The violence in Libya that caused U.S. embassy personnel to flee the country on Saturday is partly due to President Obama's inability to bring calm to the region, key Republican members of Congress said on Saturday. According to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the "deteriorating security posture" that is playing out across the region "is what happens when the United States is not engaged and lacks a clear foreign policy that includes strong U.S. leadership." Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, echoed the sentiment that the Obama administration is to blame for not doing enough to bring security to Libya.
Violence between rival Libyan militias drew closer to the American Embassy in Tripoli recently, prompting a careful U.S. military operation over the weekend. As Kareem Fahim reported, military jets provided air cover during a predawn evacuation of the embassy's staff, which appeared to go without incident. The report added U.S. officials described the evacuation as a temporary measure after fighting drew too close to the embassy.
Any chance congressional Republicans were glad the Obama administration took the precautionary step? No, GOP lawmakers were too busy blaming the president for the Libyan militias' violence.
In fairness, not all Republicans on Capitol Hill were quite so crass. House Armed Services Committee Chair Buck McKeon (R-CA) issued a statement extending his well-wishes to the troops and diplomatic team. "As Americans evacuate from Tripoli, I want to express my deep gratitude for the US forces who have been on standby alert there," McKeon said. "My thoughts and prayers are with all Americans in Libya. I wish them a safe return, and for the safety of American troops watching over them."
But among GOP leaders and committee chairs, McKeon was alone -- his colleagues from his party were too busy blaming U.S. leaders for violence between warring Libyan militias. Royce, in particular, cited "the lack of direction and leadership from this Administration" in a statement.
In reality, it's not clear how much the clashing militias really care about "direction and leadership" from the White House.
In the larger context, though, it appears we now have another example of a disturbing pattern.
As we talked about a week ago, the Republican line has become a little too reflexive: practically all international problems can and should be blamed on America's elected leaders.
Syria is in the midst of a brutal civil war? The right blames President Obama. ISIS advances in Iraq? The right blames President Obama. Innocents die in violence between Israelis and Palestinians? The right blames President Obama. Ukrainian separatists are accused of shooting down an airliner with Russian military equipment? The right blames President Obama.
Rival Libyan militias are fighting for control? The right blames President Obama.
It's just so ... unnecessary. No president, even the ones Republicans like, can control world events like a marionette, pulling one string after another to advance U.S. interests around the globe. We may be a superpower, but that doesn't give the president superpowers. Conflicts still arise; civil wars still break out; invasions still advance; and innocent people still die, all for reasons that have nothing to do with the actions of the person in the Oval Office.
As E.J. Dionne Jr. recently explained, "Partisanship -- defined as vigorous, principled disagreement – has an honored place in democracy. We are in the midst of such a debate over foreign policy in both parties.... That's good. What's not good is the habit of Obama's foes to make every foreign policy crisis about him, whether it is or not."