THE LESSONS OF BENGHAZI

Fox News on December 26, 2012, published comments by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida on the recent report of the Accountability Review Board investigating the terrorist attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi. It concisely lays out much that we already knew: this was the premeditated work of terrorists, not a protest about a YouTube video that spun out of control; the attackers employed military tactics and used rocket-propelled grenades and other heavy weapons; they also used simple weapons of opportunity, such as gasoline used to set the fire that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and Sean Smith. Excerpts below:

The report also confirmed that the Libyan government was totally incapable of providing security for U.S. facilities in Benghazi and was barely even in control of much of that city and its environs. The State Department’s naïve reliance on local militias of questionable capacity and uncertain loyalty was, in retrospect, a grave mistake.

That we operated with a skeleton staff in such a precarious environment is clear evidence that we failed to connect the dots. That is a mistake we simply can’t afford to make again – in Libya or anywhere else with an American diplomatic presence. The State Department must adjust the security posture of diplomatic facilities in high-risk regions based on responsible, timely analysis of the best information available. We can no longer expect to rely primarily on host nations to protect American diplomats in all parts of the world.

Conducting U.S. diplomacy abroad is not without risks, and I strongly believe we must continue to represent the interests of the United States in difficult regions. In strategically important but volatile countries like Pakistan – or potentially a post-Assad Syria – it is crucial that the U.S. have an active diplomatic presence. We must be clear-eyed, however, about the dangers our people face in these places and, as the Accountability Review Board notes, we must be able to protect our own people. We can do this by reforming the Bureau of Diplomatic Security to ensure that it is agile, responsive and accountable.

Last month, while on a trip to Peru, Secretary Clinton said she that she took full responsibility for the events in Benghazi. I take her at her word. As the nation’s top diplomat, she should therefore appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in both open and classified hearings to discuss the Accountability Review Board’s findings. She should explain why her department failed to adequately secure the U.S. Special Mission Compound in Benghazi …

The lessons of this tragedy can be applied far beyond Libya, with the ultimate goal of protecting our diplomats in challenging environments.

Someday soon, I hope President Bashir al-Assad will no longer rule Syria and that the Syrian people will have a chance to rebuild their country.

Unfortunately, in the same way that America’s delayed engagement in Libya ultimately allowed a security vacuum to be filled and exploited by extremists and militias, the consequences of the Obama administration’s failures in Syria could be even more pronounced and our interests even more threatened.

The current administration unfortunately now has a record of frequently “leading from behind” and standing on the sidelines as America’s enemies exploit our inaction. Hopefully one lesson of Benghazi will be that we need to fundamentally rethink this mistaken approach to foreign policy.

When the 113th Congress convenes in January, it will be crucial that we have a sustained conversation about the policies that led to Benghazi…

Republican Marco Rubio represents Florida in the U.S. Senate. He is a member of the Senate’s Foreign Relations and Intelligence Committees.

One Response to “THE LESSONS OF BENGHAZI”

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