Here
and
Now

opinions

2013's partisanship hurt U.S. abroad, as well as at home

10 Comments

The furious partisan debate that erupted last week after a New York Times investigation questioned the central tenet of the Republican assault on the White House regarding Benghazi was a fitting end to 2013.

The lengthy article revealed that the State Department and CIA's intense focus on al Qaeda caused officials to miss the threat posed by local militias. David Kirkpatrick's reporting showed that Libya's rebels appreciated the U.S. support in helping oust Muammar Gaddafi, but were strongly influenced by decades of anger at Washington's support for dictators in the region.

Militants gained strength from Syria to the Sahel over the course of 2013. Republicans and Democrats, however, remained focused on winning their daily messaging battle in Washington.

Neither the American left nor the right has offered a serious strategy for how to respond to the emergence of new types of militant groups across the Middle East. President Barack Obama's approach consisted of trusting unchecked CIA drone strikes and NSA eavesdropping to secure the United States. Republicans used the region's instability as a cudgel to beat the president with.

Here are three of 2013's most troubling developments in the Middle East - and Washington's perfunctory responses that were a disservice to all Americans.

BENGHAZI'S MEANING: As Amy Davidson correctly noted in the New Yorker this week, Washington's response to months of investigation on the ground in Libya and Egypt by Times reporters Kirkpatrick, Suliman Ali Zway, Osama Alfitori and Mayy El Sheikh quickly devolved into a useless debate over the term "al-Qaida."

Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif) - eager to undermine Obama administration statements that core al-Qaida has been weakened - insisted that the group involved in the attack "claims an affiliation with al-Qaida," as if that was the same as an actual relationship with core al-Qaida's remaining leaders.

Fox News commentator and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer dismissed the story as an effort "to protect Hillary." Fox News terrorism analyst Walid Phares absurdly argued that Kirkpatrick was "known to side with Islamists."

The broad message from the left, meanwhile, was that the United States only makes things worse in the Middle East when it acts there. On MSNBC, Karen Finney said the story exonerated the Obama administration because it found that a fake Hollywood video mocking the Prophet Mohammad did, in fact, help spark the attack.

Isolationists on the left and the right argued that any military action - particularly one carried out by the United States - was destructive.

What was lost when each side cherry-picked conclusions that fit their worldview? The Libyan people's increasing hatred of militias, both jihadist and tribal groups. In November, Libyans outraged by rising lawlessness drove militias out of Tripoli. Libya's weak central government, however, lacks the properly trained security forces needed to assert control.

Libya's first democratically-elected prime minister - a pro-Western moderate - asked in June for American and NATO forces to help train government security forces. Washington's response? After five months of talk, the United States agreed in November to train 6,000 to 8,000 Libyan soldiers at a military base in Bulgaria. This paltry effort will not be nearly enough to aid Libyans who oppose militancy.

U.S. and NATO military forces should not enter Libya - a move we know from past experience will strengthen jihadists there. But a far larger training effort should be mounted outside Libya.

THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD: In 2013, the biggest gamble in the region was the Egyptian army's decision in July to violently crush the Muslim Brotherhood and remove that nation's first democratically elected president. The military-dominated government seems to announce each week a new crackdown on the Brotherhood and other critics. But it is not clear that the use of force is working.

The Egyptian military campaign against the Brotherhood has now killed more people than the Iranian government's 2009 crushing of the "Green Revolution." Yet Cairo has failed to stop regular demonstrations by the Brotherhood. It has also failed to halt a series of car bombings by Islamic extremist groups that are urging Brotherhood members to take up arms.

The stakes in Egypt are enormous. The crackdown could succeed - or drive tens of thousands (possibly hundreds of thousands) of conservative activists into the arms of al-Qaida. Republican and Democrats' reaction to these developments? Collective silence.

The Obama administration should suspend all U.S. military aid to Egypt and stop embracing the Saudi fantasy that autocrats are the region's low-risk, cure-all. Over the long-term, autocrats foster instability and economic stagnation - not stability - in the Middle East.

SYRIA: 2013 will be viewed as the year that President Bashar al-Assad turned the tide in the war in Syria. As Adam Entous and Siobhan Gorman detailed in a Wall Street Journal story last week, "all-in" military support from Iran and Hezbollah allowed Assad to retake crucial territory.

The Obama administration, however, blinked.

Obama had vowed to punish Assad for any chemical weapons attacks. Yet the president held off on air strikes or fully arming the rebels, citing fears of getting embroiled in another Mideast conflict.

The result is a conflict in Syria that could drag on for years. Assad can hold much of the country, but not all of it.

Jihadists, meanwhile, are taking control of the opposition. Thousands of militants from Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Tunisia have flocked to Syria. An estimated 1,500 to 2,000 European citizens and dozens of American citizens have joined the fight there as well. An unknown number are being radicalized.

Some of these jihadists will likely return home, as it becomes clear that Assad will not be toppled in 2014. The Obama administration is gambling that CIA drone strikes and NSA surveillance will somehow hold them at bay.

More likely, the blowback from Syria will resemble that of the 1980s anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Jihadists from that conflict sparked a decade-long civil war in Algeria that killed 50,000 - and, of course, carried out the 9/11 attacks.

The Obama administration's only remaining leverage in Syria is its economic sanctions on Iran, Assad's primary military backer. Any nuclear agreement with Iran that involves a reduction in economic sanctions should include Iranian support for a peace settlement in Syria.

The chances of Washington agreeing on such a strategy are low. Our political elite was so deeply divided in 2013 that we could not define a common enemy. We turned a blind eye to the revival of Mideast authoritarianism. And we fashioned no plans for how to respond to Syria becoming a new Afghanistan.

The damage that Washington's partisanship wrought on domestic affairs in 2013 was chronicled daily in the media. Its destructive impact on the Middle East - and our national security - will emerge for years to come.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2014.

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

10 Comments
Login to comment

tl;dr Hillary Clinton's incompetence means she has zero chance of winning a national election. Democrats are desperately trying to find a replacement.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

George W. Bush brought America to its knees with his 'yellow cake' lies and Dick Cheney's spending of five trillion in loaned funds from China on private wars for personal profit to thousands of party running dogs and lackeys.

Not to be out done, the new breed of religious zealot political tea party hatchet men have made war on race, the poor, elderly and children of the American people in their long war against the government of the United States.

Sadly, again, 2013 proved love of self over love of country never fails the Republican-Tea and never will as long as there is a dollar to steal from the US Treasury.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

kcjapan:

In what way are conservatives "the new breed of religious zealot" and exactly how have they made war on race, the poor, the elderly and children? Do you know anything about limited (constitutional) government or are you merely vomiting what you've been told?

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

@Lawrence Gordon

kcjapan referred to "tea party hatchet men". You seem to be saying that these people define the term "conservative". That might surprise some people. Could you explain what you mean?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Hillary Clinton's incompetence means she has zero chance of winning a national election.

Current polls, she has a better chance than anybody else save for NJ Gov. Chris Christie.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@Lawrence Gordon

M. Gordon may wish to consider repeating too vague generalizations place his conclusions in the grey area of either propaganda or simpleminded parroting of catch phrases; both excellent examples of the obfuscations techniques of the GOP-Tea.

Fain ignorance of his heroes' actions and intentions is disingenuous at best. If the reader is too afraid of what a cursory review of charges may reveal about their own truths please have the integrity to admit this willful ignorance.

Dismantling the government of the People of the United States is the vaunted goal of the GOP-Tea. Why not simply state that and the necessary specific harms that course will bring about and to whom? A lie told in service to greed is still a lie no matter how rich it makes the liar.

An imaginary world of milk and honey at the cost of engineered suffering is a poor resume for M. Gordon's undefined "conservative". Fellow ideologues and religious zealots fascinated with self loving insensitivity to the suffering they have authored is the soul of the iron will of indifference the GOP-Tea champions and the core of the dysfunction they practice.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

It continues to amaze me, a centrist lifetime Republican, that the uber zealots of the radi,cal right of my party do not understand the severe damage which they are doing to the USA.

President Obama was a better candidate then either McCain or Romney, but he has proved to be less capable on most international matters than either George HW Bush or Bill Clinton. Bush junior was a disaster, and Obama, while much better than junior for either the US economy or international stability, lacked the political skills, and personal involvement, of Bill Clinton.

If Hillary Clinton displays half of her husband's skills, she will be a shoo-in for election as President, given the dolts that my own party seems to be generating.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The furious partisan debate that erupted last week after a New York Times investigation questioned the central tenet of the Republican assault on the White House regarding Benghazi was a fitting end to 2013.

This one issue was a complete waste of funds and time. Mr Issa and the rest of his ilk decided that this was their chance to give the Democrats their Watergate. So, they went after the President in the most inept way. Instead of checking their facts and the folks that provided it to them they just went with.

Hell, it was so bad that Issa and gang provided false/edited White House emails as some of their proof. But, after it was discovered that those emails weren't the originals Issa and gang got egg on the faces.

They blindly bought up any tale that would aid them in their efforts to bring down a President. But all they have done is wasted untold millions and now have egg on their faces.

The GOP controlled House needs to stop trying to bring down a President (which will not happen) and start doing what they are there to do. Help the US economy move at a brisker pace.

If they would meet in the middle with other and play the bipartisan game that our nations Founding Fathers hoped we would do. Our nation would be in a much better position.

These days the GOP is run by an inept core of hardliners who couldn't run a nation if their live depended on it.

Funny how the DNC has more to offer than the blinded GOP, use to be the other way around.

Conservatism is much different than Evangelical Conservatism.

Mix religion into any political group and all you will have left is an internal war.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@Lawrence Gordon

The American GOP-Tea in microcosm. Why hasn't M. Gordon offered his rendition of the fictional John Galt character his Russian hero novelist created to better understand the GOP-Tea paralysis of the American political system and persecution of the poor and elderly?

Too ready to castigate, too hesitant to offer facts one assumes. Another fine illustration of the perversion of politics by the GOP-Tea in America. Well, if Rupert Murdock is your hero that says it all.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Too ready to castigate, too hesitant to offer facts one assumes. Another fine illustration of the perversion of politics by the GOP-Tea in America. Well, if Rupert Murdock is your hero that says it all.

Well, you could make that exact same argument about the looney left from Hollywood to George Soros and there is a plethora of things he did to further destroy the Democratic political party that was already kaputt. Let's see, no accountability for Fast and Furious, the IRS scandal, Obamacare, Benghazi, the fallout of Iraq and Afghanistan, please don't stop me. The Democratic Party gets the prize for destroying America in the shortest amount of time and we have yet, 3 more years that we have to endure suffering by out of touch liberals.

This one issue was a complete waste of funds and time. Mr Issa and the rest of his ilk decided that this was their chance to give the Democrats their Watergate. So, they went after the President in the most inept way. Instead of checking their facts and the folks that provided it to them they just went with.

Wrong, Issa was trying to find out the truth about many of these issues that liberals were stonewalling. So you are basically saying that Issa shouldn't do his job to inquire, but to just let things slide because that's what liberals want???

Hell, it was so bad that Issa and gang provided false/edited White House emails as some of their proof. But, after it was discovered that those emails weren't the originals Issa and gang got egg on the faces.

Let me ask you, so when Rice and Clinton again, stonewalled and wouldn't disclose information about what happened and lied to the parents of the people that died. Why is it, you are not outraged about that? The parents don't have the right to find out what happened to their loved ones, because the WH and the President feel like they are NOT obligated to tell even the families of the people that were brutally murdered in Benghazi.

They blindly bought up any tale that would aid them in their efforts to bring down a President. But all they have done is wasted untold millions and now have egg on their faces.

Correction, Obama thinks that for every single government program needs millions and millions of borrowed money, spending and more spending. This president spent more money than any other in US history, which he didn't have to do. Obama is the one with poached egg on his face. His approval rating is completely in the toilet. Confidence is done, in this election year, the conservatives will most likely retain the House, gain seats in the Senate if not, take it back.

The GOP controlled House needs to stop trying to bring down a President (which will not happen) and start doing what they are there to do. Help the US economy move at a brisker pace.

Obama already did that with the disastrous launch of the Obamacare program which destroyed him and the Dems

If they would meet in the middle with other and play the bipartisan game that our nations Founding Fathers hoped we would do. Our nation would be in a much better position.

As far as both parties are concerned you are right.

These days the GOP is run by an inept core of hardliners who couldn't run a nation if their live depended on it.

And the Dems are doing a heck of job, right? Lol

Funny how the DNC has more to offer than the blinded GOP, use to be the other way around.

Higher taxes, debt,debt and more debt, high unemployment, weak economy.

Conservatism is much different than Evangelical Conservatism.

To a degree, but the same basic principles are almost identical.

Mix religion into any political group and all you will have left is an internal war.

Tell me then. What are the liberals excuse for doing a bad job at governing?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites