The tragic deaths of a US ambassador and three others in Benghazi, Libya, have become this presidential election campaign's Quemoy Islands crisis, this year's USS Pueblo seizure, this year's Iran hostage crisis. And, as in all those other foreign-policy dust-ups, the event not only has been blown way out of proportion, it's not being compared in context to similar events of much greater proportion.
I won't get into describing the earlier incidents I've listed above. Just go Google them, and bear in mind that if you don't know anything about them, that's strong evidence that they weren't as important historically as they seemed in those presidential campaign years.
Regarding Benghazi, the most comparable incident affecting a presidential election was the 1983 terrorist truck bombing of a US Marine barracks in Lebanon. Read past the explosive gas cloud for the details:
in the 1983 attack, a terrorist truck bomb killed 241 American soldiers on a peace-keeping mission in that country's vicious civil war. Sixty other Americans were injured. The organization Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the bombing. The bombing was, according to Wikipedia:
... the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States Marine Corps since the Battle of Iwo Jima of World War II, the deadliest single-day death toll for the United States military since the first day of the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War, and the deadliest single attack on Americans overseas since World War II.Current GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has made much of the inaccurate "fact" that "it took [President Obama] 14 days before he called the attack in Benghazi an act of terror." But even if that was entirely true, the comparable reactions of President Ronald Reagan following the much larger death toll in the 1983 Lebanon attack was, in comparison, even more drawn out.
Reagan at first insisted the US peacekeeping force would not be chased out of Lebanon after the horrific toll on our troops. Yet in short order, the US military contingent indeed was withdrawn -- first, to the safety of offshore ships, and then, within four months, away from the region altogether, despite Reagan's earlier pledge.
Making this worse: Reagan's own defense secretary had warned in advance against placing the Marines in Lebanon, saying it represented a huge security threat. After the pull-out, the Reagan administration sent a couple of warships to shell insurgent positions in Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere from sea, but that action was judged as largely ineffective in punishing any terrorist threat, although it did further damage sections of Beirut and other areas inhabited by innocents.
In a echo of the on-going security issue involving the Benghazi diplomatic compound, a military commission investigating the Beirut bombing reported to the Reagan administration and Congress on lax security. The commission found that senior military officials were responsible for security lapses and blamed the military chain of command for the disaster. It suggested that there might have been many fewer deaths if the barracks guards had carried loaded weapons and a barrier more substantial than the barbed wire the bomber drove over easily.
Intriguingly, none of this derailed Reagan's re-election in November 1984 even though the incident was far more damaging than the Benghazi incident, now being cited by Romney, Paul Ryan and other Republicans as proof that the Obama administration's foreign policy is in some kind of shambles. Of course, apparent disinterest in the deaths of all those Marines might have been helped along when the Reagan administration almost immediately shifted the weight of public media attention by invading the tiny Caribbean island nation of Grenada several days later.
That followup act arguably was Reagan's own instance of George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq. As justification for the later invasion, the Bush administration trumped up what were later proved to be false tales of Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction ; the Reagan administration unwittingly anticipated Bush, waving around "evidence" of a stealth communist takeover of the Grenadian commonwealth. It's a wonder neither of them yelled "Remember the Maine!"
So there's the difference in American presidential politics over a span of 30 years: Republican presidents make up shit, starting wars that kill many innocents, in part to mask their incompetence -- for instance, in letting Marines die in terrorist attacks or allowing terrorist-seized airliners to crash into US skyscrapers. As for a Democratic president, on whose watch four State Department staffers died when terrorists apparently [the investigation continues] torched a lightly defended diplomatic mission? Why, that's practically cause for impeachment!
If Obama wins a second term and the GOP retains control of the House of Representatives, don't be surprised if impeachment talk doesn't start echoing through those very reactionary halls of government. Possibly over other trumped up issues, but most likely because of Benghazi. You see, Democrats and black presidents have to be perfect; Republican leaders? History suggests over and over that when they screw up foreign policy, even big time, it's treated as pretty much OK.