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A weak diplomatic hybrid: U.S. Special Mission Benghazi, 2011-12

Date: 2013
In the widespread coverage of the brutal murder of US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and others in the US mission in Benghazi on 11 September 2012, there has been much confusion over the character of the post. It has been repeatedly described in the media as the American ‘consulate’ but the official position, recently stated emphatically by the Report of the Accountability Review Board for Benghazi (ARB) convened by secretary of state Hillary Clinton, is that ‘the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi was never a consulate and never formally notified [in any character] to the Libyan government.’ Indeed, it added at another point, its lack of formal character (‘non-status’) left it as nothing more than a ‘temporary, residential facility.’ This quality of the mission was certainly significant because it had bureaucratic consequences which contributed to its vulnerability. But it tells us insufficient about the character of the mission and how and why this changed over its short, unhappy life. In an attempt to contribute to a fuller picture it is as well to begin with a brief look at Libya before Colonel Gaddafi seized power in 1969, because it is not difficult to find in ‘Special Mission Benghazi’ a clear echo of the mode of diplomatic representation in the country in those days.

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