Diehl: Obama’s “light footprint” doctrine the author of Benghazi debacle

posted at 1:01 pm on November 12, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

When the West pushed Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak from office via diplomatic abandonment, Barack Obama declared that a victory for American foreign policy and democratization in the Middle East.  After decapitating the Moammar Qaddafi regime a few months later through NATO in an undeclared war against Libya, Obama argued that this should be the model of interventionism, rather than Iraq and, presumably, his own decisions in Afghanistan.  However, the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl writes today that Obama’s “light footprint” doctrine led directly to the sacking of the Benghazi consulate — and that we should expect a series of “boomerangs” in the future:

Is “leading from behind” an unfair monicker for this? Then call it the light footprint doctrine. It’s a strategy that supposes that patient multilateral diplomacy can solve problems like Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability; that drone strikes can do as well at preventing another terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland as do ground forces in Afghanistan; that crises like that of Syria can be left to the U.N. Security Council.

For the last couple of years, the light footprint worked well enough to allow Obama to turn foreign policy into a talking point for his reelection. But the terrorist attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11 should have been a red flag to all who believe this president has invented a successful new model for U.S. leadership. Far from being an aberration, Benghazi was a toxic byproduct of the light footprint approach — and very likely the first in a series of boomerangs.

Why were Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans murdered by Libyan jihadists? The preliminary round of official investigations may focus on decisions by mid-level officials at the State Department that deprived the Benghazi mission of adequate security, and a failure by the large CIA team in the city to detect the imminent threat from extremist groups.

But ultimately the disaster in Libya derived from Obama’s doctrine. Having been reluctantly dragged by France and Britain into intervening in Libya’s revolution, Obama withdrew U.S. planes from the fight as quickly as possible; when the war ended, the White House insisted that no U.S. forces stay behind. Requests by Libya’s fragile transition government for NATO’s security assistance were answered with an ill-conceived and ultimately failed program to train a few people in Jordan. …

At best, Libya will be a steady, low-grade headache for Obama in his second term. But the worst blowback from his policies will come in Syria. What began as a peaceful mass rebellion against another Arab dictator has turned, in the absence of U.S. leadership, into a brutal maelstrom of sectarian war in which al-Qaeda and allied jihadists are playing a growing role. Obama’s light footprint strategy did much to produce this mess; without a change of U.S. policy, it will become, like Bosnia for Bill Clinton or Iraq for George W. Bush, the second term’s “problem from hell.”

Obama’s foreign policy reminds one of an attempt to apply a “third way” concept to interventionism.  Bill Clinton did this successfully with domestic policy after his midterm debacle in 1994, and succeeded well enough that he won a second term and ended up the most popular political figure of his era.  It also produced some good results, at least economically and arguably in governance, with important reforms of regulation and welfare that could have served as models for future policy.

Unfortunately, as we are discovering, there really isn’t a “third way” on intervention.  Either one has to go all in, as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan — with Obama going even more “all in” than George Bush in the latter case — or all out.  In Benghazi, the situation has fallen into a kind of Mogadishu-esque gang warfare between terrorist groups, militias, and what little control the central government can provide.  We prevented that from happening in Iraq while we trained a new Iraqi army and police force to handle internal security with a massive footprint of American troops, which ended up being a military battleground in our war against al-Qaeda.

Had we left Qaddafi alone, we would not have allowed those same enemies to now have a large area of safe haven in which to operate with impunity.  If we wanted to intervene, and had done so with a significant commitment of ground forces to secure the eastern region of Libya where we knew those terrorist networks to be operating, we could have attacked them directly with our most capable resources, albeit at great cost and a years-long commitment of the kind that has clearly become politically unpalatable in the US.  Either way, we would be better off than we are now.

Like Somalia, and like Afghanistan after the Soviet intervention and our campaign to push them out in the 1980s, the light footprint strategy has produced another cesspool of terrorist networks that will threaten us for years, if not decades.  Diehl’s warning is well justified, and his prediction of “boomerangs” to come from Obama’s foreign policy is a rather safe bet.

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Lying from behind.

forest on November 12, 2012 at 1:05 PM

How about a “No footprint” strategy, as we always seem to fall on our face when we try to do anything in the Muslim world.

VorDaj on November 12, 2012 at 1:07 PM

However, the Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl writes today that Obama’s “light footprint” doctrine led directly to the sacking of the Benghazi consulate —

Critics of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to include Obama acolyte GEN Colin Powell, hammered him for committing too few troops to Iraq to get the job done.

I guess SE Cupp was right, Obama is continuing Bush’s Middle East doctrine. What say you, libs?

ted c on November 12, 2012 at 1:07 PM

Lying from behind.

forest on November 12, 2012 at 1:05 PM

Oh, no, I think they’re lying upfront and openly :)…and with much confidence that it will work this time too…

jimver on November 12, 2012 at 1:08 PM

twinkle toes

cmsinaz on November 12, 2012 at 1:08 PM

Impeachment is coming….

jawkneemusic on November 12, 2012 at 1:09 PM

Because the War Powers Act and an accountable Executive Branch were like outdated bayonets and horses.
 
/, hopefully not needed.

rogerb on November 12, 2012 at 1:09 PM

If one keeps getting scratched up when going into blackberry bushes, why keep on trying new ways, like sideways, low crawl, etc? Why not just stay out of the blackberry bushes?

VorDaj on November 12, 2012 at 1:10 PM

No question that the “Benghazi debacle” is emblematic of Obama’s approach. That’s one reason why it’s been of little interest to the MSM.

I for one do anticipate a thorough explanation the next time he visits the ladies of The View.

Drained Brain on November 12, 2012 at 1:10 PM

ted c on November 12, 2012 at 1:07 PM

They don’t care. War is cool when there’s a democrat in the WH.

jawkneemusic on November 12, 2012 at 1:11 PM

If “light footprint”, means “willingly putting Americans in danger in order to suck up to the Muslim Brotherhood, et al”, I hear what you’re saying.

kingsjester on November 12, 2012 at 1:13 PM

Why does an article like this come out today…instead of a week ago when it could have made a difference in the election?

Oh wait, it’s WaPo. Answered my own question.

monalisa on November 12, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Seriously, after Tuesday, who’s really supposed to care about this kind of stuff? Petraeus, Benghazi, blah, blah, blah. Newsflash: the Obamarrhoids are in the ascendancy and these problems are just beginning. By 2016, we won’t even be able to keep track of all the events bespeaking national decline.

Travis Bickle on November 12, 2012 at 1:14 PM

Who Cares?

Obama is Awesome!

sentinelrules on November 12, 2012 at 1:15 PM

albeit at great cost and a years-long commitment of the kind that has clearly become politically unpalatable in the US. Either way, we would be better off than we are now.

“great cost and a years-long commitment”

Wrong!!! Wrong!!! Wrong!!!

IDIOT.

VorDaj on November 12, 2012 at 1:15 PM

Bush’s critics also used the upswing in IEDs in Iraq as proof positive of too few troops being used to secure the peace in Iraq. Bush subsequently ordered a surge in 2007. Obama surged troops in 2010 to AF. Are we soon to surge troops into Libya???

ted c on November 12, 2012 at 1:15 PM

Diehl: Obama’s “light footprint nutsack” doctrine

Archivarix on November 12, 2012 at 1:22 PM

They don’t care. War is cool when there’s a democrat in the WH.

jawkneemusic on November 12, 2012 at 1:11 PM

Especially when that “war” is done by remote control using drones and other airstrikes, but with no boots on the ground and no exit strategy. They think it’s just a video game or something.

UltimateBob on November 12, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Our best hope is that some patriot in the secret service decides to take matters into his own hands and repays this administration in kind.

Deano1952 on November 12, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Arab Spring.

petefrt on November 12, 2012 at 1:24 PM

Seinfeld reference warning:

0bama reminds me of the doctor (actually an intern) that Elaine dated at one time. She used to go around bragging that she was dating a doctor, but when they were on a date at a restaurant, some guy passed out and he didn’t know what to do. Someone shouted out, “Elevate his legs,” and the “doctor” repeated, “Um, yeah – elevate his legs.”

This is 0bama’s style of leadership.

UltimateBob on November 12, 2012 at 1:28 PM

If we wanted to intervene, and had done so with a significant commitment of ground forces to secure the eastern region of Libya where we knew those terrorist networks to be operating, we could have attacked them directly with our most capable resources, albeit at great cost and a years-long commitment of the kind that has clearly become politically unpalatable in the US. Either way, we would be better off than we are now.

It’s very likely that we would have lost significantly more American lives with a ground invasion. That’s better off?

red_herring on November 12, 2012 at 1:28 PM

Just expect more dead Americans with the JEF in the white house.

If I were a state department employee anywhere in the middle east, I’d be looking for a transfer back stateside ASAP.

Robert Jensen on November 12, 2012 at 1:39 PM

But…but..but..HE is the Obamassiah! HE makes no error! HE is pure! The Chosen One does not fail, it is we, the weak who fail HIM!

GarandFan on November 12, 2012 at 1:41 PM

Uh, oh….

It’s looks as though Broadwell was right…. there were prisoners being held in the annex:

http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2012/11/fox-news-confirms-us-was-holding-prisoners-at-benghazi-annex-video/

Cody1991 on November 12, 2012 at 1:47 PM

Erkel will never be caught.

PETA to start looking into “Dead Horse” abuse out there.

FlaMurph on November 12, 2012 at 1:51 PM

Light footprint my behind! It’s called the cowardice doctrine! This Islamo-Fascist appeasing traitor, is nothing more than a coward with the testicles of a female microbe! Like all cowards, he’s a real tough guy standing behind the Navy Seals or a monitor of a drone! When it comes time to face down a scumbag, he turns into a cowering little twelve yr old girl at a horror movie! All this BS, is just another attempt to deflect from the fact that the Traitor-in-chief is arming Al-Qaeda and from the actions of the eSTAB repubs, we see that they are likely involved, since they are giving the Butcher of Benghazi cover for his TREASON!
Fight the Obama Enemy media or Kiss the Constitution Goodbye: http://paratisiusa.blogspot.com/2012/09/an-open-letter-to-those-who-should-know.html?spref=tw

God Bless America!

paratisi on November 12, 2012 at 1:58 PM

Impeachment is coming….

jawkneemusic on November 12, 2012 at 1:09 PM

To he!! with impeachment. Just indict him for what he is: a traitor.

Diehl: Obama’s “light footprint nutsack” doctrine…

Archivarix on November 12, 2012 at 1:22 PM

Barry or Michelle? Please clarify.

turfmann on November 12, 2012 at 2:05 PM

Barack light in the pants Obama.

Benghazigate will be his undoing.

profitsbeard on November 12, 2012 at 2:05 PM

It’s very likely that we would have lost significantly more American lives with a ground invasion. That’s better off?

red_herring on November 12, 2012 at 1:28 PM

Obama’s policy should be to abandon ever American outside the contiguous 48 states.

Right patriot?

tom daschle concerned on November 12, 2012 at 2:05 PM

Impeachment is coming….

jawkneemusic on November 12, 2012 at 1:09 PM

The Republican House may very well impeach Obama.

But you can count it that the Democrat controlled Senate will NEVER NEVER EVER remove him from office.

Gunlock Bill on November 12, 2012 at 2:06 PM

Obama’s policy should be to abandon ever American outside the contiguous 48 states.

Right patriot?

tom daschle concerned on November 12, 2012 at 2:05 PM

I think you misunderstand what I was criticizing. Ed seems to be suggesting that we would have been better off have either left qudaffi in power or had overthrown him with an Iraq style ground invasion. That just seems crazy to me. In case 1 an insane dictator who has American blood on his hands stays in power. In case 2 we have Iraq 2.0. Seriously, what is ed thinking

red_herring on November 12, 2012 at 2:20 PM

At a minimum, I expect to hear an enthusiastic “You Lie!” At the next state of the union speech.

can_con on November 12, 2012 at 2:28 PM

Title of thread – Obama’s “light footprint” doctrine the author of Benghazi debacle.

How very correct.

SC.Charlie on November 12, 2012 at 2:37 PM

we should expect a series of “boomerangs” in the future

I wonder how many dead Americans those boomerangs will bring.

Obama was lucky the death toll in Benghazi was only four. Actually, it was less luck than the bravery, and willingness to disobey orders, of ex-SEALS Woods and Doherty. But at some point Obama’s “luck” is going to run out.

AZCoyote on November 12, 2012 at 2:41 PM

At a minimum, I expect to hear an enthusiastic “You Lie!” At the next state of the union speech. – can_con on November 12, 2012 at 2:28 PM

The usually shy, silent Joe Wilson was reelected without any opposition. So he might suddenly speak the truth once again. I hope he or someone else does. I am certainly not a happy camper that Obama was reelected.

SC.Charlie on November 12, 2012 at 2:42 PM

Benghazigate will be his undoing. – profitsbeard on November 12, 2012 at 2:05 PM

That would not break my heart. But I sure don’t won’t him removed from office. Dumbass Biden would be his replacement. The one thing bright about Biden is his teeth.

SC.Charlie on November 12, 2012 at 2:45 PM

Here we go again, Afghanistan redux


‘Destroy the idols,’ Egyptian jihadist calls for removal of Sphinx, Pyramids

Brat on November 12, 2012 at 2:58 PM

That would not break my heart. But I sure don’t won’t him removed from office. Dumbass Biden would be his replacement. The one thing bright about Biden is his teeth.

SC.Charlie on November 12, 2012 at 2:45 PM

Better a neutered dumbass than an active scumbag.

profitsbeard on November 12, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Impeachment is coming….

jawkneemusic on November 12, 2012 at 1:09 PM

Dream on. . ..

Who has the stones to do it? And, if done, who in the Senate would support it?

Dream on. . ..

totherightofthem on November 12, 2012 at 3:02 PM

But you can count it that the Democrat controlled Senate will NEVER NEVER EVER remove him from office.

Gunlock Bill on November 12, 2012 at 2:06 PM

It may be that they will have no choice! If, and that is a big fat if, the House has the b@lls to find out the truth, and IF the truth is what many of us suspect and that Zero has committed high crimes, then they will have to remove him from office! I will take the idiot Biden any day over this corrupt, Marxist, despot!

texgal on November 12, 2012 at 3:11 PM

Wow, this Diehl guy is an absolute moron. So let’s endanger literally hundreds of thousands of American lives on a ground campaign in an occupation of Libya versus a handful on the grounds that their lives are more valuable? I’m so sick of guys on the right who just treat those of us who serve in the military as nameless pawns to be sacrificed for political gain.

What happened to Stevens and his group was a tragedy and hopefully it never happens again, but it hardly supports the neocon agenda of full-scale invasions and doesn’t change the fact that “Obama’s War” has had fewer casualties on our side than any other in all of American history. It’s not even close.

Typhonsentra on November 12, 2012 at 3:12 PM

I think it is time for a serious educating of the citizenry on just what the current R.O.E. is in conjunction with the light footprint doctrine. This include the U.S. border control efforts. Why do I not recall the phrase ROE being mentioned once in this last election cycle.

can_con on November 12, 2012 at 3:13 PM

Light Footprint or Proceeding With All The Naivete And Arrogance We Can Muster.

Basilsbest on November 12, 2012 at 3:52 PM

If Zero hadn’t been so busy leaving his footprints on our necks, he might have been able to prevent the massacre in Libya. Do his voters know that Gitmo is still open for business and that dear leader had stashed prisoners in the Benghazi annex? Nah, too busy looking at CO as the next ideal place to live.

Kissmygrits on November 12, 2012 at 6:12 PM

Most INTELLIGENT thing I have seen written here – Focusing on the ACTUAL DESTRUCTION OF America, rather than the DISTRACTIONS!

williamg on November 12, 2012 at 10:25 PM

“Light footprint”? They used to call it “light in the loafers.” Sure looks like the inspiration.

Alec on November 12, 2012 at 11:44 PM