Tuesday’s attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt represent a chilling view of a Middle East where weak governments fail to provide security and stability. In Libya, this weakness is demonstrated in the government’s inability to maintain basic order. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood’s control of the country reflects abiding hostility toward the United States, manifested in the leadership’s unwillingness to provide adequate perimeter security to our embassy. A strong American presence—both in perception and on the ground—is how we maintain our security and protect our public servants.
Islamic fundamentalists and their Jihadist action elements used the creation of an independent film’s negative portrayal of their Prophet as an excuse to go on a murdering rampage. If the Libyan and Egyptian governments desire to demonstrate remorse for these unconscionable attacks on our diplomatic missions, they will not delay in arresting, trying and punishing those responsible to the fullest extent of the law.
Secretary Clinton’s statement this morning is a good start, but the operative question is “what next.” An easy, concrete step would be the Department of State putting the Libyan group Ansar al Sharia on the terrorist watch list and initiating all activities against them commensurate with U.S. military programs. We do not need to wait years for such action, as was the case with the lethal Haqqani network operating out of the tribal areas of Pakistan. Leadership is about acting swiftly to preempt continued attacks on the men and women who represent and defend American interests. One of those interests, frankly, is a robust defense of the freedoms and liberties embodied in our Constitution, from which we draw not only our standing in the world but the prosperity we seek for ourselves.
Concerned Veterans for America expresses our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in service at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. These attacks represent a direct affront to American values, and a challenge to our world standing. The U.S. should respond appropriately to make it clear that we absolutely will not abide violence targeting our citizens. As we’ve said, Secretary Clinton’s comments this morning were a good beginning – especially after a troublingly slow public response from official Washington yesterday and last night.
We hope that our nation’s leaders keep their priorities straight and respond in a manner consistent with our principles to the crisis in Cairo and Benghazi. We face many crises today. Not all of them are as visually compelling as the image of a mob storming another U.S. embassy, or the horrible news that America’s representatives abroad had been murdered. But their implications are no less troubling for our country. These other crises are just as deep-rooted, and just as complex, as the circumstances that led to yesterday’s attacks. The underlying actors and causes of yesterday’s attacks are not new, and should not have been a surprise to our intelligence and diplomatic community. Neither are the other challenges we face. How our government, and this administration, meets this crisis will give us insights to how they will face the other crises on our horizon.
Gary Berntsen is a former CIA officer, an expert on national security, and a member of the Concerned Veterans for America’s organizing committee.