death last week prompted the Obama administration to trumpet the president’s competence as commander in chief and the superiority of his “small footprint,” “lead-from-behind” approach to waging war over the more traditional - and costly and messy - one pursued by George W. Bush. The bloom came off that false rose on Sunday when Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council, repeatedly declared his government’s fealty to Shariah, Islam’s brutally repressive, totalitarian political-military-legal doctrine.

Among other things, Mr. Abdul-Jalil said Shariah would be the “basic source” of all legislation. Translation: Forget about representative democracy. Under Shariah, Allah - not man - makes the laws.

In short, the result of Mr. Obama’s $2 billion expenditure to oust Gadhafi is a regime that will be led by jihadists, controls vast oil reserves and has inherited a very substantial arsenal (although some of it - including reportedly as many as 20,000 surface-to-air missiles - has “gone missing”). This scarcely can be considered a victory for the United States and probably will prove a grave liability.

c An Islamist party called Ennahda seems likely to have captured the lion’s share of the votes cast in the first free election in Tunisia. Although we are assured it is a “moderate” religious party, the same has long been said of Turkey’s governing AKP party. Unfortunately, we have lately seen the latter’s true colors as it has become ever more insistent at home on jettisoning the secular form of government handed down by Mustafa Kemal Attaturk and acted ever more aggressively abroad. A similar transformation can be expected, later if not sooner, of any Shariah-adherent political movement.

c In Egypt, meanwhile, the agenda of the Islamists’ mother ship - the Muslim Brotherhood - is being adopted even before elections formally bring it to power. The interim military government has abetted efforts to punish and even kill the Coptic Christian minority. It has facilitated the arming of the Brotherhood’s franchise in Gaza and allowed the Sinai to become the launching pad for al Qaeda and others’ attacks on Israel.

Egypt’s transitional regime also helped broker the odious exchange of more than 1,000 convicted terrorists held by Israel for a single soldier kidnapped and held hostage for five years by Hamas. Upon their release, the convicts with Jewish blood on their hands received heroes’ welcomes even as they affirmed their desire to destroy Israel and called for the seizure of still more Israelis to spring their comrades still behind bars. This does not augur well for either the Jewish state or for our interests.

c The increasingly mercurial Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has announced that - despite the long-running, immensely costly and ongoing U.S. effort to protect his kleptocratic government - in a war between Pakistan and the United States, Afghanistan would side with Pakistan. The magnitude of this insulting repudiation of America is all the greater since Pakistan is widely seen as doing everything it can to re-establish the Taliban in Kabul.

In Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has touted his success in thwarting Washington’s belated (and halfhearted) efforts to keep a significant number of U.S. forces in his country after the end of this year. His coalition partner and fellow Iranian cat’s paw, Muqtada al-Sadr, already is boasting that he also will drive out the American contractor personnel who are, for the moment, expected to provide a measure of security after the military withdraws. In that case, we may well see the mullahs’ agents take over a U.S. embassy for the second time since 1979 - this one the newest, largest and most expensive in the world.

Add to this litany an emboldened and ascendant China, a revanchist Russia once again under the absolute control of Vladimir Putin, a Mexico free-falling into civil war with narcotraffickers and their Hezbollah allies on our southern border and you get a world that is fraught with peril for the United States. Matters are made infinitely worse by the prospect of reckless budget cuts hollowing out the U.S. military.

The Republican candidates to succeed Mr. Obama are beginning to find their voices on the national security portfolio. They will be formally debating the president’s sorry record in coming weeks. The question the American people will want answered is not only “Who lost the world?” but what they will do to get it back.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy, a columnist for The Washington Times and host of the nationally syndicated program “Secure Freedom Radio,” heard in Washington weekdays at 9 p.m. on WRC-AM 1260.