September 13, 2012

Benghazi dispatch

This is probably the best analysis I've seen so far of the Benghazi bloodshed.

What's missing from a lot of the on-air commentary -- and Mitt Romney's bellicose attack on President Obama for sending "mixed messages" that he believes spurred the attack -- is the fact that the world, and the Middle East, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, is a "complicated and, at times, confounding."

In-depth reporting by, among others, Rachel Maddow makes it plain that there may be a lot of factors behind the devastating attack besides an obscure, really bad, blasphemous film: Islamic extremists, frustrated, angry youth idled by the slack post-revolutionary economy, and general instability in a nation that's trying to figure out its own future.

For my money, this paragraph gets to the heart of it:

No specific group claimed responsibility for the attack, which was well orchestrated and involved heavy weapons. It is thought to be the work of the same Salafi, ultra-religious groups who have perpetrated similar assaults in Benghazi. They are religious, authoritarian groups who justify their actions through very selective, corrupt, and ultimately self-serving interpretations of Islam. Under Qaddafi, they kept quiet. In the early days of the revolution some of them claimed that fighting Qaddafi was un-Islamic and conveniently issued a fatwa demanding full obedience to the ruler. This is Libya’s extreme right. And, while much is still uncertain, Tuesday’s attack appears to have been their attempt to escalate a strategy they have employed ever since the Libyan revolution overthrew Colonel Qaddafi’s dictatorship. They see in these days, in which the new Libya and its young institutions are still fragile, an opportunity to grab power. They want to exploit the impatient resentments of young people in particular in order to disrupt progress and the development of democratic institutions

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