I’ve been thinking that the very simplest explanation is that unless the administration was assured of success they weren’t going to try, because the last thing they wanted was a failed mission. And just when I was thinking of writing a post to say that, I found that commenter “JJ” had written much the same thing:
That is the thinking on the progressive side. You cannot risk a failed military operation that will make your decision making look bad. Bad for the legacy, and all that. It’s my opinion that Obama’s instructions to Panetta that evening were: “Do what you can, but take no risks of a failed operation.” Thus, Panetta and Dempsey (Head of the Joint Chiefs) were extremely conservative and took no risks…
Precisely. But I would add one thing: the historical precedent in mind was almost certainly that of Jimmy Carter, whose Operation Eagle Claw of April 1980 not only failed abysmally to rescue the Iranian hostages, and led to the death of eight American servicemen, but was a humiliation for America and Carter and almost certainly helped Reagan beat him in the ensuing 1980 election.
Benghazi took place seven weeks before the 2012 election. Obama decided to play it safe in the political sense, and it worked, didn’t it? He was re-elected.
[NOTE: For a previous post of mine about Operation Eagle Claw, please see this.]