President Ethelred
Islamists are taking full advantage of our failure to grasp their intent.

President Obama during a campaign event in Milwaukee, September 22, 2012


Victor Davis Hanson

In short, there is no good or bad administration policy — but rather no policy at all other than braggadocio about the killing of Osama bin Laden and Moammar Qaddafi and Predator score cards.

The murder of Ambassador Stevens may well have been the most horrific killing in our nation’s diplomatic history. The administration’s original narrative — that the ambassador got separated from his security detail, suffocated amid the smoke, and was found unconscious by well-meaning Libyans who, in concern, rushed him to the hospital — cannot be true. Some disturbing rumors and evidence later emerged to the effect that Stevens may have had no real security detail to speak of, but was helped only by the brave ad hoc service of some private security contractors, who gave their lives to save an American diplomat without military support. More disturbing even than the absence of adequate military security was the likelihood that Stevens was attacked viciously by the mob, perhaps sexually brutalized by it, and then taunted by his killers, before being dumped in the street. In the long history of attacks on our embassies, I cannot think of a comparable instance where an ambassador was caught alone, mobbed, tortured, and photographed in extremis — or where an administration was so averse to disclosing any details of his demise.

Obama genuinely seems to believe that he, his administration, our present foreign policy, and America 2012 are somehow not the real objects of hate of the Arab Street mobs. That disconnect was also the theme of his mythmaking in Cairo, of his al-Arabiya interview, and of his apologetic commentary to the French and the Turks: A pre-Obama America was hubristic, insensitive, and culpable for damaged bilateral relations and would be acknowledged as such by an Obama America.

When Daniel Ortega enumerated the crimes of the United States in the presence of the president, Barack Obama did not defend his country, but simply shrugged, “I’m grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old.” In other words, Obama felt that while his country may not have been innocent, he, a mere toddler at the time, most certainly was — and that he is innocent now as well. 

In the context of the Middle East, Obama is thus naturally confused by the violence. He had assumed the Islamic mobs realize that America changed after 2008. So while Muslim complaints against the United States certainly had some validity at one time, such writs can no longer be valid after Obama assumed the presidency. The Arab Street could not possibly be angry at Barack Obama, the Nobel laureate and sympathetic supporter of Arab Muslims. The murdering must be an artifact, a fluke brought on by some right-wing, provocative American zealot, whose constitutionally protected rights to obnoxious free expression are overshadowed by the damage he has done in giving millions the impression that a reset America of 2012 still bears some resemblance to the America of 1776 to 2008.

We can see this disconnect in both the serious and the trivial: from Obama’s use of the adjective “natural” to describe unhinged mobs attacking U.S. properties over a video trailer, to his new personalized campaign version of the American flag. In that sense, one cannot entirely damn Mr. Morsi as he lectures America on its shortcomings — given that much of his complaint merely follows up on Obama’s own. Thus he may feel that he is ingratiating himself with the administration by channeling the Cairo speech.

If Obama were a conservative Republican, a George W. Bush for example, the media narrative of Libyagate would be one of an asleep, incompetent president, lieutenants who were brazenly mendacious, an incompetent secretary of state, and an administration conspiracy of silence — juxtaposed with a wider story of a disastrous retreat from Afghanistan, an abandonment of any influence in Iraq, a refusal to recognize the situation in Syria and Egypt — and impotence as a war looms between Iran and Israel.

Will we ever know the circumstances that led to the murder of Ambassador Stevens? Only when government auditors and inquirers feel free to find and disclose the truth, which probably means sometime after the Obama administration is well out of office.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The End of Sparta, a novel about ancient freedom.