Is Our Foreign Policy Stuck on Stupid?

The New York Times decided to stir the pot on Benghazi and in the process showed that after a lot of work they can arrive at the same conclusion of a massive intelligence failure that most of us arrived at two years ago.  Here is a quote from the New York Times editorial.

While the report debunks Republican allegations, it also illuminates the difficulties in understanding fast-moving events in the Middle East and in parsing groups that one moment may be allied with the West and in another, turn adversarial. Americans are often careless with the term “Al Qaeda,” which strictly speaking means the core extremist group, founded by Osama bin Laden, that is based in Pakistan and bent on global jihad.

Republicans, Democrats and others often conflate purely local extremist groups, or regional affiliates, with Al Qaeda’s international network. That prevents understanding the motivations of each group, making each seem like a direct, immediate threat to the United States and thus confusing decision-making.

The report is a reminder that the Benghazi tragedy represents a gross intelligence failure, something that has largely been overlooked in the public debate. A team of at least 20 people from the Central Intelligence Agency, including highly skilled commandos, was operating out of an unmarked compound about a half-mile southeast of the American mission when the attack occurred. Yet, despite the C.I.A. presence and Ambassador Stevens’s expertise on Libya, “there was little understanding of militias in Benghazi and the threat they posed to U.S. interests,” a State Department investigation found. The C.I.A. supposedly did its own review. It has not been made public, so there is no way to know if the agency learned any lessons.

My problem with Benghazi is that it appears to be emblematic of a foreign policy stuck on stupid. Here are some of the questions that remain unanswered.

  1. What foreign policy concerns required Ambassador Steven to ignore intelligence threat reports and conduct business in Benghazi on September 11th?
  2. Does anyone at the State Department understand the concept of fourth generational warfare? Since 1989 we have talking about the “blurring of the lines between war and politics, soldier and civilian” and we are stuck nitpicking whether Al Qaeda had operational control of the attack. To its credit the NYT complains about this, too.
  3. When I look at our foreign policy in Syria it looks like the Benghazi foreign policy on steroids. Which side are we on? What are our objectives? Would someone please call Putin so we can figure out what the US policy is?
  4. If we look dazed and confused on Syria and Libya, what message does that say to Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt? Is our sheer incompetence leading to more unrest or just more stirring of the political pot? If we do not start showing some foreign policy successes in this area maybe it is time for us to cut and run and leave the policing of the Middle East combatants to the professionals?