Hillary Clinton’s command performance before a committee investigating the 2012 attack on US diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, was a dress rehearsal of sorts. A rehearsal for facing a Republican opponent in a presidential debate, perhaps; but not only. ”I could see her across the table from Putin,” California senator Dianne Feinstein said.
But not once in that 11-hour marathon hearing did the real legacy of Benghazi come up.
The legacy is that the attack, which killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, caused the US—which had been a key part of the 2011 coalition that ousted Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi—to suddenly lose its appetite for reconstruction. “Libya became radioactive,” an attorney for the Libyan opposition writes (paywall).
It still is. Just training a Libyan security force—never mind other aid—will cost $600 million, but the US spent only $6 million in Libya last year. The country is still locked in a complex civil war, as the UN tries to broker a deal between Western-backed and Islamist coalitions. Fighting has driven refugees from their homes, offered ISIL a North African foothold, and undercut oil production for European markets.
The legacy of Benghazi goes even beyond Libya. It is found in the US’s current indecision about Syria’s civil war and the rise of ISIL. It is found in president Obama’s move to delay troop withdrawals from Afghanistan—for fear of further collapse. And it is found in Moscow, where Putin has learned not to allow his brutish clients to fall so easily.
The last time Clinton was across the table from Putin—or rather, his presidential puppet, Dmitry Medvedev—it was to persuade him to let the coalition intervene in Libya. Now, with Russia flying sorties against Syrian rebels, she says the US should impose a no-fly zone there. But what then? The yawning uncertainty about what to do next—that is Benghazi’s legacy.—Tim Fernholz
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
How the US meat industry controls the American diet. The US government has tried several times to reduce meat consumption, on both health and environmental grounds. Deena Shanker explores the techniques US food companies have employed over four decades—from lobbying politicians to attacking scientific claims—to consistently block it.
The parable of the shoemakers. Franco Galdini on the six-year-long feud between a Kyrgyz fashion designer and global footwear brand that exemplifies the problems of defending intellectual property in a globalized, internet-driven economy. This is a David-and-Goliath story, except David doesn’t win.
How to do cultural appropriation properly. Attacking Western designers who bring in, say, African or Indian influences has become quite the politically correct thing to do. Jenni Avins rebuts such claims by showing that every modern culture is made up of countless appropriations from others, and the trick is in doing it sensitively.
Has Dyson bought a dud? Sakti3 was a darling of the startup world, promising to deliver lithium-ion batteries more efficient than any on the market. Then Dyson, the British appliances maker, bought it for $90 million. Why such a low price? Because, says Steve LeVine, there’s no evidence it ever achieved its vaunted claims, making it yet another example of the tech world’s willingness to plow money into hype.
We put Skype to the Chinese stress test. Skype now offers instantaneous, computer-generated translation. We filmed Quartz reporters Nikhil Sonnad and Zheping Huang putting it through its paces in Chinese and English, from high literature to the lowest slang, with often hilarious results. Their conclusion: Don’t ditch the language lessons yet.
Five things elsewhere that made us smarter
Britain’s coming class war. Mike Savage, an LSE professor, argues in the Guardian that the country has developed a “class ceiling”—akin to the glass ceiling—in which people from affluent backgrounds are making more than people from poor backgrounds in the same jobs. The result: inequality is getting baked into British society, and trouble will follow.
The Eric Schmidt interview. In an entertaining discussion with LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, Schmidt speaks candidly about Google’s formative years, strategy secrets, and the company’s future as Alphabet. One takeaway: Google’s founders were incredibly lucky to stumble into such a profitable business, which is now funding an unlikely empire. (It’s also on video.)
The man who would be Saudi king. Former CIA analyst and US diplomat Bruce Riedel at the Brookings Institution profiles Saudi heir apparent Muhammad bin Nayef. One of the West’s closest allies against terrorism, he’s also a fierce opponent of attempts to modernize Saudi Arabia’s strict Wahhabist society. “The Saudis … are skilled counterterrorists, but they are also accomplished and unabashed counterrevolutionaries,” Riedel writes.
The life and death of an Amazon temp worker. Jeff Lockhart worked as a “picker” in an Amazon warehouse when he collapsed and died of a heart attack. While Dave Jamieson’s story in the Huffington Post never really establishes a link between his work and his death, it’s an eye-opening view of the precarious, uncertain nature of work in the temp-agency economy that behemoths like Amazon rely on.
How the hijab became a fashion piece. Fatma Naib for Al-Jazeera profiles Iman Adelbe, a Swedish fashion designer of Jordanian origin. She saw the gap in the market for observant Muslim women who were also fashion-conscious, and even created headgear for Muslim Swedish policewomen, but has had to endure attacks from both conservative Muslims and Swedish nationalists.
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