Libya: Why the Crime Is Worse than the Cover-up


David French

October 17, 2012

3 min read




While I missed the debate last night while flying from San Francisco to Nashville, I have heard there was an exchange about the attack on our Libyan embassy and when President Obama may have actually called it a terrorist act.

Frankly, however, while “what did the administration know and when did it know it” is an important question to ask, it pales in comparison to the underlying failure that led to the attack. Put simply, the security withdrawal and attempted “normalization” of consulate operations in Benghazi was more than a mistake — it betrayed the administration’s fundamental misunderstanding of the Middle East. It still views the Middle East through ideologically influenced rose-colored glasses, and such a view is not only costing lives; it is costing the United States its strategic influence.

I had thought (hoped) that four years of security briefings had taught the administration that hope, apologies, and vociferously expressed admiration for Islam do absolutely nothing to moderate jihadists. There was at least some evidence that the administration was learning its lessons. After all, Gitmo remains open, Afghanistan was reinforced (for a time), and drone strikes escalated. But these were largely tactical adjustments, not strategic.

On the strategic level, this administration has been a complete disaster. Obama has moved decisively against allies, failed to complete a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq (a grave and inexcusable mistake), and joined the naïve rush to endorse the various “Arab Spring” revolts and the resulting Islamist governments. As we pull out of Afghanistan, Obama’s Middle East legacy will be a hostile Egypt, Iran substantially closer to a nuclear bomb, Syria in chaos, Iraq slipping into neutrality (at best), portions of Libya under jihadist control, Afghanistan under renewed Taliban assault, and America as despised as it’s ever been, with the black flag of jihad hoisted over embassy after embassy. Oh, but we’ll have drones orbiting overhead, launching the occasional pinprick strike. Do you feel more secure?

As I read the heartbreaking details of the Libyan attacks, I’m reminded once again how the Middle East is the graveyard of idealism. I recall the early days of the Iraq War, when victorious British troops in Basra scolded Americans for daring to wear body armor and helmets on patrol when Northern Ireland had so clearly taught Brits the virtues of patrolling unarmored, in soft caps. But Basra wasn’t Belfast, and the Brits soon learned that armor did, in fact, have its virtues.  

The Middle East is a hard place, with millions seething with hatred not for George Bush or Bibi Netanyahu but for Americans and Jews. The horrifying security failure in Libya — the consequence of a premeditated drawdown based on nothing more than wishful thinking — demonstrates that our president still doesn’t understand our enemy.

This article is crossposted at National Review Online.