ISIS takes control of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. Several nations agree to take in Southeast Asian migrants. And the U.S. and Cuba move closer to full restoration of diplomatic ties. A panel of journalists joins guest host Indira Lakshmanan for analysis of the week's top international news stories.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before House and Senate panels about the September attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. Nearing the end of her tenure as secretary, Clinton was thanked by Democrats and Republicans for her service to the country. But Republicans gave her a tougher grilling about her actions before and after the Benghazi attack. Clinton accepted responsibility. But she also defended the way she and her colleagues handled the Benghazi tragedy and pointed out Congress’s role in failing to keep U.S. diplomatic personnel safe. Assessing the Benghazi hearings and emerging terrorist threats in Africa.
- David Sanger chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times and author of "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power."
- Indira Lakshmanan senior correspondent covering foreign policy for Bloomberg News.
- Emira Woods co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton faced Congress yesterday over events in Libya before and after terrorists attacked the U.S. mission in Benghazi. The assault occurred in September, killing U.S. Amb. Chris Stevens and three other Americans. We'll talk about the secretary's testimony and to what extent Islamist extremists are regrouping in Africa.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me in the studio: Emira Woods of the Institute for Policy Studies, David Sanger of The New York Times and Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg News. Do join our conversation. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Tell us how you reacted to what you saw and heard. You can send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning, and welcome to all of you.
MS. EMIRA WOODSGood morning.
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANGood morning.
MR. DAVID SANGERGood morning, Diane.
REHMIndira, you were on the Hill during the testimony. Tell us what the main points were.
LAKSHMANANWell, I think if I had to sum it up to someone who did not have to sit through an entire day of hearings, which went on for the secretary for more than 5 1/2 hours, it basically exposed the partisan divide that still exists over Benghazi. And, you know, Secretary Clinton was there first at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for half the day, then at the House Foreign Affairs Committee for half the day. And in both fora, she was essentially being lauded by the Democrats. It was her swan song, solo testimony.
LAKSHMANANIt was their opportunity to say, wow, Secretary Clinton, you did such a great job. Whereas the Republicans, while thanking her for her service, they had been waiting months to be able to cross-examine her over the Benghazi attack which they believe exposed a lot of failings on the part of the Obama administration, first of all, in terms of what security was available for that post in Benghazi, and secondly, in terms of how the attack was described in the aftermath.
LAKSHMANANSo what you saw was a day of Republicans from John McCain to Sen. Ron Johnson, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- Republican after Republican assailing her saying that she was to blame. Rand Paul actually used the forum to say, if I were president, I would have fired you.
LAKSHMANANAnd you, you know, you should have been held responsible because you didn't read that cable in which Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya who died in that attack along with three other Americans -- there were various cables in which he had talked about security, and that she had not read those cables.
LAKSHMANANShe later made the point that 1.43 million cables addressed to the secretary of state are sent every year to the State Department. And obviously, not all of those reached her desk. They're address through the bureaucracy. So it was a -- at times emotional, at times indignant and angry. It was a pretty exciting day actually up on the Hill.
REHMDavid Sanger, how did she do?
SANGERWell, I think she did pretty well. As Indira said, she moved between emotional to, at some point, combative. I mean, I thought the most interesting response that she had was when one of the senators, a freshman senator, went after her on the question of whether or not there had been a demonstration in front of the consulate that then lead this, which, of course, was the central issue behind the dispute about Susan Rice.
SANGERShe looked, and she said, what difference does it make? Whether it was demonstration that lead to it or anything else, the big issue was there were four people dead, and there was a failure leading to it. I think that in going after the demonstration issue, which certainly happened in the Senate and to some degree happened in the House, the Republicans missed an opportunity, I think, to go after her on a much broader point.
SANGERAnd the broader point is this: that the United States has had a theory of the case about how embassies and consulates are defended for decades, and it is that the host government essentially does it. And you keep a very small force of Marine guards, mostly to man the front gate and keep track of classified material and so forth. But that it's a host government's responsibility.
SANGERAnd when the U.S. began operating in the series of countries -- not just in North Africa but around the world where basically no government exists, and that was certainly the case in Libya -- they never updated or rethought the system. And so they became reliant instead on these militias that, of course, that day didn't show up. If they really wanted to go after Secretary Clinton, it strikes me that the question of why over the course of four years were you not re-examining your central assumptions, that might have actually scored some points.
REHMEmira, what were your reactions?
WOODSWell, I think David is right to look at a broader picture. But I guess my reaction is, let's broaden the lens even further. Clearly, Benghazi is a small piece of a larger puzzle. What really was the opportunity missed was the opportunity to look at the U.S. intervention in Libya. Military intervention often creates unintended consequences. It often puts American, the American interest and local populations in greater harm at greater risk. It was really a missed opportunity for Congress to say, how have we done?
WOODSWhat are the lessons learned of these interventions and to what extent? Now, you have this new U.S.-Africa command recently mobilized. To what extent did Africa play a role that was helpful or harmful, and what is the relationship between the State Department and the Department of Defense? What are the lessons, and how do we learn from those lessons moving forward in terms of foreign policy, both on the diplomatic end as well as on the broader U.S. foreign policy objectives.
LAKSHMANANI would say that looking at the security posture is a really important point, I mean, if we're going back to the question of diplomatic security because the United States operates in countries all over the world, a lot of which are high-risk posts. Obviously, the best-known high-risk posts are Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, but Libya is certainly among those. But I wanted to say to the point of the host countries providing security, that's under the Geneva Convention.
LAKSHMANANSo that's not just a U.S. government decision or an Obama administration or Bush administration or whatever decision. That's something that dates back to the early 160s under the Geneva Conventions, under reciprocal treaties almost every country in the world participates, under reciprocal obligations to guard one another's embassies. But the United States has always had a series of layers. So the host country is supposed to provide external security. Then the United States has physical barriers.
LAKSHMANANThey have Marine guards who were only really meant to be protecting classified information. As we all know by now, the Benghazi post did not have classified information, and so they did not have a Marine detachment. And there were also diplomatic security guards, local personnel. In this case in Libya, we had a contract with a British firm that was providing local, unarmed, security guards. Also, this brigade, the militia that was -- the report has found out that there were, I think, three militia members there that night.
LAKSHMANANSo it wasn't totally unguarded, but it was obviously completely inadequate. And part of the problem for that is that Congress has consistently, year after year, cut back funding requests from the State Department, and the secretary was laying out about 10 percent each year. So they had requested $2.9 billion. They were granted $2.6 billion. So, you know, that's also a question. Is there the adequate funding for providing the levels of security needed?
REHMSo after the Benghazi attack, there were recommendations made to improve security for U.S. diplomatic personnel. What were that panel's recommendations, David?
SANGERWell, the panel had a series of recommendations, and they were, in some ways, quite critical of the State Department for their failure to go address all of this. And I thought that probably Secretary Clinton, at her strongest yesterday, was making the point that she could have done with this report what many of her predecessors have done with critical reports before, which was keep them classified, never release them and, you know, not let it impinge on her reputation on the way out the door.
SANGERInstead, she released it. The report made was highly critical of several people who were several layers down and in charge of diplomatic security in the State Department. Two of them...
REHMAnd haven't two resigned?
SANGERTwo have resigned under pressure.
LAKSHMANANWell, the actual case is that four of them have been removed from their posts, one of whom apparently voluntarily resigned, but the other three were moved from their post. But all four of them remain technically employees of the State Department. They're, all four, on administrative leave.
REHMOh, I see. I see.
LAKSHMANANSo that was another one of the controversies that came up with Ros-Lehtinen saying, you've acted as if you've fired four people you haven't. And Secretary Clinton said, well, under federal law we can't fire people for the -- what was found to -- they have -- were found to have done wrong in this case. So they are currently still under administrative leave.
REHMSo she is urging change of security rules. She's certainly talking about the hiring of outside contractors. She is talking about the money that Congress offers. I had the question in my own mind as to how much of those hearings were on Benghazi and how much were focused on 2016. What was your reaction, Emira?
WOODSWell, clearly, you know, Secretary Clinton has already -- well, I don't think publicly indicated...
WOODS...but I think there's a lot of expectation that she will be the next, you know, Democratic political presidential candidate. So I think, you know, yes, it was an opportunity for Republicans on the Hill to blemish what many see as a stellar record for Secretary Clinton. But I think, you know, we have to understand, as a woman in such a leadership post, she has excelled and has stood as an example for many. And I think that remains and maybe even become strengthened after her performance yesterday.
REHMDavid, do you think if she does run for the office of president in 2016, this Benghazi attack will come up again?
SANGERWell, I'm sure it'll come up again, but I think the bigger questions by, you know, four years out or if she does decide to announce, say, that this gets serious three years out, I think the much bigger question she's going to be left with is whether or not they designed a strategy for North Africa and other places where al-Qaida is now moving that over the long term stands up. And yesterday, she didn't describe such a strategy.
REHMDavid Sanger of The New York Times. We'll get to your calls shortly. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. We are, of course, talking about Secretary Clinton's testimony before both the House and the Senate yesterday on the incidents in Benghazi that took the lives of four Americans. And here with me: David Sanger of The New York Times, author of "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power," Indira Lakshmanan, a senior correspondent for Bloomberg News, Emira Woods.
REHMShe is co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. I hope you'll join us. 800-433-8850. Indira, you mentioned a couple of moments, certainly, when Rand Paul said, if I had been president and this had happened, I would have fired you as secretary of state. How did Mrs. Clinton react?
LAKSHMANANWell, in that case, I mean, Sen. Paul was really making a speech. I mean, he was lecturing her and hectoring her from the -- from his podium. And she kind of sat back and just let him make his speech. She had already been engaged and irritated by an earlier senator, and that was Ron Johnson, who had gotten a rise out of her. And she had really -- that was the moment, I would say, of the whole day when she got angriest, when she said, you know, whether it was a protest or whether it was some guys out for a walk who decided to kill Americans, what ultimately does it matter?
LAKSHMANANWe have four dead Americans. And she was trying to get him to look at the position of, let's move forward. Where do we go from here? And how can we try to repair the system? With Rand Paul, I think she might have been chuckling to herself, which I know some of the Democrats in the room were because their position was, well, no one asked Condi Rice to resign or to be fired when she had not read the cables that had come to her, talking about people training for flying planes without landing, who later turned out to be the Sept. 11 attackers.
LAKSHMANANSo there was definitely a partisan thing going on there. And some of the Democrats on the panel leaped to her defense when he called Benghazi the worst terrorist incident since 9/11. And they said, really? Well, that -- what about the false intelligence that led to the Iraq War, that led to 4,000-plus Americans dying? Several Democrats on the panel brought that up. So it did become a partisan thing.
SANGERYou know, I am not sure whether Rand Paul recognized that he was at that moment, in a long history of Senate investigations that with the wonder of 20-20 hindsight, go back and pick out a few cables, a few pieces of evidence that we now know were important out of what was a huge amount of noise. Remember, there was a big investigation over Pearl Harbor...
SANGER...where there were, of course, you know, all kind -- right. There were big...
REHMAnd the accusations that President Roosevelt knew it was coming, and that went on for years and years.
SANGERThat went on for years and years. We have short memories in this country. For the -- North Korea's invasion of South Korea in 1950, there was a similar thing, the Tet Offensive. You can't find a major conflict the United States has been in or even a minor one where the question of, why didn't you recognize this piece of intelligence out of many?
REHMNow, here's an email from Brian in Alexandria, who was also outraged by Rand Paul's statement. He says, "Is there not a danger and our reaction to this incident that we will end up with fortress embassies and an inability of embassy staff to be effective in their jobs? There is no such thing as perfect security in these volatile situations." Emira.
WOODSWell, I think Brian is quite right. The whole objective of U.S. foreign policy is global engagement, not creating fortresses, global engagement. But I think it's quite ironic it was brought up in the hearings yesterday, this reminder that there are actually more people in the military marching bands than there are diplomats and development professionals representing the U.S. government.
WOODSSo I think we have this imbalance in terms of global engagement that has to be addressed. The diplomats and the development professionals have to have resources, have to be properly staffed to be able to engage with places like Libya that are undergoing tremendous change, political as well as economic change. And, you know, creating fortresses, creating more, sort of, military endeavors and excursions and adventures may actually do more harm to U.S. foreign policy than good.
REHMAnd that leads to this question from Joe in Syracuse: "Was Benghazi really a U.S. consulate or was it a CIA station?" David.
SANGERThe answer is that the consulate itself, which is where the ambassador was killed, was, in fact, a sort of temporary consulate. And because it was temporary and because the ambassador, Chris Stevens, thought that he knew the people of Benghazi, he had sort of liberated Benghazi or helped lead the liberation of Benghazi a year and a half before. He thought those militias would come to him. But it did not even have the kind of protection that a standardized consulate would.
SANGERNow, near it was the annex which had many more people in it. And those are the people who sort of came to the embassy's defense and then later the annex was attacked. The annex was a CIA base. There's no question about that. And while the administration was trying to keep that quiet during the initial time, it certainly come out. Just a quick point on something that Emira raised.
SANGERI go in and out of a lot of U.S. embassies around the world. They're already separated fortresses. You go to the one in Thailand. It almost literally has a moat around it. There's a new one being built in London that, you know, is not only separated from downtown London, but, you know, you would be -- you'd take a big hike just get out to lunch from it.
REHMIt's pretty sad, David.
SANGERIt is. It is. And, you know, the Green Zone in Iraq. So the -- we're already well beyond that point where our diplomats can get out and interact with the people. And that's something that Chris Stevens, for all of his warnings, was very intent on doing.
REHMSo I want to get on to some other issues. But the question is now that the election is over, now that these hearings had been held, is the issue of Benghazi put to rest? Indira.
LAKSHMANANNo, it's not. Not at all. I mean, there are many people for whom the Benghazi incident is alive and will continue to be a lighting rod and a symbol of what they believe is wrong with the Obama administration. So what I think happened yesterday was four months in the offing. People from Congress were waiting to have their chance to cross-examine Clinton. They got it. I honestly don't think anybody went in there and had their world view changed.
LAKSHMANANIf the lawmakers went in there believing that the Obama administration had done everything it could and was now working swiftly to try to correct errors and security and try to implement new measures, they came out thinking the same thing. If they went in thinking, wow, this is an administration that had a major failure and they're not -- either lying about it, they're covering it up, and they weren't even telling the American people the truth about what happened. They came out thinking the same thing.
LAKSHMANANIt was two world views the twain shall never meet. And the Republican -- let's not say Republican. Let's say the very conservative blogosphere was alive and kicking yesterday with all sorts of attacks on Clinton's testimony. Rush Limbaugh attacked her, accused her on the air of lip-synching and faking her tears when she choked up about having to greet four caskets of dead Americans at Andrews Air Force Base.
LAKSHMANANHe accused her of kissing up. He used a ruder word -- but I won't use it on the air -- of kissing up to the lawmakers ahead of what he is assuming is going to be a 2016 presidential bid. You know, I got emails this morning from people about my overnight story, saying, try to imagine if this were a Republican administration. How would the coverage be different?
LAKSHMANANSo there are certainly strongly held views about this. I don't think it's going away. And I think even for John Kerry, who's going through his confirmation hearing this morning, as we speak, he's going to be asked about what he's going to do to implement those recommendations and to learn from the mistakes pointed out in that accountability review board.
REHMAll right. And, Emira, there are reports this week that some weapons used in the attack on an international gas complex in Algeria actually came from Libya.
WOODSYou know, Diane, this is when we talk about the unintended consequences of military intervention. We have to be clear pushing, you know, such massive levels of weapons into Libya to oust Qaddafi, you know. Admittedly, you know, a noble effort, a noble cause. But, you know, the overflow of weapons both from the U.S. and NATO, as well as from Qaddafi's own caches, created this amass, where it was actually easier to get weapons than to get food in certain parts of, particularly, northern Mali.
WOODSYou know, I think it is extraordinary to see these unintended consequences. So, yes, weapons flowing heavy, military machinery flowing from Libya across the borders into Mali, igniting tensions even further there in Mali, and also these weapons now being seen in the attacks in Algeria.
SANGERYeah. I think Emira is right in principle. You go into these kind of interventions -- Iraq being a great, big example, or Afghanistan -- and you can end up leaving a lot of hardware around that then gets abused. Certainly that was the American case in Afghanistan when they were trying to fight the Soviets, you know, back in the '80s, and we've been dealing with that since. Libya, I would argue, was a somewhat different case. The U.S. had no ground troops there.
SANGERWhile there were a relatively small number of NATO, European ground troops there, in fact, while there were certainly some arms that were brought into the opposition, because that conflict happened and was resolved fairly quickly -- it took a number of months to go after him and get Qaddafi -- I don't think that what you're seeing flow out of Libya is necessarily as much a result of the invasion as what was in Libya, but under guard to some degree prior, you know, during the Qaddafi regime.
REHMAnd, you know, that takes us to the question of did Qaddafi hold that whole portion of Northern Africa together. And now that he's gone, it's all falling apart.
LAKSHMANANWell, people have made that same argument about Tito in the former Yugoslavia. That doesn't necessarily justify having a dictator in power just because he's holding the piece. The same argument has been made about Suharto in Indonesia before there were all sorts of regional and ethnic tensions in the wake of the fall of Suharto.
SANGERAnd Mubarak in Egypt.
LAKSHMANANAnd Mubarak in Egypt.
LAKSHMANANBut I was just going to say there have been no assertions that American or NATO weapons have now gotten into the hands of people in Northern Africa and Mali or for the Algeria gas field. So I want to just clear the record on that. The assertion is that the MANPADS -- you remember that term from right after the fall of Qaddafi, the, you know, things like the shoulder-fired weapons that are mobile.
LAKSHMANANThose are the ones which the U.S. was worried about at the time that were Libyan weapons, that those were loose and they were floating around North Africa, and those are the things that have supposedly turned up in Algeria and Mali and other places. And it's actually not a news flash. I mean, it's been said that these MANPADS, RPGs, mortars have traveled all over North Africa. So it's not surprising that they would end up being used in an attack like this terrorist one on the gas field.
SANGERAnd it's the reason people are so worried about what happens after Assad falls -- presumably he will -- in Syria where you've got all of those issues, and then layering on top of that, the potential of chemical weapons.
REHMDavid Sanger of The New York Times. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." So you've got all these groups such as al-Qaida in the Maghreb, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Qaida in Syria. How closely linked are all these groups?
WOODSYou know, it's very difficult to answer that question. It is a murky situation, particularly in North Africa and also in West Africa, because what you have are groups, many of whom are operating independently, and some may and others may not even uphold a banner of al-Qaida. But what you have, you know, again, in Mali, it started out as an insurgency.
WOODSIt started out as people, the Tuaregs, who are the nomadic peoples of northern Mali, coming back from Libya and essentially asserting their demands for greater sovereignty, for greater economic rights -- again, remember, this is a resource-rich region -- for greater political rights, for peoples that have been long marginalized.
WOODSSo you had people who were not identified, movements that were not identified with al-Qaida, coupled now with some incredible extremists that chose very draconian tactics of, you know, if there was a cellphone ring tone, then the person would have to be dealt with, you know, very dramatically, arms cut off and all these horrific reports from Human Rights Watch and others about what was, in fact, a small sect of extremists in northern Mali.
WOODSSo a combination, a very complex situation, some linked to al-Qaida, others not linked to al-Qaida, with differing goals.
REHMSo what, David, can the U.S. do or is the U.S. doing to make sure that terrorists do not take deeper roots in Africa?
SANGERThis is where the president's approach for the past four years, which I've written is the light footprint strategy -- strategy of not sending in 100,000 troops and spending upwards of $1 trillion and trying to occupy a country for years on end, but instead to rely on drones, on cyber, on special forces -- this is where we're beginning to see the light footprint begin to run out of gas.
SANGERYou know, they have tried to use drones to some degree in Yemen and, to a lesser degree, in Somalia. But it was interesting that Secretary Clinton yesterday used Somalia as a success story in this, and I guess by -- in relative terms it is in that it has not become the place that some of these al-Qaida groups have decided to settle in. They've decided life is easier going to Mali and elsewhere.
SANGERBut the fact of the matter is that in these dysfunctional societies where there is very little local capacity, if you are not on the ground, your ability to go after these groups depends entirely on two things: one, having very good intel on the ground of where they are, and secondly, having a good remote platform, like a drone, to go strike them. And what we all know is that, over time, even the U.S. military has begun to question whether these drone strikes, while tactically successful day to day, over time creates such resentments that it's not a usable strategy.
REHMSo what is the U.S. doing now to support the French in Mali?
SANGERThey are helping cart French troops in. They're providing transport. They're providing intel. We've got a satellite capability and also a surveillance drone capability that the French don't have. But so far, there are no U.S. troops there, just as there are no U.S. troops in Syria.
WOODSWell, I think we should clarify that because I think there are U.S. Special Forces and U.S. training advisers that have been in Mali, have been in Mali for quite some time now...
SANGEROf course. Right.
WOODS...have been training...
SANGERBut those are trainers. Yeah.
WOODSRight. Have been training the Malian army, have been equipping the Malian army, and I think we have to understand that, you know, it is that Malian army that actually launched a coup about a year ago, right, that created this, like, downward spiral for the country, creating this vacuum. So the U.S.-backed forces essentially launched this coup and have created political havoc in the region, and the U.S. has continued to play a role behind the scenes.
REHMEmira Woods of the Institute for Policy Studies. Your calls when we come back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here's an email from Greta in Arlington who says, "We, the public, are poor for Secretary Clinton's botched opportunity to learn anything. I still want to know who told Susan Rice to deliver misinformation to the public when the correct narrative of what happened in Benghazi was already known." Indira.
LAKSHMANANWell, I think what Secretary Clinton testified to yesterday and has been said repeatedly by the administration is that even today they still don't know exactly what happened. Secretary Clinton said this under oath numerous times yesterday, and she was urging the senators to read the classified version of the Accountability Review Board report that they were all sent last month.
LAKSHMANANNow, unfortunately, we in the press only got the declassified version, so we don't know what's in that. But she as much as told them, when you read that classified version, you will see that there are still confusion and they're still unclear to us exactly what happened. So if even today, four months later, the best and the brightest in the U.S. intelligence community still don't know exactly what happened, remember, arrests have not been made.
LAKSHMANANThey still don't have a complete picture of what happened and why it happened. So to say that five days after that they were intentionally misleading, it seems, like if even four months later they still don't know exactly what happened, that, you know, there were conflicting reports.
LAKSHMANANNow, what's unclear is who, you know, were there a certain talking point that said something else and something was struck out of the talking points? And that's the part that we don't know.
REHMAll right. To Cleveland, Ohio. Good morning, James.
JAMESGood morning. Great show, Diane.
JAMESA friend of mine and I, we're actually trying to emulate you. But I just have a quick question to see if you or the panel had heard about an interview that Soledad O'Brien did with the congressman back in October, I believe, it was where they were talking about funding. The Congress has voted for no funding for the State Department even though they didn't say where the money was going, and the congressman's answer was well, we'll cut when we need to cut and we'll address the issue that come up when they come up. And I was wondering does anybody know what vote she has referred to?
REHMI think the answer is no.
LAKSHMANANI'm not familiar with that interview, but it's certainly true that the State Department has not gotten all the funding that it has asked for. That, you know, for many years, the State Department puts in a request for what it wants for its appropriation, and it has not gotten a full amount.
LAKSHMANANBut there's even been talk -- I mean, this is very technical, sort of wonkish Congress stuff. But there's been talk about having an authorization bill for the State Department of something they do annually for the Defense Department but they have not done for the State Department. So that -- there's talk of doing that.
SANGERYou know, the secretary yesterday clearly wanted to turn this back on Congress by saying, you didn't give us all the money we wanted...
SANGER...which is, you know, a time-honored Washington tradition when you are in such kind of testimony. But the bigger question, as we suggested at the beginning, is do you need to rethink the system under which you're relying on local governments when the local governments are unable to provide the protection they're required to under the Geneva Convention, as Indira...
LAKSHMANANThe Vienna Convention, yeah.
SANGERI'm sorry. That -- in the Vienna Convention, which is what the main convention for protecting diplomats, and that issue would require, if we decided as a country, that the military actually needed to take on this responsibility. You could do that, but it would require a huge amount of money and a redeployment of American military resources. It may actually be the sensible thing to go off and do. But that's the debate that needs to be join, not a question of whether or not you just spend more or less.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Dallas, Texas. John, you're on the air.
JOHNYes. If the State Department can't prioritize a call from the ambassadorial staff in a post-revolutionary Libya, why are we not on the same course as we were in the pre-9/11 days, you know, the days of Khobar Towers and the first bombing of the World Trade Centers and the Yemen warship that was bombed and the African embassies?
JOHNAnd we all just sort of regarded this, well, this is the price of leadership. You know, this condescending remark about, well, I get 1.4 million calls. You know, you've got to prioritize. You know, what does it matter that four people are dead? Well, you know, the ideology of an attack and the motives for the attack might have something to do with policy, with State Department policy.
LAKSHMANANWell, I mean, Clinton did open her remarks by saying she takes responsibility for what happened, and she has said that many times. And obviously, the accountability report, which you can read online -- it's available online, the declassified version that came out last month -- does raise a lot of questions about leadership at the State Department and a sort of tendency to husband resources because of the feeling of always being underfunded, that they were very careful about where they would put the money.
LAKSHMANANThey did place the responsibility at the assistant secretary level. They said that that's where the rubber meets the road. But the question -- I mean, just to correct one thing, she didn't say what does it matter that we have four Americans dead. On the contrary, she said, the problem was we have four American deads -- four Americans dead, so what does it matter what the cause was?
LAKSHMANANI think she said that in a moment of anger, I think, obviously because in the next breath she said, we need to find out why it happened and fix the reason for that. But I do think that this question of, you know, how do you prevent this from happening, you're talking about Khobar Towers. You mentioned a lot of cases. She brought up all of those cases yesterday.
LAKSHMANANAnd, you know, there -- the 1.43 million -- it's not calls but cables that come into the State Department, and they get read up through the bureaucracy. Obviously, no one person can read all of that. But, you know, Chris Stevens is known for having been someone who wanted to be out and about with the people who didn't want to be behind the barricades. So that was also something that was his choice as well.
REHMAll right. I want to ask you about Algeria because -- talk about a situation we still don't understand. What happened when terrorists took the hostages at an international gas complex? What do we know for sure, Emira?
WOODSWell, what we know for sure is that there's been an unfortunate and very high loss of life. People from at least eight countries were among those killed and, you know, as well as Algerians.
WOODSSo clearly, what you have is an extremist, you know, Mokhtar Belmokhtar who was seen as, you know, really a criminal, you know, almost like a mafia boss in the region but emerged under the banner of al-Qaida of the Islamic Maghreb but then distanced himself from that banner, went out on his own and essentially committed a tragic crime, allegedly to kind of combat French intervention in Mali.
WOODSSo he came out very much in favor of, you know, let's stand up against the French, the colonialist, the former colonial power coming in and intervening militarily in our region. And so, you know, what you had was a tragic incident, again, in a very oil-rich region that is prone then to greater opportunities where extremists can now take over with this notion of fighting the French, fighting the West and asserting their own sovereignty.
REHMBut do we understand why Algeria went alone to try to rescue those hostages, David?
SANGERYou know, the Algerians are extremely proud, a little bit headstrong, very concerned about their sovereignty and very determined, in the case of Islamic extremist uprisings here to make the point that if these things happen, whoever is responsible for them are just going to be all dead. And the concern that we would have here about the hostages and, you know, the debate that took place, you know, the Algerian response to this is, these guys were going to kill all these hostages fairly quickly anyway.
SANGERSo we didn't act in a big way. Whoever got out, we will have saved. And it's very difficult being so far away -- and, of course, this was in a very remote site -- to know whether the Algerian approach or something a little more delicate that might have been done by the French, the British or American Special Forces would've worked any better.
REHMNow, I gather, Emira, you're very concerned that this might just be the first of many attempts at Westerners, to get at Westerner, to hurt them, to kill them.
WOODSWell, I think that that's the tragedy here with an intervention in the region that's seen as a unilateral intervention from the French, a former colonial power. Remember, Algeria was sort of a strident revolutionary force to kick out the French just 50 years ago, you know, to demand their rights, to demand their independence. And what you have is an incredibly oil-rich region.
WOODSRemember, Algeria is, you know, top 20 in the list of oil importers for the United States, you know, and remains a vital source of oil and gas for the global economy. So, you know, there are many facilities throughout the region that could be prime targets if we continue really this kind of push to militarize regions, to militarize engagements with places like North Africa and West Africa. There could be more responses -- again, the unintended consequences that emerged out of those types of interventions.
REHMSo the question becomes, how should the U.S. be engaging with those regions, those areas where Westerners could be under assault, Indira?
LAKSHMANANWell, I mean, to continue on that thought where Emira left off, there's already a discussion of a risk premium on global oil and gas because of what's happened in Algeria and the fear that, you know, something like that might spread. I will say that...
REHMWhat do you mean by a risk premium?
LAKSHMANANWell, the question of whether it's going to affect prices because, you know, you have international companies. This was, you know, this was a joint-Algerian foreign operation in the remote Sahara area. And if you have Westerners and local people, Algerians at risk, both, I mean, it's a risk premium on producing oil and gas on these facilities. But I was going to say is that, you know, the United States, I think, is going to continue to take what is essentially a dual-track approach.
LAKSHMANANOn the one hand, they have their counterterrorism approach, which as we've discussed involves drones and involves intelligence and involves giving support to the French in various ways, trainers to the Malian forces, et cetera. And then there is the diplomatic approach, which was again something that on Capitol Hill was talked about yesterday, that Secretary Clinton kept trying to push the discussion back to, look, what happened in Libya is part of a larger problem we have throughout northern Africa, throughout the Arabian Peninsula. And she was talking about the need to win hearts and minds.
LAKSHMANANIt's an old expression, but the idea of trying to bring more money to aid, to diplomacy, to winning over people who want democracy, who don't want extremists coming in and cutting people's hands off. I mean, we heard a report this morning on NPR about, you know, a woman saying these people don't represent Islam. Cutting of hands, this has nothing to do with our understanding of Islam. So, you know, it's a matter of bringing those people into the tent.
SANGERYou know, from her first day as secretary, Secretary Clinton has faced this chicken-and-egg problem. On the one hand, you want to have more diplomatic engagement. Remember in the early debate on Afghanistan, it was a discussion of a diplomatic surge that would match the military surge. Now, why was Secretary Clinton arguing for 40,000 troops in Afghanistan instead of what the president decided on 30,000?
SANGERShe was arguing for a larger number because she thought that you needed that larger number to protect the diplomats if they're going to go further afield in Afghanistan. She didn't get it, and the result is that many of our diplomats have been called back in closer end.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Louisville, Ky. Hi there, Joe.
JOEHi, Diane. Thank you for letting my call come in.
JOEAnother beautiful day in the bluegrass down here.
JOEI wanted to make a point if I might. You know, Rand Paul is more or less a chip off his father's the old block, so to speak. He's an isolationist. He really doesn't want any kind of foreign policy or foreign entanglements at all. Nobody had a lot of chutzpa yesterday when he was trying to address down Hillary Clinton, saying he would fire her if he ever had a chance as a president to do such. But down here, there's a lot of people -- and I really hope that your national audience can understand this.
JOEThere's a lot of people here in Kentucky that believe -- and I know you don't like personal things said about people, personalities out there. But he's a small minded little man, who basically is a bomb thrower from the back benches from the Netherlands. And he's just back there throwing these things to try to get his rah-rahs from the far right wing. I think he's looking forward to 2016. And he's kind of like a more -- a little bit more intelligent Sarah Palin but not much more, so...
REHMJoe, thanks for your call. You know, it's interesting, we've just had this glorious inauguration here in Washington, D.C. after the 2012 election, and we are talking about 2016.
LAKSHMANANYeah. I have to chuckle about this. But I sat there myself in the Senate Foreign Relations hearing room yesterday and looked across the bench, many new members on that bench. Richard Lugar is gone. Many others are gone who'd sat there for a long time. John Kerry was gone because he's now going to probably have a walkover hearing today and be a shoo-in for secretary of state.
LAKSHMANANHe's so popular on his own committee that he's testifying in front of. And you had several people on that committee who either have national political ambitions. I count Rand Paul among there. Also, Marco Rubio is on that committee, definitely has national political ambitions, and, you know, John McCain, who ran a failed campaign obviously.
LAKSHMANANSo there is no questions that there are people there who are trying to make their name either, you know, new on this committee or new in Congress and who are looking at it, you know, as a platform and an opportunity to, you know, either align themselves with the administration or attack it, you know, in service of their future political ambitions.
LAKSHMANANAnd one very funny comment because both Democrats and Republicans were making allusions to the possibility of Clinton running for president in 2016, and one of them, Rep. Steve Chabot, a Republican on the House side, said, well, Madam Secretary, you know, I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. And then he paused and he said, mostly.
LAKSHMANANAnd everyone bursts out laughing. So...
REHMI heard that. I heard that. And here's a final email from Ida in Charlotte, N.C., who said, "Someone mentioned that security may be supplemented with outside contractors. What contractors? Isn't that more expensive? How much does that cost versus what the government itself could do?" Emira.
WOODSWell, Diane, Ida has a wonderful question because this private military contractors are not only potentially more costly but also, you know, there is some hidden cost with the human rights violations that have been already attributed to this private military contractors in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, you know, and so you have both questions of cost and questions of quality and effectiveness that have been raised. So I do think it's too easy to say, OK, that's the solution to this problem.
REHMEmira Woods -- she is with the Institute for Policy Studies -- David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent with The New York Times and author of "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power," and Indira Lakshmanan, senior correspondent covering foreign policy for Bloomberg News, thank you all.
WOODSThank you, Diane.
SANGERThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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