The terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, still is stirring controversy, fueled by the official response to it, which was as wrong as is the political stalemate over the budget. It seems like volumes have been written about the administration’s inner battle over the “talking points” to be presented to the public about the attack.
One of the points that has been mostly overlooked is why do we have a consulate, mission or sub-embassy in a place like Benghazi. The “office” there has been called by various names. We will call it a mission.
Was it necessary to have such a mission in Benghazi when we already have an embassy in Tripoli? How many other missions, such as the one in Benghazi, do we have scattered around the world? What good do they do? Many of them are a source of anger to the natives who are sick of our presence in their countries. They are costly to operate and place Americans who man them in danger.
It is clear now that our ambassador to Libya, who with three other Americans was killed in the attack, asked at least twice for added security forces because of fear for their safety. The State Department refused to send more security forces. The reason making the new rounds is that the State Department couldn’t do it because of budget restraints. The reason for the budget shortfall, according to reports, is because we are spending too much to guard our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
If we can’t adequately protect all of our embassies, consulates and missions around the world, at least some of them should be closed! We are risking American lives, and the lives of the meager security forces provided by the country where we have a presence, by not giving them adequate protection. Another fear the Americans who are posted in those countries have, can we trust the foreign security troops that are provided?
Another interesting fact that has surfaced is that when the State Department needed a spokesperson to give the official report on the attack, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to be that person. An official said Clinton was in a “crisis-management mode” and too exhausted to do the TV shows. That task fell to Susan Rice, our ambassador to the United Nations, who gave the false, but official, report on the attack at that time — that it occurred because of a protest of a video, and wasn’t a planned terrorist attack with al Qaeda strings attached.
The initial false report had politics written all over it. The administration, the CIA, and other intelligence agencies, didn’t want to look bad right before the November election.
There is no valid reason to have missions, or stations, in many countries. Some of the individuals posted at them undoubtedly do some good, but at what cost? We can’t be everything to all countries. So many countries are not grateful when we help them, and often the goods we provide fall into the wrong hands. This has been going on for decades.
It’s time for the State Department to “downsize” in regard to its missions in foreign countries. And, it needs to evaluate the risks to its personnel in foreign countries and provide better security where needed.