As the glowing stories keep pouring in, it’s becoming clear that Stevens was a glorified protest tourist functioning as a diplomat because it gave him influence and came with a nice paycheck. The mournful New York Times piece gives us some snapshots of Stevens’ Arabist obsession and his neglect for basic security.
His comfort with his environment and his distaste for displays of security, some quietly suggest, may have led to a touch of overconfidence that cost him his life. With the State Department on high alert for security threats, especially since the Sept. 11 attacks, and many American diplomats consigned to embassies that resemble fortresses and armored motorcades that do not make unscheduled stops, Mr. Stevens plunged into Arab social life. He traded personal risk for personal contact.
And he got it. Stevens was always eager to help terrorists.
Diana Buttu knew Mr. Stevens in Ramallah and Jerusalem for several years from the autumn of 2002, when he was the political officer dealing with the Palestinians and she was the legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiators.
American diplomats, given a presentation on the Israeli settlements by the Palestinians, often responded with exasperation, Ms. Buttu said, complaining that the Palestinians “didn’t understand how much we do for you behind the scenes with the Israelis.” But Mr. Stevens was different, she said. “He would say, ‘Tell me more. Tell me more of what America can do to help and why.’ ”
And he wanted to endanger his own security to do it.
Another friend in Jerusalem, Noga Tarnopolsky, a journalist, remembers Mr. Stevens. “He wanted that human contact, he wanted to be able to speak to Palestinians on the street, and he couldn’t because security regulations made him always travel in armored vehicles,” she said. “He used to talk about how he felt this was an obstacle to his ability to really be who he wanted to be.”
At the same time, she said, “those security measures might have saved his life in a very different context,” and now there creeps in a thought, she said, that perhaps he was too trusting.
And Stevens was even chomping at the bit to get into Iran.
Martin Indyk was Mr. Stevens’s boss in Washington in the late 1990s, when Mr. Stevens was running the Iran desk in an earlier effort to re-engage with Tehran.
“He wanted to learn Farsi on the side,” Mr. Indyk remembered. “He wanted to be our first diplomat on the ground there, which was a stretch to me, but it was no surprise that he was first on the ground in Libya.”
And the first to die there, or that honor belongs to the Navy SEALS who were tasked with the security for a man with a death wish and who died because of his affinity for Libya.
Roya Hakakian, an Iranian-born writer who met him then, said that “he displayed the quintessential sunny innocence of Americans.”
Late last year, as Mr. Stevens waited for his confirmation hearings, they met in Washington, she wrote in thedailybeast.com. They spoke about the radicalization of the Libyan opposition and her concern that there would inevitably be a lashing out at the United States. She cited the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979 as inevitable, given the revolutionary narrative.
“Chris’s face was unusually flushed as he listened,” Ms. Hakakian wrote. “He was far more hopeful about the future.” He seemed hurt, she said. “Chris had fallen in love with Libya’s revolution. At the end, those very forces whose influence he thought would be curbed had claimed his life.”
As I wrote earlier, Stevens’ memorial is a eulogy for the American left and its delusional pursuit of friends on the other side of the fence.