Hi, I'm back. Thank you, Yastreblyansky and Crank -- excellent posts while I was away.
Today I'm reading about the imminent return of Benghazi-mania, and it's reminding me of something I read yesterday.
After several mercifully Benghazi-free months, the 2012 attack on the diplomatic compound in Libya is about to be thrust back into the spotlight around its September 11 anniversary.Republicans want us to believe that they're going to keep hammering away at Benghazi until they find something truly damaging to the president and/or Hillary Clinton -- just as ISIS wants us to believe that it represents an imminent threat to the U.S. and other Western countries. But as Scott Shane and Ben Hubbard noted in The New York Times yesterday, ISIS really doesn't seem focused on attacking the West:
The special House committee investigating Benghazi is finally expected to begin its work, in earnest, with its first hearing the week Congress returns from August recess. Meanwhile, two books promising explosive new allegations about the terror attack will hit shelves in September, and Fox News plans to air a new, one-hour documentary on the attack this week, featuring exclusive interviews with Americans who fought in the onslaught.
Add that to the usual fare that accompanies the anniversary of any major news event and you get a headache for the teams surrounding Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. For both, it's a stubborn political problem that will likely never go away, no matter how many investigations clear the senior players of the worst allegations of wrongdoing....
A review of its prodigious output in print and online reveals a number of surprises. ISIS propaganda, for instance, has strikingly few calls for attacks on the West, even though its most notorious video, among Americans, released 12 days ago, showed the beheading of the American journalist James Foley, threatened another American hostage, and said that American attacks on ISIS "would result in the bloodshed" of Americans. This diverged from nearly all of ISIS's varied output, which promotes its paramount goal: to secure and expand the Islamic state....This story reinforces what I said last week: that the point of ISIS propaganda is not to recruit potential terrorists who can go back and do harm in America and Europe -- it's to recruit soldiers for the fight ISIS is currently fighting.
Fawaz A. Gerges, a professor at the London School of Economics and the author of "The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global," said ISIS had so far consistently focused on what militants call "the near enemy" -- leaders of Muslim countries like Bashar al-Assad of Syria -- and not "the far enemy" of the United States and Europe.
"The struggle against the Americans and the Israelis is distant, not a priority," he said. "It has to await liberation at home."
... a common public rite of passage for new recruits to ISIS is tearing up or burning their passports, signifying a no-going-back commitment to the Islamic state.
That's also the point of the next round of Benghazi-mania (as it's the point of all previous rounds of Benghazi-mania): recruitment for the current fight.
ISIS wants to recruit fighters. The GOP wants to recruit voters. ISIS occasionally wants to send the message that joining ISIS is a way of getting back at the Western countries potential recruits live in -- but the real point is to fight to secure and expand the caliphate in Iraq and Syria. The real point of the GOP's media campaign isn't to bring down Hillary or the president, but to recruit voters for this year's midterms.
ISIS promises a global upheaval to stir the blood of potential recruits for a regional conflict. The GOP promises the downfall of two political giants to stir the blood of potential voters in congressional and state elections.
So don't be fooled: ISIS probably isn't building sleeper cells, and the GOP isn't doing ore than rehashing its Benghazi greatest hits. But if it all excites the recruits, it's working.