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A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

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From 2004-2006, Ethan Chorin was one of a handful of US diplomats posted to Libya in the wake of rapprochement with Colonel Gaddafi. Six years later, he was in Benghazi (planning to meet the next day with Ambassador Chris Stevens) when the U.S. mission came under attack—an event that still reverberates through American domestic politics and foreign policy in disturbing and unexpected ways, as Chorin explains in BENGHAZI! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink.

Despite hundreds of hours of Congressional hearings, a deep dive into Hillary Clinton’s personal email, and the trial of two suspects (ultimately acquitted of the most serious of the charges against them), many questions about what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 have gone unanswered. This has something to do with American intelligence failures, Chorin argues, but much more so, political infighting and miscalculations by both Democrats and Republicans, whose primary focus was undermining eachother, rather than fighting America’s adversaries. As Chorin writes:

“Understanding Benghazi’s significance and its kinetic power—not just as an attack or a scandal, but also as a consequence and prime mover in two decades of world history—requires exposing context: domestic context, regional context, historical context. It requires examining the repeating themes of American policy in the Middle East and transitions between American administrations, and the increasingly toxic rhetoric that accompanies these transitions, figuring out why the United States makes the same mistakes over and over again, and—more to the point—doing something about it.”

To tell this story, Chorin draws on his own bone-chilling experience during the Benghazi attack, his expertise as a former diplomat and scholar of Libyan history, and new interviews with Libyan insiders, eyewitnesses, and senior officials on both sides of the aisle.

Democrats and Republicans agree on little when it comes to Benghazi. Indeed, members of both parties will likely find themselves feeling simultaneously vindicated by some Chorin’s revelations and conclusions, and deeply upset by others. But ten years later, the lessons of Benghazi are waiting to be learned—first and foremost, the need to lift the weight of politics from America’s diplomats and spies, so they can do their job, protecting us from our adversaries—and ever increasingly, ourselves.

Arabic edition


One of New Lines Magazine Best Books of 2022 (read article)
Benghazi! is likely the definitive treatment of the attack and scandal… Ethan Chorin is a master storyteller who skillfully weaves anecdotes and personal experiences to incisively analyze the attack on Benghazi and its lasting repercussions.”
—Dr. Ronald Bruce St. John, in Middle East Policy

“As a former investigator for the Benghazi Committee, I found Chorin’s Benghazi! a compelling read… Ethan Chorin is right: the tragic deaths of four Americans in Benghazi were the main act in a highly destructive outbreak of American partisan warfare, which left key questions unanswered and pushed the country down a slippery slide of polarization and risk aversion abroad. It shouldn’t have been this way. In contrast to this political theater, Chorin offers a refreshing fact-based analysis with breadth, depth, and new information.”
—Professor Bradley Podliska, US Air Command and Staff College

“Very well written exploration of what happened in Benghazi from a former diplomat who was in the city the night the conflagration happened. It’s part memoir, part cultural history, part forensic accounting.”
—Roxane Gay, New York Times Bestselling author

“Anyone with a serious interest in Libya, or anyone looking for examples of how partisan politics has affected our conduct of foreign relations in the current century, will find Ethan Chorin’s Benghazi! an excellent case study…[Chorin] has written a very personal account, but in the process has identified several issues of interest to anyone dealing with our nation’s foreign affairs who is concerned with our reputation and influence in the world.”
—Ambassador Charles O. Cecil, Foreign Service Journal

“The complexity that surrounds Benghazi is presented in all its nuance, yet the author’s commanding prose helps to guide readers smoothly through the frenzied series of events…. Over the course of this book, Chorin provides a harrowing personal perspective on the fateful day, with a number of salient details readers won’t find elsewhere…. [Benghazi!] balances remarkable depth with an engaging narrative.”
Kirkus Reviews

“In Benghazi! Ethan Chorin skillfully unravels the many complex and confounding narratives around an event which had momentous repercussions on domestic US politics. His book is powerful testament to both America’s fractured identity and its diminished influence in the Middle East.”
—Francis Ghilès, Arab Digest

“Of all the millions of words spilled on [Benghazi], only Ethan Chorin has taken the trouble to explain in a detailed, eloquent, and above all, convincing fashion why it matters. His thorough research and painstaking reconstruction of what happened before and after Benghazi should serve as a warning to future loudmouths.”
—Dr. Eric Alterman, author of Kabuki Democracy and When Presidents Lie
“Chorin tells a story that absolutely must be told. The fact that he lived the main events he describes lends a real energy, shape and force to the narrative.”
—Sir John Jenkins, Career UK ambassador, Former Director of the Institute for International and Strategic Studies (IISS)

“Chorin engages with one of the most baffling, fascinating, and symbolic events in modern American foreign policy. It’s an extraordinary subject analyzed by an author with extraordinary experience and knowledge.”
—Rory Stewart, OBE, New York Times bestselling author of The Places In Between

“Chorin is the first person to break through the leathery-thick narratives around Benghazi, in the process grappling with questions few have been able to formulate, let alone answer.”
—Bradley Hope, bestselling author of The Billion Dollar Whale and Blood and Oil

“In Benghazi! Ethan Chorin has produced a remarkable book that details America’s entanglement in Libya’s wars and the momentous repercussions this has had on domestic US politics. This is must read for anyone who wants to understand the mistakes the US has repeatedly made since 9/11.”
—Professor Bernard Haykel, Princeton University

“Far above all the hype and partisanship and the distortions surrounding Benghazi stands this book by Ethan Chorin, one of the most knowledgeable and longstanding observers of Libya. What happened in Benghazi he argues in painstaking detail and analysis, was not just about Libya. It represented a perfect storm that painfully reflected America’s political dysfunctions at the time. There is no better book out there that captures both the Benghazi incident and what it represented for the US and for its future.”
—Professor Dirk Vandewalle, author of A History of Libya and Libya Since Independence

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