It’s true that there were security concerns that people in and around the U.S. embassy in Benghazi had almost one whole year before the attack that took the lives of Americans and Libyan security forces. In fact, this security concern has yet to be addressed by the mainstream media, probably because of how inept it would make them seem for not having discovered this immediately when they started reporting on the situation. Some claim deteriorating border support for international business was the security concern, some claim it was the presence of al-Qaida in the region, and still others point to the video that sparked outrage and protests all across northern Africa.
But all of these pale in comparison to the one security concern in Libya that everyone forgot.
Are you ready for it? Here it is:
- It’s a U.S. embassy in Libya.
Seriously, folks, that’s it. The U.S. embassy was right in the middle of a country who just one year ago overthrew their tyrant dictator and have only barely begun to practice the way of democracy that we take for granted today (even though if you look back on our nation’s history, the first years of our democracy were plagued with violence and bloodshed, too). There’s no State Department negligence in security posturing, there’s no presidential oversight, and there’s no conspiracy to cover up a U.S.-sanctioned murder (but that hasn’t stopped the trolls out in full stride in the comment sections of news sites). I’ve been overseas where two blocks away were some highly-contested borders and a lot of very angry people socialized to hate me, and I can tell you that the risks involved in that kind of situation are always there no matter how many guns you put on the ground or how prepared you think you are.
The fact is that organized, trained fighters executed a planned attack on a U.S. embassy, one in which they outgunned and outmanned (and, quite frankly, out strategized) the dozen or so Libyan security guards who fought to the death to defend the U.S. building. And I’ll say it again: It’s a U.S. embassy in Libya — of course there is a security concern! This is a country that literally just had a revolution and installed a democracy. This is why what Stevens wrote about the security situation at the embassy is irrelevant; if you’re in a foreign country where there are people who want to kill you, you’re going to be scared and you’re going to reflect about it.
Did people raise concerns about security in an unstable country? Of course they did. Did the State Department do nothing about it and ignore requests for more security? Not quite.
Conspiracy theorists and anti-Obamanists, if you will, are quick to point the finger at the incidents earlier that year. There are four that keep getting republished among various outlets that discuss separate attacks on diplomatic targets in Benghazi throughout 2011 and 2012, and these attacks are being used to warrant accusations that the U.S. government was somehow negligent in providing security for the embassy.
The truth of the matter is that even if someone did swear revenge for a drone strike, the unrest in the region is a constant issue and we can’t consider every single gun shot and every single stray RPG to be definitive proof that the security situation in Libya warrants immediate overhaul. That’s just not how real life works. People are calling out the U.S. government for having said that there was no “actionable intelligence” before the attack in Benghazi, citing the constant republication of the earlier hostile activity, but in reality there was none.
In fact, it was a spokesperson for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that had said there was no actionable intelligence that indicated a three-pronged assault that day. He even went so far as to explain what “actionable intelligence” means, saying, “actionable intelligence would have meant that we either saw or heard something, through intelligence collection, that told us that a specific act was being planned or was imminent.”
Having worked most of my adult life in the intel community, I’m going to break it down even further because apparently people are not aware that data and intelligence are not one and the same. Attacks in and around Benghazi will have gone on a blotter to map areas of unrest and combat. Counter-intelligence operations on the ground (i.e., HUMINT collectors) would sift through the rumor mill and report back to the analysts who are in charge of making sense of all the chaos that is a newly established democracy in a still unstable north African country. Unless the data pointed to a definite attack on the U.S. embassy (i.e., data analysis indicated that a coordinated attack was likely to occur under the mask of the protests that were definitely going to occur), then no, there was no “actionable intelligence.”
For some reason there are Americans who are under the impression that any negative behavior toward a U.S. embassy is considered fightin’ words, and that we should be taking a sledgehammer to every single rusty nail that sticks up in the porch. Well here’s a reality check if you’re one of those people: if we met every single hostile action with extreme prejudice every single time, we would be at war with every single country outside the UN before you know it.
The attack that killed Americans and turned the U.S. embassy in Benghazi into rubble was the work of a highly-organized militant extremist group who will stop at nothing to spread their violent, hateful ways. This is not a tiny little organization; it’s a worldwide network of despicable, charismatic leaders who are just itching for something like that anti-Islam video to surface so that they can wind up their loyalists and send them off into spirals of mortal violence and hatred. Libya isn’t harboring these extremists, nor do they even want them there. We should mourn the loss of an inspirational leader and a critical asset in international relations by working more closely with the Libyan Government to protect both our people and theirs from these terrorist organizations, not commit to knee-jerk reactions over violent behavior that occurs in an already unstable area that is saturated with radical militant extremists.
Could we have had one hundred Marines guarding the embassy at all times? Sure. Is it really practical to deploy security assets to every single foreign operative in the world when significant anniversaries arrive? Some could make the argument, I’m sure. Did Ambassador Chris Stevens understand the risk involved in his job and put himself in harm’s way every single day he was in Libya because he believed in a stronger, prosperous, and viable county that could exist free from the violent bonds of Islamic extremism and Gadhafi sympathizers? Yes, and that’s exactly why we should do everything to continue our relationship with Libya and use this tragedy to foster strength against the threat that has tried to jeopardize Libya’s independence.