October 13, 2012

In his Oct. 10 op-ed column, “The Snuffleupagus in the room,” Dana Milbank usefully reminded us that a tragedy like the one in Benghazi, Libya, is rarely rooted in actions on only one side of the political aisle. 

History demonstrates the enormous difficulty of securing our diplomatic posts in places where the host government’s control of security is limited. As Republicans hark back to the administration of President Ronald Reagan, they should recall that, even on Reagan’s watch, U.S. embassies and military personnel in the Middle East repeatedly came under brutal terrorist attack. The first bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut occurred in April 1983 and claimed 63 lives, 17 of them American. In September 1984,  the U.S. Embassy Annex in Beirut, the de facto embassy, was bombed, with 24 dead. Sandwiched between these attacks was the better-known bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983, which killed 241, and the largely forgotten bombing, in December of that year, of the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait.

As a retired member of the Foreign Service who served at the Beirut embassy in 1983-84, I have these events burned into my memory. I would be grateful if U.S. political leaders would honor our fallen diplomatic and military colleagues, including those most recently added to the long list, by refusing to use such tragic events for political advantage.

Eric R. Terzuolo, Washington

Dana Milbank suggested that President Obama should draw attention to the fact that Mitt Romney “is not yet allowing Americans to see” his proposed budget cuts. But the next president — whoever he is — will confront enormous tax and spending decisions. If our government is going to get its fiscal house on a sound trajectory, regenerate the U.S. economy and help the nation to regain its confidence, government business as usual cannot be an option. 

Both candidates know this, and both know that major bargaining will have to be done. But that will come after the election. Until that time, neither Mr. Romney nor Mr. Obama will be showing his cards. There is no reason, at this stage, for Mr. Milbank to single out Mr. Romney for allegedly hiding his detailed plans from the American people.

Finally, since Mr. Milbank started out discussing “Sesame Street,” perhaps he could have gone on to mention a lesson we try to teach our children: You can’t eat your cake and still have it.

Judd Kessler, Washington