Much of U.S. foreign policy is a mess. The new movie 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is ultimately about the mess we helped make in Libya.
But who made it?
When Ambassador Christopher Stevens’ lifeless body was dragged through the streets of Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, it obviously happened on President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s watch.
This movie has been touted as anti-Obama and anti-Hillary. It most certainly is.
In 13 Hours, we see private contractors, all ex-military, as the only people available, willing and capable of saving the ambassador and other Americans. They are repeatedly told to stand down by their superiors. As they guard a secret CIA compound full of Americans from extremist militia groups, they are offered no U.S. military assistance, despite repeated requests.
Yet, despite being prevented from saving Ambassador Stevens, these contractors still save many American lives.
This movie, however glamorized or Michael-Bay-ized, is their story. They are the heroes.
Who are the villains? Radical militia groups and…
The U.S. government. But it’s not just the Obama administration.
The events that unfolded in the hours before and during the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks show a deplorable mishandling of the situation, and are no doubt a primary focus.
But that tragedy is contained within a much larger one. The characters’ comment on the mindlessness and hopelessness of the situation they find themselves in throughout the film.
The entire, everyday environment in Libya is tragic.
13 Hours begins by outlining the United States’ role in deposing Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and the instability and chaos that followed. President Obama, in a victorious tone, declared Gaddafi’s demise an end to a “long and painful chapter for the people of Libya” and looked forward to a “new and democratic Libya” (these clips are in the film).
Everyone in 13 Hours, American, Libyan or otherwise, is smack in the middle of a warzone. We see American weapons being sold on the streets of Benghazi and exchanging hands with God knows who. “You can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys,” says one American contractor.
Again, this is the mess that is post-Gaddafi Libya.
Obama and Clinton were major advocates of Libyan regime change. Clinton still defends it, calling it “smart power at its best.” Reason’s Nick Gillespie asks, “What could dumb power possibly look like?”
But Obama and Clinton’s eagerness to intervene in Libya in 2011 was mirrored by many prominent Republicans, including past presidential nominees and some running for the White House this year.
Republican U.S. Senators John McCain, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Mark Kirk penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “The Promise of a Pro-America Libya” in October 2011, in which they stated, “Americans have had their disagreements over the U.S. intervention in Libya, but the sources of those disagreements are now fading into history.”
A year later, Libya Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans were murdered on the streets of Benghazi.
The foreign policy disagreements McCain, Rubio and Graham said were fading into history are still front and center in this election. Obama and Clinton still tout U.S. military involvement in Libya as victories. Clinton believes these types of decisions make her a strong leader.
But hawkish Republicans like Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and others essentially agree with Clinton. Their criticisms of the Obama administration concerning Libya are about how he handled it, not whether America should’ve deposed Gaddafi in the first place.
National Review’s David French notes that, “In every conceivable way, 13 Hours reinforces the view… that deposing dictators leads to chaos… that democracy isn’t coming to the Middle East in our lifetimes.”
Republican hawks and some conservatives want 13 Hours to be about an inept Obama administration and the gross incompetence of the woman who wants to be our next president. It is about these things.
It’s also a grand indictment of Washington’s stubborn bipartisan foreign policy consensus that regime change somehow produces more positives than negatives, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
That negative evidence overwhelms every character in 13 Hours. If moviegoers can watch without partisan goggles, it should overwhelm them too.
13 Hours isn’t just a slam against Obama and Hillary—but the Republicans who share their foreign policy.