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Mitt Romney keeps swinging and missing on the Libya issue, but it doesn't seem like anyone in the media is telling the Republican nominee to move on. The attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi is still being treated by the mainstream as some sort of Obama administration failure.
Yet, the complaints seem very picayune in the context of Libya's recent history.
Romney's first complaint, issued nearly as the attack was underway, was that the Obama administration had signaled weakness by "apologizing" for an anti-Muslim Youtube video.
Romney got burned on that one, but he didn't let go of it. Obama apologizes and Americans die is his line.
Now, the complaint is that the Benghazi attacks weren't tied to protests over the video being held elsewhere in the Middle East. They were, instead, "terrorist" attacks. Okay.
The semantic debate about what is and isn't terrorism seems to interest a lot of people. But, the fact is, Libya operated under an dictatorship for decades. I don't think I'm stretching my limited knowledge of foreign policy when I say that all sorts of angers, resentments and secret societies thrive under the authoritarian rule that contains them. Remove the authority figure and some of that erupts. Are there terrorists in Libya? No freaking doubt. Why were American lives at risk?
Because Obama decided to help Libya's people get rid of Qadaffi and his family. The Americans killed in Benghazi were working to help Libya build its new civil society.
All of this goes back to Obama using U.S. air, sea and intelligence power to aide Libya's disparate rebels, who Qadaffi was about to crush. At the time, I opposed the choice because I was worried it would inevitably draw us into a third land war. But people like Romney and John McCain were not, back then, criticizing the President on the grounds of left wing non-interventionism. No, they didn't want Obama to "lead from behind," by letting the French drop so many of the bombs. They wanted more robust U.S. military involvement and, as in Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. leadership of coalition of forces who would take the fight to Qadaffi (a dictator who, by the way, they had decided to mostly like and tolerate because he publicly gave up his "no chance in hell of working," nuclear weapons program, which gave Republicans a talking point in favor of the Bush fear doctrine).
One way that Americans would not have died in Benghazi would have been for the U.S. not to have gotten involved in Libya in the first place. We could have pulled our diplomats out of the country and let the civil war play out. That's not what Romney wanted.
So, another way would have been a less subtle war, with soldiers and tanks and drones and cruise missiles and green zones and torture prisons. Of course, we tried this in Iraq and... Americans operating in the post-Hussein environment were still attacked and wounded and killed.
When operating within the boundaries of a former dictatorship and active war zone, people risk their lives. No security is ever enough, no intelligence is ever perfect. We don't even really know what we're up again because Libya's entire society needs to be explored and renewed. We've been here before, but unlike Iraq, we're fortunately not running a major occupation of the place. We've also seen this in just about every country that has ever been liberated from an autocrat.
Yet the media continues to take Romney's complaint seriously, and that irks me. If it is Romney's position that removing Qadaffi was and is worth the risk to American soldiers, citizens and government employees, then he should express his remorse and talk about his ideas for a way forward.
Or, he should tell us that he was wrong and that Obama was wrong and we never should have gotten involved in the first place.
But this is Romney on Libya: "I supported more robust military action against Qadaffi and not 'leading from behind,' and also, Obama apologized over video and emboldened the terrorists to attack our consulate, even though the attack probably had nothing to do with the video and also, this is all Obama's fault because, apologizing."
And that's being taken seriously? I don't get it.