The attack on the US consulate in Benghazi has become a political football, in ways that the father of slain US Ambassador Chris Stevens wants to see stopped. That’s not likely, as both sides highlight the aspects of the story to their advantage, and suppress the aspects that present vulnerabilities.
For the Obama-Biden team, they have to downplay the fact that the White House initially attributed the attack to an anti-Islam video rather than terrorism. They also have to distance from Joe Biden’s claim during the Vice Presidential debate that the top of the ticket never heard about requests for more security in Benghazi. The White House said Biden only spoke for him and the President, not the Administration as a whole, including the State Department, which did receive multiple requests.
For the Romney-Ryan ticket, they have to downplay the fact that House Republicans cut embassy security by around $300 million in the past year, as well as the fact that US embassy attacks actually dropped during the Obama Administration, and are at a low ebb generally. One sort of justifies the other, but the prescription that Romney and Ryan have put out is to increase security at embassies, including using the US Marines (which can only be deployed with the permission of the host country to safeguard intelligence information). Ryan, in the debate, also wanted to paint a picture of an out-of-control world rebelling against the United States, when the evidence for that cannot actually be found with the images out of Libya.
The incident has sparked a debate about the use of private diplomatic security along the lines of Blackwater, which sounds like the exact wrong thing to do, and which host countries have balked at. I suppose it’s natural to reach for whatever solution is on the shelf in the event of a tragedy, but I think it’s been made perfectly clear that private mercenary armies answer no questions but pose more problems. If internal diplomatic security lacks resources, the answer would be to bolster them, not to spend more money on mercenaries.
Ultimately, this line of attack appears to be subsiding. While important questions should be addressed about the Benghazi assault, the political lens just distorts it.