Clearly written—and clearly angry—chronicle of the 2012 terrorist assault on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
Co-authors Burton (Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent, 2008) and Katz (Relentless Pursuit: The DSS and the Manhunt for the Al-Qaeda Terrorists, 2002, etc.) bring their insiders’ perspectives to bear on this disturbing incident, clarifying the facts for lay readers. They focus on the State Department’s little-known Diplomatic Security Service (DS), whose agents wound up in the cross hairs of a jihadist attack in the post-revolutionary chaos of Libya’s second-largest city. The authors suggest that DS attracts both SEAL-style operators and idealistic would-be diplomats, yet the light footprint required by “expeditionary diplomacy” limits the agents’ abilities to respond to threats, despite their training and resolve. The narrative presents a gripping chronological account of the attack. Readers will clearly comprehend how the DS agents were put into an impossible, life-threatening situation with few of the ready assets associated with American power. As the vicious attack intensified, the ambassador and a staffer were killed; the agents found themselves “having a terrible time digesting the fact that those they were charged to protect were now dead and missing.” Meanwhile, an elite CIA paramilitary team mounted a rescue attempt from their own not-so-secret base, which itself then came under siege. “The CIA never seemed to think through the geopolitical ramifications of its Benghazi outpost being discovered,” write the authors. Despite occasional vitriol, the authors do not blame Benghazi on the Obama administration: “The true story of the Benghazi attack is not one of failure or cover-up.” Instead, they contrast the DS agents’ skill and valor against a bureaucratic culture of confused timidity and the sense that America’s crisis-management resources are spread dangerously thin, especially in the Arab world.
Authoritative account of a still-controversial spasm of anti-American violence.