I joined facebook this week and it feels like a psychotic reaction; suddenly there are dozens of strange voices in my head. Too many of them are smug, angry people, spoiling for a fight.
That’s how I learned that Jon Stewart had supposedly taken Fox News to the woodshed over its "dual standards" with respect to Benghazi. In a segment with no detectable comedy, Stewart pointed out that there had been 13 embassy attacks during the Bush years that conservatives supposedly don’t care about. "So what’s different about Benghazi?" he asks.
It’s actually a softball question. The difference is that Benghazi is the only example where our leaders did not correctly and honestly identify the attackers as Islamic terrorists. The motive for this is transparent: President Obama had already declared that there was no longer a terrorist threat, since he "got bin Laden." Thus it was politically expedient to cover up the deliberate planning and provisioning of the attack.
Although everybody understands this on some level, an investigation is still required. The simplest reason is that murders are always investigated. I don’t know why no one in the Senate hearing had the wit to point this out to Hillary Clinton, but that’s a separate issue. It’s called evidence; our judicial system is based on the assumption that the facts must be examined. Whether it’s a gang murder or a deadly assault motivated by money or jealousy, we expect an investigation and then a trial.
On the battlefield, when Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire, his family and the public became rightly incensed that the investigation wasn’t carried out in a timely, transparent, impartial way.
The best example for Hillary is the controversy that still surrounds the 1982 massacre of Palestinians in Lebanon. Although Lebanese militias carried out this attack, international criticism was directed at Ariel Sharon for not doing enough to prevent it. Were the calls for an investigation made most vigorously by his political opponents? Absolutely. Was this a valid reason for not investigating? Of course not. Sharon survived politically; Hillary might, too.
This brings us to the second reason: An investigation is needed so Americans can properly evaluate the foreign policy approaches advocated by the two parties.
When 9/11 happened, George Bush looked back in time and detected an obvious pattern that ran from the Beirut bombings in 1983 and 1984, through Lockerbie and the first World Trade Center bombing, Khobar Towers, the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam embassy bombings, the foiled millennium bombing plot, and the murderous attack on the USS Cole.
President Bush concluded that we were the target of asymmetric warfare and our adversary was al Qaeda, whose motive was to restore the caliphate and establish Sharia everywhere. His strategic response was to proactively pursue our enemies on their turf, rather than waiting for them to attack us. The Bush Doctrine.
The fact that there were 13 embassy attacks during the Bush years is merely an extension of this pattern. (Thanks Jon.) It shows that asymmetric warfare continued alongside the conventional engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, though limited to softer targets in other countries. George Bush’s strategy kept us safe at home, yet it was widely despised on the left.
Since President Obama’s election, we’ve had the attempted Times Square bombing, the Boston Marathon bombing, and Benghazi. And we are not the only targets of asymmetric warfare. Recall the coordinated attacks on Mumbai, killing at least 166 people; the Westgate mall attack in Kenya; the systematic murder of Coptic Christians in Egypt; and now the kidnappings of schoolchildren in Nigeria. As the pattern continues, we cannot ignore the unimpeded development of nuclear weapons in Iran.
Now look again at Benghazi recognizing that Hillary Clinton is the most likely Democratic candidate for president. Forget about charging her with dereliction of duty on the night of the attack. Sure it’s an abomination, but it won’t go anywhere. Here’s what we really need to get out in the open: What are the true details of her record in fighting terrorism? In other words how did her strategic view guide her actions in Benghazi? Does she share the same policies as Obama? If not, what has she done to try to change his approach?
We also need to know if Hillary shares the opinions of Anne-Marie Slaughter, who served as her director of Policy Planning in the State Department from 2009-11. On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Slaughter wrote, "As emotionally satisfying as the killing of Osama bin Laden and the attacks on other al Qaeda leaders are, in the long run they are a less effective response to terrorism than enhancing the resilience of our infrastructure, our economy and our people. If we are prepared for an attack and return to normal as quickly as possible, even while grieving–with our planes flying, our markets open, and our heads high–we can diminish the impact and hence the value of that attack in the first place." [emphasis added]
So Anne-Marie, how many people do you think we might be grieving for? Do you really think that terrorists are like under-medicated fifth grade boys–acting out to get attention? And if we ignore them they’ll get discouraged and give up on their goal of subjugating us to their religion?
The point of the Benghazi investigation should be to accurately define and disclose the strategy our government has for protecting us.
On the one hand there was the Bush doctrine. It kept us safe, but apparently lacked nuance and injured too many people’s self-esteem.
Now we have something else. Engagement? Soft power? Leading from behind? Hope and change?
People need to know what these homilies mean–now.
If the investigation shows that we are following the Slaughter Doctrine–shelter in place and, if they don’t murder you, grieve…but keep your chin up–people need to know that.
Then we could act accordingly, by hardening our personal and family "infrastructure," and by getting out more people who will vote next time with a clear understanding of what’s at stake.
That’s the difference it makes–today, tomorrow, always.
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