The sophisticated criticism of President Obama’s Libya policy is this:
Obama intervened in Libya despite his awareness that the anti-Gaddafi rebels had pro-al-Qaeda leanings. He intervened to support those rebels because he hoped to prove to Islamists everywhere in the Middle East and North Africa that they had more to gain from co-operating with the United States than from fighting the United States. This is the famous “opening to political Islam” that has been so intensely discussed in Washington.
And the opening continues. It continues in the form of the covert aid now reportedly flowing to the Syrian rebels, and in the soft line being taken with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president even after Egyptian police failed to protect the U.S. embassy in Cairo against attack (which also was on 9/11). If the opening failed in Libya, it’s likely to fail even worse in Syria, where the rebel groups are even more saturated with Salafist Islam than the Libyan rebels.
Romney was trying to articulate these ideas on Tuesday night. He slipped and suffered for it. But his slip should not be allowed to shut down this discussion. President Obama’s big risky Mideast gambit is failing badly.