The Blog

An Unlikely Benghazi Tale Unravels

3:31 PM, Oct 31, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

A reader writes in: 

I've been struck over the past few days over the extent to which statements from Defense Department officials, whether on the record or on background, have holes in their logic so wide that one could drive a truck through them.  Take, for example, this quote from a 'senior defense official' on Foxnews.com this morning

"While some may think that armed drones could have made a difference in Benghazi, that's altogether unclear," a senior defense official tells Fox News. "You need good intelligence to drive the use of armed drones. It's not like you can just send hellfire missiles into a relatively crowded area when you don't know precisely where the enemy is."

Gee, if only there had been, say, a former Navy SEAL on the roof of the building under attack, using a laser range finder to communicate to higher headquarters precise map coordinates (which, if he had standard-issue gear, would be accurate to within one meter) of the enemy positions!  And even if that had not been the case, there is always the option of using fixed wing jets to perform what is called a 'show of force:' a low-altitude high-speed pass meant to intimidate the enemy and indicate the presence of American airpower over the battlefield.  Due to tight rules of engagement, this tactic is employed virtually every single day in Afghanistan (and likely much more frequently than that.)

Another example is Secretary Panetta's infamous attempt at writing military doctrine with his statements to the press:

"The basic principle is that you don't deploy forces into harm's way without knowing what's going on; without having some real-time information about what's taking place, and as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation."

This remark seemed to clash with something I had read before.  And indeed, one can find in Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1: Warfighting the following passage on pages 86 and 87: 

"We must have the moral courage to make tough decisions in the face of uncertainty--and to accept full responsibility for those decisions--when the natural inclination would be to postpone the decision pending more complete information.  To delay action in an emergency because of incomplete information shows a lack of moral courage.  We do not want to make rash decisions, but we must not squander opportunities while trying to gain more information.  Finally, since all decisions must be made in the face of uncertainty and since every situation is unique, there is no perfect solution to any battlefield problem.  Therefore, we should not agonize over one."

Surely this doctrine has been developed and maintained with the approval of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Recent Blog Posts