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Leslie H. Gelb on the Mysteries of the Middle East Riots

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
September 17, 2012
Daily Beast

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I was all set to take a swipe at the Obama team for not being strong enough in their response to last week's horrors in Libya and Egypt. But the more I dug into what they said and did, the more I saw that they handled matters about as well as possible under nasty circumstances and demanding time pressures. They told irate Muslims that although the video that sparked the riots was obnoxious, no one was going to tell Americans what they can or cannot say. And they reminded Arab governments that their prime duty was to protect U.S. diplomats and other personnel. I would have added that otherwise, we'd take our people and our aid home, and maybe that still needs to be said. All told, the Obama administration deserves none of the slurs hurled its way by Romneyites.

As I plunged further into the turmoil, what struck me was not the Romney camp's silly charges, but several rather important mysteries about who knew what and who did what. Digging for the facts here almost certainly will help prevent and cope with future Muslim mayhem.

First is a report of claims by a Libyan deputy interior minister that he had warned U.S. officials of imminent trouble in Benghazi. Whom exactly did he warn, and when? And what, if anything, did the supposedly informed U.S. officials do about it? Also, much more to the point, what, if anything, did the Libyan government do about it? If they knew something, Libyan officials in Benghazi and Tripoli could have beefed up their own security substantially around the endangered U.S. consulate.

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