Tonight's Presidential debate is on foreign policy. By all accounts the most important issue to be discussed, in terms of how it will effect the election is the so called "Benghazi Gate". Now, readers of Gubu World will know that I have been relatively neutral in this election although I have leaned toward Romney somewhat because of the debt issue. However all I can do is call things as I see them. That is why I want to do a post on the so called Benghazi controversy and why I believe it is one of the most contrived political controversies I have ever come across. Before I go further I want to stress that the reasons I am about to cite are based entirely on my own observations and instincts. I have not copied or expanded them from any other source. So let me begin.
1. Ambassador Stevens was not killed by gunfire or in an explosion. The cause of death was smoke inhalation. When I heard this the morning after his death I assumed that the building had been attacked in a violent demonstration, that it caught fire and that the ambassador was trapped. When one hears of any crime that has been committed one tends to piece together in their head what the motives and methods were. Sometimes it is clear, other times it takes a few days. In my view the mere fact that the ambassador died from smoke inhalation sufficiently explains why it took a couple of days for the administration to be clear that it was in fact an organised terrorist attack. The fact that it coincided with simultaneous protests in several other Muslim countries further muddied the waters. I do not believe there was anything sinister it the disjointed response from the administration. I do think Romney's attempt to associate the apology that came from the US Embassy in Cairo as being an Obama apology that came after the ambassadors death was in bad taste.
2. The impression I got from Ambassador Stevens was that he was not a conventional diplomat. He sneaked into Libya during the revolution and was tasked with liaising with rebels and assisting in the post Gadaffi transition to democracy. He seemed to be a fairly hands on type a guy who wanted to move freely through out Libya. I can't prove this but I would guess that he did not want to travel around Libya in a massive motorcade, nor did he want the US embassy to look like a fortress. I suspect it was part of an image he wanted to portray of America as an ally of Libya. This is my explanation for why the consulate in Benghazi looked more like a holiday villa. Of course if he requested more security he should have got it but that cannot be seriously blamed on the President.
3. The narrative from the Romney campaign is that Obama constantly blamed the attack on a youtube video because in his heart he rejects the idea of unprovoked terrorism. He is sceptical of American power and believes the US on some level brings terrorism on itself, just as the classic leftist believes. I believe that this is a fantasy. Obama did not blame the attack on the youtube video. What he did say from day one was that the attackers used the video as an excuse. This is absolutely accurate. The Republicans are claiming that the attack was entirely unconnected to the movie controversy. This is not the case. While I don't for a second deny that the fanatic terrorists who murdered the four Americans were motivated by Al Queada style anti western hatred, and that they would have committed terrorism against the US anyway, they nevertheless clearly did choose to attack at the time of the controversy in the hope that it would inspire others to sympathise with them.
4. The most important point regarding Libya is as follows. In my view Obamas wider Libya policy has been a great success. It may in fact turn out to be a spectacular success if the democratic experiment in Libya permanently succeeds. All week I have been hearing how Benghazi is a major weakness for Obama. I suspect tonight he will try to illustrate it as a strength. American military action ended the 42 year rule of Col Gadaffi. Some Republicans who still haven't realised that there is no such thing as a stable mad man, argued that they should have left Gadaffi in power because he had started to play ball on the war on terror. Taking Gadaffi down was a risk and Libya is far from stable but the electorate have chosen a moderate government and in the wake of the Benghazi attack we saw the most notable pro American demonstration to occur in an Arab country since Desert Storm. Obamas risk has paid off. The death of four Americans does not invalidate his wider action on Libya. America lost 5000 people trying to bring democracy to Iraq, in Libya they have lost four. How this is continueing to be such a negative for the President surprises me greatly. I suspect tonight that he will try to turn that disadvantage into an advantage.