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Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy and His 'Expeditionary Diplomacy' in Benghazi

The Benghazi Accountability Review Board's focus on four officials is unrelated to the sequence of decisions that resulted in the vulnerable state of our security posture in Libya.
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If you have the flu, you already know that you have a fever or aches or congestion. You don't go to the doctor to confirm that you have symptoms -- you already know that. You seek out care to identify and neutralize what's actually making you sick.

The Benghazi Accountability Review Board (ARB) told us what we already knew -- that we were sick -- what it didn't do is tell us why.

A new report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform sums it up best saying "the ARB fell short because it was unwilling to examine closely the highest level of the Department's leadership and organizational structure to identify the source of the decision to run the Benghazi mission on an ad hoc basis. Indeed, it was a particularly ill-defended outpost of what the Department has labeled 'expeditionary diplomacy.'"

In testimony from May before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Eric Nordstrom, the former Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli stated "it [the ARB] stops short of the very people that need to be asked those questions. And that's the Under Secretary of Management [Patrick Kennedy] and above... Ambassador Pickering said, he has decided to fix responsibility on the Assistant Secretary level and below..."

The ARB's unwillingness to pursue accountability from above the Assistant Secretary level, a much larger component contributing to the failures of Benghazi was completely and inexcusably bypassed.

So what is "expeditionary diplomacy"?

Eric Boswell, the former Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, says it was a term coined in the wake of September 11, 2001, where "the United States Government made a decision that it would operate embassies in places where in my previous incarnation [the 1990's] we never would have been, specifically war zones, war zones where this is active combat and U.S. troops for that matter."

The former Director of the Diplomatic Security Service Scott Bultrowicz explains "when you talk about expeditionary diplomacy and you talk about deploying to these types of places, there has to be a recognition that there is a threat that it could happen, especially if you're not going into a purpose-built facility where you have all of the resources and manpower that you do in Kabul or Iraq."

Lee Lohman, the Executive Director of the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau testified that "I'm not sure we've ever gone into something in such an expeditionary way as this [Benghazi] by ourselves without having military along with us."

Designating the mission in Benghazi as "expeditionary diplomacy" also meant it was "temporary" and therefore subject to a temporary staffing and security model that was inadequate and insufficient -- and everyone knew it.

The ARB accurately stated that "its 'non-status' as a temporary, residential facility made allocation of resources for security and personnel more difficult..." Disappointingly, the ARB failed to scrutinize the symptom itself, ignoring the significant of the Department's leadership and structure that maintained the Benghazi mission as temporary "expeditionary diplomacy."

Documents and testimony reveal that this temporary designation was authorized by Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy. In December of 2012, Kennedy approved the extension of the Benghazi special mission but rather than designating it as a full consulate, it was a "temporary, residential facility."

Boswell described Kennedy's role as "definitely involved in decisions involving -- lots of decision about Benghazi. He's the one, after all, that authorized, gave the go-ahead for the mission in the first place and extended the mission. He approved the extension of the temporary mission.

Gregory Hicks, the former Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy Tripoli acknowledged the dire situation saying "it was expeditionary diplomacy...we were doing our best with the resources we had...when we got there, we arrived in Libya, we didn't have the security resources that we needed..."

Extending the Benghazi mission as a temporary facility compromised the security of the compound and exposed the American diplomats who worked inside of it to unquantifiable risk. This "expeditionary diplomacy" designation precluded the outpost from receiving the security and manpower it needed in what was already recognized as a volatile and dangerous region.

One year later, there are still more questions than answers. The ARB's focus on four officials is unrelated to the sequence of decisions that resulted in the vulnerable state of our security posture in Libya. The Administration's idea of accountability and transparency has once again been reduced to window-dressing propaganda.

They know they're sick, but they have no interest in treating the symptoms.

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