But the story raises deeper and far more troubling questions about how unprepared the administration was to deal with the new situation its intervention in Libya created. For months now, the security situation throughout Libya, in neighboring Mali, and in other countries has been deteriorating sharply. Bands of jihadis and their supporters are roaming almost at will. Under conditions like this, it was only a matter of time before American citizens or diplomats would be attacked or taken hostage.

This latest news is just one more piece of evidence pointing to the unhappy reality that the administration intervention in Libya was something the White House did not fully understand and for whose consequences it did not prepare. Washington jumped into Libya without knowing what it was doing; as the situation unraveled it dithered and delayed. Perhaps the White House didn’t want anybody to notice just how big a mess it had made and hoped that if America didn’t do anything dramatic the mess would just quietly go away on its own; perhaps it took a long time for the penny to drop.