Eleven years after the Sept. 11 attacks, and 12 years after the fatal raid on the USS Cole in Yemen, and Issa has just realized that assignment to the Middle East might pose risks for American government personnel!
Here’s the problem with Issa’s stunning insight: In his desire to cast the administration as incompetent, he does an enormous disservice to the cause of forward-leaning diplomacy and engagement. American embassies are already fortresses. Issa would dig a moat around them. After a point, there’s simply no reason to dispatch diplomats to hostile capitals if they can’t engage with actual citizens. Risk is inherent for U.S. diplomats posted to the Middle East.
The answer to the problem posed by the Benghazi attack isn’t to swaddle our overseas personnel in ever more elaborate layers of security. The answer is better intelligence and a willingness to talk straight about risk.
Our leaders — of both parties — have systematically infantilized Americans to believe that perfect security is attainable. This is one reason the White House reacts so defensively to any intimation that its conduct of the war on al-Qaida is less than perfect. It’s one reason Republicans cynically argue that the administration is incompetent in its prosecution of the war, and in its mission to keep U.S. personnel alive. So long as both parties react so small-mindedly and opportunistically to the terrorist threat, we won’t be able to have a rational, adult conversation about the best ways to wage this war.
Jeffrey Goldberg is a Bloomberg View columnist and a national correspondent for The Atlantic.