The day before he returned to Benghazi after a nine-month absence, Chris Stevens was brooding. The U.S. ambassador to Libya had just finished reading The Troubled Man, the 10th and final novel in Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell's series about a sullen police detective named Kurt Wallander. Stevens was unnerved by the downward spiral of the 60-year-old investigator, who dives headlong into his work to distract him from the blank walls of his life closing in around him.
"He's divorced, lives alone with his dog, and slowly descends into Alzheimer's," Stevens wrote in his journal on Sept. 9, 2012. "I'm only 8 years away from 60 -- I need to avoid such an ending!"
Stevens hadn't been sleeping well. "The usual bundle of worries -- family, bachelorhood, embassy and work-related issues.â?¦ Too many things going on, everyone wants to bend my ear. Need to pull above the fray."
But then, at the end of a day beset by anxieties, Stevens wrote a hopeful note: "Benghazi and friends tomorrow -- something to look forward to."
Lost in the debate and warring conspiracy theories about the attack that took the life of Stevens and three others at the U.S. mission in Benghazi last September has been a fuller sense of the man at the center of the story. ("Chris never would have accepted was the idea that his death would be used for political purposes," his father wrote in an op-ed Wednesday.) Stevens's colleagues in the Foreign Service regarded him as one of the hardest-working and most thoughtful diplomats of his generation. "A rising star" in the annals of American diplomacy, said Wendy Chamberlin, the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and the president of the Middle East Institute. Joel Rubin, the director of policy and government affairs at the Ploughshares Fund, who met Stevens when Stevens served as a congressional fellow, recalled in a blog post that "he wasn't partisan; he worked across the aisle; he was professional and kind. And above all, he was friendly."