Quickie: Goldberg’s Benghazi Embarrassment, But Who’s Red on the Face?

Jeffrey Goldberg,  a national correspondent for The Atlantic writes:

The embarrassment of the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi is not that it happened. America has its victories against terrorism, and its defeats, and the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three American security personnel represents one defeat in a long war. The embarrassment is that political culture in America is such that we can’t have an adult conversation about the lessons of Benghazi, a conversation that would focus more on understanding al Qaeda affiliates in North Africa, on the limitations and imperfections of security, and on shortfalls in our intelligence gathering, than on who said what when in the Rose Garden.

He made four reasonable points:

1) Because the conversation around Benghazi is so stupid, we’re going to end up with more mindless CYA security “improvements” that will imprison American diplomats in their fortress compounds even more than they are already imprisoned.

2) It would be good if at least some of the blame for the assassination of Chris Stevens was apportioned to his assassins. Both candidates would do us a service if they would re-focus the debate on ways to defeat Islamist terrorism.

3) Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama can both take the blame, or the responsibility, for this attack if they want, but the truth, quite obviously, is that neither one of them is in charge of assessing the security needs of individual American embassies and consulates. The job of leaders is to hire well, supervise their hires to the degree possible, and then, if something goes wrong, spend the time and energy to figure out how to fix the problem. It is unrealistic to believe that either leader could have known about what is ultimately a small problem in a large war. We should spend more time judging them on how they respond to defeats then on blaming them for the defeats. (By the way, I would hold George W. Bush to the same standard re:  9/11, and Bill Clinton to the same standard when it came to his Administration’s unsuccessful efforts to stop the spread of al Qaeda in the late 1990s.)

4) As Blake Hounshell put it, “Amb. Chris Stevens was a big boy and he made his own decision to go to Benghazi despite the risks. If he thought it was too dangerous, he should not have gone.” We’ve lost thousands of American government employees over the past 10 years in the Middle East and in Afghanistan. Nearly all of them were in uniform, but Foreign Service officers know the risks as well. We need to treat the loss of these four men in Libya as a battlefield loss. That would require people such as Darrell Issa, who chaired a House Oversight committee hearing on the Benghazi attacks, from saying foolish things, like he did the other day.

Continue reading, The Benghazi Embarrassment.

– DS



4 responses

  1. why are fsos put into conflict areas? we had a return to the vietnam cords policies of putting fsos into war zones during the bush/rice administration. diplomats have no business in areas like benghazi. there’s enough danger for unarmed diplomats at legitimate postings. they should not be used as tokens to try to the make the state department relevant during wars or as signs of our “affection.” the purpose of fsos is diplomacy. posting to a conflict zone is not diplomacy. during other wars, fsos joined the military and fought.

    • cmkeur – hell if I know! If I remember right, this was from a former SoS notion of expeditionary diplomacy, because it obviously makes sense to put unarmed diplomats in the middle of a war zone. Before Benghazi, we already sent them (with a week of crash and bang training) to places like Iraq and Afghanistan. In undeclared war zones, these diplomats would have been evacuated already.

    • Ed, You’re right. Benghazi has been officially called a “U.S. Office” that’s not the same as a consulate. Although the media has stuck to calling it as such. The ambassador is the chief of mission, that means top boss in a diplomatic mission. Typically the FSOs I know respect the security officials take of things and follow their advise. We’d have to wait for the ARB to find the answers to a lot of questions. For instance, we’ve only heard about RSO Nordstrom who had departed the country by the time of the attack. I can’t recall reading anything about the incumbent RSO in Libya.