Commentary Magazine


Libya Attack Still an Inexplicable Failure

All of the back and forth over whether the killing of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi was or was not a “terrorist” attack (can there be any doubt that it was?) has obscured attention from the real issue: Why wasn’t the consulate in Benghazi afforded better protection? There was obviously a grave breach of security. The Washington Post reveals the depth of unpreparedness:

U.S. officials appear to have underestimated the threat facing both the ambassador and other Americans. They had not reinforced the U.S. diplomatic outpost there to meet strict safety standards for government buildings overseas. Nor had they posted a U.S. Marine detachment, as at other diplomatic sites in high-threat regions.

A U.S. military team assigned to establish security at the new embassy in Tripoli, in a previously undisclosed detail, was never instructed to fortify the temporary hub in the east. Instead, a small local guard force was hired by a British private security firm as part of a contract worth less than half of what it costs to deploy a single U.S. service member in a war zone for a year.

This lapse is all the more shocking given the fact that the State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security is known for taking an ultra-cautious approach to protecting America’s representatives abroad. Heads should roll over this failure. (They should also roll over the Anglo-American military failure to protect Harrier jump jets at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.) And senior officials in the Obama administration, starting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, must explain how this inexplicable failure took place.