The Libya Surprise
The Libya Surprise by Tom Malinowski is a most read about how impressive Libya’s popular pro-American response has been.
Terrorists can strike anywhere. But it is how governments and societies react that determines whether terrorism succeeds or fails. And Libyans’ reaction to the tragedy vindicated what Stevens believed the country is and could become. Could anyone, whether a cynic or optimist about the region, have dreamed of a better response to an attack on a diplomatic mission on Arab soil than what happened after the violence in Benghazi — tens of thousands of people marching on the headquarters of the law-defying militias suspected of complicity in the assault (and of multiple other killings over the past several months) to run them out of town, while holding signs paying tribute to the fallen ambassador?
It was not just Libya’s political elite who were angry and ashamed about what happened. The morning I learned of Stevens’s death, I emailed an influential Islamist leader in eastern Libya, fearing that he would be more agitated by the anti-Mohammed video than the killings we thought (wrongly it seems) it had precipitated: “You can’t imagine how sad we are,” he immediately replied. “Clearly, [Stevens] was a citizen of a country that has helped us to be liberated from one of the most bloody regimes; and before all that, he was our guest who we were supposed to protect. We will do all we can to make clear that a killing is a killing no matter what the motives were.”
Certainly, this is no time to lurch to the opposite extreme — to start seeing the region in terms of threats, not opportunities, to pull out the diplomats and send in the drones. It is sad that the only questions Congress is asking the administration now about Libya concern the attack on U.S. diplomats and whether someone can be blamed for not anticipating it or beefing up security enough. Congress should be demanding to know how the administration plans to continue the fallen diplomats’ mission. How will it help the legitimate Libyan authorities rein in the militias responsible for the lawlessness in the country, as the vast majority of Libyans want?