Though absurd, it’s hardly surprising that an obscure Internet video depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a blasphemous light would incite ignorant Islamists to violent rage. Remember how mere cartoons of Muhammad incited fiery protests throughout the Muslim world a few years ago? These mindless Islamists are as embarrassing to all of my Muslim friends as they are incomprehensible to me.
What is surprising is that these religious lunatics would dare to vent their rage on U.S. embassies. Yet reports are that significantly on September 11, they stormed the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt and launched rocket-propelled grenades at a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others there.
Unfortunately, there is very little the United States can do to prevent such irrational attacks. Indeed, the wonder is that there aren’t many more.
Romney exploits tragedy
Nevertheless, given that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has predicated much of his campaign on painting President Obama as just another feckless Jimmy Carter, the impulse might’ve been for Obama to react with bravado in a misguided attempt to prevent Romney’s caricature from becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy (in the fickle minds of American voters).
And, by rushing to slam this president as an apologist/appeaser in chief even before the cause and scope of these tragedies were known, Romney showed that he will not allow diplomacy, U.S. strategic interests, or even respect for the dead diplomats to prevent him from exploiting these unfolding events for partisan political gain.
(For what it’s worth, Libyan authorities are blaming the attack on die-hard Gaddafi loyalists, while some reports are pinning it on the coordinated hand of Al-Qaeda. If Al Qaeda was involved, one would have to wonder why kill Americans in Benghazi but only tear up American flags in Cairo.)
Whatever the case, Obama did not take Romney’s bait. Instead, after being fully briefed, he properly condemned the “outrageous and shocking” Benghazi attack and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice. But he insisted that this attack would do nothing to alter American values.
‘How could this happen?’
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton echoed his sentiments and added this instructive personal note: “ Today many Americans are asking, indeed, I ask myself, how could this happen? How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction? This question reflects just how complicated and, at times, how confounding the world can be.
“But we must be clear-eyed even in our grief. This was an attack by a small and savage group, not the people or government of Libya.”
Indeed, Libyan authorities immediately offered the kind of politically expedient apology we have become accustomed to hearing from U.S. authorities whenever errant drone missiles kill innocent civilians in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I told you so
Yet the vexing irony Hillary alluded to cannot be overstressed. What’s more, in February 2011, I warned it might be thus:
“With all due respect to the (Egyptian) protesters, the issue is not whether (Egyptian rule Hosni Mubarak) will go, for he will. (The man is 82 and already looks half-dead, for Christ’s sake!) Rather, the issue is who will replace him. And it appears they have not given any thought whatsoever to this very critical question.
“The devil the Egyptians know might prove far preferable to the devil they don’t. Just ask the Iranians who got rid of the Mubarak-like Shah in 1979 only to end up with the Ayatollah – whose Islamic revolution they’ve regretted (and have longed to overturn) ever since…”
Obama’s not Carter
Meanwhile, conspicuously absent was any reference by either Obama or Hillary to the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. But as they presented their joint statement on TV, the (Republican) elephant taking up much of the screen was the fearful symmetry between Egyptians storming the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo this week and Iranians storming the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.
Except that Obama has demonstrated that he’s no Jimmy Carter and, to complete the symmetry, Romney has demonstrated that he’s no Ronald Reagan.
Anthony L. Hall is a Bahamian native with an international law practice in Washington, D.C. Read his columns and daily weblog at www.theipinionsjournal.com.