09/13/2012 05:11 pm ET Updated Nov 13, 2012

Libya -- The Question We're Not Asking

Apart from Mitt Romney's ridiculous slur against President Obama following the murder of a U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, Americans should be focusing on a much more formidable question:

When was the last time a Chinese diplomat was murdered or even roughed up by an angry mob? When did you least hear about a Chinese embassy burned down or pillaged? We'll be back to that question.

From Morocco and Tunisia to Libya, Egypt, Yemen and Iraq, anti-American crowds have taken to the streets. The outpouring of hatred is symptomatic of the fact that across much of North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, American policy is in tatters. Probably more than ever before.

The region is strewn with the wreckage of failed U.S. ambition and disastrous American plans.
Incredibly, even as the U.S. surveys the shambles that Libya has become, there are still American officials pushing for the United States to intervene in Syria's bloody civil war. (In fact, for months now, the U.S. and some of its Arab allies have been clandestinely doing just that.)

Even the Prime Minister of Israel, supposedly America's most valuable ally in the region, makes political points by sticking his finger in the eye of the American president.

The reason for America's obsession with this part of the world, we've heard for years, is that its trade routes and resources are critical to U.S. interests.

But hold on -- that may once have been true, but, as things stand now, those trade routes and resources are even more crucial to China than to America. China, for instance, gets a greater percentage of its oil through the vital straights of Hormuz -- which the U.S. spends billions to patrol -- than does the United States.

And, while the U.S. has been lavishing hundreds of billions on bases, the Chinese have been spending their huge wad across Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia buying up mineral deposits, land, forests, petroleum, inking construction contracts for huge infrastructure projects, as well as opening up vast new markets.

Where are the Chinese troops to protect all this? Where are the sprawling Chinese naval and air bases, their drones, killer teams and special forces? Not needed, thanks, the U.S. is handling security.

Which makes for some sad ironies. The fact, for instance, that the murdered U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens had spent months aiding the Libyan rebels during their uprising against Gaddafi -- while China was one of the last major allies to continue supporting the dictator. Yet the Chinese are back in Libya wheeling and dealing for construction contracts and oil.

Meanwhile, next door in Egypt, newly elected President Mohammed Morsi, whose country, mind you, continues to receive more than 1 billion dollars in aid from the United States, judged he had more to gain by joining in attacks against the U.S. than by cooling the popular passions. And where was his first trip abroad after winning election? To China.

Yet China would seem a very appropriate target for Muslim anger.

The U.S. may have invaded Muslim countries, but for decades China has been brutally persecuting and repressing millions of its own Muslim minorities, such as the Uighars in Northwest China.

But how many furious crowds have taken to the streets in Muslim lands to protest the plight of the Uighars? How many have even heard of them? How many Muslim leaders who are lambasting the United States because of an off the wall film that the U.S. government had absolutely nothing to do with, how many of them have ever uttered a single word of public protest against China.

That's not to say the Chinese are beloved in the region. There've been violent, sometimes bloody, protests against their labor and trade practices.

But nothing that compares in scale and depth to the hatred and suspicion of the United States throughout the region.

The current outcry over a film insulting Mohammed is just the tip of an emotional iceberg. Underneath it all are more than half a century of Western and American interventions in the region, as well as the U.S.'s continued support of Israel.

While the U.S. has spent huge sums, trying to overthrow regimes, punish perceived enemies, prevent nuclear proliferation (except in Israel), and shape the outcome of the new political forces that are roiling the area, the Chinese have had their eyes fixed on one objective only -- getting hold of vital natural resources to fuel their ravenous economy, finding new markets for their products and mammoth projects for their construction companies.

Why can't the U.S. do the same?

That's the kind of basic questions that American should be discussing in the wake of the killing of the U.S. Ambassador, as they go about electing a new president.

But don't count on it.