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Now that he has been safely re-elected, Barack Obama's personal foreign and defence views no longer pose any risk to him in domestic political terms. Unfortunately, however, the international risks caused by his radical ideology, naivety and simple ineptness, added to the damage already done in the first term, are increasingly apparent. The Obama Administration's failures to date cover the full spectrum of national security affairs. At the strategic level, there is utter incoherence in dealing long term with powers like Russia and China, or the swirling morass of conflicts in the Middle East. In the immediate future, the Iranian and North Korean nuclear and ballistic-missile programmes are speeding ahead as regional and global threats, without even effective tactical opposition by the United States and its allies.

Left to burn: There was no enhanced security before, during or after the September 11, 2012 attacks on the US Embassy in Benghazi 

These and many other dangers, new and emerging, were all present in Obama's first term. But only near the end of the long election campaign, in the September 11 terrorist attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, did many of the Administration's failures stand fully exposed to public view. Although Republican political leaders failed to communicate Benghazi's import to the voters (indeed, they essentially fled from the issue), its significance, domestically and globally, should not be underestimated. To be sure, identifying historical turning points is a tricky business. Events that, in their own time, seem sure to qualify can fade away, while obscure happenings later become, in history's judgment, major departures. Take Zhou En-lai's 1972 remark that "it is too soon to tell" about the consequences of the French Revolution. Or perhaps he was referring to the 1968 Paris riots; either way, Zhou's prudence makes the point.

But with events unfolding at a truly dizzying pace, we must still ask, even if hazardous, whether a turning point occurred on September 11 in Benghazi, with the murder of the American Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three others. Certainly, the attack and its consequences continue to roil the US political debate. Some commentators compare Benghazi to Watergate, noting sarcastically that no one died at Watergate. Neither the bungled burglary nor the terrorist attack materially disrupted the incumbent president's path to electoral victory, this time despite Obama's utterly lame explanation that the attack resulted from local outrage over an internet video ridiculing the prophet Muhammad. Nonetheless, the damage to Obama's second term, as to Nixon's, could be considerable. Obviously, occurring on the 11th anniversary of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the Libya killings have added resonance, even though the 2012 butcher's bill was mercifully far lower. 

There are, however, clear differences. Both Watergate and the first September 11 produced press extravaganzas, whereas Benghazi and the White House "explanation" initially seemed likely to disappear from the media radar screen. Among the major players, only Fox News kept investigating and reporting new information in the weeks that followed. In Watergate, there was unquestionably a White House-led cover-up to prevent the facts from emerging, which may or may not characterise Obama and Benghazi. The even more worrying truth could be that Obama's ideological conviction that al-Qaeda has been defeated and that "the tide of war was receding" might simply have blinded his Administration to reality.

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Anonymous
January 11th, 2013
3:01 PM
Bolton is the man who, in any sane universe, should have been nominated as US Secretary of State, by a different president than the current occupant of 1600 Penn Avenue. It is unutterably disheartening to observe how Obama, step by step, driven by the internal logic of his own ideology and convictions, is weakening the forces for freedom in the world whilst simultaneously aiding and abetting the forces of oppression whether religious or political (whether it's ineptitude or conscious design on Obama's part, I honesty can't tell). At one of the most critical junctures in modern history, when America and the West desperately need leaders with strength, fortitude and vision (Canada's Stephen Harper springs to mind) we elect the likes of Obama. It certainly seems true that the people who cheered the loudest when Obama was elected were the mullahs in Tehran.

M. Litkowski
December 28th, 2012
12:12 AM
Other than your dislike of Ambassador Bolton, Professor Matahias, I am guessing everything he has written here is correct, since you decline to comment on any of the facts as stated and decide to go after the man instead. Nice way to get publicity for your course though. Are you having trouble filling the class?

Prof Asher J Matathias
December 19th, 2012
4:12 PM
It is a matter of deep concern, for moderate voices of our Party, to have this one-time, and ever-so-brief Ambassador be our spokesman. At a time when the GOP got the justified political reversal of the ages, it behooves the likes of Bolton, Rebus, Paul, Palin, Limbaugh, Ryan, most certainly the tone-deaf Romney to be uncharacteristically quiet. More, I invite tehm to take my introductory course in American Government, for they lack both knowledge and appreciation for our glorious legacy. It is a matter of wonder that our nation has survived and thrived, even with the likes of such small minds, lacking compassion, tolerance, and far-reaching understanding. Singularly, and collectively, they do not come close to our distinguished President! (Said by an Obamacan, Republican for Obama.)

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