A Short Guide to the Benghazi Issue: What is it Really All About?

"Where do They come from, those whom we so much dread,
As on our dearest location falls the chill
Of their crooked wing...." --W.H. Auden, "Crisis," (1940)

The attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the murder of four Americans there has become a huge issue. There are many stories and rumors that are still being debated and more information is coming out. What I’m going to try to do here is to analyze the enduring themes raised by these tragic events.

Why Do They Hate Us?

There is a debate over the causes of terrorism and anti-Americanism in the world. One possible view is that the principal problem is that of genuine conflict. The adversaries hold certain ideological ideas—say, revolutionary Islamism—to which American society and policies are antithetical. The collision (as with Communism, Nazism, and aggressive Japanese militarism in earlier decades) is inevitable. The United States is inconveniencing the totalitarians both because of what it does (policies) and because of what it represents (freedom, democracy, capitalism).

The other view currently dominates many Western academic “experts,” politicians, mass media, and even governments. That concept is that the hatred is our own fault. We have done things in the past—which require apologies—and are doing things in the present that makes people angry at America who otherwise would be friendly.

An exception is made for a “tiny minority of extremists,” mainly a code word for al-Qaida, but the more sophisticated argument is that such people would have no following if America handled things properly.

Thus, in this case, if American facilities are attacked in Cairo and Benghazi it must have been something America did wrong, to wit, an insulting video made by an immigrant from the Middle East about Islam....

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