It is heart-rending and instructive to watch Ambassador Christopher Steven’s video introducing himself to the Libyan people (above), writes Anne-Marie Slaughter, a former director of policy planning for the State Department:
That video provides the framework for thinking about policy responses to the savage attack on the consulate in Benghazi that took the lives of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans, and as many as 10 Libyans fighting to protect the consulate.
The U.S. must respond in a way that furthers Ambassador Stevens’ lifework rather than undermines it. He gave his life not only in America’s service, but also in the service, in his words, of building a Libya with the same kind of representative government that the U.S. enjoys.
The best way to further that goal is to help the Libyan government dramatically improve its own internal security, to establish an interior ministry and a police force capable of stopping extremist violence against Sufi tombs, foreign consulates and fellow Libyans. The U.S. should also call out Saudis and Qataris who are funding Salafist networks and institutions within Libya.
Calls for more active U.S. intervention to help the Syrian opposition will now be met with arguments that our efforts to help the Libyans were repaid by the killing of our ambassador. In fact, however, the lesson of this tragedy should be exactly the opposite. The instability and violence in Libya is due to many factors, but one of them is the difficulty of reestablishing order after months of conflict in a country awash with guns. That is precisely why it is important to stop conflict from breaking out if at all possible and to end it as quickly and decisively as possible once it has begun. The longer the Syrian conflict goes on, the more weight and power extremist factions on both sides will gain.