There is an active debate about the Presidential election… gnashing of teeth about new demographics, gloating that this election is a validation of left-leaning policies and, from the right, messages suggesting America deserves our impending doom.
Mitt Romney may be the most qualified man in America to fix our economy, given the consulting, investing and public sector projects he has run. Romney did manage to make a fatal comment or two (with supporting, high profile, gaffs from other members of his party). Thus, level-headed analysis might suggest all is not lost, gained, or permanently altered.
We can expect more of the same economic and social policies. But is our foreign policy on track? In a recent CNN interview, former CIA chief Michael Hayden listed four foreign policy concerns: Iran with its nuclear ambitions; China with its growing military presence and ongoing leadership transition; global terrorism; and cyber-security attacks.
Let’s set aside three of these four concerns for the moment (since the most visible security lapse in the past 60 days were successful terrorist attacks on US embassies). Investigation of the Benghazi attack, specifically, is ongoing: the FBI; the State Department; the US House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform; and the US Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs are conducting independent investigations. There is much we do not know about the attack and activities that led to it, although we trust these four investigations will insure facts and evidence are not overlooked.
For the past decade, public discourse would suggest the Al Qaida Muslim extremist group had become the most severe existent threat to the security of the United States. Although Ansar Sharia in Benghazi claimed credit for the attack that claimed Chris Stevens’ life (and the lives of three of his colleagues), according to reports about Stevens’ personal journal, the Ambassador himself suspected he was an Al Qaida target.
Public discourse suggests Al Qaida is the problem. Unfortunately, the perception that the most dangerous threat the US faces is Al Qaida is simplistic, and the illusion that policy makers present to the public that Al Qaida is an effective monolith is both inaccurate and dangerous.
Hayden perhaps represents US leadership consensus when he suggests that “Al Qaida prime” is undermined. Hayden implies here (and others apparently believe) that Al Qaida once had a core, highly effective, organization, that US military and intelligence operations have been able to pick apart and render ineffective.
Although US operations have killed or captured many Al Qaida henchmen, including Osama bin Laden, and key leadership across a number of hostile Islamic groups have also been neutralized, the threat the United States and its interests faces from terrorist organizations is as great as it has ever been.
If Al Qaida were responsible in any way for the Benghazi attacks, the fact that we are targeting that organization higher than any other threat on the Globe… and the fact that the intelligence community found there was no evidence suggesting the Benghazi attack was "planned or imminent," would suggest one of two possibilities: 1) Al Qaida is so good that we just can’t catch them, no matter how hard we try; or 2) there are many independently operating Islamic organizations operating without meaningful direction from anywhere and they are frequently well enough equipped and trained to successfully strike our interests.
Either possibility is disturbing. The second is more likely.
For the billions$ spent, we have much work to do to address the terrorist threat to the US and its interests. Although the public shouldn’t expect all the details our intelligence operatives uncover about the threat or operating details of our response, we do have a right to an accurate characterization of one of the most dangerous developments to face our democracy in a hundred years: spontaneous evolution of independent
organizations that vilify the very existence of our freedom and values we hold most dear.organizations that vilify the very existence of our freedom and values we hold most dear.