The Benghazi Trauma and its Aftermath

By Ethan Chorin

Reveals how an attack on a US mission affected Washington so profoundly that it lost its bearings in the Arab world.

S ix years on from the 11 September 2012 attack that killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi, Washington remains confounded by this grim event and its effects on US foreign policy and domestic politics.

Beyond the Beltway, after years of being bombarded with partisan accounts of what happened, most Americans simply file them under ‘fake news’.

But the assault on the US mission was horribly real, and the political and media fracas that followed masked its complex causes, among which were decades of politicisation of the diplomatic and intelligence communities, a dramatic misreading of political Islam, and the unanticipated impact of electronic media.

With America reeling from its hurried disengagement from Libya, the Arab Spring took a very different course from what might have been possible, and the US adopted a risk-averse, safety-first strategy in Syria.

In the words of one career ambassador, Benghazi’s influence on the practice of foreign policy and diplomacy was an ‘absolute catastrophe’, while senior Obama Administration officials contend that the attack undeniably affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

How America Lost the Middle East exposes how one event changed the history of a region—and America’s place in it.


Ethan Chorin is a former US diplomat who served in Libya. He was nominated to succeed the slain Christopher Stevens as Ambassador, on the grounds that the US needed to know ‘much more, not less’ about this misunderstood country. The author of Exit the Colonel and Translating Libya, he speaks Arabic, French, and Farsi.


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