The closing of 21 U.S. embassies throughout the Middle East grows out of the September 11, 2012, Benghazi attack in at least two ways:
- The failure of the Obama Administration to retaliate in any way against those who attacked our consulate and killed a U.S. ambassador has emboldened the enemies of the United States. By adopting a risk-averse strategy against al-Qaeda, we emboldened resurgent terrorists. Benghazi gave ample evidence of that.
- The Obama White House has learned to play it safe when credible terrorist threats are detected. On Thursday, the State Department announced the closure of U.S. embassies and consulates in the Middle East and North Africa in response to unspecified threats made by al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The announcement also included a worldwide travel alert for Americans that cited the possibility of terrorist attacks throughout the region in the month of August.
The dramatic embassy closings are a far cry from the Administration’s misguided assurances of al-Qaeda’s demise, a line that was persistently peddled by the President in the run-up to November’s presidential election. As recently as this May, he argued before an audience at National Defense University that the war on terrorism, “like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”
In addition, Secretary of State John Kerry is promising to end America’s successful drone strike program “very, very soon.” Yet, in the State Department travel alert, Kerry’s own department states that there is “continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.” In other words, al-Qaeda is alive and well.
For over a decade, the United States has been working actively to combat the threat of international terrorism. Whether from Afghanistan and Pakistan, the North Caucasus, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, or elsewhere, terrorism from abroad has struck at the U.S. in the past and will continue to do so in future. It is therefore important that the United States address the dangerous reality of international terrorism.
In the run-up to the Benghazi attack, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her staff irresponsibly ignored numerous warnings of deteriorating security in Benghazi. No one has ever been held to account for that abysmal failure. At least Thursday’s embassy closings show a heightened awareness of the persistent terrorist threat, but they also add up to at least the impression of a massive U.S. retreat from the Middle East region.