Holding an Election During a ‘Global Intifada’
David Ignatius is one of those columnists you need to read, because even if you don’t agree with his take on things, his sources seem to give him fascinating nuggets you don’t find anywhere else. The theme in his Sunday column is that the world has no idea what to expect from Obama’s foreign policy in a second term, and that’s just the way the president wants it.
Less than six weeks before the election, the Obama campaign’s theme song might as well be the old country-music favorite “Make the World Go Away.” This may be smart politics, but it’s not good governing: The way this campaign is going, the president will have a foreign affairs mandate for . . . nothing.
The “come back after Nov. 6” sign is most obvious with Iran. The other members of the “P5+1” negotiating group understand that the United States doesn’t want serious bargaining until after the election, lest Obama have to consider compromises that might make him look weak. So the talks with Iran that began last May dither along in technical discussions.
. . . The Obama arm’s-length approach is evident with Egypt and the other nations convulsed by the Arab uprising. The United States is launching an innovative economic-assistance program to help Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government. But you don’t hear much about it this election season. Nor is there much public discussion of the covert U.S. effort to aid the Syrian rebels, or the war in Yemen, or the god-awful mess in Iraq.
There are two possible reasons for Obama’s vagueness in discussing these issues. The first is that Obama hasn’t thought that deeply about how he wants to respond to all of these simmering crises, and he figures he’ll cross that bridge when he comes to it. Alternatively, Obama knows darn well how he wants to handle these issues, and he knows they would be politically damaging — so he’s keeping them under wraps until he’s safely reelected. Neither option is particularly reassuring.
But here’s where Ignatius’ column gets really interesting:
I’m told that the talk in the Libyan underground is about a “global intifada,” like what the new al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has been preaching for the past five years. But ask U.S. officials about that subject, and you get a “no comment.”
To be blunt: The administration has a lot invested in the public impression that al-Qaeda was vanquished when Osama bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011. Obama would lose some of that luster if the public examined whether al-Qaeda is adopting a new, Zawahiri-led strategy of interweaving its operations with the unrest sweeping the Arab world. But this discussion is needed, and a responsible president should lead it, even during a presidential campaign.
When you hear the phrase “global intifada,” you can respond one of two ways.
One: Eh, big deal, these jihadists are always big talkers making grandiose threats, this is more of the same.
Two: In the past month, at four separate U.S. embassies or consulates, the American flag has been torn down by angry mobs and the crowd has put up the black flag of Islam in its place: in Cairo, in Tunisia, in Yemen, and of course in the fatal attacks at our consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The same deal happened at the German embassy in Sudan. We’ve seen protests, often violent, outside U.S. embassies, consulates, and companies in the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Greece. In country after country, we’re evacuating our nonessential diplomatic staff and reinforcing security where we can. Wouldn’t the phrase “global intifada” be a pretty good term to describe what we’re seeing before our eyes?
And no, despite the fact that you’re hearing almost nothing in the U.S. mainstream media, the threat hasn’t gone away:
THE Philippines says it has moved to secure Western embassies in the country as it monitors potential threats to their citizens following a security alert raised last week.
On Friday, the US embassy warned that an unspecified threat against Americans in the capital Manila had been detected by “reliable security forces”.
Australia, Britain and Canada on Saturday joined the US in issuing a security alert, warning Westerners to be on guard amid fears they could get caught up in an attempted attack against Americans.
Philippines deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the US embassy had asked Manila for additional security.
“As a matter of precautionary measures, we responded to their request to augment security,” Valte said on government radio on Sunday, adding that it had also “responded quickly” to improve security for the other missions.
Kirsten Powers in a Daily Beast piece that deserves a ton of attention this week:
Nothing about the constantly evolving tale the Obama administration has been weaving about the attacks in the Middle East makes sense, unless it is seen as a deliberate attempt to mislead Americans into believing al Qaeda has been decimated, as President Obama has been know to assert. After dancing on Osama bin Laden’s grave for a week in Charlotte, the administration was faced with the reality that the war on terror is still quite on.