Nearly four years after the deadly attack on a diplomatic compound in Libya left four Americans dead, troubling new details have emerged about Marines who stood ready to respond but were left in limbo as top U.S. officials debated whether they should carry weapons or wear uniforms.
A Marine platoon commander told the Select Committee on Benghazi that he insisted that his men carry weapons into the hostile situation despite “some talk” from U.S. officials over whether they should. The Marine also said they were told to change into and out of their uniforms four times before taking off in their C-130, according to a new 800-page report released in late June.
This is absurd.
The very thought of sending Marines into an already fatal situation without their weapons is unacceptable. And the back-and-forth over the Marines’ uniforms also reveals a dismaying, high-level episode of indecisiveness that idled troops at a time that called for swift action.
The tragic situation in Benghazi that left a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans dead called for resolute leadership. The State Department did not deliver.
As leader of the department at the time, Hillary Clinton has to shoulder some of that failure. Perhaps too much was left to State’s senior diplomats and advisers. If she is elected president, she becomes commander in chief and will be expected to do as the title holds: Command.
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But these new revelations will raise concerns about her ability to take charge in combat situations. As the leader of the nation’s armed forces, she will have to understand the rules of engagement before sending any service member into harm’s way. She can’t do that critical job if thinking only like a diplomat. She also must be able to think like a commander and place her trust in military leaders to advise her of on-the-ground realities and the appropriate responses.
She still has much to prove when it comes to leading Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen into combat situations.