The Obama administration may have known that a series of attacks on American diplomatic facilities was coming, but it expected them to consist of limited raids followed by flag burnings and random vandalism, rather than the aggressive and sophisticated attack that actually took place in Benghazi. Had Obama taken those attack warnings more seriously, then the outcome in Benghazi would have been quite different.
Instead of bolstering security, the Benghazi consulate continued relying on a Muslim Brotherhood militia to keep it safe. What was expected to be a brief standoff with an American flag burned, a jihadist flag raised and militias from both sides participating in a dance whose steps were known to both parties ahead of time, turned into something else instead; a heavy assault using inside information obtained with the complicity of members of the Libyan government and its security forces.
The big question is the one that administration spokesmen have been dodging by calling the attacks a reaction to the Mohammed movie. Obama, Clinton and Rice actually know quite well that the attacks were not a reaction to a movie and it is likely that at least two of those named knew that the attacks were coming. The question is why nothing was done about them.
To understand the answer, you must look at the region through the eyes of a bleeding heart diplomat. From that perspective, attacks are a provocation whose goal is to provoke a reaction. The last thing that the State Department was prepared to do, in a region where the Arab Spring had seen violent reactions to police and military suppression of protests, was to offer a show of force. Instead they relied on local security and kept the Marines disarmed or far away.
If things had not gone wrong in Benghazi, then the attacks would have humiliated the United States but caused no physical harm. Obama would have benefited from the crisis and did benefit from it through the “Rally ‘Round the Flag” effect that bumps up the poll numbers of White House occupants when a foreign military crisis takes place. From our perspective the attacks showed Obama’s weakness, but his poll ratings actually rose due in part to the attacks.
During the Iran Hostage Crisis, Jimmy Carter’s approval ratings rose from 32 to 58 percent. Obama’s campaign-oriented administration was likely hoping for at least a modest bump from the riots. What they did not expect was that the attacks would go beyond limited assaults on embassies and lead to an actual slaughter in Benghazi.
That is the dirty little secret that is likely to be hiding behind the wall of misstatements and lies thrown up by the White House and the State Department. It is a wholly unsurprising secret that blends the old policies of appeasement with the new policies of cynical campaigning while putting country last. And the harder the loose thread of the administration’s knowledge of events is pulled, the likelier it is that the secret will come spilling out into the light.
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