Barack Obama has once again shown that when it comes to matters of foreign policy, his is still dubious when it comes to affairs in the Middle East. Not only has Mitt Romney's recent criticism of the White House's official response to the death of four Americans, including a U.S. ambassador, attempted to call the President to task about where exactly he stands on a pivotal issue in the upcoming election, but Obama's own vacillation concerning whether Egypt should be considered a friend or ally of the United States has raised questions about whether the pacifist idealist is willing to take a stand against Muslim-controlled nations.
In a televised interview that will be aired on 60 Minutes, Obama said Romney "seems to have a tendency to shoot first, aim later," and called the Libyan episode a "broader lesson" about being commander-in-chief. It remains to be seen if Mr. Rogers Obama, himself, actually aimed after receiving news of the conflict, but he certainly did not shoot, issuing a milquetoast statement about sending over more marines to guard at risk embassies in the Middle East.
While Romney clearly could have waited a few hours before issuing his statement concerning the crisis, just seconds (60, in fact) after Americans finished commemorating the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11th attacks, and perhaps spoke a bit too impetuously in stating "It's a terrible course for America to stand in apology for our values" - a quote which could even be construed as anti-Muslim - Obama's wait and see approach, while safe politically, may not be in the best interests of our nation.
Like George W. Bush's much ridiculed, dilatory reaction following news of the 9/11 attacks, Obama also took some time to gather his thoughts before issuing a response. But, unlike Bush, the response that he gave left much to be desired when it comes to taking a stand against Muslim-affiliated terrorists in the Middle East. The death of Ambassador Stevens marked the first killing of a U.S. ambassador since 1979. It's timing, on the anniversary of one of the most tragic days in American history, is almost certainly not coincidental. This is a very big deal! and the underlying concerns it implicates are not going away any time soon.
The President's related response today to violent clashes at the US embassy in Cairo, Egypt, which by all accounts were a near aversion to what occurred in Libya, characteristically waffled: "I don't think we would consider [Egypt] an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy. They are a new government that is trying to find its way," Obama said. He elaborated that Egypt's government run by a member of the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood, has "said the right thing and taken the right steps" but it has also responded to other events in ways that "may not be aligned with our interests."
Hmm, sounds a lot like someone the American people (think they) know.
Beyond the mincing semantics of the President's foreign policy in the Middle East, the broader picture evidences Obama backing of the ouster of Libyan dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last year (as well as appropriating more than $1 billion in military aid to Egypt every year he's been in office), and praise of Libya's election in July as a milestone in its post-Gaddafi transition. What the United States may have lost through these "ideologically sound" maneuvers is not only a strong Middle Eastern ally in Egypt's case, but also any semblance of control of Muslim terrorist factions which the formerly established leaders kept at bay.
Obama has consistently (and anti-colonialistically) pledged the United States will act as a partner to both Egypt and Libya and has opted for a cautious strategy that steers clear of a dominant role for the U.S. military in the Middle East, drawing criticism from Republican leadership at home for what was described as "leading from behind." While it remains unclear whether any of the four dead Americans in this conflict perished at the hands of gunfire in this incident, gun shots were heard inside the compound and Romney's most certainly was not the first one to issue them.
Citing his "dare to be middle class" economic platform and "we're all exceptional" (kumbaya) foreign policy, how a government led by Barack Obama will respond to the escalating imbroglio at home and abroad remains anyone's guess. Perhaps we should wait (another four years) and see?