Wednesday, September 12, 2012

US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens assassinated

The assassination of Ambassador Stevens [graphic picture] with 3 other Americans yesterday at the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya was likely retaliation for the killing of Libya-born al Qaeda commander Abu Yaya al-Libi. The armed assault on the consulate, possibly conducted by members of Libyan Islamist group Ansar al Shariah, was apparently disguised with the pretext of a protest, reminding of the attack on the embassy in 2000 movie Rules of Engagement. Reports say the other 3 Americans killed were foreign service officer Air Force veteran Sean Smith and two Marines not yet identified. (Update: The other 2 American dead have been identified as Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods.)

Ambassador Stevens apparently was visiting Benghazi to attend the opening of an American cultural center. A consulate is a diplomatic outpost, not a fully equipped embassy, which would help explain the light security. The terrorists chose a 'soft' target to attack the temporarily vulnerable US Ambassador and accomplished their mission. A troubling question is why the security for the American diplomats wasn't stronger given the recent series of Islamist attacks on security forces, and diplomatic and cultural targets with poor response by Libyan security forces. The 2 dead former Navy SEALs apparently were bodyguards for the Ambassador. I wonder if the elite quality of his bodyguards made Stevens overconfident about his security, perhaps believing they could save him from any situation.

This account cites a Libyan minister saying the Americans moved to a safer location but the Libyan guards directed the attackers to the 2nd location. Secretary Clinton says the Americans and Libyans fought side by side against the attackers, but I haven't heard of any Libyan casualties to match the American dead. (Update: Apparently, the outnumbered and outgunned Libyan guards declined to defend the consulate but surviving staff were taken to a safehouse and the firefight occurred at the 2nd location.) The New York Times provides more details on the sequence of events. Reuters reports the involvement of many more staffers and Marines than 1st reported and a heavy assault on the supposedly secret safehouse (which again, may have been revealed by the consulate guards) during the evacuation. How was it that 4 died when 37 staffers were able to escape?

The full-spectrum fluid War on Terror continues apace. The contest is between autocrats, Islamists, and liberals. We can defeat the autocrats, but we need the liberals to defeat the Islamists. But the liberals cannot compete with the Islamists without our help. Maybe Stevens's death will galvanize the Obama administration to intensify American investment in peace-building in Libya, perhaps with COIN.

Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods died in the line of duty in service to their country. Rest In Peace.

14SEP12 add: Regarding the wider series of attacks on Western targets, it doesn't take a lot of insight to understand that the enemy understands himself to be engaged in a total clash of civilizations. His world order is incompatible with the world order we champion (or used to champion) that includes the UN and other Western nations and organizations. The fact that we don't want a clash of civilizations with him won't stop his clash with us.

The enemy doesn't mind war. War is change. War is the creative destruction needed to eliminate the competition. The enemy's greatest objection is to our kind of peace, a world order based on fundamentals that are incompatible with his fundamentals. For example, all of Operation Iraqi Freedom is labeled by most people as a "war" (I've done it as lazy shorthand, too). In fact, the war ended when we achieved regime change. However, the post-war in Iraq has been far bloodier and costlier than the war because the terrorists are most threatened by our post-war peace-building construction.

The heart of the War on Terror is not the war, but rather the competition to define the new order that emerges from the destruction of the old order. Bush understood that. Many leaders in the West do not.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, who headed the 1st post-war UN delegation to Iraq and was quickly assassinated, rejected US security in order to distinguish the UN's constructive role from the US mission. He didn't understand that Western construction of post-Saddam Iraq was the most urgent threat to the enemy in his clash of civilizations. I wonder if Ambassador Stevens, despite his extensive personal experience with Libya, made the same mistake as Vieira de Mello in believing his mission of peace would protect him. I wonder if Stevens failed to understand the particular peace he sought for Libya is the thing that the enemy is most dedicated to killing in his clash of civilizations against us.

21JAN15 add: State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) for Benghazi report.


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