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Uncovering the Causal Logic Behind the Attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1480

Essay

Introduction

The causes behind the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Lybia on September 11, 2012 remain unclear. Part of the reason for this lack of clarity is that the official narrative as to the nature of the attacks themselves has changed. For example, the United States government stated immediately after the attacks that they were “motivated by the film” (Matar) Innocence of the Muslims, which portrayed the prophet Mohammed in a negative light, causing protests throughout the Islamic world. According to this reason, the Benghazi attacks were merely an extension of these same protests. However, the official narrative has once again changed, as evidence has now emerged that the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was deliberately targeted in an armed military operation by “unknown Libyan assailants.” (Ackerman) When trying to unpack the logic behind this event, therefore, there are two main theses: either the attacks were the result of a spontaneous outburst of resentment against the U.S., enflamed by the film Innocence of the Muslims, or this was a planned attack by well-trained and reasonably well-armed terrorists, who targeted the Consulate as part of a greater conflict against American imperialism. C. Following the emerging evidence, it would appear that the latter explanation is more sound: the logic behind the Benghazi attacks is a reaction to the “War on Terror” and was a carefully planned military operation in response to what is perceived as unjust continuous American intervention in the Islamic world. The reason why the American government has been hesitant to acknowledge this in light of Benghazi is because it contradicts with their official story of how the Libyans and the Muslim world in general are pleased that America is intervening in their foreign affairs. Accordingly, the larger significance of the Benghazi attacks is explicit: it can be interpreted as a critique of American policy in the region.

Grounds

The attack on the Benghazi Consulate occurred within a Libya that had been undergoing a transition since the intervention of NATO forces to dispose of the former authority Mohmmar Qaddhafi. After Qaddahfi’ dethronement, a transition government was set up that was sympathetic to Western policies. The Benghazi attack would therefore represent a major incident in which dissatisfaction with the regime change was expressed by a group of Libyans. The Benghazi attack also, in this regard, remains problematic as stated above, precisely because there is a question of the premeditation of this attack or its spontaneity. In addition, there exists the question of precisely why this attack was carried out. When placing the Benghazi attack in a greater context, and also considering the details of the attack itself, it would seem that the assault was a planned military operation, an extension of Islamic groups that have continued the armed struggle with American forces throughout the Islamic world. Hence, on September 28, Shawn Turner from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence stated, “As we learned more about the attack, we revised our initial assessment to reflect new information indicating that it was a deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists.” (Margasak) Accordingly, the Benghazi attacks could be viewed as merely the latest phase of the conflict between the United States and those who oppose American policy in the region, be they armed Islamists or so-called “terrorists.” B. The causal chain behind the event would be the ongoing “War on Terror”, and therefore the Benghazi attacks were the result of a planned Anti-American group’s actions within the context of this greater conflict, as the statement of Turner himself suggests.

Part of the reason as to why this position has been opposed, however, is that the initial logic behind the attacks tied it to the protests resulting over the film The Innocence of Muslims. From this perspective, the attacks were merely the consequences of unbridled mob violence. This explanation continues, despite statements from officials like Turner to remain relevant. For example, one month after Turner’s comments, the New York Times cited a U.S. intelligence official who stated: “Right now, there isn’t any intelligence that the attackers preplanned their assault days or weeks in advance…the bulk of available information supports the early assessment that the attackers launched their assault opportunistically after they learned about the violence at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.” This causal mechanism essentially combines both of the dominant accounts. The attacks were not preplanned, but they were not the result of random mob violence, but well-armed individuals with some type of military training needed to carry out such an attack.

a. What is problematic about this opposing viewpoint is that it overlooks precisely the fact that these were well-armed individuals who would have needed some type of military training to carry out this attack. Namely, the nature of the attacks themselves suggests a “professionalism” in terms of military operations. It is in this case irrelevant as to whether the group used the protests resulting from the Innocence of the Muslims to stage their attack: the attack took the form of a military operation. For example, at approximately 9:40 p.m., “agents viewing cameras see a large group of armed flowing into the compound.” This is crucial, as around 8:30 p.m. outside the Consulate “the situation is calm. There are no protests.” (Margasak) Hence, there were no official protests preceding the actual breaching of the Consulate compound. The entry into the compound suggests a coordinated assault; furthermore, to carry out such a coordinated assault, this would suggest that some military training was needed. The logic of spontaneous anger causing the attack falls apart when we consider the nature of the attack itself. Furthermore, the date of 11th September as when the attacks occurred could also be considered symbolic. The militants would carry out this attack on a day in which America had previously been attacked.

A. These reasons therefore coincide with a narrative in which Benghazi is the result of a planned terrorist attack. The fact that no protests were occurring at the time of the attack shows that it was not merely an overflow of these same protests. Furthermore, when considering the greater context of the War on Terror, these attacks could be viewed as extensions of this conflict. The reason why American officials oppose such a causal logic, although it is very clear, is that it would suggest that the Islamic world, and Libya in particular, is not in agreement with American interventions and regime changes in the region.

B. The causal law, in this case, would be that the attacks were caused by the general geopolitical situation in the region, a region that has constantly been subject to anti-American violence since and even before the September 11 attacks.

C. the Benghazi attacks are a response to what is construed as the unfairness of American foreign policy in the region.

D. The opposing view of spontaneous violence fails to account for both the specific nature of the attacks in terms of their military sophistication, as well as the last decade or so of American foreign policy in the Middle East, attempting to paint a picture in which the Middle East has been receptive to American interventions, and it was only a small, insignificant film that caused the particular Benghazi attacks. This explanation refuses to acknowledge that a pre-planned attack of this nature is possible, since it would represent both a failing of the U.S. intelligence community to anticipate it, as well as the failure of U.S. policy to properly win “the hearts and minds” of the Muslim world.

Certainly, it could be argued that the timing of the attacks coincides with the greater protests in the Middle East that occurred as the result of the Innocence of the Muslims. However, this overlooks the possibility that the general chaos that resulted from these protests provided a good context for the carrying out of the operation itself. In other words, if the attacks were carried out at this time, this does not mean that this particularly film was the catalyst of these attacks. Rather, the situation was deemed chaotic enough to go forward with a pre-planned operation.

Accordingly, the pre-planned militant attack on the Benghazi Consulate is more valid in explaining the phenomenon when we consider the greater historical context of the event alongside the precise nature of the event itself. Judging by the attack’s sophistication and how the operations were carried out it suggest foresight. Furthermore, this explanation fits within the greater geopolitical scenario of the War on Terror. In essence, the Benghazi Consulate attacks were just another moment in this ongoing conflict.

Works Cited

Ackerman, Spencer. “What Happened in Benghazi Was a Battle.” Wired. September 12, 2012. Accessed at: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/09/libya-fast-team/

Margasak, Larry. “Timeline of Events, Comments Surrounding Benghazi.” The Associated Press. October 19, 2012. Accessed at: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/timeline-events-comments-surrounding-benghazi

Matar, Hisham. “What Was Really Behind the Benghazi Attack?” The New Yorker. September 13, 2012. Accessed at: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2012/09/what-was-really-behind-the-benghazi-attack.html

Schmitt, Eric. “After Benghazi Attack, Talk Lagged Behind Intelligence.” The New York Times. October 21, 2012. Accessed at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/22/us/politics/explanation-for-benghazi-attack-under-scrutiny.html?pagewanted=all

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