September 13, 2012
Many questions go unanswered after the wave of deadly attacks at U.S. embassies this week, including the September 11 attack in Libya that claimed the life of the U.S. Ambassador and three other staff.
Heritage Foundation defense expert James Carafano told the Washington Times that he favors an inquiry into the State Department’s preparedness for attacks:
What kind of intelligence and early warning system did they have and was it adequate? Was the level of security appropriate to the assessment of level of risk that they had? Lots and lots of questions. Obviously, what security they had was insufficient.
Heritage’s James Phillips points out that in 2011, Heritage urged extra caution in Libya due to the presence of Islamist militants in the Libyan rebel coalition:
Eastern Libya has long been a hotbed for Islamist extremist groups and furnished a disproportionately large share of the foreign militants who flocked to Iraq to fight U.S. troops and the Iraqi government over the last decade… As Heritage warned earlier this year, Libyan Islamists have grown stronger in post–Muammar Qadhafi Libya. In addition to various Libyan Islamist groups, al-Qaeda has reportedly exploited the lawless anarchy within Libya to gain a foothold and attract new recruits.
Moreover, the Obama administration should reconsider its policy on free speech. During the Cairo protests Tuesday, the U.S. embassy there released a statement condemning “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims.”
This is all too similar to the U.N.’s 2011 “anti-blasphemy” resolution, Heritage’s Helle Dale argues. That resolution, supported in large part by the Obama administration, was less about protecting religion and more about limiting freedom of speech.
The embassy statement “was no aberration,” Dale writes:
Though subsequently denounced by both the White House and the State Department, it has to be seen as part and parcel of Obama Administration policy, and it is not surprising at all that it would be the first reaction of the embassy’s communication staff.
Every precaution should be taken to prevent another tragedy from happening–especially in a country known for harboring known militant religious extremists. But as Heritage’s Amy Payne points out, “We should get the facts before we draw too many conclusions about what happened and why, much less what this should mean for the future of U.S. policy.”
The attacks are no cause for declaring a moratorium on debate about U.S. policy in the region. There is plenty worth debating. Beyond the recent attacks, the United States is engaging dysfunctionally with Israel and Iran. From North Africa through sub-Saharan Africa, al-Qaeda and its affiliates seem determined to plant the flag for new Afghanistans. Across the Middle East, the Arab Spring is far from unfinished business. Current U.S. policies clearly aren’t working. It is time to change course.
How do you think the administration has responded to the embassy attacks?