The Corner

The Panetta Doctrine

The secretary of defense in his best grown-up voice says:

“(The) basic principle is that you don’t deploy forces into harm’s way without knowing what’s going on; without having some real-time information about what’s taking place,” Panetta told Pentagon reporters. “And as a result of not having that kind of information, the commander who was on the ground in that area, Gen. Ham, Gen. Dempsey and I felt very strongly that we could not put forces at risk in that situation.”

It seems obvious that Panetta is trying protect Obama from responsibility for the administration’s Benghazi response. I don’t think that works. The decision to outsource the call is still a presidential decision. 

But there are two problems bigger problems with the Panetta doctrine. First, Panetta says they didn’t have real-time information. Uh, if having a live video feed and real-time reports from assets on the ground for hours doesn’t count as real-time information, what does? And if, as rumors suggest, the drones monitoring the situation were armed, the idea that the administration was trying to avoid some kind of “black hawk down” situation seems incomprehensible. 

Which brings us to the second, I think bigger, problem with the Panetta doctrine. If the circumstances in Libya didn’t meet the “enough information” threshold for a rescue attempt or some other form of intervention, then what does? And, note, Panetta & Co. make it sound as if the decision to let the Americans on the scene twist in the wind was sort of a no-brainer, not a difficult decision. So what happened in Libya didn’t even come close to the threshold for intervention. 

What does that mean? Well, it seems to me that any embassy or consulate subjected to a surprise attack will likely catch the administration off guard. That’s why they call them “surprise attacks,” after all. According to the Panetta doctrine, the very essence of what makes a surprise attack a surprise attack likely precludes any commitment of U.S. forces to repel it. The message to our diplomats and troops: You’re on your own. The message to terrorists: As long as you keep your attacks minimally confusing, you win.  

That’s outrageous. 

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, will be released on April 24.

Most Popular

World

On Trade, No One Is Waiting for Washington

President Donald Trump’s flips and flops on trade are now as ubiquitous as his 5:00 a.m. tweets. Many predicted that trade-expansion efforts would come to a standstill and world commerce would suffer amidst all the uncertainty. Instead, the precise opposite has happened. In the last few months, it’s become ... Read More
National Security & Defense

Trump’s Syria Quandary

President Trump raised eyebrows recently when he ended a tweet lauding the airstrikes he’d ordered against chemical-weapons facilities in Syria with the words “mission accomplished.” The phrase, of course, became infamous in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, when President Bush used it in a speech ... Read More
U.S.

Confirm Pompeo

What on earth are the Democrats doing? President Trump has nominated CIA director Mike Pompeo, eminently qualified by any reasonable standard, to be America’s 70th secretary of state. And yet the Senate Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, have perverted the advice and consent clause of the Constitution into a ... Read More
PC Culture

People Are Losing Their Minds Over Starbucks

We can all easily imagine circumstances in which a manager of a coffee shop or restaurant might properly call the police to ask them to remove loiterers. These are places of business. There’s nothing wrong in principle with calling the cops on non-customers who are taking up space. And there’s nothing wrong ... Read More
PC Culture

The Dark Side of the Starbucks Stand-Down

By now the story is all over America. Earlier this month, two black men entered a Starbucks store in Philadelphia. They were apparently waiting for a friend before ordering — the kind of thing people do every day — and one of the men asked to use the restroom. A Starbucks employee refused, saying the restroom ... Read More