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Belmont Club

Stayin’ Alive

December 22nd, 2012 - 11:38 am

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery the best gauge of what the Obama administration thinks best defends civilians against armed assailants has recently been  revealed.

Armed guards.

U.S. embassy security in the post-Benghazi era is shaping up to be a financial bonanza for security contractors … both the influential independent commission on the September attacks in Benghazi and a Senate hearing on Thursday pointed to flooding the State Department’s security corps with money …

At the State Department, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton asked Congress to reroute $1.3 billion in unspent Iraq reconstruction cash for enhancing embassy security. According to congressional sources who’ve seen the request, that cash takes a variety of forms: hiring 150 more Diplomatic Security agents for the State Department; funding an additional deployment of 225 Marines comprising 35 teams; and approximately $700 million to bolster the exterior defenses of its diplomatic buildings. A letter Clinton sent to her legislative oversight committees urged legislators give her “authority to streamline mandatory processes for faster results.”

Yes they are hiring more men with shades and assault rifles. The irony is that the beneficiary of this budgetary largesse is an agency which was just raked over the coals for its incompetence. The Associated Press reported that the State Department was criticized for “systematic failures” which allowed the attack on its Benghazi consulate to take place.

As punishment it will now receive a huge infusion of money. Wired writes, “The bureau [of Diplomatic Security] may have been burned by the Benghazi commission, but it’s about to have a lot more cash on its hands.”

Those calls for added cash were blessed by a key legislative panel, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at a Friday hearing. Senators of both parties repeated the mantra “resources matter” and decried recent cuts in the State Department’s operations budget, a perspective cheered by Clinton deputies Thomas Nides and William Burns. “Just to build a wall at an embassy could potentially take months to go through a contracting process,” Nides lamented.

A civilian contractor blog writes that the first and fatal link in the chain of events which led to the Benghazi incident was the idea that private guards were bad things.

The slapdash security that killed Stevens, technician Sean Smith and CIA guards Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty started with a seemingly inconsequential decision by Libya’s new government. After the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, Libya’s interim government barred armed private security firms – foreign and domestic – from operating anywhere in the country …

Once the Libyans took away the private security guard option, it put enormous strain on a little-known State Department arm, the Diplomatic Security Service. This obscure agency has been responsible for protecting American diplomatic posts around the world since 1916.

The nominee for Secretary of State, John Kerry, is not entirely happy with turning his cathedrals of diplomacy into forts. The Guardian reported his remarks at a Senate Foreign relations committee meeting:

“There will always be a tension between the diplomatic imperative to get outside the wire and the security standards that require our diplomats to work behind high walls, concertina wire and full body searches. We do not want to concertina wire America off from the world,” he said. “We need to be safe but we also need to send the right message to the people that we’re trying to reach.”

“As you pass through a village with masses of guns and big armoured personnel carriers and Humvees, the look of confusion and alienation from average Iraqis or Afghans, who just don’t understand why we’re rumbling through their streets that way, is unmistakable.”

To his credit, Kerry admitted that some degree of risk had to be accepted for simply living in the world as it was, diplomats included. You could defend yourself with words, conciliatory action and law. But by voting the State Department more money for guards the Senate came to the reluctant conclusion that when words and warnings had failed the ultimate protection was what it always was: actual physical security.

The irony, according to civilian contractors, is that when you really, really have to stay alive and political correctness must take a back seat the government often hires the armed private sector, at least until the crisis is over.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the State Department relied on hundreds of security contractors to guard American diplomats. At times, they even hired private security guards to protect foreign leaders.

After Afghan President Hamid Karzai narrowly survived a 2002 assassination attempt, the State Department hired security guards from DynCorp, a military contractor, to guard him. Their aggressiveness in and around the presidential palace, however, angered Afghan, American and European officials. As soon as Afghan guards were trained to protect Karzai, DynCorp was let go.

Can’t blame them.

And we’re stayin’ alive, stayin alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin alive.
Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive.


The Three Conjectures at Amazon Kindle for $1.99
Storming the Castle at Amazon Kindle for $3.99
No Way In at Amazon Kindle $8.95, print $9.99

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