Posts tagged with Tet Offensive
Reporters covering the investigation of the major al Qaeda victory at Benghazi should ask themselves: "what would Walter Cronkite do" if he were covering the story.
Let's consider the facts. Most people familiar with the War on Terror knew in September, 2012, that there was a heightened risk of an al Qaeda attack in the U.S. or at American installations outside the U.S. on or about the anniversary of the original 9/11 attack.
The danger was particularly high at American facilities in Libya because of the very unstable situation there and the presence of al Qaeda personnel who were trying to take over the country. Military and CIA personnel in Libya should have been on a high state of alert and prepared to back up personnel at any facility that might be attacked. Their orders should have been to respond immediately to any attack without requesting authorization from Washington. Security should have been particularly tight in Benghazi with the Ambassador in the building.
With modern cell phone technology, personnel should have been calling the State Department as they took cover, grabbed weapons, etc. Both the Secretary of State and President should have been notified immediately. State Department protocol should have required the Secretary, or least the top undersecretary for the region, to monitor the situation using both audio and video from the site, possibly using devices such as smart phones . If a satellite was in position to monitor the situation someone in Washington should have monitored its video. Keep in mind the government has better quality cameras than Google on its satellites.
The Obama administration's initial claim that the facility fell to a rag tag mob of demonstrators implies the facility essentially had no security. Any decent security protocol should have been prepared for the type of attack that Iranian students had used to take over the American embassy in Tehran during the Carter administration. An attack by trained military personnel would have been more easily explained, although security personnel should have been prepared to handle such an attack.
Determining the significance of the successful al Qaeda attack is difficult because of the nature of the War on Terror. Significant battles haven't involved large groups. Although the American casualty toll in the 9/11 attack was high, barely a dozen men conducted the attack. A similar sized American force killed Osama bin Laden. Much of the killing by both sides is done by remote control. Americans use aerial drones. Al Qaeda uses road side bombs.
The attack is at least as significant as the temporary Viet Cong capture of the American embassy in Saigon during the 1968 Tet Offensive. The attack indicates that al Qaeda has successfully broadened the war and is now able to defeat the Americans in Libya and possibly elsewhere. The size of the victory isn't as important as the fact that the attack was an al Qaeda victory. Al Qaeda may not be "winning" the war yet, but as a football sportscaster might say, al Qaeda "has taken the momentum", as demonstrated by the recent successful bombing of the Boston Marathon. Al Qaeda can use its success as a recruitment argument.
The failure of the Americans to come to the rescue during the attack could be interpreted by al Qaeda as proving bin Laden was right when he said the Americans would eventually tire of the fighting.
Walter Cronkite began questioning the American handling of the Vietnam after the attack on the American Embassy in Saigon during the 1968 Tet Offensive. I'm sure he would have asked questions about the War on Terror after the fall of the American consulate in Benghazi, particularly considering the allegations that someone in Washington prevented sending a rescue force. Cronkite knew that Presidents are sometimes mislead by their subordinates and it is the duty of journalists to learn the truth.
President Barack Obama made the most inane debate comment of the early 21st century in the October 22nd debate. http://www.npr.org/2012/10/22/163436694/transcript-3rd-obama-romney-presidential-debate
"But I think Governor Romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works. You — you mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets — (laughter) — because the nature of our military's[sic] changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines."
We may not need as many horses and bayonets as we did in 1916, but we need more ships than the peace time navy of 1916 did. In 1916 the United States didn't think it needed a big navy because it wasn't involved in World War 1 and still expected the British Navy to control the seas. The United States Navy has inherited the commerce protecting and peace keeping role the British Navy played a century ago. However, the U.S. cannot perform that role with only 114 ships of 287 total ships deployed over 139 million square miles of ocean. http://www.navy.mil/navydata/nav_legacy.asp?id=146
The United States should have an aircraft carrier based group with rescue helicopters and Marines off the coast of Libya and other hot spots where embassies are close enough to the sea for sea based rescues. The capital of Iran was too far from the sea for a sea based rescue during the Carter administration. Diplomatic facilities in Libya and some other trouble spots can be reached from ships.
It may come as a surprise to Obama, but the main reason we ended up in WWI was because the United States didn't have enough ships to protect its merchant ships from German submarines called U-boats. Nuclear power for submarines may have come long after WWI but "ships that go underwater" were a major German weapon in that war. The first submarine was built in the 17th Century and the first submarine attack was an unsuccessful attempt to attach a bomb to a British ship during the American Revolution. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/worlds-first-submarine-attack
It is unlikely that Japan would have attacked the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor in 1941 if the United States had had more than one fleet in the Pacific. Japan thought that knocking out the only American fleet in the Pacific would allow it to take control of the Pacific before the United States could build a replacement fleet.
This year begins the 200th anniversary of the first major war fought by the United States, the War of 1812. The United States wouldn't have felt a need to enter that war if it had had a big enough navy to discourage the British navy from kidnapping sailors from American merchant ships and even naval ships.
Peace provides the best environment for the international trade the U.S. economy has always depended upon. The United States first foreign "war" was an attack on pirates on the North African coast. The U.S. needs a big enough navy to permanently station ships in shipping lanes plagued by pirates.
The Navy provides the best option for protecting the peace. Moving ships to a trouble spot doesn't require construction of large bases first. Personnel can be stationed near a trouble spot without the complications involved with stationing troops among the local population. We may not need as many horses and bayonets as were needed in 1916, but ships are even more necessary.
Four years ago Democrats criticized Gov. Sarah Palin for her statement "I can see Russia from my house". Compare that to Obama's statements: "We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines." Obama apparently thinks he's speaking to children, or maybe he just has a simple mind.
Obama's statements that al Qaeda is weak ignores the implications of the attack on the Libyan consulate. Al Qaeda may be weaker in Afghanistan, but it is growing elsewhere. It is not going away any time soon. Obama is underestimating the strength of al Qaeda much like the Johnson administration underestimated the strength of the Viet Cong before the 1968 Tet offensive.