09/13/2012 10:24 am ET Updated Nov 13, 2012

What to Tell Your Right-wing Friends When They Blame Obama for the Benghazi Attack

Here's how to answer that right-wing correspondent of yours who insists the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans -- not to mention the riots in Libya and Egypt, and whatever's coming next -- are all Obama's fault.

Obama didn't do this. Gaddafi, Mubarak, soon Assad, and the rest of the Arab dictators did this by keeping things the way they kept them for so long, with only one way out.

Although we do need to include a caveat: Except for Gaddafi, we supported all these regimes for decades. But that was a good thing while it lasted, because stability was better than what we're seeing now -- a dangerous unpredictability.

These were deep-rooted popular uprisings. The Islamic element in the Arab countries is strong because the dictators used the mosques as (they thought) safety valves; but when push came to shove, it turned out they'd been revolutionary breeding grounds.

Obama had nothing to do with that at all; for much of it, he was in college, law school, or the Illinois Senate. Why turn it into something it's not?

After all, you could blame the Iranian bomb on George W. Bush, for removing Hussein and, by virtue of being unchecked, releasing larger Iranian ambitions.

Or you could blame everything on Ronald Reagan. Reagan, after all, pulled the Marines out of Beirut after Islamists bombed their barracks and murdered 289 of them. He didn't exact vengeance at all, and you could say that that encouraged a lot of the attacks we've been subsequently subjected to.

But I wouldn't blame him, either. It's just history, and he just happened to be in office when Communism collapsed from internal forces, eliminating one-half of the realpolitik equation that had kept the world from a general war for almost 40 years. That balance of power kept the Arab world subject to greater, global forces; when they evaporated, the sky was the limit as far as internal Arab politics went.

Asking who killed Ambassador Stevens is like asking that overwhelming question of the 1950s -- who lost China. Who lost China? Chang Kai-Chek lost China. Do you really think we control everything?

Get it straight -- we barely control anything. We never really have, anymore than any great power actually controls things, and it's been worse since Communism collapsed, because now we have nobody to talk to to get the bad guys back in line.

In fact about the only thing we could do is something we won't do; exert massive, terrifying vengeance. That would feel good, but only make things worse. The Russians don't even do that -- they take their vengeance quietly, which is what I assume President Obama will do.

It's been a long time, in fact, since, as Jed Bartlett said on The West Wing:

... that two thousand years ago, a Roman citizen could walk across the face of the known world free of the fear of molestation? He could walk across the Earth unharmed, cloaked only in the protection of the words civis Romanus -- I am a Roman citizen. So great was the retribution of Rome, universally certain, should any harm befall even one of its citizens.

Ain't like that anymore. Not for any nation.

But why am I saying this? You know it perfectly well yourself.