For six hours on September 11, the American compounds in Benghazi, Libya, stood siege. When the attack was over, J. Christopher Stevens’s body was pulled from the wreckage—the first U.S. ambassador killed by militants in over thirty years. Since then, his death has been politicized and the details of the attack distorted. Sean Flynn straightens out the story of Stevens’s last days in Libya—and reveals the true believer we lost that day:
“Chris was the single most important voice,” says Jeffrey D. Feltman, who at the time was the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. “That didn’t mean he was the only voice, and it didn’t mean everything he said was acted on. But his was the single most important voice.”
What made Stevens good at his job was his ability to get people to trust him. That is not something that can be faked: It is possible to manipulate people into confiding in you, of course, but it is not sustainable, especially for an outsider in a foreign land. “He understood,” says Tek, “that you have to express empathy in a genuine way. And he defied the stereotype of an American diplomat who was equal parts arrogant and ignorant. He was honest and human.
“To me,” Tek says, “he was the kind of diplomat I want to be. He wielded American influence through respect rather than intimidation and swagger.”