The Select Committee on Benghazi has reconstructed what happened on the night of September 11, 2012. They depict a situation in which the administration was surprised by the attack on the Benghazi consulate, completely bereft of forces with which to respond, and groping for a narrative in the immediate aftermath.
The most noteworthy aspects of the report were that president Obama ordered reinforcements sent as soon as it became clear the consulate was under attack. While he did not, as some have argued, deliberately withhold succor to the embassy, he might as well have done so, for the cupboard was bare. Owing to a failure to anticipate the threat and a general condition of unreadiness prevailing in the region, no help could be sent for 8 hours, long after the last Americans had been killed. Ironically, the surviving Americans were ultimately evacuated by “former Qadhafi loyalists who the U.S. had helped remove from power during the Libyan revolution.”
The men of Benghazi were not, in the official sense, left to twist in the wind. Yet that was the effect. United States forces were simply unable to mount a response and they were, to all practical purposes, alone. The report outlines a veritable compendium of failure. Some might even call it an indictment of the nation’s military posture. The reluctance to explore it is easy to understand. It was a rock that nobody in the administration wanted to look under.
“Our committee’s insistence on additional information about the military’s response to the Benghazi attacks was met with strong opposition from the Defense Department, and now we know why. Instead of attempting to hide deficiencies in our posture and performance, it’s my hope our report will help ensure we fix what went wrong so that a tragedy like this never happens again.”
It was especially inconvenient since Obama was running in 2012 on the claim that Islamic extremism was a beaten force. On the day after the attack, perhaps to salvage that narrative, the administration made attempts to portray the attacks as mob action resulting from an inflammatory video, despite the fact that they knew better.
They were able in this instance to shelter in their own murk. Because the after-action intelligence assessments were no clearer and as clueless as those which failed to predict the attack in the first place, the administration could cite its own confusion the way a squid can hide in its own ink. They could cite their own confusion as the origin for the deceptive story Susan Rice eventually peddled to the nation.
Basically, the Benghazi consulate was overrun because the administration had established an embassy beyond the wire and outside the artillery fan. They had deceived themselves into thinking it was tenable. They entrusted its defense to unreliable militias. When it was attacked, they had no forces within practical range of relief. To explain the resulting disaster, they peddled a fairy tale which even they did not believe. It was all wishful thinking from beginning to end and beyond. We are now in that beyond.
Rep. Susan Brooks (IN-05) released the following statement regarding these findings:
“President Obama has said his worst mistake was ‘failing to plan for the day after … intervening in Libya.’ As a result of this ‘lead from behind’ foreign policy, the Libyan people were forced to make the dismal trade of the tyranny of Qadhafi for the terror of ISIS, Al-Qaeda and others. Although the State Department considered Libya a grave risk to American diplomats in 2011 and 2012, our people remained in a largely unprotected, unofficial facility that one diplomatic security agent the committee interviewed characterized as ‘a suicide mission.’”
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (GA-03) released the following statement regarding these findings:
“One of the most concerning parts of the State Department’s policy in Libya was its reliance upon the militias of an unstable nation to protect our men and women in Benghazi. These were by no means forces that could adequately protect Americans on the ground, and the State Department knew it. But the appearance of no boots on the ground was more important to the administration.”
Benghazi was a foreseeable disaster they failed to prevent. And in the aftermath it was a catastrophe whose lessons they were determined to ignore. In summary, the report depicts an administration that was not so much malignant as completely incompetent. The Obama never saw what hit them in Benghazi, had no comeback when it did, and denied they were sucker punched even as they picked themselves up from the floor.
The true story of Benghazi is in many ways more disturbing than the wildest conspiracy theories can be. It suggests that the protection with which Americans assume their country is surrounded by is — or was at least in this instance — a sham. The assumption undergirding all the theories alleging the administration withheld help assumed the existence of that relief force. The real scandal was there was no provision for the help or that any would be needed, at least not on September 11, 2012.
The report reinforces the impression that recent terror attacks have only thrown into sharp relief. The state is not the mighty all-seeing fence it pretends to be. As a shield it leaves much to be desired. It can be, and in this instance was, actually caught with its pants down.
Either it is reformed to where it is the bulwark its supporters claim it to be or its deficiencies are accepted and individuals candidly told that, like the men of Benghazi, they have to hold the line until help comes perhaps hours late. The Washington Post observed it will take the entire police force of France to monitor the jihadi suspects they have have in-country now. The military has been battered by cuts, political correctness and many calls upon its strength. It is any wonder it can’t be everywhere at once?
And when one comes to think of it, the Benghazi response times are in line with those the public can observe. The data fits. In Paris and Orlando the victims probably thought the police would come within minutes. In actuality decisive help took as long as 3 hours to arrive, even in the middle of a big city with ample police forces all around. It’s no surprise that 8 hours after Obama directed action nothing had come to the aid of the beleaguered Americans in distant Libya. Benghazi shows the true expectation of help is rather longer than advertised, given the defense choices society has made and the vulnerabilities it has accepted.
Help is what is you can generate yourself until relief can be organized. And that could be some time.
Even if the Benghazi report is a whitewash it implicitly amounts to the admission of a greater failure to escape an objective lesser. The public have always believed the government would work “on the day”; that if the Russians launched over the Pole or the Chinese initiated a 21st century Pearl Harbor in the Pacific the military would dust off the cobwebs and repel it or failing that, avenge it.
But this suggests the administration is failing in the most important duty of all. How high is confidence now that a second Pearl Harbor is impossible? Tom Cotton argued that one of the administration’s biggest failures was to destroy deterrence. At the minimum the Benghazi report is an example of why America’s enemies may no longer fear it. Once its defense bluff was gone, Benghazi was doomed.
How are we safer than Benghazi?
If the Benghazi report is a whitewash, it is a whitewash within a whitewash. Gowdy would have covered for Obama who covered for Panetta who covered for Benghazi which covered a secret op whose bottom is still far off. Somewhere in that murk Hillary may be found, together with Sarkozy and all the other European statesmen. A whitewash of that magnitude means the system is nearly totally corrupt and probably inoperative in parts.
The data points of the Obama years are too consistent to ignore. Snowden. OPM. The theft of billions of dollars of foreign military aid equipment by ISIS, the strange inability to defeat this third rate caliphate, etc. There is a danger that if you look under the hood of the mighty hot rod you’ll find the giant engine the taxpayers think they bought has been replaced by a two-stroke.
That’s the crime.
Follow Wretchard on Twitter
Support the Belmont Club by purchasing from Amazon through the links below.
Recently purchased by readers:
For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History, In the dramatic story of one of the greatest acts of corporate espionage ever committed, author Sarah Rose recounts the fascinating, unlikely circumstances surrounding a turning point in economic history.
The Great Degeneration: How Institutions Decay and Economies Die, Niall Ferguson presents a searching and provocative examination of the widespread institutional rot that threatens the West’s collective future.
The 10 Best-Ever Anxiety Management Techniques: Understanding How Your Brain Makes You Anxious and What You Can Do to Change It, A strategy-filled handbook to understand, manage, and conquer your own stress. Addressing physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms, leading mental health clinician Dr. Margaret Wehrenberg draws on basic brain science to highlight the top ten anxiety-defeating tips.
The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, This book by Stanford professor Kelly McGonigal is the first to explain the new science of self-control and how it can be harnessed to improve our health, happiness, and productivity. Informed by the latest research in psychology, economics, neuroscience, and medicine.
The Abolition of Man, In this classic, C.S. Lewis sets out to persuade his readers of the importance and relevance of universal values such as courage and honor in contemporary society. One of the most debated of Lewis’s extraordinary works.
Did you know that you can purchase some of these books and pamphlets by Richard Fernandez and share them with your friends? They will receive a link in their email and it will automatically give them access to a Kindle reader on their smartphone, computer or even as a web-readable document.
The War of the Words, Understanding the crisis of the early 21st century in terms of information corruption in the financial, security and political spheres
Rebranding Christianity, or why the truth shall make you free
The Three Conjectures, reflections on terrorism and the nuclear age
Storming the Castle, why government should get small
No Way In at Amazon Kindle. Fiction. A flight into peril, flashbacks to underground action.
Storm Over the South China Sea, how China is restarting history in the Pacific
Tip Jar or Subscribe or Unsubscribe to the Belmont Club