It’s ironic, and perhaps a sign of desperation on the part of the Republican party, that eleven years after 9/11 it is still trying to scare Americans with the specter of Al Qaeda. Let’s see, tonight, in the vice presidential debate, whether foreign policy know-nothing Paul Ryan tries it.
By and large, in 2012, US voters have no appetite at all for foreign military entanglements and wars. President Obama, who yesterday named yet another new commander for the failed war in Afghanistan, did so after saying (in a Monday campaign speech that was blasted by the reliably pro-war Wall Street Journal in an editorial) that “al Qaeda is on its heels and Osama bin Laden is no more.” In naming General Joe Dunford as the new commander, Obama made it clear that, for all intents and purposes, the war in Afghanistan is over, saying that the general “will lead our forces through key milestones in our effort that will allow us to bring the war to a close responsibly as Afghanistan takes full responsibility for its security.”
Emphasizing that point, The Wall Street Journal reports succinctly on the abrupt shutdown of the incredibly costly and useless nation-building effort in Afghanistan:
The US military is ending a massive nation-building experiment in Afghanistan, shutting down teams that have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into roads, schools and administrative buildings in the country’s hinterlands.
The shutdown, part of the withdrawal of US and coalition forces over the next year, will mark the end of a hearts-and-minds campaign that has been central to the military’s strategy.
Closing are the absurdly mismanaged Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) and boondoggle of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, which wasted untold sums trying to fix Afghanistan.
The war is (pretty much) over. And while it’s not likely that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will argue for restarting that war, the GOP seems madly intent on rebuilding the Al Qaeda brand.
In its editorial, the Journal goes on at great length about the embassy (actually, not even a consulate, just a US outpost) in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, trying to portray the attack as the work of a resuscitated Al Qaeda, calling it a “frontal attack by an extremist militia group with links to al Qaeda.” Various leading Republicans have been using the Libya attack as a hammer against the administration, accusing it of ignoring Al Qaeda. At a congressional hearing yesterday, Representative Darrell Issa lambasted the administration on the issue. The title of the hearing in Congress was “Security Failures of Benghazi,” and, as The Washington Post reports, it had the tone of an inquisition:
The session had the feel of a courtroom prosecution as Republicans bored in on inconsistencies and suggested a cover-up. The hearing produced few new revelations about the attack, but it underscored the administration’s political vulnerability over the Benghazi episode four weeks before the presidential election.
Vulnerability? What the Republicans are trying to do is to scare Americans with the specter of Islamist mobs running amuck all over the world, as if everything is falling apart and the Obama administration is to blame. The administration has acknowledged that security could have been better in Libya. But the fact remains that, without a US military occupation, there’s no way to defend an embassy against a determined assault by a well-armed militia. In every country, it’s the responsibility of the host nation to protect foreign embassies, and in Libya not only is there no well-organized government but in many places, especially Benghazi, militias rule.
Nevertheless, there’s no reason to believe that the battered Al Qaeda organization had anything to do with the attack in Benghazi. And more importantly, there is no coordinated Islamist attack on the United States brewing across the world.
Stay tuned, tonight, to find out if Paul Ryan tries to manufacture one.
Yesterday, the head of the Red Cross in Afghanistan delivered a sober warning, amid Leon Panneta’s Pollyanna predictions. Read more here.
And for commentary and fact-checking during tonight’s debate, RSVP here to join Nation writers and readers in a live chat.