Recent events in Libya have once again splashed into major headlines in the United States after the US consulate in Benghazi was over run and four Americans were killed. Among the dead were US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and two of America’s quiet professionals, Former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Ty Woods.
Glen was a SOFREP team member, our resident Naval Special Warfare editor. Brandon was very close with Glen and had this to say to ABC news about his friend and fellow SEAL, “Glen was a superb and respected operator, a true quiet professional. Don’t feel sorry for him, he wouldn’t have it. He died serving with men he respected, protecting the freedoms we enjoy as Americans and doing something he loved. He was my best friend and one of the finest human beings I’ve ever known.”
While we mourn the loss, Brandon is correct. These were hard men who died living the life that they chose. They wouldn’t want us to feel bad, and certainly would not want our pity.
I was fortunate enough to meet Glen at a book signing that he and I did with Brandon earlier in the year. Even just knowing him as an acquaintance, my impression of Glen was that he was the real deal. Glen was also an example of a quiet professional. There was a part of his life that was public as he co-wrote the 21st Century Sniper with Brandon, but there was also a part of his life that was very private which he never spoke about publicly. Glen’s SOFREP biography was partial, and that is how it will remain.
The vicious murder of four Americans and the over-running of the US consulate reeks of conspiracy, a deal gone wrong, a sudden shift in allegiances, or simply a coordinated attack perpetrated by unknown players.
Once again, American foreign policy decisions are revealed as being fundamentally irrational on a number of levels. While our Soldiers actively fight Islamic extremists in Afghanistan, the State Department and other agencies support them in places like Libya and Syria.
As American Matthew Van Dyke, who we interviewed here on SOFREP, has stated, it is a relative minority of Libyans who are religious extremists. I would extend this argument across the Middle East in some ways, however, it is a highly influential minority with a varying levels of public sympathy, the groups of sympathizers being fairly large in some areas.
As long as people in the Middle East live in poverty and under autocratic rule, there will always be an appeal to extremist doctrines when every other ideology has failed.
While I respect Van Dyke’s informed and experienced opinion, I also feel the need to warn Americans. I routinely meet graduate students in Columbia University who believe that if they can just crack the code, if they can just institute the correct conditions, than American-style democracy will bubble up out of the ether.
This belief is contradicted by direct and recent experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this context, American realism needs to be subjected to careful scrutiny. Supporting Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists in the so-called Arab Spring may seem like cold strategic calculus needed to unseat dictators, but this policy decision is fundamentally insane.
Of the foreign fighters we squared off against during the height of the Iraqi insurgency, many came from Libya. Of those that came from Libya, the majority of them came from Benghazi.
From the Washington Times,
“Prior to President Barack Obama’s decision in March 2011 to support the Libyan rebel uprising and overthrow dictator Muammar Qaddafi, a report released by the U.S. Army’s Combating Terrorism Center at West Point entitled “Al-Qa’ida’s Foreign Fighters in Iraq: A First Look At The Sinjar Records” reviewed intelligence captured by coalition forces that included biographical data on over 700 records of foreign nationals that entered Iraq between August 2006 and 2007.
The report showed that an alarmingly disproportionate number of fighters entering Iraq to oppose the U.S.-led coalition presence there had been recruited from Libya, particularly the cities of Darnah and Benghazi, the present-day site where our embassy was attacked.”
These extremists were among those that America propped up in order to topple the Gaddafi regime. Sometimes the enemy of your enemy is still your enemy, not a friend that you can use in a convoluted divide-and-conquer strategy.
The killing of Glen, Ty, Sean, and Christopher appears to be a horrendous case of blowback.
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