Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


The Libya Blame Game

Losing sight of what’s useful

Print Email
The U.S. Consulate in Benghazi Following Last Month's Attack(AP)

With weeks to go before the election, seemingly every aspect of last month’s attack on the U.S. mission in Libya has become a cudgel for Americans–politicians and pundits alike–to beat each other senseless with.

One example of countless many was a post last week (or perhaps all posts last week) from Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin. Here’s a bit of what she had to say.

The Obama administration had touted Libya as a great success, a model of nation-building. But, in fact, like the accusation it hurled at the Bush administration for its handling of the Iraq war, the Obama team had sublimated reality to ideology. They were grand liberators! They like us! So, therefore, there could be no danger to Americans in Benghazi or elsewhere.

But the facts that the Obama team had access to back in August told a different story: “Al-Qaeda appears to constitute a significant threat to the state-building process in Libya. The current Libyan leadership seems unable to deliver on the promise of security or to carry out meaningful reforms in order to build strong popular support for state institutions, destroyed by the former regime.”

Four Americans paid the price for the Obama administration’s refusal to pay attention to inconvenient facts.

Earlier this week, in an editorial titled “Republicans Have No Shame,” the Times fired in a different direction:

At a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last Wednesday, Representative Darrell Issa, Republican of California and the committee’s chairman, talked of “examining security failures that led to the Benghazi tragedy.” He said lawmakers had an obligation to protect federal workers overseas. On Sunday, he said more should be spent on diplomatic security.

But as part of the Republican majority that has controlled the House the last two years, Mr. Issa joined in cutting nearly a half-billion dollars from the State Department’s two main security accounts. One covers things like security staffing, including local guards, armored vehicles and security technology; the other, embassy construction and upgrades. In 2011 and 2012, President Obama sought a total of $5 billion, and the House approved $4.5 billion. In 2009, Mr. Issa voted for an amendment that would have cut nearly 300 diplomatic security positions. And the draconian budgets proposed by Mitt Romney’s running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, would cut foreign affairs spending by 10 percent in 2013 and even more in 2016.

The hits keep on coming. Benghazi entered the discourse of last week’s vice-presidential debates and we’ll no doubt see it again tonight in the second presidential debate.

Last night, in the moments following Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s interview on CNN, in which she accepted responsibility for the loss of American life in Libya, her words immediately took on a new life of their own. Suddenly, she had spoken only to protect the President or, more conspiratorially, she was finally, at long last, exacting revenge on President Obama for 2012.

That Clinton asked, in the wake of the deaths of four of her colleagues, to keep the issue from being “a kind of political gotcha” fell on deaf ears. That’s to be expected. But also making a similar plea: Jan Stevens, the father of Ambassador Chris Stevens:

The security matters are being adequately investigated. We don’t pretend to be experts in security. It has to be objectively examined. That’s where it belongs. It does not belong in the campaign arena.

Perhaps we should listen.

Libyan Ambassador’s Death Not a Political Issue, Says Dad
Obama’s Libya Debacle: Willfull Blindess [WaPo]
Hillary Clinton Falls on Her Sword for Obama [Atlantic]
Clinton Takes Responsibility for Libya Security Failure [NYT]

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

The Libya Blame Game

Losing sight of what’s useful

More on Tablet:

Kerry Links Rise of ISIS With Failed Peace Talks

By Lee Smith — Secretary of State: ‘I see a lot of heads nodding’