In July 2011, I did something I never thought I would do as a member of Congress: I voted for a bill introduced by then-Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich, the liberal anti-war Ohio Democrat. Mr. Kucinich’s bill sought to cut off U.S. funding for President Obama’s campaign in Libya — a campaign that was cheered by several high-profile Republicans.
I supported this bill because I was not convinced the so-called Arab Spring would produce the optimistic results some of my colleagues were predicting. In fact, I feared the opposite would occur: U.S. support for the Arab Spring would create a power vacuum in some of the most tumultuous parts of the world, to be filled by the likes of al Qaeda, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood.
The president’s support for the Arab Spring was built on the faulty premise that the rebels in Egypt and Libya were fueled by Western democratic ideals. Only three months earlier, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton revealed the administration’s naivete when she appeared at a news conference in London and insisted that Libyan rebels were not members of Islamic terrorist organizations. She categorically denied the rebels’ relationship with al Qaeda despite affirmative reports by media outlets and statements from the rebels themselves. At around the same time, Mr. Obama authorized covert “support” for these rebels.
The administration’s delusion about the Arab Spring explains its reaction to the events that took place in Benghazi and the violent slaying of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
At the time of the Benghazi attack, there was little doubt amongst U.S. intelligence officials as to the perpetrators. Al Qaeda was a known presence in the Benghazi region. The perpetrators who immediately took credit for the attack were an al Qaeda affiliate. Even the Libyan government immediately recognized the attack as an act of terrorism.
In contrast, our president, the secretary of state and the State Department insisted that the event leading to Stevens’ death was a protest about a little-known video. When the CIA sent talking points citing an al Qaeda affiliate, Ansar al-Sharia, and referencing previous CIA warnings about terrorist threats in the region, the State Department quickly scrubbed these references. In fact, the State Department revised the talking points 12 times to eliminate all references to terrorism.
Why? To put it simply, to cover its behind.
To admit that Stevens was killed by al Qaeda would have necessitated a larger admission about the administration’s foreign-policy mistakes.
While Mr. Obama and some Republicans heralded the Arab Spring as a democratic revolt, it is becoming increasingly clear that this movement was a Trojan horse used by radical Islamic groups to overthrow regimes that stood in the way of their regional domination.
Bashar Assad is a Baathist. He has used radical Islam to control his people, but is not a true believer. The same was true of Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was an oppressive thug as well, but he was our thug and not a jihadist. He kept the peace with Israel and kept the Suez Canal open for a price. All three stood in the way of a much wider expansion and domination by radical Islam. They all stood in the way of the Muslim Brotherhood’s plan for political domination.
We are already witnessing the terrifying consequences of the administration’s naive foreign policy. Gadhafi’s arsenal has not been secured and is likely in the hands of radicals, including Hamas, which has been using Libyan rockets to rain terror on Israeli villages. Syria’s chemical weapons are likely to fall into the hands of the same crowd once Mr. Assad is overthrown. The Sinai Desert — an area once policed by Mr. Mubarak’s strong hand — is now being infiltrated by Islamic terrorist groups with access to Israel’s border. The policies of this administration have strengthened our enemies and made the United States and its allies less secure.
Unfortunately, this delusion infects both parties. Many Republicans were just as enthusiastic in supporting the Arab Spring and many continue to root for the rebels in Syria just as they did in Egypt and Libya. As a result, the debate over the Benghazi attack and its subsequent cover-up has devolved into a political game instead of a serious examination of the administration’s foreign policy in the Middle East.
We would all like to see peaceful democratic movements take hold in the Middle East, but this is not among the choices presented to us. In dangerous parts of the world, we often have to choose between bad leaders and worse leaders. This time, the administration chose wrong.
Jeff Landry, a former Republican U.S. representative from Louisiana, is president of Restore our Republic.