Why Didn`t Marines Shoot Embassy Attackers?

Many are shocked, again, that the recent attacks on the American Consulate in Benghazi and the Embassy in Cairo, were not resisted by American personnel.  There is a good answer to that. 

For instance, many on the Right are up in arms.  Local radio station KSFO was shocked that U.S. Marines did not shoot down the attackers in both cases and the American Thinker was also shocked.

American Thinker September 12, 2012 by Lee DeCovnick

What`s Really Going On In Cairo And Benghazi Attacks?

Why didn`t the US Marines use the necessary force to defend the Cairo and Benghazi diplomats? Something smells wrong about these narratives. Even after the Benghazi consulate came under “intense fire,”our Marines should have had the firepower and training to deal with the situation. Did the Obama State Department reduce the Marine forces to unacceptable levels? Were they ordered to stand down?

While many are concerned about the coordinated nature of the attacks and public demonstrations, it should not be a surprise to anyone that there was little or no resistance to the attacks.  Because it has always been Department of State (DOS) policy not to actively resist an attack on an American diplomatic mission. 

The security philosphy of the DOS is to counter attacks by architecture; walls, fences, hardened doors and windows. Then if that does not work, move to non-lethal weapons, pretty much limited to tear gas. And if that fails, then retreat to a secure room, supposedly entry-proof and theoretically fire-proof.

The reasoning behind this: it is quite common for unarmed mobs of demonstrators organized specifically by hostile political groups, mostly Communist or Islamist, to over-run American diplomatic missions and act as cover for other attacks.  Frequently these attacks are coordinated with hostile local governments and intelligence agencies, the KGB in the bad old days, and the MOIS or others today.

For this reason, the security staff in Benghazi, probably pretty small, did not fight back when it was most opportune. 

This passivity is not in any manner required or the only option.  American missions abroad also have a signifcant armed presence. 

First there is the Regional Security Officer (RSO) and his staff of Assistant Regional Security Officers (ARSO) who are drawn from the cadre of Special Agents in the Diplomatic Security Service, part of the DOS.  They are armed and have the weapons to actively resist an attack or an attempt to over-run the mission by an organized mob.

The RSO and ARSOs also manage a detachment of Marine Security Guards(MSG), U.S. Marines specially selected for maturity, to execute security functions within the mission compound.  They man entry posts, patrol the grounds, and secure classified information.  They are not well armed, mostly the standard M-9 pistol and shotguns.  Usually they are not issued any M-16 variants or any heavier weapons. 

However, security outside the mission grounds are the responsibility of either contract security personnel hired at the direction of the RSO or by the host country.  These guards are notoriously unreliable and are mostly for show.  Their only significant duties are maintaining access to the gates and doors in the outer mission wall or fence for routine purposes, such as keeping the line of visitors in order.  They are usually only armed with pistols.  Consequently they offer little or no resistance to any attack, armed or not.

Of course governments, terrorist groups and intelligence agencies know this and consider an American diplomatic mission to be a soft and easy target.  Even before the attack on our Embassy in Tehran and after, it was DOS policy and has resulted in continuous attacks on our missions as well as the obvious deaths, loss of classified information and political humiliation.

Now, one does not want every demonstration in front of an American mission to result in the shooting of a few demonstrators pour encourage les autres.  It would be bad PR.

However, the policy of rolling over and playing dead has not worked. The recent attacks in Benghazi and Cairo show that passivity does not work. 

It is time to adopt a more aggressive security stance:

First, actually holding the host nation responsible for preventing attacks and demonstrations from nearing or breaching mission outer security. 

Second, it is time to authorize an aggressive response by the mission security team, meaining the RSO staff and MSG detachment to aggressively resist any penetration of the outer perimeter of the mission grounds.  Once a hostile group, either armed or not, enter the grounds, aggressive use of non-lethal weapons, including tear gas, pepper spray, and less-than-lethal rounds such as rubber or plastic bullets, baton rounds, etc.

However, once it is clear that non/less lethal is not succeeding in preventing or repelling an attack—armed or not, as an unarmed mob has burned down American missions before—aggressive use of an armed response should be used.

After a few incidents, the objective lesson will be learned by the rent-a-mob types and it will force the intelligence agencies and terrorist groups to end the easy use of mobs to achieve or assist in their schemes. 

While I do not know how aggressively the staff at the Benghazi consulate resisted the mob and the coordinated attacks, there is a good chance that when it became apparent that the mob attack was escalating to an armed attack, the lack of security staff and sufficient armament was a factor in the eventual fire and deaths. 

It is also not apparent that there was a secure fire-proof room there—unlikely, since the staff was attempting to flee the mission compound when they were killed. 

Reports are confusing, some stating that the deseased died of smoke inhalation, others stating that they were killed by a rocket attack on a mission vehicle.

But in the end, a more aggressive response to the initial mob attack would have countered the attempt to burn down the mission, which was coordinated with the armed attack. 

“Weapons” should be the new watch words for American diplomatic missions.  It will save American lives, which are much more important than those of a Third World rent-a-mob.