The abandonment of the State Department-CIA mission in Benghazi that came under attack on September 11, 2012 marked the failure of the Obama administration’s foreign policy toward the Muslim world. That American generals and admirals raised no protest to the decision not to go to the American contingent’s defense dishonored our military and undercut its sense of duty, responsibility, and self-respect. The discredit brought upon the United States by foolish, dishonest foreign policies is dangerous and hard enough to live down. But history teaches that militaries whose moral qualities have been undermined court disaster, and that restoring those qualities is very hard.
Public discourse has focused on whether the destruction of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was spontaneous or a planned terrorist attack, as well as on why the mission had not been provided with adequate security. But these questions are important chiefly from the standpoint of domestic politics.
Of greater importance to our nation is that the so-called consulate annex was destroyed by a regular, conventional military assault and finished off by very accurate mortar fire. This annex, a CIA outpost, seems to have been facilitating the transfer of weapons to Syrian rebel factions—something that the Obama administration was doing quietly while publicly debating whether to do it— as well as engaging in other covert activities in the region. More likely than not, this is how it could become the target of a regular military attack. This may also explain why a CIA team swept the ruins of the annex for two weeks before FBI investigators were allowed to enter it.
In short: regardless of who, precisely, ran the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, it was a blow aimed at U.S. policy. Moreover, since the Obama administration has apparently done nothing during the past 20 months to identify those who fired the mortars, it is reasonable to infer that detouring attention from that fight’s stakes and protagonists shaped its actions on the night of the attack—regardless of, or at least in addition to, any political considerations there may have been.