President Barack Obama’s political opponents are trying once again to manufacture a scandal out of the tragic deaths of four American government personnel at a U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, last September. Among those killed was the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens. The current political and media feeding frenzy surrounding the Benghazi attacks is no more than a parsing of interagency debates on postattack talking points, and it is based on what former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates called “cartoonish” views of U.S. military capabilities.
This Washington convulsion may serve the political interests of President Obama’s domestic opponents, but it obscures two far more important issues: the deterioration of the overall situation in Libya, and the longer-term challenge the United States faces of managing security risks when conducting diplomacy in insecure locations. The mindless political debate over Obama administration talking points from last fall harms efforts to come to grips with both of these issues and shows how superficial our debates on national security have become.
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