The full-spectrum fluid War on Terror continues apace. The contest is between autocrats, Islamists, and liberals. We can defeat the autocrats, but we need the liberals to defeat the Islamists. But the liberals cannot compete with the Islamists without our help. Maybe Ambassador Stevens's death will galvanize the Obama administration to intensify American investment in peace-building in Libya, perhaps with COIN.
Chris Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty, and Tyrone Woods died in the line of duty in service to their country. Rest In Peace.
21JAN15 add: State Department Accountability Review Board (ARB) for Benghazi report.
Regarding the wider series of attacks on Western targets, it doesn't take a lot of insight to understand that the enemy understands himself to be engaged in a total clash of civilizations. His world order is incompatible with the world order we champion (or used to champion) that includes the UN and other Western nations and organizations. The fact that we don't want a clash of civilizations with him won't stop his clash with us.
The enemy doesn't mind war. War is change. War is the creative destruction needed to eliminate the competition. The enemy's greatest objection is to our kind of peace, a world order based on fundamentals that are incompatible with his fundamentals. For example, all of Operation Iraqi Freedom is labeled by most people as a "war" (I've done it as lazy shorthand, too). In fact, the war ended when we achieved regime change. However, the post-war in Iraq has been far bloodier and costlier than the war because the terrorists are most threatened by our post-war peace-building construction.
The heart of the War on Terror is not the war, but rather the competition to define the new order that emerges from the destruction of the old order. Bush understood that. Many leaders in the West do not.
Sergio Vieira de Mello, who headed the 1st post-war UN delegation to Iraq and was quickly assassinated, rejected US security in order to distinguish the UN's constructive role from the US mission. He didn't understand that Western construction of post-Saddam Iraq was the most urgent threat to the enemy in his clash of civilizations. I wonder if Ambassador Stevens, despite his extensive personal experience with Libya, made the same mistake as Vieira de Mello in believing his mission of peace would protect him. I wonder if Stevens failed to understand the particular peace he sought for Libya is the thing that the enemy is most dedicated to killing in his clash of civilizations against us.