Romney's Statements On Libya Attack Indicative Of More Than Just Insensitivity
In a tribute to brute partisanship, Mitt Romney seized the attack and preceding riot as an opportunity to criticize the Obama Administration. Unbeknownst to him, four diplomats were dying when he did so—and many Americans received news of the deaths and of Romney’s criticism at the same time. Add to this the delicate state of American pride and sense of security, and Romney basically comes off as the most insensitive person on the planet.
The nation’s media is buzzing about how Romney’s comments were ill-timed and a disaster for his campaign, but that’s not the real problem. Romney’s statement was as dangerous as it was insensitive, and any politician who pontificates within media earshot should take notice.
America does not have a stellar track record when it comes to responding to foreign attacks. Even now, 11 years after 9/11, we still have half a foot in the door in Afghanistan, unsure of where to step next.
Obama’s response in this case, however, was exactly what it should have been: sensitive, cautious and cognizant of the complicated factors at play in Libya and the greater Middle East.
The attack on the U.S. consulate wasn’t part of any ongoing terrorist campaign or guerilla movement. It had no official political motivation. It was an angry response to a viral U.S.-based video lampooning the most important religious figure to Muslims worldwide: the prophet Mohammed.
We insulted their people and we were punished—albeit unjustly—for it.
And we were aware of such a possibility. The Embassy of the United States in Cairo, which was also targeted by riots, issued a statement last night condemning “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.”
The Obama Administration immediately responded by condemning the attack, with Secretary of State Clinton stating “there is never any justification for the violent acts of this kind.” However, President Obama also reached out to the Libyan Islamic community, ensuring that the event would not “break the bonds” between our two nations.
An outraged Romney soon released his own statement, in which he said, “It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”
Romney is clearly missing something—something big. To condemn religious intolerance of Muslims, and to reach out to a people whose nation was just rocked by violence—again—is not sympathizing with any attacker. It is an attempt to address gross religious intolerance and mutual misunderstanding, to address the reasons that terrorists and other violent radicals want to act in the first place.
If we really are in the middle of a war on terror, why are there Americans out there goading the terrorists? Eleven years ago, Islamic radicals hijacked our planes and flew them into buildings because they saw us as a nation of disrespectful infidels and they wanted our disrespectful infidel troops out of Saudi Arabia. Should we really be shocked when these extremists get wind of a video denigrating their faith?
Furthermore, why is Mitt Romney, the man who deigns to lead our country in this unstable time, blowing this video off as irrelevant?
Romney’s response to the consulate attack portends a dire future for U.S. foreign policy if he becomes president, one informed by the inability to acknowledge what Americans can do to curb the wrath of extremist groups. If Romney enters office with blanket contempt for Muslims or for the Middle East, our counter-terrorist policy will be effectively useless.
We will continue to profile American Muslims, even when we were taught that such actions are unjust and counterproductive through our lessons about the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. We will continue to associate Islam with terrorism, even though a Pew Study released last year showed that 95 percent of the American Islamic population viewed Al Qaeda with distaste and disgust. We will fuel the fires of religious radicalism we should be working to extinguish. And we will learn to scorn diplomatic relations with Islamic nations such as Libya, when we should be lauding them for trying to implement our system of government in their land.
Remember why terrorism is scary—it’s because our military, the most powerful military in the world, has no idea how to fight it. No matter how hard the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, or state and local law enforcement, try, they will never be able to plug up all the holes through which terrorists can infiltrate and act in our nation and its outposts. We wouldn’t be a democracy if they could. So the only way we can sincerely defend our nation against terrorism is by trying to eradicate what terrorists feel is the need for terrorism.
I honestly couldn’t care less if Romney has tanked his campaign or not. That is the least of America’s problems, at least where the deaths of our diplomats are concerned. Those who intentionally target civilians and diplomats in violent attacks should never be excused and should never be supported. But we, as a powerful Western nation, are in a position to keep those acts from happening—by demonstrating that we are not, in fact, the evil conglomerate we are made out to be. Yes, we must be vigilant in our condemnation of terrorism, violent riots and the like, but we had better start taking responsibility for what we can do to make it better.
Reach Columnist Francesca Bessey here.