A Fast and Furious foreign policy

Let’s get this straight: Guns are too dangerous to be left in the hands of ordinary Americans. But guns in the hands of unknown rebels, who may turn out to be violent extremists, are just fine.

At the same time the Obama administration is threatening to curtail access to firearms in order to prevent gun violence at home, the president is channeling Warren Zevon abroad: “Send lawyers, guns, and money.”

And send them to the most dangerous, unstable places in the world.

The United States armed the rebels who overthrew Qaddafi in Libya. The administration is at least contemplating arming anti-Assad rebels in Syria. And although France balked at the U.S. invasion of Iraq, we will be providing logistical support to our freedom-fries friends in Mali.

What could possibly go wrong?

Arms shipments from Qatar secretly approved by the Obama administration have already wound up in the hands of Islamists.

“The weapons and money from Qatar strengthened militant groups in Libya,” The New York Times reported, “allowing them to become a destabilizing force since the fall of the Qaddafi government.”

Armed Libyan militants, in turn, murdered four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, in an attack on our diplomatic compound in Benghazi on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

There is no evidence of a connection. But what happened in Benghazi seems like a good reason to refrain from encouraging the distribution of weapons without knowing where they will end up or who will start firing them.

Qatar is also the source of many of the weapons flowing into Syria, where jihadists are said to be getting most of the weapons sent to the rebels. “The opposition groups that are receiving most of the lethal aid are exactly the ones we don’t want to have it,” an American official told The New York Times.

Even the Obama administration has been reluctant to directly arm the Syrian rebels, assuming their public statements match what is happening covertly. “Providing arms has to be done in a way that helps promote a political solution,” an Obama official told ABC News. “And until we understand how these arms promote a political solution, we do not see how provision of arms is a good idea.”

But, the official acknowledged, “the president has never ruled out in the future providing arms.”

Many of the Islamic fighters heading into Mali were dislodged by the “kinetic military action” — the Obama administration declines to say “war” — in Libya. According to some reports, the Malian government was toppled in part by defectors trained and armed by the U.S.

Arming the enemy of one’s enemy is nothing new. It was even part of the strategy that helped the West win the Cold War (though even then it did not always work). But arming just anyone, without solid intelligence or U.S. supervision, is a fool’s errand.