The NYT on the Impact of the 2012 Benghazi Assault on US Strikes in Iraq
Even though almost two years have passed, the memory of the events of the 2012 assault on the US Consulate in Benghazi still looms large over the White House. In a very interesting piece on today’s New York Times, Mark Landler, Alissa J. Rubin, Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper present a detailed account of the lead-up to the decision taken by President Obama to authorize limited airstrikes on IS militants in Iraq as well as the delivery of humanitarian aid to the displaced population of Northern Iraq. The authors make an explicit reference to the weight that the events occurred in 2012 in Libya and the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens had on the decision making process:
With American diplomats and business people in Erbil suddenly at risk, at the American Consulate and elsewhere, Mr. Obama began a series of intensive deliberations that resulted, only a day later, in his authorizing airstrikes on the militants, as well as humanitarian airdrops of food and water to the besieged Iraqis.
Looming over that discussion, and the decision to return the United States to a war Mr. Obama had built his political career disparaging, was the specter of an earlier tragedy: the September 2012 attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, and has become a potent symbol of weakness for critics of the president.
Clearly, the current administration does not want to run the risk of being seen as leaving behind US personnel and interests due its hands-off regional approach. On the other hand, it is too early to tell if these strikes will mark the first step towards a lasting change in the regional policy approach and if a similar stance will be taken with regards to Libya and the encroachment of Jihadist forces in the eastern part of the country.