October 22 2012
Could the President Have Sent Fighter Jets to Benghazi?
One of the most disturbing aspects of the Benghazi debacle hasn’t even been mentioned until today: the possibility that President Obama could have sent help while the desperate fight was still unfolding.
Bing West, author and former assistant secretary of defense, has an amazing piece on “The Corner” today that says just that. It is headlined “First, Aide the Living.” It would be a good piece of reading for Governor Romney today, as he prepares to debate foreign policy with President Obama.
The White House, State Department, and Pentagon were able to follow the attack in real time. U.S. diplomats in Benghazi fought, according to West, for seven hours, while the president and his security team “passively watched and listened.”
In the past, presidents had taken immediate actions to protect Americans. In 1984, President Reagan had ordered U.S. pilots to force an airliner carrying terrorists to land at Sigonella. Reagan had acted inside a 90-minute window while the aircraft with the terrorists was in the air. The Obama national-security team had several hours in which to move forces from Sigonella to Benghazi.
Fighter jets could have been at Benghazi in an hour; the commandos inside three hours. If the attackers were a mob, as intelligence reported, then an F18 in afterburner, roaring like a lion, would unnerve them. This procedure was applied often in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Conversely, if the attackers were terrorists, then the U.S. commandos would eliminate them. But no forces were dispatched from Sigonella.
An aircraft carrier with 22 barely trained men aboard was sent from Tripoli, 400 miles away. West writes that they arrived about four hours into the fight.
It might have been a long shot if the president had sent a more formidable force. But it was a risk well worth taking:
Firefights, however, wax and wane from dusk to dawn. You cannot predict ahead of time when they will stop. Therefore a combat commander will take immediate action, presuming reinforcements will be needed.
The administration wrongly blamed a mob for the attack. Yet ironically, Mr. Obama’s chances of reelection would have plummeted were it not for the human decency of a mob that took the ambassador to the hospital before the terrorists returned.
If the terrorists had taken his body and, with no Special Operations Forces hot on their trail, taunted America the next day — claiming the ambassador was still alive — the Benghazi tragedy would have escalated into an international disaster. The U.S. military sent no aid. Why?
Tonight’s debate is the last opportunity to press Obama on Benghazi before we vote. I disagree with those who want Mitt Romney to bring up the Bing West charge, devastating though it is. It is also the kind of thing a wily candidate knows how to deflect. But we do need to hear why the president and his administration stuck to a false story so long. Could it be that Benghazi reveals the unravelling of President Obama’s foreign policy claims?
There is also that curious report in the New York Times that the Iran and the administration agreed to face-to-face talks. The Times pulled back on the report when the White House denied it. Nobody knows what gives.
Commentary has some thoughts on the Iran report:
So perhaps the White House doesn’t believe that face-to-face negotiations with Iran’s leaders is a bad idea in and of itself. But the walk-back shows that the president’s team either thinks their plan is too unpopular to go public with (if, indeed, it is their plan), or that they don’t believe the public would trust Obama to carry out those negotiations. Neither is a sign of confidence.
After the debate, President Obama does have a big appearance on Wednesday night—he’ll be on Leno. My friend Pundette has a suggestion:
Not that it will do any good, but I suggest we bombard Leno's Twitter account with requests for him to ask the Commander-in-Chief why he went to bed that night without authorizing the US military to engage in a rescue of Amb. Stevens and company.
That he didn't bother is a national disgrace, and it's being compounded by those in the liberal media who decline to dig and demand answers. To bore you all with the obvious, try to imagine the media firestorm had a debacle like this occurred under George Bush.