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ALLARD: Connecting the dots of a Mideast debacle
Question of the Day
Ever since Barack Obama emerged on the national scene, he has largely been insulated from public criticism by black racism, white guilt and media cheerleading. Whether through fear or laziness, most of us are reluctant to confront our prejudices, especially if the connections among some troublesome dots can be ignored. Like suspicions that our teenager is dabbling in drugs or our spouse is having an affair, we connect the evidence only when there is no other alternative because such conclusions can be life-changing.
Lately, however, there is unmistakable evidence that the president's "phony scandals," which provided jarring domestic headlines throughout 2013, have been matched by subtle but ominous overseas developments. After a decade of foreign wars, Americans are more isolationist now than at any time since the 1930s. We prefer to forget that repeated mistakes in matters of war and peace can have fatal and far-reaching consequences.
So which dots should concern us most?
Benghazi: Like a ghost, the Benghazi specter obstinately refuses to fade away. Despite furious White House stonewalling, questions just keep growing larger, especially the egregious failures in common-sense contingency planning. Late last month, "60 Minutes" crossed the media picket line by suggesting that a rejuvenated al Qaeda posed an exponential threat to Americans in both Tripoli and Benghazi. Rowan Scarborough of The Washington Times uncovered the extraordinary story of two Delta Force soldiers defying orders, joining the fight in Benghazi — and subsequently being commended for gallantry.
So where were other special operations forces that night, along with their air and naval support? Why haven't the silenced survivors of Benghazi been allowed to testify before Congress? Why was the CIA compound in Benghazi so lightly defended — and its personnel left twisting slowly in the wind? While the actions of Hillary Rodham Clinton and David H. Petraeus cry out for further scrutiny, President Obama's own accountability as commander in chief is now at issue: What did he know, when did he know it and what did he do about it?
Syria: Under Mr. Obama, American policy on Syria became a never-ending festival of incompetence. After endlessly fretting about what to do, the White House engaged in a morality play of its own devising, pretending that allies, adversaries or warring factions took its statements seriously. Hence, all that tedious nonsense about chemical weapons, red lines and airstrikes. Even our long-suffering British allies declined to join the American misadventure.
While Mr. Obama fixated on such abstractions, the Iranians understood the conflict as Stalingrad — and were determined to win. Last week, Iranian elite forces were seen joining the climactic fighting. For anyone inclined to draw conclusions, those forces were the unmistakable signal that chemical weapons might come or go, but Syria has now become an Iranian protectorate, poised like a cobra on Israel's northeastern border.
Egypt: Readers of The Washington Times may remember my two recent columns about the extraordinary fact-finding trip to Egypt sponsored by the Westminster Institute of McLean. Our access was unprecedented, including hours of in-depth interviews with the current head of government, Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and his principal staff.
We found that the Egyptian people drove Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from office because they were outraged by Mr. Morsi's ominous extension of Islamic religious tyranny. However, they were equally mystified (and enraged) by the policies of the Obama White House, particularly his ambassador to Egypt. "We fought the Muslim Brotherhood in our streets," one university student exclaimed. "But what about the Muslim Brother in your White House?"
Shortly after we returned — as if answering that question — Mr. Obama cut off all further American military aid to Egypt. It should have come as no surprise when Russia's military intelligence chief turned up last week in Cairo for three days of discussions — probably with the same Egyptian officials who met with us. Egypt, you see, is the strategic linchpin in one of the world's toughest neighborhoods. You can't blame the Russians for exploiting another boneheaded play by this White House. Typical behavior, really, for both parties.
Mr. Obama will not be attending the 150th commemoration of the Gettysburg Address later this month. It's probably because not many Democratic donors will be present. Nor were there, apparently, in Benghazi.
Col. Ken Allard, retired from the Army, is a military analyst and author on national security issues.
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