American foreign policy has been tested this past week in the Middle East and North Africa.
We have seen mobs storm American diplomatic facilities in Egypt, Libya and Yemen, and protests elsewhere. The worst case so far was Libya, where armed assailants fired upon the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday, torched it and killed four Americans, including the ambassador, John Christopher Stevens.
Violent demonstrations rocked U.S. embassies in Cairo and Yemen, the latter being home to al-Qaidas most active branch.
But the protesters were repulsed in Egypt and Yemen, although Egyptian authorities initially were slow to act. President Barack Obama might have been expressing frustration with Cairo when he said in an interview that the United States would not consider Egypt an ally, but we dont consider them an enemy.
The Arab Spring has toppled dictators and introduced democracy in several countries, but it has also empowered Islamists who generally oppose U.S. influence and power. Nevertheless, the Obama administration has supported the spread of democracy in these countries, which seems right and accords with longtime U.S. policy goals.
Yet Mr. Obamas foreign policy has been criticized, notably by rival Mitt Romney, as weak, too deferential and misguided. Mr. Romney himself has been criticized for the timing and content of his initial remarks. So we debate among ourselves what is the right policy for a volatile region of the world.
The administration needs to beef up the security of U.S. embassies where protests over an anti-Islam video may lead to violence. We also need to insist that the host countries do their part. Those who killed Mr. Stevens and the other Americans must be brought to justice.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Morocco that the U.S. government had absolutely nothing to do with the anti-Islam video in question, whose purpose, she said, was to denigrate a great religion and provoke rage. She made it clear that we absolutely reject its content and message.
That is an important message, as is the one President Obama issued Thursday: I want people around the world to hear me, he said. To all those who would do us harm: No act of terror will go unpunished. I will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world. No act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America.
America needs to show consistent strength and resolve in the face of such outrages abroad. First, we need to protect U.S. personnel serving our country in crucial diplomatic missions.