One result of President Donald Trump’s decisive response this week to the attack on the United States Embassy in Baghdad has been to once again highlight what competent leadership looks like, particularly when compared with former President Barack Obama.
The closest parallel in my lifetime was the transition from American malaise under Jimmy Carter to the revival of American strength and spirit under Ronald Reagan.
On Tuesday, there were certainly echoes of the 2012 Benghazi attacks when hundreds of Iran-backed militia supporters stormed the American embassy in Baghdad and managed to breach the outer compound.
However, unlike the actions taken by the Obama administration during the Benghazi attack, the U.S. military response this time was swift, with 100 Marines deployed that day from Kuwait while an Apache attack helicopter flew overhead firing flares over the crowd as a show of force.
The implied message, of course, was: If this keeps up, this helicopter is capable of firing far more deadly munitions.
VIDEO: AH-64 Apaches protect @USEmbBaghdad. 🚁“We have taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens…and to ensure our right of self-defense. We are sending additional forces to support our personnel at the Embassy.”~@EsperDoD 🇺🇸🇮🇶 pic.twitter.com/amABHBAOcL
— OIR Spokesman Col. Myles B. Caggins III (@OIRSpox) December 31, 2019
After the Iraqi military came on the scene, the protesters dispersed.
Unlike at Benghazi, the call for U.S. military help was answered in a timely fashion. The result was no dead Americans. Further, the Trump administration was clear about who was responsible for the attack — Iran — and what the consequences would be if the aggression persisted.
Contrast this response with the Obama administration’s reaction during the Benghazi attacks in September 2012. In the months preceding the attacks, the State Department turned down multiple requests for increased security from U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens.
The administration then waited until the morning after the assault on the consulate started — over 12 hours — before sending U.S. military assistance.
Then, when it was all over, Obama officials tried to cover up their incompetence by going on television and lying to the American people about the nature of the attack by knowingly and falsely claiming it was a spontaneous uprising prompted by a YouTube video.
A 2016 report by the House Select Committee on Benghazi found the U.S. military response was fraught with missteps, which reflected on the leadership at the top.
“A Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) sat on a plane in Rota, Spain, for three hours, and changed in and out of their uniforms four times,” the report summary read.
The report detailed a back and forth about whether the Marines would wear their military uniforms or civilian clothes when they went into Libya.
Sounds like a lot of Obama-style political correctness, bureaucratic baloney run amok.
The tragic result of the Obama administration’s incompetence was the deaths of Stevens, Foreign Service officer Sean Smith and CIA security contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
The surviving Americans in Benghazi were ultimately evacuated by the Libyan armed forces.
Under the Trump administration, there was no dithering when the embassy in Iraq came under attack.
The Marine Corps Times reported a detachment of 100 Marines deployed from Kuwait to the Baghdad embassy within hours of the attack to bolster the facility’s defenses.
The Marines were part of “Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces Crisis Response — Central Command, which was created after the 2012 attack on the diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya,” the Times reported.
That evening, Trump told reporters regarding the U.S. response: “I think it’s been handled very well. The Marines came in. We had some great warriors come in and do a fantastically. And they were there instantaneously as soon as we heard. I use the word ‘immediately.'”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2020
“This will not be a Benghazi,” he added, according to a White House media pool report. “Benghazi should never have happened. This will never, ever be a Benghazi.”
It is not only Trump’s response to Benghazi that illustrates his competence versus Obama’s.
The Islamic State group’s caliphate-controlled territory grew from non-existent to roughly 35,000 square miles by 2015 on Obama’s watch.
Trump pledged as a candidate to destroy the caliphate if elected. After becoming president, he traveled to the region and spoke with his military leaders on the ground.
The military officers explained to him a strategy that they said would quickly bring about the terror organization’s demise. Trump adopted their recommendations, and the caliphate began to shrink until its last stronghold was liberated last March.
Of course, the Trump economy provides the one of the greatest contrasts with Obama.
Rather than raising taxes on businesses and individuals and increasing the regulatory burden at an alarming rate, Trump has slashed taxes and regulations.
Since Trump was elected, 7 million new jobs have been created.
Trump found the magic wand in both new tax and trade policies.
CNS News reported in September that since he took office, there has been an increase of approximately a half-million manufacturing jobs under Trump versus the loss of nearly that amount with Obama in charge.
All these facts speak to Trump’s competence and implementation of sound, time-tested governing policies.
The same contrast could be seen during the transition from Carter to Reagan.
Carter suggested in his famous “Crisis of Confidence” (otherwise known as the malaise) speech in July 1979 that perhaps America’s best days had come and gone.
“The symptoms of this crisis of the American spirit are all around us,” Carter said. “For the first time in the history of our country a majority of our people believe that the next 5 years will be worse than the past 5 years.”
Months later, in November 1979, Reagan announced his candidacy for the presidency, saying, “Much of this talk [of American decline] has come from leaders who claim that our problems are too difficult to handle.
“We are supposed to meekly accept their failures as the most which humanly can be done. They tell us we must learn to live with less, and teach our children that their lives will be less full and prosperous than ours have been,” he continued.
“I don’t believe that. And, I don’t believe you do either. That is why I am seeking the presidency. I cannot and will not stand by and see this great country destroy itself,” Reagan said.
One could summarize Gipper’s rhetoric back then as him intending to “Make America Great Again.” And that’s exactly what he did.
Reagan lowered taxes on businesses and individuals, slashed regulations and rebuilt the nation’s military with a policy of “Peace Through Strength” that Trump now references.
The result: The nation’s economy grew one-third larger, the unemployment rate fell in half and the Cold War ended months after Reagan left office.
The 40th president implemented the right policies, choosing competent people to carrying them out, and at the end of his eight years in office he could proudly say America’s place as a “shining city upon a hill” had been restored.
It was a case study in competence versus incompetence.
We are once again seeing the same play out in our time.
The choice in November could not be clearer. Trump has shown time and again he knows what he is doing, which is a welcome change from the previous administration.
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