I will give Obama credit: he learned from Benghazi and made the right decision to close down the embassies. But the failure lies in the need to do so in the first place.
As long as Al Qaeda is focused on the Middle East and North Africa, our “betters” in Washington seem to think we are generally safe, and most Americans seem to agree.
But what happens when these war-hardened and well-funded terrorists turn their eyes back to the United States? Another 9/11 is not outside the realm of possibility; in fact, it is likely.
Will Obama be like Clinton, lamenting that he let AQ grow when he had the chance to step on its throat? Can we trust whomever will be president then to not overstep his or her bounds in war and personal liberties?
We can avoid these speculations by finally admitting that the only way the US can stop creating new terrorists is to quit giving them a target.
For too long we conceded the propaganda war in the Middle East to the Soviets. This accounts for the suspicion many Arabs harbor toward the West and America. But then again, we have done ourselves no favors.
To combat this distrust, we must actually engage the citizens of North Africa and the Middle East. Diplomats should be encouraged to make as many personal connections as possible rather than be constantly confined to the embassy.
We also must re-examine our actual policies towards these countries and their people. No amount of communication can overcome bad policy.
When force is needed, it must be precise. Drones are great for limiting our own casualties, but time after time we have seen them hit civilians rather than terrorists. Weddings and birthday parties blown up, falsely marked as insurgent kills, do not engender good will. In this case I do advocate using troops; not a large army division, but rather special operations forces. Eyes on the ground can distinguish harmless citizens from real targets.
If this sounds familiar, it should. It is called Smart Power. The Washington knitting circles on foreign policy talk about it to no end, but we continually fail to put in practice. Instead we get half-hearted attempts at soft power and heavy-handed thrusts with hard power.
Al Qaeda is on the move again. Rather than deny and obfuscate, the President needs to come clean to the American people about the threat. He then must make it a point to stop making false promises and start using smart power. If he fails us in this, I truly fear something worse than 9/11 is on the horizon.
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