By Paolo von Schirach
October 10, 2012
WASHINGTON – It is unfortunate that the attack against the US Consulate in Benghazi, resulting in the destruction of the buildings and the killing of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, has become now a pretext for political theatre. By holding hearings on this incident, the House Republicans clearly want to use this tragedy as an illustration of a failed Obama foreign policy towards the Arab world. This is a stretch, and it is an unfair charge.
Administration run for cover
However, the Republicans are not alone in playing politics with this incident. Right after the news of the Benghazi attack, the Obama administration’s immediate instinct, clearly dictated by political considerations, was to run for cover, dispatching Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice to state on all the TV talk shows that all the anti-American riots that occurred in several Arab countries had been caused by a video of a movie denigrating the Prophet Muhammad. In other words, the first reaction was not to take responsibility, while deliberately trying to create a smoke screen.
It was a planned attack
It was only when it became obvious to all that this attack had been planned and orchestrated that the White House had to admit that it was a terrorist incident, not random violence. This admission, of course, invited questions about threat assessment and the security arrangements in Tripoli and elsewhere.
That said, the administration is still trying to deny any wrongdoing. The notion emerging from some testimonies given by public officials during the House hearing that an attack of this magnitude could not be foreseen and therefore, no matter what the countermeasures in place, could not be dealt with, is totally ludicrous.
Libya is a messy country
The United States of America, the world superpower, can do better than leaving a key diplomatic post in an unstable Arab country (on the eve of a 9/11 anniversary) in the hands of half a dozen security guards. We are talking about a high profile American diplomatic post in Libya here, not in peaceful Switzerland or Canada. Libya is a messy country where the new post-Gaddafi government is still unable to enforce law and order and in which all sorts of weapons, including military hardware, are still in the hands of civilians. On top of that, it is well known that there are at least some radical groups in Libya, along with al Qaeda sympathizers.
While it would not be fair to issue a blanket indictment covering US diplomatic security worldwide, it is obvious that the US Consulate in Benghazi was inadequately protected. Better protection might have saved the lives of Ambassador Stevens and of the other three Americans.
Instead of running for cover, the Obama administration, starting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, (remember that her people got killed), should come forward, admit errors and take swift action to correct them.
Beef up diplomatic security
It is true that the Republicans are playing politics with this issue, and this is bad. The killing of an American Ambassador in the line of duty is a national tragedy and it should not be exploited for partisan gain.
But it is also true that the administration has not been honest and candid about what caused this tragedy. While an investigation will provide all the details, it is fairly clear that it was all about bad planning resulting in inadequate protection. The Obama administration is in charge, and it is at fault. They cannot blame George W. Bush for this one.
America can do better
This is America, not some poor developing country. If we can still afford super carriers sailing the oceans and state of the art fighter jets, for sure we still have enough cash to fund better protection for US foreign missions most likely to be targeted. Let’s do that, now.