Tuesday, May 14, 2013

MJ: The Truth About Attacks on Our Diplomats

Mother Jones has an interesting piece about attacks on diplomats overseas and Republican claims that we are attacked because we are "projecting weakness" rather than advocating for "peace through strength."

The article says:
"But behind the comparisons to Jimmy Carter and the references to "peace through strength" is a dubious policy critique: not just that Obama is Carter and Romney is Reagan, but that somehow sufficient man-musk from an American president can dissuade any potential terrorist from laying his finger on an American diplomat."

It goes on to say: "Having Ronald Reagan in office didn't mean an end to attacks on US diplomatic targets. Despite Reagan’s refrain of "peace through strength," several high-profile attacks on US diplomatic facilities occurred on his watch, including the bombing of the US embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, by Islamic militants. Twice. According to the Global Terrorism Database compiled by the University of Maryland National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), attacks on American diplomatic targets actually rose during Reagan's term—before beginning to subside in the mid-1990s."


The decline is probably not because terrorists were intimidated by Bill Clinton more than they were by George H.W. Bush. Two of the worst terrorist attacks on American diplomatic targets, Al Qaeda's bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, happened on Clinton's watch. It does however, make the Romney campaign's claim that having a Republican in office will frighten terrorists out of striking at American diplomats or staging violent protests at American embassies extremely dubious. The UMd. database lists 64 attacks on American diplomatic targets during the George W. Bush administration, including car bombs at the US embassy in Yemen and armed attackers assaulting a US consulate in Saudi Arabia."

The article interviews former Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin, who says that everyone who signs up for this job knows the risks involved. She is right. And we take those risks because we know that representing America overseas, engaging with people who like us or don't like us, makes us safer at home. This is the point of what we do.

It is galling that the attack in Benghazi is being used for political points. Where were all of these investigations into all of the attacks on our embassy before President Obama took office? Where was the concern for our security when Congress cut our security budget?

The truth is that Chris is dead. Sean and Anne are dead. Any of us could be next. Our memorial plaque at Main State lists the names of the hundreds who have died in the line of duty while serving the country in the Foreign Service. More Ambassadors have died in the line of duty than have Generals and Admirals combined. Our work is dangerous. We know that. We also know that there are some things that could make it less dangerous, but they involve funding security not searching for a cover-up that didn't happen.

And even with adequate security, our job, if we do it properly, will still be dangerous. People will still die for their country.

But how about when it happens again, and it will happen again regardless of which party holds the White House, thank us for our service, make certain, as the review panel already did, that we did everything we could to prevent it or fix what allowed it to happen. But that is not what the current "investigation" is doing. They are looking for political points to harm this administration or perhaps Secretary Clinton's chances at the next one.

And that dishonors us all.

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