Charles Krauthammer has the game all sized up. All Romney has to say about Libya on Monday night is:
You are offended by [my] accusation, Mr. President? The country is offended that your press secretary, your U.N. ambassador and you yourself have repeatedly misled the nation about the origin and nature of the Benghazi attack.
The problem wasn’t the video, the problem was policies for which you say you now accept responsibility. Then accept it, Mr. President. You were asked in the last debate why more security was denied our people in Libya despite the fact that they begged for it. You never answered that question, Mr. President. Or will you blame your secretary of state?
Say what you want, the man understands sanctimony. (The kid did, too, but never mind.) The thing is, Monday’s debate is actually about managing foreign policy, or “policies,” as Krauthammer puts it, not about managing how the 24/7 heads spin. Has it still not sunk in that our ambassador in Benghazi was there and working and admired because the president had saved Benghazi the previous year from Gaddafi’s forces?
Oh, and he did this against the sage advice of Republican leaders, John Boehner, for example, who said: “I and many other members of the House of Representatives are troubled that U.S. military resources were committed to war without clearly defining for the American people, the Congress, and our troops what the mission in Libya is and what America's role is in achieving that mission.”
Krauthammer was equally smarter than Obama about this. When Gaddafi fell, he fell later than he needed to because—so Krauthammer instructed us—Obama had not committed American forces to do the job the expeditious way it was done in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“All of these events, these revolutions have two phases. They happened in Afghanistan and it happened here. Chapter one, get rid of the regime. And then chapter two is stabilization.” Afghanistan took only 63 days for the “get rid of.” I suppose only dummies worry about the stabilization part.
Presumably, Obama should not have built alliances with European forces or supported Libyans—who eventually finished the job themselves—with air support. He should have just bombed like hell and landed American forces. Then he would have had a “mission accomplished” party, too, and our ambassador in a nice, safe “green zone” in Tripoli, probably with Dan Senor popping Chardonnay for visiting pundits. What he would not have had was Benghazi residents outraged by the murder and running the consulate’s attackers out of the city.
Look, I don’t know yet what happened on the ground in Libya, but I know what is happening in the air in America. And it makes you wonder if journalism has not been so debased that foreign policy has become impossible. George Kennan once lamented that America doesn’t have foreign policy, only domestic politics. He meant that regional foreign policy requires context and expertise. I don’t think even Kennan had the imagination for how a foreign policy debate could turn on flocks of journalists, exhibiting unearned superiority, exploiting the tragic murder of diplomats.