British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey had a terrible premonition as he saw the gas lights being lit in London on the evening of August 3, 1914. Knowing that Britain would declare war on Germany the next day, he was moved to observe -- “The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”
Skip ahead another 99 years.
On August 4, 2013, for Americans either traveling and living abroad in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia, there was a different kind of lights out -- the sudden and total shutdown U.S. embassies and consulate offices there to serve them as protective outposts of their government and country. At this writing, it is unknown whether the closure of the embassies will be for a single day, or perhaps for several weeks.
What happened this Sunday -- which happened to be President Barack Obama’s 52nd birthday as well as the 99th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One -- was the effective, if not literal, lowering of the American flag under duress from a deadly enemy -- the same al Qaeda that killed almost 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001… and the same al Qaeda that has been the subject of so many presidential boasts of “Osama bin Laden is dead” and al Qaeda is “on the run.”
Suddenly, it seems the U.S. government and its outposts in the Muslim world that are on the run.
But that is hardly surprising given the combination of a highly determined enemy and an endlessly vacillating and pusillanimous U.S. government which has no real objective in the Middle East other than steadfastly ignoring the very real and far-reaching threat to the West posed by Muslim fundamentalism… and choosing flight over fight in war zones such as Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.
There is no need here to review the administration’s shameful conduct before and after the terrorist attack on the night of September 11/12, 2012, which took the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans at the consulate in Benghazi, Libya. However, its conduct during the lengthy assault makes it a night that will live in infamy.
The president, the secretaries of state and defense, and top military commander knew from the start that the consulate was under a heavy terrorist attack, and yet they did nothing to save Ambassador Stevens and the others. America -- or the American government under President Obama -- slept the night these men died, knowing they were in peril.
Beginning the next day, and continuing for weeks leading up to the November 6 general election, the president and his men denigrated the memory of those who died by suggesting it was in something other than a vicious and carefully orchestrated terrorist attack.
Of course, Obama went on to win a second term on November 6 -- but that does not make him a “strong horse,” in bin Laden’s memorable use of the phrase: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.”
This is a president who has called elevating the image of the United States around the world one of his proudest foreign policy achievements. When it is safe enough to do so, he needs to make another trip out to the Middle East to see what he and his misguided policies have wrought.