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Don't Just 'Do Something'

Author: Micah Zenko, Senior Fellow
October 9, 2012
Foreign Policy


Because of the September 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans, Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA are reportedly developing "perhaps a dozen or more" target packages consisting of terrorist encampments and individuals suspected of being involved. A senior U.S. official said that "highly pre-decisional...options are being teed up," should President Obama request them (he reportedly has not), though the official warned, "[I] don't think that a final list of who was involved is solid." Given that U.S. surveillance drones were flying over Libya well before the Benghazi attack and have been conducting a "stepped-up, more focused search" for perpetrators since then, it is certain that America's spies and special operators will find targets -- perhaps as few as ten individuals -- against which Obama can authorize an attack.

As is true with any terrorist attack against American citizens, military bases, or diplomatic sites, Obama faces tremendous pressure to "do something" in response, especially as Republicans cite the president's supposedly weak foreign policy as a cause of the attacks. While the president vowed that "we will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done," it is highly unlikely that justice will involve capturing suspects, interrogating them, and trying them in U.S. courts. Instead, given Obama's unprecedented reliance on using lethal force against terrorist suspects, rather than placing U.S. soldiers at risk to capture them, the suspected Benghazi perpetrators will find themselves in the crosshairs of drone-launched Hellfire missiles.

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