During the election campaign, it was impossible to ask serious questions about Benghazi. The Republicans and their media masters turned the terrible affair into a three ring circus and obsessively focused on personal attacks. Sadly, they continue along these lines (see McCain). But now that the election is over we must demand some substantive answers from the Administration regarding the attack. President Obama has rightfully held back on questions regarding the post and during-incident facts due to the ongoing investigation. Other questions regarding the pre-attack circumstances, however, demand more immediate answers.
Why was security not increased in Benghazi immediately upon sending a diplomatic mission there? During the revolution, there was information indicating that terrorists were operating in the country. Prior to the revolution, history told us that Libya was a state sponsor of terrorism (see Lockerbie). We certainly knew there was a propensity towards uncontrollable violence when Ghadafi was executed almost immediately after he was found alive by rebels. Pre and during the revolution, the entire world was fully aware of the amount of weaponry both involved in the conflict and present in the country. In fact, an important international concern during the revolution was the security of weaponry. In this context it seems inconceivable for the government to have installed a diplomatic mission with minimal security personnel in a minimally secure facility with no military ability to rapidly respond to a threat. They instead attempted to get the rebels to help stop the attack--with no success.
Some point to the Republicans voting against an additional $300 million in funds for increasing diplomatic security to explain why security was relatively light in Benghazi. While the idiotic decision to turn down this funding is an important part to the conversation, it does not explain how the State Department, intelligence agencies, and the White House failed to see the need to beef up security in Libya, especially on 9/11 of all days. Surely, we could have taken a few people off security at our Japanese or German or Swedish consulates/embassies to beef up security in Libya until the visibly chaotic transition was complete.
The debate currently revolves around the useless question of who said what after the attacks. To some extent, it benefits President Obama to have the right-wing freak show focused on Susan Rice and the "cover up," which can be spun and defended into eternity. This type of debate frees us from the tough question of how our ambassador died in the street in a post-revolutionary country known to harbor terrorists.
If nothing else, we need to know why we did not secure this facility before the attack and insist that our leaders put policies in place to ensure it never happens again. It is extremely difficult to make this demand given that it could send us down the second term rabbit hole of manufactured scandals. This is not about trying to politically string up someone in the Administration or damage President Obama, this is about understanding our failures in Benghazi and making sure they never happen again. Understanding our failures before the attack is just as important, if not more important, than understanding what happened during and after the attack. It is unfortunate that I feel as if this is an impossible goal given the political blood lust of Republicans, but we cannot shy away from the facts.