The Greater Middle East is in transition. We don’t know where it’s going. We need to pay close attention to the intellectual whirlpools that are developing throughout the region as democratic, Islamic, and other convulsive ideas collide. It’s way too soon to be as cocky as this administration has become about the decline of al Qaeda and lethal Islamic militancy. The president and his followers may try to depict Obama as counterterrorist warrior par excellence. Republicans would be wise to point out that Jimmy Carter is the commander in chief who really did risk all to save American lives and honor (Abbottabad pales in comparison with Desert One, which one of the officers involved likened to the Alamo, except the Americans were trying “to get in, not out”).
After doing so, Republicans, and especially Mitt Romney, might consider whether they, too, want to lead from behind. The defense budget needs to be saved. Everything starts with that. Then they need to realize that the Middle East will not be ignored while we pretend to transfer our concern and military muscle toward China. Across the region, which is in profound flux, the United States increasingly appears as a listless superpower. President Obama may think that shows appropriate and overdue disengagement. We fear it shows troubling and provocative weakness.
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