Maybe the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi Could Have Used a Bit More Protection


Upon hearing that that the U.S. consulate in Benghazi had been stormed and Ambassador Chris Stevens and three embassy staffers killed, my wife, a normally restrained and sensible woman, immediately demanded that the United States bomb Libya. In response to my protests that we don't know who the hell to bomb, she "moderated" her preferred response to a massive invasion of the country, before eventually calming down. I suspect that I'm not the only person dealing with domestic demands for atrocities today, which leaves me wondering who left a U.S. ambassador in a chaotic, post-revolutionary country protected by a security screen too thin to protect him from a pissed-off mob.

I'm not the only person wondering this. According to CBS News:

According to [Libyan Interior Ministry official Wanis] al-Sharef, the angry mob stormed the consulate after the U.S. troops who responded fired rounds into the air to try and disperse the crowd. Al-Sharef said there had been threats that Islamic militants might try to take revenge for the death of al Qaeda's No. 2 commander Abu Yahya al-Libi, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in June, and he said the U.S. consulate should have been better protected.

As much as I'm not a fan of military adventurism, it seems to me that the old cliche about a good defense being the best offense* is excellent advice — certainly better than what my wife and many other Americans are offering today, When seemingly humiliated officials of a shaky government that is, unsurprisingly, unable to protect your diplomatic representatives suggests that you probably should have done more to prepare for unpleasantness, it's likely that they're uttering kernels of truth.

By contrast to the Benghazi compound, the U.S. embassy in Cairo, which also came under attack with a better outcome, is described as a "fortress-like U.S. mission." Granted, the U.S. embassy to Libya is in Tripoli and the Benghazi consulate is a lesser facility, but Libya strikes me as the sort of place where any American presence should be "fortress-like."

A little more preparation, and maybe we wouldn't have to worry about what constitutes an appropriate response to the violence in Benghazi.

*Yeah, I kind of butchered the old saying. How about, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure"?