Benghazi & Brushing Away the Crazy


TPM Reader LF considers the debate we should really be having about the Benghazi attack …

There is one other really important point about the nonsense surrounding Benghazi–it has made it absolutely impossible to have the real foreign policy discussion that we need to have. The reality is that, whatever the particular cause in Libya, the real cause of what happened is that in Libya we adopted an aggressive, forward-leaning foreign policy.

One in which our diplomatic corps was willing to and did engage with local leaders and local populations. In many ways, the type of grass-roots diplomacy (for lack of a better name) that Chris Stevens engaged in is the type of engagement–or, perhaps more accurately, in place of the type of engagement–that the military under Bush 43 (and maybe most other Presidents too) would do. But if we are to have a forward-leaning foreign policy: one that engages in Libya, or Syria, or Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, and who knows where else; one where American military force is really just one element of global democracy building and protection of human rights; then the reality is that our diplomatic corps is going to be endangered.

Much like it was foolish for us to think in Iraq in 2003 that our armed forces would be greeted with flowers and parades in the street, it is foolish for us to think that our diplomats will not find themselves in danger in these global hot spots in which we are prepared to insert ourselves.

That is alright. That is probably good. In many ways it is safer and smarter than the military approach that has been more common since WWII (and probably since the Revolution). But all this question about blame and whether it was an organized terrorist action or a spontaneous demonstration (and the descent into the most mind-numbingly absurd topics like the CIA talking points) prevents us from having the discussion where we come to understand that this type of thing is inevitably going to happen when we put diplomats on the ground and ask them to do diplomatic work in dangerous areas.