Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Empty Words and Empty Suits

It's six weeks since the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, perhaps long enough to gain some perspective on the situation.  Perspective however, is exactly what seems to be lacking where Benghazi is concerned.  Instead we have firebrands on the left insisting that patience is required to get to the truth on something that's only a story because of politics, and firebrands on the right demanding answers from the White House as to what actually happened before voters go to the polls.  Apparently lost in all of the potential political hype of course is that four Americans are dead, including an Ambassador.

But I guess we've become rather blase about the murder of a mere four people.  After all, soldiers get killed in the two wars we are still fighting overseas and they barely rate a footnote at the end of the Sunday news talk shows.  Perhaps even worse, soldiers are also killed in training accidents while in the process of maintaining readiness to serve their country and that often doesn't rate the news at all.  But it's not just soldiers that die, people are killed in this country every day: on work-sites, in shopping malls, and on city streets.  Some are innocent, some are guilty, and some just find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Unless the media can find a way to make these senseless killings part of an pre-disposed personal agenda that they have on gun control, societal violence caused by movies and video games, or left vs right partisanship however, these senseless deaths are soon relegated to a back page line or two so that we can talk about Lindsay Lohan's most recent court appearance.

So what is it about Benghazi?

Well perhaps because the killing of diplomatic personnel is an issue of a national prestige that seems to be suffering rather badly these days from everything from a loss of international primacy to having to go cap in hand to borrow money from those we only recently considered one of our bitterest enemies.  Americans after all do like to feel exceptional and don't much care for being part of the pack, let alone at the mercy of it.  Part of it might be from seeing this as an apparent failure to control and utilize the technologies that we have pioneered.  Satellite telephones, emails on the Internet, and real-time pictures taken by aerial drones did nothing to prevent, let alone stop what was happening to our people. 

Most of it I think however, may be from the sorry realization that we have once again become victims of the 'empty suits and empty words' that plague our bureaucratically driven government.  For it appears that once again lives have been needlessly placed in jeopardy (and ultimately lost) due to political agendas, CYA rhetoric, and bureaucratic morass that seeks not calm deliberation, but over-cautious lassitude in its dealings with the rest of the world. "The bureaucratic mentality is the one constant in the universe," according to Dr. Leonard McCoy (yeah, the one from Star Trek).  And while taking wisdom from a sci-fi movie seem ridiculous, anyone exposed to government quickly recognized that it's nevertheless true.  In fact this is common and non-partisan malady of bureaucracy, where the recurrence and severity of advanced manifestations can and will be influenced by whoever the current tenant of the White House is. Those symptoms decrease significantly with a powerful personality in the Executive Mansion, but are equally susceptible to Analysis Paralysis setting in with a timid resident who would prefer to 'lead from behind'.   

While there's a lot of rumor and misinformation out there, what we do know about Benghazi however is that (as with many of the other senseless terrorist acts that have been committed against this country), there were plenty of warning signs that it was going to happen.  Not surprisingly, there were empty suits with their empty words on the scene; evaluating information and undoubtedly cautioning against appearing too provocative in protecting our people by making our diplomatic compounds more safe.  There were other empty suits as well, busy recommending strategic errors in not only failing to increase the protection of a diplomatic mission in what was and is clearly an unstable country, but in fact reducing it significantly instead in the days leading up to the anniversary of a terrorist success story of 9/11.  

If such agenda-driven inertia from the gutted garments in charge was not enough of a recipe for disaster, this situation was also burdened with the apparent silent somnolence of other career bureaucrats.  Bureaucratic drones, whose greatest danger has been from paper cuts, gave themselves and their fellows a seven hour Reality TV show from aerial drones and consulate cameras instead of responding.  In spite of the horror I'm sure they felt during this high tech marathon of mayhem, I suspect that there was little more dialogue in the room than those four empty and infamous word, "Let's wait and see".  Unless there are strategic moves that have yet to come to light (something hardly likely) what we saw as their response was: no planes were sent to fly air cover or close ground support for those in danger, no rescue teams were dispatched to those in need, no ships currently deployed in the Med were move closer in case their Marines were needed, and in fact no effort was made even to reinforce an embassy in Tripoli that was being warned it might also be facing imminent attack.  The empty words of empty suits apparently ruled the day once more and four who honorably served this nation were little more than served up for martyrdom by them.

I don't much care whether this helps or hurts the incumbent or his opponent.  I don't really care about what the theories for Ambassador Steven's visit to the Consulate in the first place might or might not be.  What I do care about however, is the pencil pushers in Washington are supposed to be defending the people who defend this nation, regardless of how it looks or whose agenda it inconveniences, did next to nothing.  Every bit of information that continues to leak out to the public about this attack on our diplomatic mission in Libya in fact points out how many empty words from empty suits that we've already gotten, not only as it was going on, but in the days that followed.

I'm sure that the days ahead will be full of additional information coming out in bits and pieces; along with the inevitable rumor, innuendo, and conspiracy theories as to the 'facts' of the situation.  I'm sure as well, that those same empty suits are working harder now to get their stories straight than they did then to help those in real danger.  I'm absolutely certain however, that when we look back after all the intelligence agency investigations and Congressional hearings are completed and the reports have long since been filed away, all that will remain is a dirty little secret that will remain unwritten and unrecognized.  That secret, unfortunately, is that American lives have once again been needlessly lost.  They were put at ultimate risk by the mouthings of empty words coming these empty suits, and few of those who will put in their twenty years and retire from the safety of Washington DC will even remember their names in the end, having never similarly risked their empty little lives.  

Please note that nowhere in this effort have I accused anyone of lying, though quite frankly the effort has blood running from my mouth.  I am however, getting rather tired of the continued parsing of previous statements.  Sure it's easier to 'Monday Morning Quarterback' and make these decisions now; but the only thing worse that the so-called professionals backpedaling on the strategies that they've executed (or in this case, failed to) is them playing the "that depends on the definition of is" games about the statements previously made with regard to these failures.  It not only doesn't rise to the level of responsibility that's goes with the authority granted their positions, but it dishonors the memory of those who gave their lives as a result of them.

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