The President’s trip upcoming trip to Paris for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change conference reminds me that we have not learned our lessons from the Benghazi attack. When the British Foreign Office withdrew all consular staff from Benghazi in late June, it was both stupid and arrogant for Ambassador Stevens to go there on September 11th. I was hoping that those four deaths were not in vain.
Today I found out from the Army Times that DoD implements Paris travel ban for all troops, civilian personnel. The article states that:
Personnel on official travel or emergency leave to Paris or elsewhere in France will need approval from a general officer, according to EUCOM.
The DOD travel ban reminds me of the British Foreign Office actions in Benghazi and the President reminds me of the Ambassador. I hope it turns out better but as George Santayana said,
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
When I looks at the facts that the Clinton email server contains about 5% confidential information, some of the emails would be very helpful to someone planning an attack on the consulate, and there was very little email security, you have to wonder whether a Secretary of State can be convicted of manslaughter. The Wikipedia definition says:
Criminally negligent manslaughter occurs where there is an omission to act when there is a duty to do so, or a failure to perform a duty owed, which leads to a death.
When Ms. Clinton set up her private email server there was a duty for her to use a secure server because 5% of her emails would eventually be classified as confidential. Even if we concede that she was allowed to set up a private email server, her failure to secure the server to the same standards as State Department email servers is an omission to act. She was not exempt from the State Department email security standards and ignorance of the standards is not an excuse. When I connect the dots I see a combination of one of the worst national security mistakes in my lifetime coupled with gross incompetence that led to the deaths of four men. Maybe we cannot convict her of manslaughter but like the late Senator Kennedy she definitely does not have the right stuff to be President.
It has been over a week since Joe Scarborough uttered these words, Obama saying he has no strategy against ISIS is a tactic straight out of “The Art of War”. I thought the the Obama administration had declared that the war on terror was “mission accomplished” and any future acts of terrorism would be best handled with either a shrug of the shoulders or an arrest warrant. In this law abiding world the wisdom of “The Art of War” was not necessary when arrest warrants would suffice. It is amusing to think this Administration might seek wisdom in their fight against terror from a book written two thousand years ago about battle strategies. To paraphrase Tommy Vietor, “Dude, the Art of War was more than two years ago!”
What intrigued me most about Joe’s comment was the idea that Joe and probably the most of the country thinks we are fighting a war on terrorism while the Administration seems to be locked into a police action strategy supplemented with a few extralegal drone attacks. Arguably the Administration’s greatest accomplishment in the battle with terrorism was when they ignored the legal issues with conducting a covert operation in Pakistan that killed Osama bin Laden. It is kind of amusing to think of a Pakistani police officer knocking on Osama bin Laden’s door and announcing we have a warrant for your arrest. Successful police actions are few and far between in the fight against terrorism. The inconvenient fact is that the Administration has a strategy to fight terrorism and they do not want to talk about it since most people would blame them for the four deaths in Benghazi. It was the Benghazi fiasco that convinced the public of the broad policy failure associated with the police action approach. Nothing condemns a policy faster than a dead ambassador. I think most of the country expected a terrorism policy that improved upon what we learned during the Bush Administration. What we got was an outright rejection of everything we learned over the previous eight years and a new strategy that can be blamed for killing the ambassador. The Administration seems to have gone back to the Clinton terrorism strategy and replaced cruise missiles with drone attacks. Unfortunately this Administration is having the same lack of success fighting terrorism as the Clinton Administration. There was a good reason that the Bush Administration chose to fight terrorism differently than the Clinton Administration. The Clinton strategy wasn’t working! As we approach the anniversary of 9/11 I think the people fear we have laid the groundwork to repeat this tragedy.
On the eve of what looks like Iraq’s demise, I think the case for a broad foreign policy failure by the Administration has been made. It is all over except for the shouting when a former Defense official says,
"The bottom line," the official added. "Watching the administration is like watching a cross between Keystone Cops and amateur hour."
Benghazi was the tip of the ice berg where we should have learned our lesson. Instead we get the same story being played out in Syria, Ukraine, and Iraq. With great power comes great responsibility and we walked away.
All of this talk about Hillary having brain damage has me so confused. Bill Clinton says she is fine. So does this mean she got better because she hit her head?
The Daily Caller showed a clip from January in which Trey Gowdy asks the questions that bother me with the Benghazi debacle. I like all of Trey’s questions and have one more. Was the Benghazi failure an indicator of a broader policy failure? I cannot help but wonder if our policy in Syria and Ukraine would be a bit more coherent to the rest of the world if the “Media” had started asking some serious questions about a broader policy failure. It took Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine before the Administration got a clue.
When I look at the Benghazi and IRS investigations I am reminded of children who can no longer play well together without adult supervision. I have no sympathy for their plight. The Democratic party knew where the political boundaries were in government meddling and crossed over them. They killed four people in Benghazi because it was inconvenient for a presidential campaign and used the IRS to suppress political opposition. The Republicans are reminding them of these sins at every opportunity. Now the Democrats are complaining that they did nothing wrong and the voters and media should break up the fight. I am kind of old school on this matter and am willing to let them fight it out. They have way too much piss and vinegar in them to break them up now. It is sad but they have to hurt each other before they can get better. Eventually the vitriol will be replaced with reluctant respect and new boundaries will be drawn to avoid future confrontations. Promises will be made. It has been a long time since the Nixon resignation but it served its purpose. Hopefully these scandals will serve a similar purpose. If the Democratic party gets away with these actions with just a hand slap, they will have set a new standard for political meddling and suppressing political opposition for future administrations. This is not good for either party or a well functioning government during presidential campaigns.
My problem with the Administration’s story about the Benghazi attack is rooted in the question, “What was Ambassador Stevens doing in Benghazi?” Last week we saw a Ben Rhodes Rhodes email that instructed Susan Rice “to underscore that these protests are rooted in [an] Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy.” After almost two years I think the case for a broad policy failure is getting stronger and is rooted in these unanswered Benghazi questions.
- What was Ambassador Stevens doing in Benghazi when Britain was pulling out?
I partially accepted the State Department admission that they were stupid when they sent Ambassador Stevens to Benghazi. Considering that Britain and others had pulled out of Benghazi due to attacks, this implies that the State Department deliberately ignored the security situation in Benghazi. So far I have not seen any action by the Administration or the State Department that shows that they have learned anything from this fatal attraction with insularity. So when is the State Department going to start sounding like they have read and understand the local intelligence reports and are listening to what our friends and foes are saying? That is their job.
- What was our foreign policy at the time and has it changed for the better?
If we move from the local intelligence failure to policy failure, I am still not sure what our foreign policy objectives are in Benghazi, Syria, or the Ukraine. It looks like we are making it up as we go along and Mr. Putin noticed. I do not think it is much of a stretch to think that our flopping around in Benghazi and Syria gave Mr. Putin the green light to invade Ukraine. Underestimating Mr. Putin was a policy failure. I realize the Administration wanted to distinguish itself as different than the previous Administration but you still have to be a winner. Mr. Putin looks at foreign policy as a war by another means and the Administration looks at foreign policy as t-ball! I doubt that even the most ardent Administration supporter will try and make the argument that the foreign policies decisions in Benghazi, Syria, or Ukraine are working.
- Was there a cover-up so that the President could get re-elected and what political changes need to happen to prevent cover-ups by future Administrations?
This is an unforced error by the Administration. Everything they have done to impede the investigation has made the case for a broader policy failure more apparent. Are those four men deaths collateral damage from a Presidential campaign?
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.
- What foreign policy concerns required Ambassador Steven to ignore intelligence threat reports and conduct business in Benghazi on September 11th?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
I think what I learned from the Benghazi hearings is that our foreign policy goes stupid around election time. The Administration admits that mistakes were made and they are working at fixing the “problems” but I am still struck with the sentiment that the Administration’s concern for how things would look to voters in the upcoming US election killed Ambassador Stevens and three other people. Maybe the State Department should take the month of September off every year as a holiday commemorating the victims. It sure seems they won’t be missed. As Forrest Gump might say, “Stupid is stupid does”.
I understand that the American people and this Administration wanted to scale back our involvements in foreign countries. The question is whether the rest of the world will allow America to shirk their foreign policy responsibilities. We are looking for an adult in the room and the UN has proven they are not up to the task. It is inevitable that this Administration will be compared to both the Bush and Carter administrations as it tries to find the happy middle ground between interventionism and isolationism. An Administration that is perceived as weak as the Carter administration has a different set of problems than the administration during the Bush years. Our foreign policy may have changed but I am not convinced we are safer. We replaced one set of problems with a different set of problems and called it progress.