North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Friday, February 1, 2013

US Secretary of State: What difference does it make ...?

Yesterday was US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton's last day on the job - John Kerry, former Senator of Massachusetts, will be sworn in Friday afternoon for this important post. As Mrs Clinton leaves her position, her rhetorical question in hearings several days ago regarding the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack will, unfortunately, linger for some time.

A region where intelligence matters

Mrs Clinton was defending her agency and the administration's handling of the incident nearly 5 months ago when US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, was killed by terrorists. When pressed to explain why the Obama administration clung to a theme of a video inciting passions from a mob for nearly two weeks after the killing, she shot back, "“Was it because of a protest or is it because of guys out for a walk one night and they decide they go kill some Americans?” she asked rhetorically, before adding: “What difference, at this point, does it make?”

The difference is key - and strangely, neither reason mentioned by Clinton was yet the right one. "It" was neither a protest, nor a spur of the moment decision. The correct answer, for some reason still not able to be acknowledged by the Secretary of State, was a deliberate attack by al-Qaeda linked groups. Her answer, in retrospect, was also testimony to a variety of questionable foreign policy lines being followed by the US.

One of the more damning issues of the case revolved around repeated requests by the American diplomatic corps in Libya over the summer for more protection from growing extremist threats - assistance that never arrived. In the months that have followed the attack, there has still been no progress in determining the militant groups, and continued fog over when assistance was asked for, and how far up in the Obama administration did the requests go.

The US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans, including the US Ambassador to that country, were killed

Connected to the lack of response to providing increased security, another question is whether the Obama administration has allowed its own narrative of describing the last two years of unrest in Arab nations as a positive "Arab Spring" to cloud a clearer, and more sober assessment. Also linked, the Obama administration trumpeted its Libyan response - one of leading from behind and gaining the support of the Arab League and the UN before it acted to topple Gadaffi - as the smart approach versus the previous administration's efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Does intelligence matter?

First, even Teatree recognizes that Mrs. Clinton's answer was 100% political, in response to 70% politically motivated questions by preening US Senators. It is Teatree's opinion at the same time, that the current administration is only 50% as interested in pursuing the matter as it should be.

With that said and returning to the question, in the middle of the Iraq war, many journalists noted that the intelligence gathering efforts by young US captains among the Iraqi population was the key to a slowing of the civil war. Deliberately putting US forces out in the neighborhoods during the 2006 surge also spurred further "understanding" between arguments, revenge killings, ethnic fighting, and al-qaeda attacks - all critical to the country's return to less violent levels.

The "horrors" of rendition, enhanced interrogation, and Guantanamo's detention center all revolve around collecting intelligence in order to act more precisely. Teatree notes that the unease over these actions ebb and flow with a high degree of correlation to the political winds ...

The Obama administration's reliance on drone attacks are increasingly being challenged, though only quietly in articles or speeches that do not become mainstream media fodder. The UN is even out front on this one by beginning an inquiry into the use of lethal drone strikes where collateral damage to those around the target person are seemingly discounted. More practically, military experts note that each drone strike obliterates future intelligence gathering from that individual in question, or those around that person.

The increasing reliance on armed predator drone strikes by the current US administration as its preferred approach to handling the "war on terror" is only heightened by the near unanimous and silent acquiescence by the Western media.

The question lingers

The ill-put question by Mrs Clinton has no partisan boundaries. Intelligence or the lack thereof concerning weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2003 will forever taint that conflict, even if Iraq is able to successfully emerge with hope from its dark and brutal days under Saddam Hussein.

Mrs Clinton testifying and defending her actions, along with the Obama administration, in Benghazi Libya prior to September 11, 2012, and the nearly five months since.

In contrast to the vague responses by the US, the UK, Netherlands and others called for their citizens to leave Benghazi due to possible further terrorist attacks just since Clinton's Senate grilling. And the increasingly apparent lack of followup in Libya as to securing weapons caches has resulted in security turmoil in the Sahel.

Yes, Mrs Clinton, who did what, when, why and how makes all the difference ...

As one opinion piece from America's Southern Wisconsin heartland summarizes: "It was like asking: “What’s the difference between hitting a deer that bolts out in front of your car or running over some kids on a field trip because you’re blind drunk.” One is an accident; the other is a catastrophic failure of judgment.

The administration now acknowledges the assault in Benghazi was a deliberate, planned terrorist act. It is reasonable—indeed, necessary—to ask if State did everything reasonable to mitigate the risk.

We know there was no shortage of funds or other resources. Senior State Department officials have repeatedly testified there was no problem there—though some politicians continue to cry poverty on behalf of the administration. Clearly, the problem was the department’s failure to plan adequately before the attack and respond adequately once it began.

Seeing no difference between a riot and a raid also suggests Clinton doesn’t understand the nature of the threat. “Islamist terrorists,” wrote my colleague Middle East scholar Jim Phillips, “are motivated to kill Americans not because of emotional reactions to alleged slights such as the questionable video on Mohammed, but because they seek to seize power and impose their Islamist totalitarian ideology on other Muslims.”

Clinton just doesn’t get that. Her testimony revealed a leader unapologetic for her failure to act or understand. Worse, she showed no real interest in learning from the incident. Such knowledge could help her department better adapt to the emerging threats in the region."

Fast rising issues where what we know makes a difference

The validity of intelligence gathering will be critical in containing the fallout of yesterday's Israeli strike in Syria over weapons being moved to Lebanon.

The left-wing terrorist suicide bombing at the gates of the US embassy in Turkey today (Friday, February 1, 2013)has been more quickly characterized than has been the Benghazi attack in September.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Well done.

I'm also finding it interesting that I'm hearing no protest about France acting "unilaterally" in Mali... Isn't that supposed to be a problem, or only when the US does it?