Friday, September 14, 2012

I sincerely hope

. . . that this article from the London Independent  is 100% wrong:
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.


Night Writer said...

For some reason, the following comes to mind:

Han Solo: Let him have it. It's not wise to upset a Wookiee.

C-3PO: But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid.

Han Solo: That's 'cause droids don't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookiees are known to do that.

Chewbacca: Grrf.

C-3PO: I see your point, sir. I suggest a new strategy, R2: let the Wookiee win.

Brian said...

Obviously, there are no easy answers in this part of the world.

But I'm pretty sure propping up (or even tacitly supporting) unpopular dictators for the sake of our (perceived, generally short-term) interests has been thoroughly tried and found wanting. So it's hard for me to bemoan the Arab Spring, even if it is destabilizing in the near-term.

Anecdote, not data: I have a very good Egyptian-American friend (he's been a US citizen for nearly 20 years) who retains the right to vote in Egypt. He's about as liberal as they come (he grew up Muslim but refers to Muslims in the third person, and we had this conversation over *many* beers) and he told me that he happily voted for the Brotherhood, because in his words, "the first priority was to get the military out of power."

I think most Americans really, really do not understand the impact of American policies in the mideast for the average person living there. We project our own perceptions of what is "good" for the region at our great peril.

Mr. D said...

But I'm pretty sure propping up (or even tacitly supporting) unpopular dictators for the sake of our (perceived, generally short-term) interests has been thoroughly tried and found wanting. So it's hard for me to bemoan the Arab Spring, even if it is destabilizing in the near-term.

I hold no brief with the Mubaraks of the world; guess all I'd say is that the very idea of an Arab Spring is just as much of an example of projecting our own perceptions of what is good for the region as anything else. Cairo ain't Prague. N.b.; I'm not saying you personally viewed the matter that way, because you're smarter than that, Brian, but a lot of people who should have known better have been promulgating that particular fiction.

Brian said...

Fair enough...

Gino said...

Brian: i got some similar intel from my jordanian pal. he says the muslim brotherhood's viability is much like the tea party movement here.

that the vote was for reform, not religion.