I want to express my deepest condolences to the families of Ambassador Stevens and the three other American officials who were killed in Tuesday’s heinous terrorist attacks. And I want to thank all of them for their heroic service to our country.
On Tuesday, Americans here and abroad commemorated the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th. At the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, the United States flag was at half-mast as mobs of protestors stood outside the embassy waiving Islamist flags and chanting “Osama”. They subsequently climbed the walls of the embassy, pulled down the American flag, and tossed it to the mob outside. Unable to burn our flag, they ripped it in a fit of anger. The protestors still inside the embassy then raised an Islamist flag in the place of ours. This is in the capital of a country that the Obama Administration just offered to write off $1 billion of its debt to America. The place where the President gave a much heralded speech three years ago about a new beginning with the Muslim world.
Tragically soon after, at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, a neighbor to Egypt, Americans fled for their lives as Islamic terrorists invaded the consulate using guns and grenades. When the dust settled, we learned a U.S. ambassador had been killed for the first time since 1979, along with three other U.S. officials serving their country.
As we continue to learn more details about both incidents, we must look to the immediate future and ask ourselves what does America stand for, and how will we stand for it?
We must stand strong and make it abundantly clear that if you attack American people or property, you will pay a severe price. This reality needs to be unequivocal in the minds of potential adversaries and enemies prior to acts of violence. Do you think this was clear in Cairo prior to the attack on American territory, the American flag, and long-standing international law? International law is clear but we need to be clear about where we stand. Strength and symbolism matter and especially in the Middle East. This violation of our Embassy in Cairo did not happen in a vacuum.
First, President Obama sent the message that we would no longer support the imperfect but long-time U.S. ally of the Egyptian government during the Arab Spring when the clear likely alternative would be Islamists.
Second, when an Egyptian government in transition took a number of Americans into custody, including those working with U.S. government-affiliated NGOs, and charged them with crimes, we effectively paid a bounty for their release while at the same time supported their government with military and other forms of assistance.
Third, under President Obama, we bought into the fallacy that elections in Egypt mean democracy by supporting an accelerated move toward elections that basically guaranteed Islamists coming to power and prevented other segments to mobilize and build institutions and political parties that could compete with the Islamists.
We “forgot” once again that meaningful democracy requires institutions which can protect the rights of minorities. Of course, Coptic Christians, who represent more than 10 percent of the population in Egypt would prefer to enjoy freedom as well. Islamists now control the Parliament, the Presidency, and most of the government, even replacing key members of the military.
Fourth, the Obama Administration is forgiving a billion dollars in debt and arranging for more assistance through the International Monetary Fund.
And fifth, the new Islamist President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, recently traveled to Iran to work on improving relations with a regime that is the number one adversary and threat to America and Israel. And we now find our flag and inviolable property being desecrated on the anniversary of 9-11.
Part of the problem with leading from behind in foreign policy and national security is that it makes this policy critique not “Monday morning” quarterbacking but a likely outcome of confused policy. When our government thinks that bending over backwards to appease Radical Islam is some how in our long term interests it opens the door to a range of threats and sows the seeds of confusion. America stands for freedom in the eyes of immigrants who come to our shores from around the world, she also stands for freedom to those who oppose our values. Appeasement doesn’t change this; it exacerbates it. It doesn’t move us forward, it moves us backward and makes us less safe in the end.
We must let our enemies know that we will stand strong for American principles and values. We must show that America will not tolerate an ideology and a threat that oppresses women and minorities, opposes freedom of conscience and religion, and aggressively promotes violent Jihadism to spread its power. We will also stand with those in the majority Muslim world who reject these tenets as well. Ultimately standing for these principles unequivocally will promote our interests and draw freedom loving people to our flag not to desecrate it but to respect it and be inspired by what it stands for. We must also hold firm on our founding American principles of real freedom of speech and religion. Particularly in Egypt, we cannot accept any efforts from President Morsi to promote anti-blasphemy laws which physically and emotionally harm the Christian and Coptic communities.
America must be willing to do what is necessary to stand strong, to stand for our interests, and to stand for our values around the world. Radical Islam stands against this and remains our number one national security challenge. Pretending otherwise does not change that. I’m not convinced that the President understands or believes this reality — not because of his heart but because of his policies and priorities. When the only programs he can cut are for our military, when he wipes our military and defense strategies free of references to radical Islam, when he reduces the debt of Islamists in Egypt instead of America’s, when he sits down while the Iranian people stand up against the regime, and when he gives Iran four more years to develop their nuclear program this tells us that we need new leadership. Israel understands that preventing such radicals in Iran and elsewhere from getting nuclear weapons is not a luxury but a necessity. In year four of your presidency, we need to understand the same, Mr. President.
Rick Santorum, a Republican, is a former Congressman and Senator from Pennsylvania. He is the co-founder of Patriot Voices.