Last night’s debate started off, as the presidential one on foreign policy assuredly will, with a hard question about the administration’s handling of Libya, where “hard” means presumptuous and “handling” means schmoozing the press. I can hear it already: “Mr. President, why didn’t you tell us this was a terrorist attack!” This chorus has been mounting so quickly that the ever transcendent David Brooks calls the event, without explanation, a “debacle.”
As if the administration “fails” any time an American diplomat is murdered; as if what the Islamic world is missing is another president who thinks foreign policy can be learned in a high-school gym. As if the president had any interest in holding back information about the attack in Benghazi and was so intent on apologizing to the Islamic street for YouTube and “Western values” that he overlooked the obvious.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the administration’s response has been that it entertains questions like this in the first place. The late Hitchens once said, “America is the only place in the world where some says, ‘You’re history,’ and they’re insulting you.” Can we not remember how Ambassador Stevens got to Libya in the first place?
There is a Libyan government to work with and ask questions about because of a lonely presidential decision to save Benghazi from its maniac dictator, and a patient year-long struggle to support insurgents, with air cover among other things, while Republicans aimed to discredit him. Obama’s alliance worked so well, and gained so much popular support in Libya, that Stevens’ killers were spontaneously run out of town.
Criticizing Obama's foreign policy for a "debacle" in Libya would be like criticizing him for economic incompetence after the next GM recall. “Mr. President, when did you know those brake-cylinders might leak fluid?” Brooks says that our generation of thinkers, like Ryan, stay cool and excellent at “demonstrating policy professionalism.” After last night, can he not hear the laughter?