The partisan political theater, of course, was top-notch. Rand Paul’s declaration that he would have fired Hillary Clinton; her angry rebuttal of Ron Johnson’s insistence that the administration misled the American people about the Benghazi attack; John McCain’s continued – and legitimate – outrage at the slapdash security the State Department provided for its employees.
Amid the posturing, though, ran a separate question: what strategy, if any, does the United States have to counter the militant groups running rampant across North and West Africa? Clinton herself summed up the sad state of play during her tense exchange with McCain.
“We’ve got to get our act together,” she said.
While the attention of American politicians has rightly focused on the safety of American diplomats, the key players in battling Africa’s jihadists are local leaders and security forces. The record of the United States and its allies in training security forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is checkered at best. Africa will be yet another test.
Ten days after French forces intervened in Mali, a familiar pattern is emerging in the West African nation. In a telephone interview, Peter Tinti, an American journalist, described how residents of the town of Diabaly were “ecstatic” after French air strikes drove jihadists from the town.
“They wanted to talk about the idolatry of French air power,” Tinti told me, referring to the accuracy of strikes that destroyed Islamist trucks without leveling nearby houses. “As far as I know, there has not been an official civilian casualty.”