The press has been kind to the Obama administration during its travails in the Middle East, kinder than it might have been if the president were a Republican. That may finally be changing—and it only took a fiasco of epic proportions to do it.
Consider a prominent piece that ran in the Times on Sunday that investigates the attack in Benghazi that left several American citizens dead. The evidence is damning:
“It’s a catastrophic intelligence loss,” said one American official who has served in Libya and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the F.B.I. is still investigating the attack. “We got our eyes poked out.” . . .
The attack has raised questions about the adequacy of security preparations at the two American compounds in Benghazi: the American mission, the main diplomatic facility where Mr. Stevens and another American diplomat died of smoke inhalation after an initial attack, and an annex a half-mile away that encompassed four buildings inside a low-walled compound. . . .
Complicating the investigation, the officials said, is that many of the Americans who were evacuated from Benghazi after the attack are now scattered across Europe and the United States. It is also unclear, one of the officials said, whether there was much forensic evidence that could be extracted from the scene of the attacks. . . .
Foreign diplomats say that under security circumstances like those now in Libya, it is generally standard procedure to have a “safe house” in the vicinity of a main diplomatic facility that can be easily defended and evacuated.
Now, imagine if Bush were still in the White House. This article points to serious intelligence failures at the CIA and the State Department, but stops short of attacking the Obama administration for system-wide negligence. It doesn’t suggest that it could have been more prepared for what now appears to be an al-Qaeda inspired (or even al-Qaeda planned) attack that killed an American ambassador.
Iraq, however, may be an even grander case of Middle Eastern folly followed by the MSM’s failure until now to call that folly to account. The president trumpeted the news that American forces were no longer fighting in Iraq and gave itself many hearty congratulations on a job well done. But in Iraq, as another NYT article shows, Team Obama left a mess behind:
White House officials portray their exit strategy as a success, asserting that the number of civilian fatalities in Iraq is low compared with 2006, when the war was at its height. Politics, not violence, has become the principal means for Iraqis to resolve their differences, they say. “Recent news coverage of Iraq would suggest that as our troops departed, American influence went with them and our administration shifted its focus away from Iraq,” Antony Blinken, the national security adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., said in a speech in March. “The fact is, our engagements have increased.”
To many Iraqis, the United States’ influence is greatly diminished. “American policy is very weak,” observed Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff to Massoud Barzani, the president of the semiautonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. “It is not clear to us how they have defined their interests in Iraq,” Mr. Hussein said. “They are picking events and reacting on the basis of events. That is the policy.” . . .
Without American forces to train and assist Iraqi commandos, the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq is still active in Iraq and is increasingly involved in Syria. With no American aircraft to patrol Iraqi airspace, Iraq has become a corridor for Iranian flights of military supplies to Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria, American officials say. It is also a potential avenue for an Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear installations, something the White House is laboring to avoid.
The NYT piece, an excerpt from a forthcoming book by Michael Gordon and retired Lt. Gen. Bernard Trainor, outlines the debate over the withdrawal process, including arguments offered at the time for more stable but thornier withdrawal agreements that got overruled, forgotten, or dismissed. It is sufficient for us to note here that Iraq hasn’t turned out as well as the president’s campaign speeches would lead one to believe. Increasingly, even the liberal press is taking note.