Callista and I saw “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” on Monday. It was a tremendous experience.
The intensity of the continuous action reminded me a lot of the movie “Black Hawk Down.”
Both movies involve Americans fighting to survive against overwhelming numbers of less well-trained and less well-armed local forces.
Lord Nelson, the great British admiral, once said that “numbers annihilate.” These movies illustrate that point. In close combat, even badly equipped and poorly trained forces are dangerous.
Furthermore, in Third World cities, it can be very hard to distinguish enemies from friends and neutrals. Fighting inside cities has always been very expensive in terms of casualties, very slow in terms of progress, and very chaotic.
The most striking difference between “Black Hawk Down” and “13 Hours” is in command and control. Despite being pinned down inside Mogadishu in “Black Hawk Down,” the American military remains aware of who is where and what is going on. They send helicopters and other assets to cover the fight. There is a major general supervising the overall struggle.
By contrast, in Benghazi, there is a chaotic command and control system with inadequate numbers of American forces fighting with inadequate information.
The result is confusion — indeed, chaos — followed by enormously courageous risk-taking by people willing to move into extremely dangerous positions to try to save lives.
There are striking similarities between the movies that testify to the risks of liberal American presidents who don’t understand or respect how dangerous the world is and how important it is to project strength.
In the Mogadishu of “Black Hawk Down,” American forces are told they can rely on the United Nations reaction force, which refuses to come to their rescue. In Benghazi in “13 Hours,” the Americans are told they can rely on local militia who prove to be totally unreliable.
The Americans keep waiting for a display of American power which never comes. The only overhead asset to come to their aid is a predator drone that can transmit pictures but has no weapons. No F-16s show up to remind the bad guys how powerful America can be. No Quick Reaction Force flies in from Italy. No gunship arrives to wipe out the threat.
The absence of American power is painfully clear at the end of the movie, when the American dead have to be removed in a Libyan plane because the American forces can’t even send a plane for the evacuation.
Now is the time to learn the lessons in “Black Hawk Down” and “13 Hours.” Both movies are serious reminders that an underfunded and overstretched military led by a timid commander-in-chief is dangerous to American national security.
Both President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still have a lot to answer for in leaving Americans in Benghazi with too little protection and no ready response in an emergency.
The Congress today should be looking at more trouble spots to see what other places the Obama administration has left with too many risks and too little strength.