While many in humanitarian affairs may not read reports, books, or other works about intelligence and/or military operations, inclusive of special forces operations, these are inherently important. Such operations and intelligence gathering are part of an overall context on the ground. This case of the attack on the U.S. State Department compound in Benghazi is thereby significant, as it was preceded by attacks on NGO's, inclusive of the ICRC and NGO demining/ordnance clearance operations, as part of heightened anti-Western, sentiment and subsequent Jihadist action, which is a clear threat not just to humanitarian action and those conducting it, but to human security considerations among vulnerable populations. Nothing on the ground in conflict areas can or should ever be seen in a vacuum, as any such tendency would be as insular and oblivious as any government agency not sharing operationally necessary information because of departmental or organizational solipsism. As mentioned here, information--and information integrity--is at a premium in crisis areas, and any such solipsism will always risk unnecessary lives, whether those of operators or those whom they seek to serve.
This ebook by Jack Murphy and Brandon Web with Editors of SOFREP.com (William Morrow/Harper-Collins 2013) is a worthy read; coming from those who know the SpecOps (Special Operations) world and its role in current Counter Terrorism efforts, this is an evocative operational and political look into events that resulted in the deaths of four people, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stephens in Benghazi on September 11, 2012.
Operationally, this ebook is excellent for those not as familiar with the SpecOps community, clearly delineating the varying factions among U.S. intelligence and special operations forces--including the confusion caused when, as the old adage goes, and is used to great demonstrable effect here, "the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing."
The authors' opinions are clear--as neutral as they may try to be--in terms of where the blame should be placed, and including the depth of the loss of those who, but for the jockeying for position of the Executive, Intelligence, and Defense communities, might still be alive.
Especially castigated is The White House's tacit consent to allow John Brennan, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, to operate "secret wars" and conduct Direct Actions (DA) via "creative interpretation" and exploitation of loopholes in Title 10/50. Such "off books" operations could only come into conflict with State Department efforts and those of the CIA and JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command), who were conducting separate missions, inclusive of "advisory" efforts in Libya among rebel factions in combatting Jihadists combining forces with Al Qaeda in Libya, in addition to AQ throughout North and West Africa. In fact such off books operations, in combination with and complicating those sanctioned by the CIA and Defense departments, only fomented the vitriol of Jihadists, whose anger turned into action on the anniversary of 9/11.
With the varying factions loathe to share information, as is often the case, despite efforts to bring various departments together and in fact finally make it legal to share information following 9/11 (including with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security), the level of the disconnect among those on the ground proved deadly, as information that should have been provided to all parties regarding the varying events and any and all dangers, would have successively indicated that the situation was heating up to the point of explosion.
However, as counter-intuitive as it should seem to most when it comes to operations on the ground, and when more information is better than not enough, information is most often not provided laterally from operations, and instead is passed up the chain of command. It is then at the discretion of command to determine with whom information will be shared. The basic truth has continued to be an unfortunate one: operational and bureaucratic rivalries among departments assure that such information--which is at a premium--is an asset to be hoarded, despite everyone supposedly being on the same side.
As the authors also demonstrate, and with true poignancy, the only time that cooperation finally happened was when the temporary consulate (as it was not a fixed, permanent location, with permanent security; instead there were only temporary, hired third-party security forces guarding the outside of the compound) was under attack, and the violence further moved on to CIA headquarters in Benghazi. Here, the CIA had been ready for attacks, having been well-fortified and defended, unlike the compound holding Ambassador Stevens and those among his staff from the State Department.
More broadly, Benghazi proved to be the microcosm reflecting the greater weakness of the whole. An event such as this, and not the first, is functionally indicative of the unfortunate tendency of America's response to impending crisis: the lack of action to address issues in a comprehensive, streamlined manner at the outset of any hint of difficulty--often for political reasons-- actually assures that there will indeed be a crisis later. And when it happens, this is when disparate factions may suddenly join forces--including when for all intents and purposes, it is too late. Until then, it's much easier to kick the proverbial can and wait to see what the endgame will look like, hedging bets along the way, for to commit to an action might have deleterious political consequences. When the endgame finally occurs, this is when the greatest sacrifices are made, and the unnecessary, if not tragic, occurs, which more often than not could have been avoided. The media ramps up its bombast, and hearings are held so that fingers can invariably be pointed, and those who have been lost or compromised the most become political fodder for the masses. In fact, this is what Jihadist forces and developing-world opponents count on when faced with the proposition of American involvement, and especially in hotbeds of conflict. Just this tendency of White House, State, Defense, and Intelligence authorities to kick the can at the highest levels and not confer with all stakeholders regarding intelligence will invariably buy their opponents on the ground necessary time to further entrench, information as to their actions predictably being placed in the vacuum of self-contained channels.
For the authors, this is the greatest tragedy--loss of life because of intentional rivalries and the lack of coordinated information among organizational fiefdoms, clinging hard to their own figurative swaths of ground. Only time will tell if this incident will constitute lessons learned, as the authors hope, or if it will become yet another example of the kind of myopia that seems to run rampant among those in the top echelons of government and departmental authority, relegating, as always, losses to those individuals they've sent for dangerous or special operations on the ground. (less)
This was an informative book that revealed some about what could be considered the Petraeus psychology of war--but the structure was a bit irritating,...moreThis was an informative book that revealed some about what could be considered the Petraeus psychology of war--but the structure was a bit irritating, in going back and forth in time. It would have been better for it to have run solely chronologically. There was also the sense, having been written by a former West Point graduate and officer, that there was a bit of hero-worship going on. One thing I did appreciate, and something that I, too, have had to deal with--that this was written by a woman and could transcend the usual incredulity about someone writing substantively about war who happens to be female is important. Some of us are able to write about war with the same measure of substance and lack of over-the-top "emotionalism" of which some have been accused. This is as hardcore an analysis of COIN and low intensity conflict (LIC) as any scholar could write--incidentally, the author is getting her PhD at the University of London.(less)
Just read this yesterday...and was engrossed in it. Was truly intense and excellent for 3/4 of the book, in which there was great depth and lyricism.....moreJust read this yesterday...and was engrossed in it. Was truly intense and excellent for 3/4 of the book, in which there was great depth and lyricism...the last 1/4th, setting up obviously for another book, was not as intense, nor as lyrical. It seemed to go on far too long in the New York state section, and perhaps being an American, it was not as intense and/or far too familiar for taste. There was also not enough time for the main characters to be alone, and not enough of the intense alchemical, scientific and historical investigation that marked the first half of the book. Again, I suspect Harkness is saving that for #2 in the Trilogy. However, I know I'm losing interest when I start skimming certain pages. However, the first 3/4 of the book was worth it, and the last 1/4 to know what is happening in what will be #2 in the series.(less)