In Light of Benghazi Hearings, Taking Stock of Arab Spring, North Africa Turmoil
…NICHOLAS BURNS, Former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs: Well, Jeffrey, I thought it was a commanding performance by Secretary Clinton. She was well informed. She was a master of the detail in all the briefings.
And she took responsibility, which was the right thing to do. She said that she will implement all the 29 recommendations of the accountability review board. Now, I think that the Republicans there obviously had a right and I think they had an obligation to ask tough questions, because this was a disaster for the American Foreign Service to lose four people in one day, including Ambassador Chris Stevens…[two more paragraphs of talking]
JEFFREY BROWN: All right, let me stop you there.
NICHOLAS BURNS: How do we now go after the terrorist groups?
JEFFREY BROWN: OK. You have put them both on the table then.
Let me get Danielle Pletka in.
First, what do you think of what unfolded today with Secretary Clinton in the …
DANIELLE PLETKA, American Enterprise Institute: Well, I think Nick was right. The secretary has obviously got a great command of the facts. She’s a good speaker. She’s authoritative. And she was a member of Congress. She knows how to handle her former colleagues.
But it really was a lot of sound and fury signifying not very much. She didn’t really answer questions about what happened in the run-up to the attack, why our response wasn’t better. And all of these efforts to direct us to move forward and to learn these lessons really fail to understand that the way we move forward is by acknowledging exactly what went wrong.
Just saying “I take responsibility” is admirable and sounds gutsy, but it doesn’t really mean you’re taking responsibility.
JEFFREY BROWN: But what about what Nick Burns says, that there’s now been this review? It’s looked at it. It’s come up with many recommendations. And that is — what she’s saying is, in a sense, that’s the way to move forward is to implement it and learn from what happened.
DANIELLE PLETKA: Well, it’s a very Washington perspective. You know, we have our blue-ribbon commission. We appointed the right generals and former diplomats.
The truth is that what happened, and the reason this became a scandal is not just because of the absolutely dreadful murder by terrorists of four people serving their country. It was because the White House and the State Department and many others insisted for a full week after the attack that occurred on Sept. 11th that it was the responsibility of a film and the response to a film, and not a terrorist attack.
Now, the American people, not the Congress, not the secretary, they deserve answers, and those answers really haven’t been forthcoming, and they were not on show today.
Interestingly enough, Jeffrey Brown seems to give the lion’s share of time to Pletka, perhaps because Burns’ responses mostly consist of “that’s unfair!” Even PBS hosts can only work with so much of that material before they run of out cover?
Her comment on Obama’s “policy of retreat” is especially damning:
…DANIELLE PLETKA: Well, not responding is the answer.
I think the entire trend has been troubling. And I think Benghazi was merely a symptom of a larger policy of retreat, of unwillingness to deal with the challenges that we’re facing from al-Qaida, because it’s not just in the Maghreb. It’s not just in Libya and in Mali and in Algeria. It’s also in Yemen. It’s in Sinai. It’s in Iraq. It’s, of course, in South Asia and Afghanistan and Pakistan.
JEFFREY BROWN: But in what ways do you see us retreating, specifically in North Africa, in Maghreb?
DANIELLE PLETKA: Well, I think it’s nice that Nick said that we should thank the French, and absolutely the French have interests in Mali as well.
Apparently, the administration is really struggling right now about how much support to provide to the French, not on the ground, but merely on the question of refueling their flights.
If we’re not even willing to do that, it does beg the question about how willing we’re going to be to step up to this challenge in the Maghreb.