Ambassador Christopher Steven’s assassination on September 11th in Benghazi, Libya, needless to say, stirred a wide array of reactions from different sources. There were those that instantly called for war against Libya. Others, realizing that the deed was a planned attack by a smaller subgroup in that country were more conciliatory by eulogizing the ambassador as a man who gave his very life to make the lives of others better. And then there was the clumsy and irresponsible reaction of the leader of the Republican party and its current presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. For his part, the former Massachusetts’ governor reacted by blasting the Obama Administration for “sympathizing with those who waged the attack” because its U.S. embassy in Cairo issued a statement during the attacks meant to quell any potential violence.
Whatever the case, the death of Christopher Stevens was needless and wasteful. He died in vain for two reasons: his inappropriate involvement in the affairs of a country not his own and the fact that he should not have been in Benghazi on September 11.
Last year when President Obama decided unilaterally to intervene in the Libyan Civil War, he appointed Stevens to work closely with anti-Gadhafi fighters on the ground in Benghazi and serve as a conduit between them and the U.S. military. At first, NATO involvement was just supposed to include imposing a U.N. sanctioned “no-fly zone” over Libya so Gadhafi could not use his air force to brutalize Libyans on the ground. However, in very short order, the mission morphed into an all-out air invasion complete with bombings of Gadhafi’s fighters on the ground.
What was lacking of course was any congressional debate whether or not American forces should be employed in Libya and ultimately a declaration of war from Congress as required in the Constitution. After all, U.S. forces were engaged in direct combat in the Libyan Civil War for months. Just because no Americans died in the conflict until Ambassador Stevens is beside the point. Congressional debate could have resulted in a vote not to declare war on a country that posed no national security to us.
So, in essence, the Obama Administration used the pretext of saving lives to commit regime change. Chris Stevens was the point man on the ground in Benghazi that helped to make that happen. The regime was Gadhafi’s and chances are good Stevens was killed either by a pro-Gadhafi militia or a fringe militia looking to gain support from pro-Gadhafi forces. Either way, this is what is called blowback. Stevens paid for his deeds directly in Libya. The bottom line is that Americans will continue to experience this phenomenon as long as their government continues to meddle in the affairs of other countries, even if the goal is noble.
The second reason Chris Stevens died in vain was because he shouldn’t have been in Libya on September 11th. No American should have been. Since the end of the civil war, Libya has been reduced to a Somalia like haven. Without a legitimate centralized authority, heavily armed militias operate freely on the streets of Libya’s major cities. Assassination attempts, shootouts, car bombings, arson, and threats against foreign diplomats are commonplace. In August, in Tripoli, armed men tried to commandeer a U.S. Embassy vehicle carrying American diplomatic personnel. Stevens and the American diplomatic corps should have been evacuated out of Libya a long time ago. It was and is simply too dangerous a place for them.
Shortly after Ambassador Stevens was assassinated, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted asking, “How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction?” The answer is easy – American intervention in other countries makes all Americans unsafe. When Washington picks sides in a conflict there are other sides that are slighted. When America attempts to militarily or politically dominate another country folks in that country become resentful. Clearly, these are lessons that Secretary Clinton needs to learn. If Ambassador Stevens understood them, he would still be alive today.
Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina