A friend and an associate of the tragically killed U.S. ambassador to Libya, John Christopher Stevens, has spoken candidly in an interview with Al Arabiya, of the “absolute worst case scenario” of diplomatic work.
Jared Caplan, the Deputy Director and Regional Arabic Language Deputy Spokesperson and close friend and work colleague of Stevens explained that Stevens’ mission in Libya was “tremendously important, difficult work.”
Stevens, well known for his humility, generosity and warmth, died in an attack that he was powerless to resist. A clearly coordinated, rocket propelled grenade attack meant that Stevens met a similarly violent end to Qaddafi.
Firmly realistic about the difficulties in the transition period that faced Libya, Stevens understood the necessity of helping people achieve the goal of the Arab spring revolutions.
After two decades of serving in the Arab world, Stevens was asked to return to Libya in May 2011, upon orders from senior officials saying: “We need someone who knows Libya, but more importantly we need someone who knows Libyans.”
The American presence in Libya was “a political message to people that the U.S. is standing with you and secondly it’s a message to the Libyan government we’re going to help but third, he was coordinating massive humanitarian efforts,” Caplan said.
It is indeed a reflection of what friends describe as Stevens’ ability to make time “to really get to know people” as well as his diplomatic skills that helped important friendships to grow in a time of uncertainty in Libya.
Caplan described Stevens’ morning routine saying that “he was the only person, not just the only American who would run along the Benghazi corniche every morning before work.”
The Benghazi corniche is well known for the smell of untreated sewage that pervades the air but Caplan made the reasoning behind this clear by saying:
“I think he did it so that people would see him out there… his approach to leadership is really humanistic.”
Not only committed to his work, Caplan described a man that travelled home to California for his sister’s graduation from Libya.
“Despite being the ambassador in one of the most important missions on Earth, he [Stevens] took the time… and that is how we will always remember him,” she said.
Caplan’s admiration for Stevens’ was raw, pure and heartbreakingly honest as he recalled moments of unrest in Libya on previous tours.
“There are very few people in the world you want to be under in such intense circumstances.”
The natural choice as the American liaison with the Libyan rebels, Stevens was “a person who has accomplished so much, was such a good friend to Libya, but at the same time, despite all of his accomplishments, he is remembered for being a human being, a nice guy,” said Caplan.
Towards the end of the interview Caplan mentioned a service in honor of Stevens’ memory that is being held in Tripoli, in a few short hours on Saturday evening.
“They are doing what I think will be a very touching tribute tonight… I imagine there will be a lot of tears in Tripoli tonight. It is an opportunity for the Libyans to really say ‘thank you’,” Caplan said.