By Teresa Welsh |
Over recent decades, events like Benghazi have happened all too frequently. Since 1980, more than 90 American diplomats have died in the line of duty. Many were victims of embassy bombings and terrorist attacks. While previous failures resulted in careful reviews of our diplomatic security efforts, no previous incident provoked partisan allegations that policies or directives by the president or secretary of state were contributing factors.
By the standards that some are now applying to the Obama administration, President Reagan would have been in danger of impeachment. During his first term, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut was bombed twice within the same year. The first time 13 Americans were killed; the second time, two more. That same year our emissary to Namibia was killed in yet another bombing.
We are vulnerable to such attacks at any moment and in dozens of countries around the world. We operate missions in 270 locations and many have risks quite similar to those encountered in Benghazi. While the host government is responsible for the safety of any diplomat it accepts within its borders, many governments lack the political stability and security resources necessary to meet that obligation. We can choose to not be represented in such locations or we can accept the risks that come with maintaining such diplomatic relationships.
The most important thing we can do is harden the facilities that house our diplomats and expand diplomatic security resources so that more options are available to cope with high-threat environments. Interestingly, those now alleging wrongdoing by the administration have repeatedly refused to do either.
Finally, the argument that faster and more forceful intervention in Benghazi might have saved the ambassador and his staff is little short of ludicrous. Benghazi is 400 miles across the Gulf of Sidra from Tripoli. The attack on the consulate began at 9:40 in the evening and the building containing the ambassador was set on fire 20 minutes later. The ambassador's body was removed from the building 30 minutes after that.
Certainly mistakes were made and careful examination of this tragedy will help identify the corrective actions necessary to make life safer for our diplomatic corps. But the partisan circus that has erupted around the death of these four brave men undercuts such efforts. It does a disservice to our diplomats and to our country.
About Scott Lilly Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress
Thomas Joscelyn Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Al Cardenas Chairman of the American Conservative Union
Frank Wolf Republican Representative from Virginia
Zachary Pleat Senior Researcher at Media Matters