Consequences in Libya
It’s commendable that Maddow so meticulously illustrated the extent to which this attack on the US consulate building was the work of former US-backed Libyan rebels connected with al-Qaeda. But she should have gone even further. Reports now say that infiltrators within the US-backed Libyan government forces may have tipped off militants as to when and how to attack the consulate building and as to the location of the safe how to which Americans were sent to seek refuge from the attack.
The biggest problem in Libya now appears to be one of our own making. Al-Qaeda has gained an even stronger foothold in the country and now they’ve attacked a diplomatic building, killing an American ambassador, two US Marines, and one other American. The Independent reports that sensitive documents might have been taken by the militants: “Some of the missing papers from the consulate are said to list names of Libyans who are working with Americans, putting them potentially at risk from extremist groups, while some of the other documents are said to relate to oil contracts.”
The Libyan war has long been considered over and done with. But the consequences of NATO’s discretionary war are still reverberating across the country and the region.
Update: Harvard professor Stephen Walt offers some lessons of the incident in Benghazi and beyond:
There are reasons why anti-American extremists hate us (and it’s not just our “values”), and there are also reasons why they think that attacking Americans will win them greater support. Similarly, there are reasons why governments that pay attention to public opinion are often reluctant to embrace Uncle Sam too closely. In particular, numerous surveys of public opinion show that there is considerable anger at U.S. foreign policy among the broader publics in the Arab and Islamic world, fueled by what these peoples see as indifference to Muslim lives, one-sided support for Israel, our cozy relations with assorted Middle Eastern monarchies and dictators, and our hypocritical behavior regarding human rights and nuclear weapons. To acknowledge this broader context in no way justifies the events of this week, but ignoring this broader context is a surefire recipe for responding to it in the wrong way.