In testimony at a House of Representatives hearing today, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered a particularly bizarre assessment of the death of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens in the 2012 attack on the Benghazi consulate, suggesting it was the consequences of the US withdrawing its military after the Libya War.
Yet while the US illegally participated in the NATO war against Libya in 2011, they never actually had a ground presence in the country in the first place, and security was simply at the embassy level, as it is in most non-occupied countries.
While Clinton presented the situation as a “power vacuum” that was fueling extremism and led to the death of Stevens, the 2012 situation was much different, and the centerpiece of the US operations in the country at the time was a CIA weapons smuggling operation inside Benghazi.
Given that, far from the wages of an insufficiently gargantuan US military presence, the Benghazi incident can be seen as fairly straightforward blowback, a common enough occurrence in US interventions abroad, if not usually in such dramatic fashion as in Benghazi.
What happened, however, is that everyone has spent the past several years trying to spin the situation there as not only unique, but somehow politically advantageous for them. Indeed, the only reason there are still Benghazi hearings going on three years after the fact is that House Republicans hope to politically undermine Clinton in her 2016 run, and Clinton’s testimony today paints the solution as even more aggressive meddling abroad.
The reality is that when dozens of CIA agents are smuggling arms into a city, the American Consulate in that city is inevitably house that operation, and necessarily become a high-value target. This is true not just in Benghazi, but across the region, wherever CIA intervention is ongoing.
Far from a lesson learned, Clinton’s testimony likely reflects the beltway’s conventional wisdom on the matter, and that years later Benghazi could easily happen again in any number of places, with the attack only strengthening official resolve to meddle.