The second Obama administration is now just a month away, reminding us of the century-old American tendency for second presidential terms to be troubled and often unsuccessful. Second terms are particularly vulnerable to scandal.
At the same time, constitutional changes made after World War II have guaranteed that every second term president is a lame duck, and therefore less feared by his enemies. It is impossible to predict the future, but it is also clear that the second Obama administration bears a major vulnerability: this is a foreign policy heavily reliant on support from irregular military forces which can only be described as “al-Qaeda.” Obama has in fact gone far beyond any of his predecessors in his use of terrorist fighters as the infantry component in the NATO-backed assaults on countries like Libya and Syria, as well as for operations in Pakistan and Yemen. This is often what “leading from behind” really means.
The declared goal of the US military in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as in Somalia and Yemen, is to kill any al-Qaeda fighters which they manage to locate. But when it comes to Libya and Syria, al-Qaeda fighters are welcomed, provided with transportation, given logistical support, armed, paid, and given diplomatic assistance by the Pentagon and the State Department. This blatant contradiction has been building up since the early months of 2011, and it may now be reaching critical mass.
In the case of Libya, much of the country, and especially the eastern province of Cyrenaica – including the Benghazi-Derna-Tobruk corridor – is now under the control of warlords and militias from the orbit of al Qaeda. The September 11 assassination of US Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi – already a cause célèbre for Republicans — was largely the handiwork of a pro-Romney network inside the Pentagon and General David Petraeus’ CIA, but one of the reasons the Obama administration has been forced on the defensive regarding this incident is that a main task of the Benghazi consulate/CIA post has been to maintain relations with al-Qaeda death squads, especially for the purpose of moving them through Turkey into Syria to wage war against the Assad government. Any serious inquiry into the Stevens assassination thus risks exposing his role as an ambassador to al- Qaeda.
In the case of Syria, the United States has now extended full diplomatic recognition to the Syrian National Coalition, a collection of front men for the al-Qaeda fighters who provide most of the military potential of the so-called Free Syrian Army. In an attempt to camouflage this scandalous state of affairs, the State Department has also officially branded the principal striking force of the FSA, the Jabhat al Nusra brigades, as a terrorist organization. Al-Nusra includes 29 of the principal death squads, which have been doing most of the recent fighting against the Syrian army.