In light of Monday night’s speech by President Obama, we need to realize that we know much less about the movements and unrest in Libya and the Middle East than we should. This lack of intelligence is disturbing and dangerous because we can only expect the unexpected. And rather than act with an absolute confidence in our predictions, we might as well be throwing darts at a dartboard.
Our immediate attention may be focused on Libya, but we face a problem much larger in scope, as unrest affects nations in the Persian Gulf, the Eastern Mediterranean, and North Africa. The most troubling aspect is that most of the unrest will be resolved without the steady hand of U.S. influence. Consequently, the uncertainty that clouds these events may persist for years rather than weeks or months.
Finally, the beneficiaries of the turmoil in the short term will likely be radical groups and political ideologies that reject principles such as democracy and liberty that are emblematic of America. All together, a period of tremendous challenge awaits our political leadership – a period that will almost certainly extend beyond the next presidential election. This administration has the opportunity to develop a strategy with respect to the Middle East that will shape American foreign policy for the next decade. That responsibility should not be met lightly, and what remains once the dust settles in the Middle East will undoubtedly impact the president’s legacy as well as America’s future.