Mathis: Chris Stevens' death is a tragedy, but violence is not the answer

A Libyan man investigates the inside of the A Libyan man investigates the inside of the U.S. Consulate, after an attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, Thursday. (Sept. 13, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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First things first. Chris Stevens’ death is doubly tragic — not simply because he died in service, but also because he was killed in a city, Benghazi, that he had previously worked with Libyan rebels to liberate.

But there’s worse news: Libya now could become yet one more country where the United States regularly drops missiles on suspected terrorists, part of a never-ending Whac-a-mole game that may not be in our country’s best interestsFirst things first. Stevens’ death is doubly tragic — not simply because he died in service, but also because he was killed in a city, Benghazi, that he had previously worked with Libyan rebels to liberate.

But there’s worse news: Libya now could become yet one more country where the United States regularly drops missiles on suspected terrorists, part of a never-ending Whac-a-mole game that may not be in our country’s best interests.

There is precedent: In 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried blowing up a U.S.-bound aircraft by igniting his underwear: He’d reportedly been radicalized in Yemen and Great Britain. At the time, I wrote that “there are — quite rightly — no suggestions the U.S. invade Yemen or the United Kingdom.”

I wasn’t quite right: We didn’t invade Yemen, but the United States has surely gone to war there — as of June, according to the New America Foundation, the Obama administration had carried out 28 drone strikes and 13 air strikes in that country, killing more than 700 Yemenis. Civilian deaths include dozens of innocent brothers, sisters and children mistakenly killed by U.S. bombs.

The result? Growing anti-American radicalization among Yemenis. Our attempts to kill every potential terrorist in the world could, ironically, lead to more terrorist acts against us. Once again, we’ll respond to a bad situation by making it worse.

The problem: Mitt Romney and Republicans don’t offer a better option.

Romney on Wednesday called for more “American leadership,” but didn’t detail how he would have handled the protests differently, or more safely. In truth, his foreign policies would be similar to Obama’s, only with more unhelpful chest beating.

Stevens’ death was tragic, an act of evil. Given our recent history, it seems likely America’s leaders will compound that tragedy with needless mistakes.

Joel Mathis is a writer in Philadelphia. .

There is precedent: In 2009, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried blowing up a U.S.-bound aircraft by igniting his underwear: He’d reportedly been radicalized in Yemen and Great Britain. At the time, I wrote that “there are — quite rightly — no suggestions the U.S. invade Yemen or the United Kingdom.”

I wasn’t quite right: We didn’t invade Yemen, but the United States has surely gone to war there — as of June, according to the New America Foundation, the Obama administration had carried out 28 drone strikes and 13 air strikes in that country, killing more than 700 Yemenis. Civilian deaths include dozens of innocent brothers, sisters and children mistakenly killed by U.S. bombs.

The result? Growing anti-American radicalization among Yemenis. Our attempts to kill every potential terrorist in the world could, ironically, lead to more terrorist acts against us. Once again, we’ll respond to a bad situation by making it worse.

The problem: Mitt Romney and Republicans don’t offer a better option.

Romney on Wednesday called for more “American leadership,” but didn’t detail how he would have handled the protests differently, or more safely. In truth, his foreign policies would be similar to Obama’s, only with more unhelpful chest beating.

Stevens’ death was tragic, an act of evil. Given our recent history, it seems likely America’s leaders will compound that tragedy with needless mistakes.

Joel Mathis is a writer in Philadelphia.

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