Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fast and Furious

Just the other day, many Foreign Policy Experts were bemoaning that this presidential election is devoid of serious foreign policy issues and here we get one in the tragic killing of an American Ambassador in Benghazi, Libya. With this incidence on September 11, foreign policy issues are firmly back; square and middle. Here are early thoughts in this regard:

1. Sec. of State of Hillary was right to say openly - 'how could this happen in a country where America helped to liberate Libya from dictators?'. She was correct to point in the same breath that this act does not represent the all of Libyan People or Libyan Government and more importantly, many other Libyans helped to protect other Americans. American Public at large need to know all this.

2. President Obama along with Sec. Hillary was right to reiterate that 'justice will be done' in this case. Though ultimate responsibility of protecting American ambassadors in Libya lies with Libyan Government, American President must make it clear that 'there will be a price to be paid' if such completely avoidable and senseless violence takes place. President Obama has said this. If needed he must 'reiterate' this again and again, in UN when he visits UN by end of this month and must direct State Department to make it a high profile pursuit in finding perpetrators of this heinous act.

3. Debate will also shift to what kind of 'freedom' we are talking for those Americans who needlessly spread such a non-sense about other religions and cost lives of fine Americans doing good work in dangerous places.   It will be imperative for American Political Class to single out such a gross and needless misuse of 'freedom of speech'. Republican party in recent years has not lived up to Secular standards set by George Bush; but President Obama and Democrats must make it clear to American People how 'exploitation by few misguided Americans' needlessly results in American blood. Early signs from Republicans are encouraging in this regard.

4. However, I am not sure about candidate Romney's responses so far. As expected, he has adopted strident criticism of Obama Administration. But if reports are right, then facts may not be with him and possibly he will have yet another foot in his mouth:
- The particular embassy statement which Romney holds as an 'apology tour extension' by Obama Administration was before the violence and it makes perfect sense to issue such a kind of statement to prevent any violence. The statement obviously did not stop the violence is true, but then you cannot charge embassy staff for failing 'to provoke further'!
- Another 'tweet' from someone who holed up in the embassy is castigated by Romney Campaign as an example of 'apologetic mindset' of Obama Administration. When it is not clear whether the person was an  Embassy employee or not, situated in life and death crisis; to hold Obama Administration for tweets going out is another form of 'suppressing freedom of speech'. That is not how Americans expect to work for State Department, even in foreign land.

So it is appropriate for many Republicans to advise Romney Campaign to chill down. If 'meme' of this over reaction by Romney Campaign as yet another example of 'foot in mouth' gets some traction; we will see automatic playing down of this incidence by Romney Campaign.

In fact this is a great example of how Romney Campaign gets involved in 'small bore issues and technicalities' rather than the bigger picture - that the world we operate in is a dangerous place and we need a firm, but careful, approach in responding to these world events.

5. Obama Administration will also have some tasks on their hands - increasing security of American Embassies all around the world and being more anticipatory to such violent events. Americans will be expecting that from Obama Administration and it will have to prove this by 'walking the talk'. No amount of past achievements are of any use here, every day is a new day for national security. (Sec. of State Hillary is going to be very busy for the remaining days of her term.)

6. The spat between President Obama and Israeli PM will be, and should be, relegated to background in light of this event. In fact considering the connection of an Jewish-American Developer financing this film to fan anti-Muslim sentiments around the world (and many Americans pay the price meanwhile); it should put jingoistic Jewish rhetoric bit constrained here. Americans would expect American Politicians not to create more trouble by bombing of Iranian Nuke sites or any such aggressive interventions in foreign land; at least for now. President Obama should continue his patient and firm approach to deal and respond this chaotic world.

Update - Goldberg reports that the controversial film maker would not a Jewish person but possibly a Coptic Christian. What is clear is that 'identity' of person(s) responsible for the film is unclear and so attributing it to a Jewish origin is wrong. That is what I mentioned above and my apologies for that.

However, what is clear is this tragic context is absolutely a right context to 'tone down' any kind of 'red lines'  talk and inflamed rhetoric. 

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