Powerline: “Chaos at the State Department”
I spoke with a well-placed journalist last night whose sources describe the situation at the State Department in one word: “Chaos.” The working assumption is that several American embassies may have been penetrated, or are vulnerable to attack, because so many of them rely on local residents for staff needs at the embassy, and as such may be in a position to breach security if they have been recruited by Al Qaida. Moreover, the full story of the attack on the Benghazi consulate is much worse than we have been told (except by the Independent newspaper report John and I linked to here on Thursday).
The consulate in Benghazi was an interim facility, with only a standard door lock for security, and worse, Ambassador Stevens was traveling with only a light security detail, rather than in the heavily armed convoys our diplomats in the region usually employ. The attack on the Benghazi was no mere target of opportunity spurred by reaction to the “Innocence of Muslims” film; the film is just a pretext. The killing of Amb. Stevens was a premeditated hit, planned and carried out as retaliation for the recent drone strike that killed the number two Al Qaida operative in Afghanistan recently. The vulnerability of Stevens at the Benghazi compound was scouted out carefully. All the other embassy protest activity is just covering theater.
Fox: “Diplomatic, western posts targeted repeatedly in Benghazi in run-up to deadly assault”
While the Obama administration says there was no “actionable intelligence” foreshadowing the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya, there were at least four attacks on diplomatic and western targets in Benghazi leading up to the murder of the U.S. ambassador.
“This (the U.S. Consulate) was a place that was targeted months before with an IED (improvised explosive device),” Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House intelligence committee who has been briefed on the attack and investigation, told Fox News. “It’s clearly a target that they wanted to hit and they wanted to cause casualties. … It’s just too many coincidences here”
On June 6, an IED was thrown at the perimeter of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. On June 11, the British ambassador’s motorcade came under attack by a rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG. Two security personnel were injured. Seven days later, on June 18, armed gunmen attacked the Tunisian consulate and burned its flag. And on Aug. 5, five weeks before the assault on the U.S. Consulate, the International Committee of the Red Cross building in Benghazi was also struck by RPGs.
On Friday, the chairman and ranking members of the Senate homeland security committee, Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins, sent a letter to the State Department inspector general requesting an investigation into the U.S. Consulate’s security posture at the time of the attack. The letter specifically references the previous attacks in June on the consulate and the British ambassador’s convoy, adding:
“Does the risk assessment process consider the capacity or lack thereof of the host country to provide security? Did the Libyan government request or suggest that security could be improved at the Benghazi facility prior to September 12th, 2010?”
And a chaser, Sullivan from late 2007
What does [Obama] offer? First and foremost: his face. Think of it as the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan. Such a re-branding is not trivial—it’s central to an effective war strategy. The war on Islamist terror, after all, is two-pronged: a function of both hard power and soft power. We have seen the potential of hard power in removing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. We have also seen its inherent weaknesses in Iraq, and its profound limitations in winning a long war against radical Islam. The next president has to create a sophisticated and supple blend of soft and hard power to isolate the enemy, to fight where necessary, but also to create an ideological template that works to the West’s advantage over the long haul. There is simply no other candidate with the potential of Obama to do this. Which is where his face comes in.
Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man—Barack Hussein Obama—is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.
…if you sense, as I do, that greater danger lies ahead, and that our divisions and recent history have combined to make the American polity and constitutional order increasingly vulnerable, then the calculus of risk changes. Sometimes, when the world is changing rapidly, the greater risk is caution. Close-up in this election campaign, Obama is unlikely. From a distance, he is necessary. At a time when America’s estrangement from the world risks tipping into dangerous imbalance, when a country at war with lethal enemies is also increasingly at war with itself, when humankind’s spiritual yearnings veer between an excess of certainty and an inability to believe anything at all, and when sectarian and racial divides seem as intractable as ever, a man who is a bridge between these worlds may be indispensable.
We may in fact have finally found that bridge to the 21st century that Bill Clinton told us about. Its name is Obama.