Yeah I know, I feel like we are beating a dead horse on this. I was going to write this a while back, but dropped it; however, in order to illustrate the understanding of our mass perceptual “crisis” (<<<HATE that word.), we must start here. I chose this point because it is far enough along into the Obama Administration to not blame Bush anymore and because this is where a perfect storm begins to form. 😉
Anyways, let’s get on with it. There is a lot to be said about communications, terrorism, perceptions, and Benghazi.
Let’s start with why the attack happened.
United Nations Ambassador for the United States, Susan Rice said on multiple Sunday talk shows that the attack on our CIA and State Dept outposts due to a video, Innocence of Muslims. Republican talking faces say that is a down right lie and the video had nothing to do with the attacks on our security offices Benghazi, Libya. Since then, Republicans have been on an ongoing witch hunt over these talking points. (Issue 1)
The Drama doesn’t end there.
When four US Special Ops ninjas tried to board a plane in Tripoli to fly out to Benghazi, they were told to stand down. Needless to say, telling our elite warriors to stand down on a rescue/ recovery mission for a US Ambassador became an issue, a big one at that. Why were they told to stand down? Who told them? (Issue 2)
One more thing.
Were there indicators of an attack and if so, could we have stopped them? Could anything be done to mitigate risk of another attack? (Issue 3)
Time to face the issues.
The video is said to be a non-issue concerning the attacks on our CIA and State outposts. What underpins this idea? News reports in Benghazi showed no signs, literally, of protestors organized in the street to protest the video, Innocence of Muslims. All that I have seen have guys with guns, burning flags, and rocks. I can’t read all of the things spray painted on the walls. Allah Akbar is the most easiest and re-occurring phrase painted on the walls. The only evidence I have that leads me to indicate that the is the raw footage published by USA Today. (Please forgive my poor Arabic skills. Better analysis of what is on the walls and who put it there may provide insight to that being a wrong assumption.) We can not overlook the fact that the video did have a negative impact on mass perception in the world, which is not good for the United States.) To the degree which it negatively affected us is somewhat ambiguous.
As for the emails and talking points, it’s a non-issue. Think of it as something to blanket the fact that there is a rest of the world out there. We all know how politics works here in America, right? The performer just want you to see his act long enough to get paid. If Republicans were serious about getting to the root of the issues, they would be finding out who made the call for the special operators to stand down? Instead of focusing on the finer details of TALKING POINTS.
So we have this issue of someone telling four special operations warriors to stand down on their attempt to fly out from Tripoli to Benghazi on a rescue/ recovery mission. Yesterday, Carlo Munoz, contributor on TheHill.com, wrote an article saying that the House Defense Panel is pushing for this SpecOps team to testify. How this will happen will still be in the air. I assume it would be closed doors to protect the identity of our warriors. Maybe we will find out sooner than later, who gave that order and why it is they gave it. Maybe the Obama Admin didn’t like the idea of Libyans with anti-aircraft guns and mortar teams ATTEMPTING to ambush the landing zone? Did they not think that Puff could smoke the place out and quell the area?
<speculation>I have a feeling IF that were the case, then he made that call because he didn’t want a Blackhawk Down or Rules of Engagement situation right before the election. A botched rescue mission would make him look weak to those undecided voters, and a “kill em all” response would hurt the bleeding hearts that comprise the American Left, which would make him look like President Bush.</speculation>
The speculation is there and it is shared by many. Just read the comments on any news article about this topic on a popular news source. It’s there.
How much longer do we let our foreign policy fall victim to domestic politics?
The attackers knew the locations of these outposts. They knew exactly what they were attacking. This not only shows premeditation. It shows a failure to recognize the threat and per-emptively deal with it. The Daily Beast reported that members of the guard staff were asked not work that day. While CNSnews reported that members of that staff were members of the February 17 Brigade. For those that don’t know, the February 17 Brigade has friends and like-minded acquaintances in the radical group, ansar al Sharia, who is now being held responsible for the attack, despite their saying it was them.
Speaking of double talk, did anybody else notice the spat between The Muslim Brotherhood and State on Twitter during these times? Going back to that Daily Times article, it was also reported that the “protestors” decided to attack that day because their was already chaos out and about in the Arab/ Muslim world. This would conclude that the video was a catalyst rather than the root cause of the attack. If one were to think tactically about it, a mass protest is the way to do it because it provides a cover, of sorts.
I can not help but look at this situation and think about Low Intensity Propaganda (LIP) as written about FBI Special Agent, Steven Baker in the book, Strategic Influence.
“LIP presents a combination of technologically unsophisticated ideational tools that complemented and served to prolong the strategically significant Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) of terrorist attacks, roadside bombings and other insurgency operations.
LIP under other names was used most often as a covert tool – its originator being unkown to the public- and did not seem to be designed to affect foreign attitudes or influence American or Western audiences. Instead LIP was used by hostile low-intensity actors to influence domestic constituencies that were actual or potential allies of the hostile force, or passive fence-sitters at best. More simply, LIP is a low-level psychological component that buttresses and sustains the early stages of an insurgency when the political and ideological environment either lacks, or does not require modern technological means to disseminate propaganda.”
Granted the dissemination of ideas via tweets and SMS messages is a fairly modern means of dissemination, but it doesn’t even come close to matching the capabilities of the US to disseminate a message. (e.g. Taking over airwaves, leaflet bombings, jamming Metallica through a loud speaker on a tank as it enters the battle environment, provide the “spooky” presence of an AC-130, etc.)
The outrage of the video which started in Cairo, helped incite anti-Western views. In Libya, the conditions were ripe for an attack, and it happened. To top it off, all of this chaos seemed to provide an appearance of Muslims world wide that stood against the West and their ways. Many people in the West laughed at the video, but many in the Muslim world saw it differently and took to the streets. How do you suppose that went over for recruitment into the Islamic militias?
So to answer the question, what do we to protect ourselves with these conditions arise in the environment again, I suggest we start with background checks on foreign nationals that help conduct our diplomatic security. If they are connected with a group this is connected with a group that is connected with al Qaeda, that should be a red flag. We should also exploit communications between suspected groups to dampen (D3!) the fire as much as possible. Instead, we saw failed tweets by the State Department that seemed to help incite chaos, rather than prevent it. On the long term scale, the settling and curing of the foundation of the national and local Libyan government and the new found freedom in political culture will make all the difference. We should not abandon long term diplomatic, cultural, and academic exchanges, and aiding in the re-construction of the Libyan infrastructure. Believe it or not, Libya will be a key actor in the region if they can meet the right goals. Getting Libyans to trust and participate in their government should be the number one goal. The second is to smash all insurgencies and threats to the stability of the state, at all costs. Terrorists benefit from weak governments. If they can pull it apart then they have a better chance at taking control of the territory.
In the United States, Right-wing and Libertarian propaganda networks have spared no expense to roast Obama on Benghazi. His poor handling of foreign policy and national security matters has painted him everything from a conspirator to a traitor to an Islamist sympathizer, and even a p*ssy in the eyes of his detractors. Despite all of this, the President has managed to maintain a relatively stable approval rating since Benghazi. While his “legacy” appears to be safe, our nation is taking on the appearance of weakness, nuclear weapon policies and sequestration also help reinforce this notion.