Obama on Benghazi the hurricane: "We leave nobody behind"

Via Breitbart. If President Romney had said something this oblivious with the cloud of Benghazi over his head, it’d be the lead story in political media for the next 24 hours. As it is, it’s “president comments on storm” soundbite filler for the evening news. Democratic membership has its advantages.

It’s catching up to him, though:

The president has a slight edge on terrorism and foreign policy, but the poll found that Mr. Romney may have made some inroads with his strong critique of how Mr. Obama managed the Libya crisis after the killing of the American ambassador and three others in Benghazi. When asked specifically about the administration’s handling of the attacks on the consulate in Libya, the poll found that only 38 percent of voters approved and 51 percent disapproved.

David Ignatius has a few questions in the leave-no-man-behind vein:

Second, why didn’t the United States send armed drones or other air assistance to Benghazi immediately? This one is harder to answer. The CIA did dispatch a quick-reaction force that night from Tripoli, with about eight people, but it had trouble at first reaching the compound. One of its members, Glen Doherty, died along with Woods when a mortar hit the roof of the annex about 4 a.m.

What more could have been done? A Joint Special Operations Command team was moved that night to Sigonella air base in Sicily, for quick deployment to Benghazi or any of the other U.S. facilities in danger that night across North Africa. Armed drones could also have been sent. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta summarized last Thursday the administration’s decision to opt for caution: “You don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on.”

Looking back, it may indeed have been wise not to bomb targets in Libya that night. Given the uproar in the Arab world, this might have been the equivalent of pouring gasoline on a burning fire. But the anguish of Woods’s father is understandable: His son’s life might have been saved by a more aggressive response. The Obama administration needs to level with the country about why it made its decisions.

Indeed, but if you focus too much on what they didn’t do that night, you risk forgetting what they didn’t do before then. They effectively left Chris Stevens behind the moment they denied him any real consulate security and stuck him with a skeleton crew of Libyan contractors. How is it, per Panetta, that we can’t send armed troops into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on but we could send an unarmed diplomat and his staff?

And Ignatius is apparently quite right that the drones they sent to the consulate during the attack weren’t armed. Fox News reported that earlier today. After you watch O here, I recommend reading this NYT piece about the next intervention looming for the U.S., a clean-up effort in Mali against jihadists who managed to establish a base there with the help of heavy weapons they looted from … Qaddafi’s arsenal in liberated Libya. Maybe we should start gaming out which African country will be destabilized by intervening in Mali next. Exit quotation: “I think Charles is a little too hard on Obama. Frankly, it’s huge progress that he didn’t blame this hurricane on a video.”

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David Strom 5:21 PM on December 09, 2022