COLUMN: Lack of Leadership Emboldens Our Enemies and Endangers America

Sep 13, 2012

The United States of America was attacked in Benghazi, Libya two days ago on the 11th anniversary of September 11, 2001. This was not a riot; it was a coordinated assault on a United States Consulate that led to the assassination of the United States Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens along with three brave associates. This was an act of terrorism and must be dealt with in a harsh and prompt manner.   I am deeply saddened by the loss of Ambassador Stevens and the three American Foreign Service agents who were killed in the attack. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost loved ones in this horrible act of violence.

This is a time for the United States to mourn our dead and also a time to be firm and resolute. We must make it abundantly clear that we will not tolerate attacks on Americans. The United States cannot convey weakness but unfortunately, that is exactly what the Obama Administration has done by sympathizing with the very people who attacked us. The administration’s failure to effectively respond is also being seen as weakness by our enemies.

President Obama’s defense and foreign policy strategy conveys weakness. The president has already reduced defense spending by $487 billion over ten years. He has proposed reducing troop levels by 100,000 service members, 80,000 Soldiers and 20,000 Marines. Last week, the American people learned that the administration is responsible for proposing the debacle that we now know as sequestration. Sequestration is potentially crippling to our national security and the president yet again fails to show any leadership.

Our ambassador to Libya has been assassinated, our embassy in Egypt has been attacked, Syria is in the midst of a brutal civil war, terrorists have carried out numerous bombings in Iraq killing hundreds, Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and has vowed to destroy Israel, terrorists in Pakistan have recently attacked a Pakistani military base that houses nuclear weapons, and the United States continues to battle al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. This is the world, as it currently exists. This is not a world in which America can afford to cut 100,000 troops. This is a world, which just by the shear force of reality demands that we have a strong military. However, sequestration, an event that would devastate our military, looms upon the horizon and the president of the United States does nothing. Instead, President Obama resumes his campaign, attending events in Nevada and Colorado. The American people deserve better and our Nation should demand real leadership.

Although the Obama Administration no longer likes to refer to our overseas contingency operations as the “Global War on Terrorism,” the fact of the matter is the war is still raging. Simply changing names and exercising wishful thinking will not change reality. The United States and Israel remain the primary targets of terror organizations throughout the world. President Obama is faced with an Iranian government that is relentlessly pursuing nuclear weapon technology, according to a recently published International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report. Iran is also the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the region. Despite this fact President Obama continually fails to support Israel, our most steadfast ally in the region.

Earlier this week, the United States faced enemies, not angry protestors. The attack in Libya was a coordinated assault upon United States property and personnel. The speculation within many defense and intelligence circles is that the attack was revenge for American forces killing Abu Yahya al-Libi, al-Qaeda’s second in command and a native of Libya. The terrorists carried rocket propelled grenades and attacked in two waves. The first wave penetrated the perimeter of the consulate and the second wave penetrated a secure location within the consulate. This group of terrorists is a determined enemy that America faces around the world. We must maintain our defenses to counter the enemy and provide every American security.

The president must provide leadership.  He must urge the Senate to address sequestration. The House of Representatives has already passed three bills addressing sequestration. Additionally, reducing our military by 100,000 troops and $487 billion is a mistake. We have seen a defense and foreign policy of weakness and decline in American influence and respect and our enemies question our resolve to fight. Two days ago, we saw the consequences of this perceived weakness. President Ronald Reagan’s national security approach of providing peace through strength kept the United States and our allies safe for decades. In order for our nation to continue promoting democracy and peace throughout the world, we must demand leadership and begin practicing a foreign policy that will keep America safe.

Wilson is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee.