Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Gaddafi's Revenge

This morning I woke up to two pieces of terrible news. The first was that a police officer was shot and killed in Santiago during the "traditional" night of rioting which follows the 11 September anniversary. He wasn't killed in the course of any political demonstration, but basically by young, probably underage, looters with guns. Totally senseless.

The second was, of course, the death of Christopher Stephens, the US ambassador to Libya, in the course of an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi. In a way, both events share that they represent uncontrolled, mob violence masquerading as political protest. In both cases, although to varying degrees, the killings were more about societal disintegration than about any meaningful protest.

In any event, I have written a little column for La Tercera on events in Libya. My point is basically that with this event the presidential campaign enters dangerous territory. The last thing Obama needs is to have a Carter moment, and having Muslim extremists threaten embassies overseas is as close to a Carter moment as he can have (especially as there is a slim chance that the Russians will be invading Afghanistan any time soon), So how Obama handles this has the capacity of making or breaking his campaign.

So far, more so because of Romney's tin ear on foreign policy than because of anything Obama has done, the signs are good. But if pressure building within the US for him to actually DO something, the game could change very quickly.

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