There were no protests outside the U.S. embassy in Libya before it was attacked and our ambassador was murdered in September.
No demonstration about an anti-Muslim Web video or anything else.
Where U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice once claimed there “was not a preplanned, premeditated attack” on the consulate, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta now acknowledge it was a planned act of terrorism by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
State Department officials insisted “if any administration official, including any career official, were on television on Sunday, Sept. 16th, they would have said what Ambassador Rice said. … As time went on, additional information became available.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney echoes that the facts have evolved.
But Reuters reports, “Within hours of last month’s attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, President Barack Obama’s administration received about a dozen intelligence reports suggesting militants connected to al Qaeda were involved, three government sources said.”
Carney also says, “I never said, I never said we don’t know if it’s terrorism.”
State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary of International Programs Charlene Lamb was still reluctant to use the term Wednesday, telling Congress, “I’m not making any judgments on my own.”
Yet Lamb was willing to judge the number of U.S. security assets in Benghazi “correct.”
Not for nothing did wags joke that Lamb’s middle name might be “sacrificial.”
Bit by bit, the Obama administration’s story on Libya is unraveling.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the State Department leaned too heavily on trained Libyans to provide diplomatic security.
Despite growing security concerns, shared by Ambassador Chris Stevens himself, repeated requests for additional manpower were rejected.
CBS News reports that the number of security personnel was actually reduced.
A State Department security officer testified before Congress that he was effectively told to “hope that everything would get better.”
What is going on here?
Not every blunder committed by the State Department can be placed at the president’s feet.
It is nevertheless hard to believe that administration officials, all the way up to Susan Rice, would take to the TV talk show circuit to push a dubious narrative without some White House buy-in.
Why were Obama officials, who are not exactly well known for treating nickles like manhole covers, so reluctant to commit additional security forces to Libya?
Recall that when President Obama launched his war against Libya, he was hesitant to even call it a war. “Kinetic military action” was the widely mocked term of art employed instead. Congress never authorized the Libya war as required by the Constitution. Obama wasn’t even so sporting as to consult the lowly legislative branch.
The president was determined to keep this an air war, like Kosovo, rather than put boots on the ground, as in Iraq. That keeps U.S. troop casualties low and ensures that even if the intervention eventually blows up or proves harmful to long-term American interests, fewer voters will be paying attention.
Like the administration’s drone strikes, it is a way to seem hawkish without the consequences.
And also like the drone strikes, it is not truly without consequences.
It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the Obama administration was trying to avoid a large presence in Libya, one that would have exposed troops to greater risk of casualties and made the “kinetic military action” look more like the undeclared war it really is.
A preventive war of choice for regime change based on debatable premises. Faulty intelligence. Too light a footprint. No plan for after the dictator fell or understanding of what kind of evils the power vacuum would unleash.
The president tried to avoid George W. Bush’s mistakes in Iraq, planning a humanitarian intervention with international approval and beneath the American people’s radar.
He instead ended up repeating many of Bush’s mistakes with predictably disastrous results.
The lesson Obama seems to have drawn from the Bush years is wage war lightly and don’t get caught.
It can’t be done.
Where is the outrage? Where are the chanting protesters with their rallying cries?
Obama lied, people died.
W. James Antle III is the editor of The Daily Caller News Foundation. Follow him on Twitter.