About the official U.S. expressions of concern for the religious feelings of Muslims: What some private citizen in America may say to hurt Christian, or Jewish, or anyone else’s religious feelings is absolutely no business of the United States government. The U.S. government is not responsible for private speech, is not allowed to do anything to suppress it, and shouldn’t even be addressing the subject. America is not a dictatorship, and we’re not going to make it a dictatorship just to keep religious extremists from getting violent on the other side of the world. Besides the fact that they won’t stop running amok no matter how much we suppress free speech, official apologies for the actions of private citizens in the face of terrorist attacks is the single most shameful kind of appeasement one can imagine. The Obama administration better come up with a more defiant response, and very fast.
The U.S. government needs to hold the governments in Tripoli and Cairo to their sovereign obligations, and, if they can’t discharge them, we need to take direct action against the terrorists who committed these crimes. In Cairo it is clear that we have a government-to-government situation. The government seems to have had some warning of the attacks; now the question is whether it will arrest and prosecute the perpetrators. The U.S. and its European partners should have been rethinking the conditions for foreign assistance to the Arab Spring countries long ago. It’s clearly a wasted opportunity to condition the $4.8 billion IMF package for Egypt only on macroeconomic reforms; the institutional reforms they need to emerge as a successful, modern country not overrun by armed primitives have to do with political and economic participation, not stable currencies. The U.S. Congress should act immediately to halt both the IMF package and the $1 billion loan-forgiveness deal that the Obama administration has been negotiating, until those who attacked our embassy are brought to justice and a longer-term plan for modernizing the Egyptian state has been put together.
As for Libya, the government in Tripoli was almost certainly powerless to stop the attack on the Benghazi consulate. We should inform Tripoli that our special forces and intelligence operatives will be scouring the country for the killers, that we’re going to hunt them down like wild animals, and that we expect every last consideration and cooperation.