American Embassy Security – Benghazi

Donald Blinken (Ambassador to Hungary, 1994-1998)


By far, the best article I have read on what is involved in securing our embassies overseas appeared in the Sunday, November 18 issue of The  New York Times, entitled “Walling Off the World,” by Robert F. Worth.  I know of no discussion that so clearly and accurately describes the issues and policy choices.

With respect to the Benghazi tragedy, Mr. Worth gets it exactly right in the following statement:

In the rush to assign blame after Stevens’s death, it was largely overlooked that Stevens, as the top-ranking diplomat in Libya at that point, was the one responsible for making final decisions about what kind of security was appropriate there, how to use it and what qualified as safe and unsafe.  He decided to make the fateful trip from the embassy in Tripoli back to Benghazi in September.  That does not mean he was reckless.  He knew the situation there far better than any of the people who have commented on it since his death.  He knew that Libya’s government was both weak and politically sensitive; he had to weigh his own safety against the risk of looking like an occupier.

Those of us who have served as ambassadors know that Mr. Worth, in describing the ambassador’s role, is exactly on target.  Unfortunately, the public is being misled by politicians of all stripes who suggest that all decisions made on the ground are dictated by Washington.