On CBS “Face the Nation” Sunday, Former defence Secretary Robert Gates knocked critics of the Obama administration’s response to the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, saying many have a “cartoonish view of military capabilities.”
“We don’t have a ready force standing by in the Middle East, despite all the turmoil that’s going on — with planes on strip alert, troops ready to deploy at a moment’s notice — and so getting somebody there in a timely way would have been very difficult, if not impossible,” Gates told interviewer Bob Schieffer.
Gates, a Republican appointee of former President George W. Bush, served as Secretary of defence from 2006 to 2011. He offered his own views on the September 2012 attack and what his response may have been.
“Based on everything I’ve read, people really didn’t know what was going on in Benghazi,” he said.
In the aftermath, some say that troops or a fighter jet should have been sent over the consulate to scare off the attackers — although one expert recently pointed out that both options were hindered because of long travel times.
“Given the number of surface to air missiles that have disappeared from [former Libyan leader] Qaddafi’s arsenals,” Gates reasoned, “I would not have approved sending an aircraft, a single aircraft, over Benghazi under those circumstances.”
Gates said that U.S. military forces are noted for “planning and preparation before going into harm’s way,” but in the chaos of the attack, “there just wasn’t any time to do that.”
“To send in some small number of special forces or other troops in without knowing what the environment is, without knowing what the threat is, without having any intelligence in terms of what is actually going on on the ground, I think would’ve been very dangerous. Personally, I would not have approved that.”
He brushed off the idea of getting troops there quickly, calling it a “sort of a cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces.” … These things always look a lot simpler in retrospect,” he added.
You can watch the full interview below:
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