Stephanie Cutter insisted this morning on NBC that the attack on our consulate in Benghazi was not a “foreign policy failure,” and that the only reason people might think it was is because Republicans are “politicizing” a tragedy that could have happened anywhere in the world American diplomats serve. That’s true only if one considers the Benghazi attack completely without the context of the last two years of Barack Obama’s foreign policy, in general dealing with the so-called “Arab Spring” and specifically in Libya. In truth, we created the conditions for this attack, and then ignored the risks:
It’s true that American diplomatic missions are always under threat; the twin embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 was a reminder of that, as was the sacking of our Tehran embassy in 1979. All of these, by the way, have a common thread: radical Islam. The two 1998 embassy bombings have an even closer tie to the Benghazi attack: all three were committed by terrorist networks, quite possibly al-Qaeda in all three instances.
The threat in eastern Libya, however, came from the direct action launched by Obama against the previous Qaddafi regime. Terrorist networks have operated in eastern Libya for years, perhaps decades, although the Qaddafi regime kept a lid on them as best it could, seeing them as a threat to power. Obama decided to decapitate the Qaddafi regime in the spring of 2011 in order to accelerate the “Arab Spring” and demonstrate solidarity with the Arab “street.” He decided to limit this involvement to merely an air war against Qaddafi’s air and ground forces, and induced NATO to join us and eventually take over for us. When Qaddafi fell, the Obama administration hailed it as the proper model for intervention, taking a victory lap for not having boots on the ground for years afterward as we did in Iraq.
Well, this is what happens when one decapitates a tyrannous regime in the Arab world without any boots on the ground. In doing so, we provided a massive opportunity for the very terrorist networks we have fought for the last eleven years. Obama’s foreign policy decision opened a huge vacuum of power in eastern Libya, which has been filled by the radical Islamist terror networks that can now operate freely. The central government has little effective control in the Benghazi region. That’s why all of the other Western nations closed their diplomatic missions in Benghazi months before the attack, and even the Red Cross left before we did. Rather than take a lesson from that exodus, or at least beef up security in Benghazi in response to the growing threats, we ignored the threats entirely and shrugged it off as business as usual — much as Cutter does in this response here.
This is most certainly a foreign policy failure, as well as a stunning display of incompetence.
Note: This post was accidentally published while still a draft, which is why the comment timing will look a little off.