The attributes of a leader are competence, courage of conviction, and care of subordinates.
− Bing West, author, former Marine [Emphasis added]
The enemy is anybody who’s going to get you killed, no matter which side he’s on.
− Joseph Heller, “Catch 22”
When you don’t have a hammer, no problem ever looks like a nail.
– Bret Stephens, “America in Retreat”
These three quotations sum up the Benghazi debacle better than thousands of words could do. The Obama administration sends our people into danger, but without any plan – or perhaps any desire – to come to their aid in an emergency. Hillary Clinton aspires to be our nation’s leader in a dangerous time. But does her record in Benghazi square with Bing West’s definition of leadership?
On the left is Ambassador Chris Stevens. Then we have State Department Information Officer Sean Smith, and former SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods. The last two were contractors who were in Benghazi on another mission, and – typically – rushed to help when they heard the consulate was in trouble.
The four Americans died in Benghazi, Libya on the night of Sept. 11-12, 2012. No, that’s not right – they were KIA, killed in action. Whether we know it or not, we are at war. Granted, it is a low-intensity war, compared to the high-intensity World War II. But for those involved, it is intense indeed. Our consulate in Benghazi was attacked by a well-armed force on – surprise! – the anniversary of 9/11. It wasn’t a “spontaneous demonstration.” Demonstrators go around with placards, not mortars, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades.
The attack was coordinated with an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, where our flag was burned. Al Qaeda flags and graffiti appeared, and Al Qaeda took “credit.” It does not take Sherlock Holmes to solve this case.
Over three years have passed since Benghazi, and Congress still is investigating the attack. But what does all this tell our enemies?
● Ambassador Stevens repeatedly asked for more security but was refused. He even joked that perhaps he should ask another nation for help with security – and still was refused.
● Our consulate was attacked and requested assistance urgently. We didn’t come.
● The ambassador and three other Americans were killed. We didn’t respond forcefully. We hardly responded at all.
● The administration is waiting for people to forget. Many Americans will forget. But our enemies won’t.
Attacking an embassy and a consulate, and killing an ambassador, are legally acts of war. An ambassador is the representative of the president and the nation. He ranks with a four-star general. When an ambassador is in danger, reportedly a flash message (the highest priority) is sent to the Situation Room in the White House, as well as to the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon, and of course to the State Department. When contact with an ambassador is lost, the urgency of the situation is even greater.
High-ranking officials must have known, but they did nothing. Did they do nothing because they couldn’t decide what to do, or because they had rendered themselves unable to do anything? Note that these two possibilities are not mutually exclusive.
We elected a president who not only is reluctant to use force, but also has done his best to reduce the force available for him to use. His secretary of State at the time, Hillary Clinton, enjoys talking tough. But acting tough? That’s something else entirely.
Hillary Clinton’s response to the death of her ambassador was to blame an anti-Muslim Internet video that few had seen. She said this not only in public, but also when talking to the mother of Sean Smith – even when she knew it was terrorism. She said the same thing to the father of Tyrone Woods – even as they waited at Dover Air Force Base for the remains of the four fallen Americans to arrive.
What kind of person could lie to the families of the dead in a place like this?
Was it because of a protest, or was it because of guys out for a walk one night who decided that they’d they go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?
– Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, May 8, 2013
Wrong! It makes a huge difference. Guys don’t go “out for a walk” dragging mortars, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. Truth is something that we try to discover and then deal with. Truth isn’t something that we fabricate to further our agenda. And it surely isn’t something that we concoct to tell the relatives of the fallen in order to cover our own behinds. Too bad you don’t know that, Madame Secretary.
The capacity of our nation to react in a timely fashion to mortal threats has been reduced to a dangerously inadequate level. So when there is no rescue of our personnel at Benghazi, the president can excuse our inaction by explaining that there was little he could do. But the reason there was little he could do was that he cut our forces in the Mediterranean.
When our consulate in Benghazi was attacked and our ambassador was in danger, we had no warships in the Mediterranean. The Sixth Fleet, which had patrolled there since the 1950s, was no more. The only way to mount a rescue was to assemble special-operations troops from various sites in Europe, then fly them from our NATO base in Italy.
According to reports, the special operators were assembled at the airbase, which is only three hours flying time from Benghazi. It is uncertain that help could have arrived in time, even if it had been approved immediately – which it wasn’t. But at least we could have tried. We didn’t.
What about air support? All the men got was an unarmed drone. Apparently armed drones were unavailable, as were helicopter gunships. But jet fighters were available. They might have been able to take out the mortars that killed Woods and Doherty. And they surely could have overflown the area at low altitude – perhaps creating sonic booms – and frightened the attackers, which might have allowed the escape of the Americans. But at least we could have tried. We didn’t.
But who gave the stand-down order? President Obama? The chairman of the Joint Chiefs? The only thing I know for sure is that I didn’t.
Our ally Israel under threat of nuclear destruction by Iran? Syria in the grip of a bloody civil war? Lebanon the unwilling host of Hezbollah? The Gaza Strip the willing host of Hamas? Libya’s “Arab spring” looking more like a brutal winter? Our friend King Abdullah of Jordan barely hanging on? Violence simmering nearly everywhere in the Middle East and North Africa? But the attitude of the administration seems to be, “What, me worry?”
How can our friends expect us to support them, when we can’t even save our own ambassador? How can our enemies expect us to oppose them, other than with empty words and meaningless gestures?
Do you imagine that we were the only people to see photos of Ambassador Stevens’ body being dragged through the streets? Do you suppose that we were the only people to see photos of our flag being pulled down from our Cairo embassy, and then watched it being replaced by the Al Qaeda flag? We may not care enough to appreciate the significance of these images. But our friends and our enemies care a great deal.
The strong reassure their friends and worry their enemies. The weak worry their friends and reassure their enemies. As a result, the weak have fewer friends and more enemies.
And why had Libya descended into violent chaos in the first place? Because Obama and Clinton had deposed Qaddafi, who was crazy but toothless, and left a vacuum that was filled by competing groups of fanatics who were equally crazy – but far from toothless. In short, cause a bad situation to get worse, send your people into danger, and then turn your back. Now there’s a foreign-policy triumph to boast about.
Competence, courage of conviction, and care for subordinates? Are you joking? You must mean careerism, cover-up, and contempt for subordinates.
If Hillary Clinton is elected president, we will be faced with a massive exodus of military officers and senior noncommissioned officers – that is, those who haven’t departed already. They live by the rule of “Leave no man behind.” She lives by the rule of “Cover your behind.” Would you risk life and limb to serve under a commander-in-chief like that?