Here is my two cents on Libya consulate controversy.
It is important that we get to the bottom of this story so that we can learn how much security is appropriate in this volatile region of the world and prevent it from happening again.
But historical context is also important. There is a real issue of whether the administration dropped the ball in not providing more security at that remote consulate. And it looks as if the Obama administration is a lot more willing to look into the possible intelligence and bureaucratic failures and follow the truth wherever it leads than the Bush administration was in getting to the bottom of their own failures that may have caused us getting hit on 9/11.
But there is something else to keep in mind as well. Security is a double edged sword when it comes to diplomatic missions. We don’t want our foreign service staff hunkered down in armed camps and forts. The whole point of having foreign missions is to interact with the people. And so regarding security these are always judgment calls.
We are new to Libya, trying to create a positive relationship with an emerging country whose leadership is in flux and whose people we are trying win over. And so we do not want to turn every US outpost into another Green Zone filled with ugly Americans with their convoys of black Suburbans speeding through local streets protected by trigger happy Blackwater guards who occasionally shoot up the place like that massacre of 16 innocent Iraqi civilians a few years ago in Nisour Square that got Blackwater kicked out of the country in 2007.
Putting boots on the ground by sending in a detachment of US Marines is equally problematic as well given the sensible determination to maintain a light footprint in Libya. So, maybe mistakes were made. But there are also pros and cons that have to be weighed whenever you add security to a foreign mission, and it may not have been an open and shut case of the administration dropping the ball here.
As for the political mileage Republicans are trying to gain from this tragedy, I am old enough to remember how Republicans said it would be unpatriotic for Democrats to criticize George W. Bush for the intelligence and leadership failures that led to 9/11. Democrats were told they needed to rally around our president instead of point fingers at him or hold him to account for more than 3,000 lost American lives. And Democrats mostly did — until George Bush and Karl Rove decided to politicize the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2002 in order to win the mid-term elections by accusing Democrats of being both unpatriotic and weak for refusing to protect the country.
But I also remember how Republicans treated “terrorist czar” Richard Clarke as a royalty-seeking whore when the guy who was on deck in the White House situation room in the hours after the 9/11 while Dick Cheney was in his “secure location,” accused the Bush Administration of dropping the ball against the threat from al Qaeda in its neo-conservative fixation on removing Saddam from Iraq in the months before the attacks — ideologically-inspired negligence that surely contributed to a climate of complacency when (as the 9/11 Commission reported) “the system was blinking red.”
I also remember how right wingers like Ann Coulter called 9/11 widows “harpies” and “the Witches of Brunswick” who preferred their new-found “celebrity” to their dead husbands when these widows had the temerity to come before Congress and compel a reluctant Bush administration to take part in an investigation that would help explain how the country let their husbands get killed that terrible day under circumstances Secretary Condi Rice said no one could have imagined — except that some people did, when they wrote that intelligence estimate warning “Bin Laden determined to strike US” that George W. Bush so lazily brushed aside while vacationing at his Texas ranch that summer before the terrorist leader it took President Obama to have killed really did strike the US.
I know that in today’s politics we have largely decriminalized hypocrisy. But even in this cynical political environment, the mileage Republicans are hoping to gain from the tragedy in Libya, given their own recent history, is repulsive.