WASHINGTON, October 28, 2012 — As information is released, it is apparent that the failures of September 11, 2012 are many. To fully understand the implications of what happened in Benghazi on September 11th we need to go back to the 1790s — to the beginnings of our nation.
At that time, we paid tribute to the Barbary Pirates: corsairs who raided merchant shipping in the Mediterranean.
Most nations, including the new United States, paid tribute. We had no navy and no choice. Thomas Jefferson objected to paying the tribute, saying that paying tribute would encourage more attacks.
When he was sworn in as president, Jefferson stopped paying tribute. The feeling of the country at the time was summed up in the phrase, “Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.”
In response, the Pasha of Tripoli declared war on the U.S. on May 10, 1801, not through any formal written documents, but in the customary Barbary manner of cutting down the flagstaff in front of the U.S. Consulate.
Fast forward to September 11, 2012. At the other side of Libya, in Benghazi, terrorists attack the U.S. Consulate and kill four Americans, including our ambassador. In Cairo, a mob pulls down the American flag and replaces it with an al Qaeda flag.
What is the response of this president? Blame an obscure film-maker in California and his equally obscure YouTube video. Drag him in for questioning and apologize at the United Nations. Deny assistance to the consulate in Benghazi, even though credible evidence now suggests the president and his top advisors were watching events in Benghazi in real time.
Thomas Jefferson and the U.S. Navy stopped piracy off the coast of Africa for two centuries, until the U.S. Navy again engaged pirates off the coast of Somalia in 2009.
When the Maersk Alabama was hijacked there, the U.S. Navy responded almost immediately, but there was a standoff of several days while the ship’s captain was held hostage aboard a lifeboat. The Navy waited for orders from the president. Finally the captain of the USS Bainbridge gave the order to fire on the pirates, fearing for the life of Captain Phillips.
In Pakistan, Intelligence knew for months where Osama bin Laden was located. Again the president dithered, fearing the political consequences of a failed attempt. Eventually the attempt was made and it was successful. It is trumpeted at every opportunity.
Bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda is no longer a threat, goes the theme. Except that al Qaeda is alive and well and behind the attack on the Benghazi consulate. And the murder of our Embassy staff.
What we have is a president who is afraid of confronting radical jihadists and pirates; one who instead apologizes to them on our behalf. He has a Navy of almost 300 ships—understrength for its missions, to be sure, but powerful nevertheless.
President Jefferson was not afraid to take on the terrorists and pirates of his day, despite the lack of a Navy.
In the end, it is really not about the Navy, but about a willingness to confront the threats that face our nation. It is about defending our vital national interests. It is about character.
Character counts. When the chips are down, every military man knows that he needs to be able to trust his wingman or the guy in the foxhole next to him. Every policeman needs to be able to trust his or her partner. They expect no less from their leaders.
This president wavers in the face of adversity. This president failed to save four Americans in the consulate at Benghazi when he could have done so. His failure to act seems to stem from a fear of failure and the political fallout of failure. What he seems not to understand is that it is better to have tried and failed than not to have tried at all. At least Jimmy Carter tried to rescue the hostages from Tehran. He deserves credit for the attempt.
A rescue might not have succeeded, but it should have been tried. There was no Commander Frank Castellano, captain of the Bainbridge, to risk his career and make the “go” decision himself. Commander Castellano did have some discretion to make the decision he made; It is apparent that commanders who could have helped in Benghazi had no such discretion.
The decision not to intervene must have been explicit and it could only have come from the top.
As Obama himself said in the second presidential debate, he is responsible. That’s what it means to be the Commander in Chief. Carter understood that when he authorized Desert One.
This Commander in Chief has been tried in these three widely-publicized instances and found wanting. This time his inaction resulted in the deaths of four Americans and the encouragement of terrorists worldwide.
In a parliamentary democracy, Obama would be subject to a vote of no confidence. It just so happens that he is up for reelection now and the country ought to deliver that verdict on November 6.
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