It ultimately comes down to a question of responsibility. There was clearly a tragic set of circumstances in 2012, in which a number of key American personnel in Libya, including ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed in an assault on the US consulate in Benghazi. The political fallout is still being felt – Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State at the time, will continue to be haunted by the events of that night, both politically and personally.
In many ways we can draw a parallel with events in Somalia in 1993. When Americans see these events happen, there’s a sense that we – Americans – send our envoys out into the world, full of innocence and goodwill, and look what happens: they get met with death and disaster and complete ingratitude. That leads to anger, frustration and xenophobia against foreigners for their lack of gratitude for American largesse.
That, I agree, seems totally naïve – but it’s important to recognise that this is possibly a sentiment which originates in those states in the middle of the country which have very little engagement with the rest of the world and whose citizens look at all or most expenditure on US foreign policy as wasted money anyway.
I think what you’re seeing is a clear division within American society over Benghazi which breaks down more fundamentally into a disagreement about what America should be engaged with in the world, and the extent to which America should be engaged in the world.
Congress has had a series of investigations into this, and so far Hillary Clinton has been exonerated of any personal blame. It’s important to remember that this story broke in the weeks leading up to the presidential election in 2012 – and during that time, Hillary Clinton did the honourable thing, and threw herself under the bus to protect her then boss, President Barack Obama, from direct blame.