According to senior diplomatic sources, the US State Department had credible information 48 hours before mobs charged the consulate in Benghazi, and the embassy in Cairo, that American missions may be targeted, but no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and "lockdown", under which movement is severely restricted.We talked a little yesterday about what "outsourcing" meant in the context of what happened in Benghazi. In case you weren't clear about the meaning, consider the following:
According to security sources the consulate had been given a "health check" in preparation for any violence connected to the 9/11 anniversary. In the event, the perimeter was breached within 15 minutes of an angry crowd starting to attack it at around 10pm on Tuesday night. There was, according to witnesses, little defence put up by the 30 or more local guards meant to protect the staff. Ali Fetori, a 59-year-old accountant who lives near by, said: "The security people just all ran away and the people in charge were the young men with guns and bombs."
Wissam Buhmeid, the commander of the Tripoli government-sanctioned Libya's Shield Brigade, effectively a police force for Benghazi, maintained that it was anger over the Mohamed video which made the guards abandon their post. "There were definitely people from the security forces who let the attack happen because they were themselves offended by the film; they would absolutely put their loyalty to the Prophet over the consulate. The deaths are all nothing compared to insulting the Prophet."
Emphasis mine. Do you believe Buhmeid's story, that it was a movie that caused this attack? Or does this explanation seem more plausible to you?
Senior officials are increasingly convinced, however, that the ferocious nature of the Benghazi attack, in which rocket-propelled grenades were used, indicated it was not the result of spontaneous anger due to the video, called Innocence of Muslims. Patrick Kennedy, Under-Secretary at the State Department, said he was convinced the assault was planned due to its extensive nature and the proliferation of weapons.
There is growing belief that the attack was in revenge for the killing in a drone strike in Pakistan of Mohammed Hassan Qaed, an al-Qa'ida operative who was, as his nom-de-guerre Abu Yahya al-Libi suggests, from Libya, and timed for the anniversary of the 11 September attacks.
So if the article is correct, what to make of it?
- First, the Arab Spring isn't going to be a time of hope.
- Second, we need to stop pretending that we are dealing with reasonable people in many parts of the world. Diplomacy does not always mean making nice with people. I would hope that the gang at Foggy Bottom understands that.
- Finally, the notion that the Obama campaign has been floating, that the Obama administration has the foreign policy thing all figured out, is silly.
It would be churlish to suggest that we have any good options in the Middle East these days, since we don't. When we say that Islam is a "religion of peace," it is true to the extent that most Muslims, if left to their own devices, wouldn't participate in jihad and would prefer to live in peace. The problem we face is trying to stop those who do. I don't think it's a task that any diplomat, or president, can really tackle without a lot of pain. The truth of the matter is this -- we can't solve the problem from without. The only way the problem goes away is if Muslims decide that Salafism and other similar doctrines are not the proper path.