A murdered ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans dead in Benghazi. These men died courageously.
Lacking courage, Romney and Ryan clumsily try to turn this into a critique of Obama foreign policy, when they have vapid bases for doing so. Their bastardized version of what transpired, designed to demean the president instead of honoring the victims, is despicable.
Romney and Ryan are men who spent their professional lives in boardrooms or Janesville, and previously spoke only the most simplistic, archaic platitudes about foreign policy... until, that is, their less-than-astute advisers told them that these tragic deaths created an attack opportunity.
For what was President Obama attacked? Ostensibly, for a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, naturally taken out of context, assuring Egyptians and other Muslims that the amateur video that has generated violence against U.S. and European targets is condemned by the American leadership. That is no apology. The Cairo Embassy, which issued the statement before violence erupted, was engaging in public diplomacy at a highly professional level; they were trying to, de facto, explain the American free market of ideas while rejecting the offensive nature of the video's content.
Romney and Ryan, and Republicans generally, find themselves in the discomfiting situation of being seen as less competent in foreign policy and national security than a Democratic incumbent president. As well they should be -- no experience, no global vision except more confrontation and bluster, and no way to pay for the military they say they want to enlarge.
In elections past, the Democratic Party struggled to be seen as credible on national defense and international security. But Americans wanted the Iraq war to end, and Obama promised and delivered. Now it is up to the Iraqis. Americans wanted to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden, and this administration delivered as Bush had not -- with the bravery of SEALS and expertise of the Intel Community duly noted.
Thus, in these last weeks before a critical election, Republicans will pounce, in the most crass and unpatriotic fashion, on any opportunity to turn tragedy to their advantage. Such wanton opportunism is not befitting of a presidential candidate.
Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, and the two security officers (former SEALS) had no party label. They were trying to defend American "territory" (the consulate) and ensure the safety of other employees, but were killed in a likely planned, brazen attack. That at least eight Libyan guards died trying to defend the consulate suggests both that the Libyan government is not behind this heinous event but also that the attackers were very well armed and prepared.
Romney and Ryan probably do not know, but almost every U.S. mission abroad depends heavily on local protection. Yes, there are some U.S. Marines at every consulate and embassy, but not in platoon strength (except, say, in Baghdad). Yes, there are independent security contractors also on duty, but they are not armed with heavy weapons. And, yes, most American missions are much more fortified or distant from central urban districts than years ago. Still, nothing can protect them from a direct onslaught by hundreds of heavily armed individuals. Diplomacy is still a dangerous business, unless you're posted to Western Europe, Canberra, Tokyo, or Singapore. Armored vehicles, surveillance cameras, X-rays, guards around residences -- these are the norm. The State Department truly takes as many precautions as feasible, while still doing diplomacy.
For Romney/Ryan for'n uhfares, however, the learning curve is too steep. They, collectively, have exhibited an inability to understand diplomacy (witness Romney in London or Israel), and an uncontrolled desire to utilize tragedy for their political calculus. I am left wondering about, and fearful of how they would manage a foreign policy crisis. I would not want either to have access to the "red phone."
Daniel N. Nelson is CEO of Global Concepts & Communications, and has served in the U.S. Government and academic leadership posts.