Posted by: SWL | September 23, 2012

Middle East Protests: Obama Administration Foreign Policy Mistakes

On the campaign trail, President Obama has made occasional remarks about challenger Mitt Romney’s inexperience with foreign affairs. It is amusing since before he was elected president, Mr. Obama’s only experience was two terms in the US Senate. Responses from the White House and State Department in the two weeks since attacks on our embassy in Egypt and the consulate in Libya (which resulted in the deaths of four Americans) have not shown experience or competence in foreign affairs.

Five Obama administration foreign policy missteps
* The White House eventually disavowed the first statement from the US embassy in Cairo, saying it had not been approved by the State Department, but that was about 16 hours after the embassy issued the statement and after many had criticized its apologetic tone.

* The President should not have continued campaigning. Americans had been murdered and anti-American violence was spreading across the Middle East. With danger to US citizens overseas, and possibly on our own soil, the President should have been in DC, as close as possible to incoming information and his advisers.

Campaigning in Las Vegas, Mr. Obama said he wanted to talk a bit about the “tough day” the country had. Tough day??? Ask the families of the four who died if that was a strong enough description! The President’s comments on the situation in the Middle East lasted around two minutes, then he went back into campaign mode, promising such things as putting solar farms all across the state of Nevada. The next day, while protests continued in Cairo and broke out in Yemen and Tunisia, Mr. Obama was campaigning in Colorado before finally returning to DC

* In unstable countries such as Libya, the State Department should have extra security at our embassies. If Ambassador Stevens wanted to reside in Benghazi, the center of the new Libyan government, the consulate there should have been made more secure and Marine guards brought in.

* In response to an interview question two or three days after the first attacks, The President said Egypt is not a US ally, but not an enemy. Press Secretary Jay Carney later explained that the President was “technically” correct because Egypt is not an ally by mutual, written agreement. In the past Egypt has been the voice of calm and moderation on issues involving Israel. (With the new Egyptian president aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, those days are likely over.) First the embassy in Cairo and Hillary Clinton each decry some Americans’ use of free speech, trying to defuse Egyptian anger. Then the President makes a statement likely to anger them again.

* The President should have met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who was in New York for a United Nations meeting. Mr. Obama had already refused Netanyahu’s request for a meeting before the embassy attacks. (For now we will ignore the foolishness of that.) But after the attacks, the President should have met with Netanyahu to discuss how the unrest in the Muslim countries might affect Israeli and US interests in the region.

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