Monday, October 28, 2013

Benghazi and Beyond

“We’re here to kill Americans.” That chilling statement from an attacker of the US compound reported on 60 Minutes by a pseudonymous witness stirs again the anguish of four deaths last September 11.

The pain of that loss is genuine on all sides, but it doesn’t stop there, rippling into politics as a preemptive strike against a Hillary Clinton run in 2016 and raising even broader questions about what we are doing in the Middle East and why.

Partisan use of that tragedy is well under way. At a hearing in January, the former Secretary of State lost her patience with a GOP senator who kept badgering her.

"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans," she said, raising her voice as he continued to interrupt. "Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk last night who decided to kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator."

That won’t satisfy her critics, but the blame game is only a sideshow to the larger question: How long can and should the United States be so deeply involved—-and vulnerable—-in the internal mayhem of the Middle East.

Since that hearing, 104 Americans have been killed in Afghanistan alone without a murmur of political protest in Washington. As we obsess about Benghazi, how can we ignore them?

Susan Rice, who lost her chance to succeed Clinton as Secretary of State over that aftermath and is now the President’s national security adviser, has addressed that broader issue by telling the New York Times that “the President’s goal is to avoid having events in the Middle East swallow his foreign policy agenda, as it had those of presidents before him.”

In this new approach, the US would eschew the use of force, except to respond to acts of aggression against the United States or its allies, disruption of oil supplies, terrorist networks or weapons of mass destruction.

If the Obama Administration implements that new policy scrupulously, it would not only honor those who died at Benghazi but help avoid adding to their number American men and women who put their lives on the line to protect their country.

Almost as many have lost their lives in Afghanistan since 9/11/2001 as those who died on that terrible day.

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