Egyptian riot police throw stones at protesters during clashes near the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. Protesters clashed with police near the U.S. Embassy in Cairo for the third day in a row. Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi vowed to protect foreign embassies in Cairo, where police were using tear gas to disperse protesters at the U.S. mission. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Updated: October 25, 2012 8:16PM
The war on terror is back. The notion that an attack by thugs armed with rocket-propelled grenades and antiaircraft weapons killing a U.S. diplomat on the 9/11 anniversary was a spontaneous mob reaction to some Internet video nonsense is itself nonsense. Osama bin Laden is dead, but the fanatical Islamist war on America and the West is alive and as dangerous as ever.
The murder of ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi was an unprovoked, unjustifiable, abominable outrage. Questions about the adequacy of security provided Stevens and about the direction of President Barack Obama’s Mideast policy are reasonable topics of debate, the latter especially so in an election year. But they do not deflect in any way the blame for this execrable crime — it rests with the murderers of Stevens.
Despite the crowing of Vice President Joe Biden about killing bin Laden and despite Obama’s obviously failed outreach to Muslims, the war on terror goes on. The so-called Arab Spring has turned into a nightmare. Islam may be a religion of peace, but it is radical Islamists driving history from Iran to Egypt, from Yemen to Tunisia, from Pakistan to Sudan. Yes, Libyans apologized for Tuesday’s atrocity, and they did elect a moderate government. But extremist violence has been on the upswing for months — Stevens’ murder wasn’t the first attempt against a U.S. diplomatic compound there — and Libya’s security forces were hopelessly inadequate to repel the attack. Fanatics won’t let the niceties of democracy deter them.
The Islamist fantasies of a worldwide caliphate seem incredible to most of us. Yet history shows big ambitions combined with the will to realize them can change the world. A tiny island on the fringes of Europe managed to create an empire boasting that the sun never set on its flag. Recall how fanatics grabbed power in Berlin and plunged the world into a horrifying war that killed more than 60 million people.
Just this week came a reminder that Islamist Iran’s nuclear weapons program is a much bigger threat than just to Israel. A study by scientists and military experts with the National Research Council found, according to the New York Times, major shortcomings in U.S. antimissile defense strategy as the panel looked ahead “a decade or more to what it calls the ‘likely development’ of Iranian missiles designed to rain warheads down on the United States.”
Another report in the Times said “strategic seminars” conducted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff concluded “that under any situation in which the United States is in an armed conflict within five years, American territory most likely would be attacked. . . . That attack might be direct, by missile, or more asymmetrical, as in terrorism or via a computer-network cyberattack.”
Are we already in that armed conflict?
Stevens is the first U.S. ambassador killed since 1979, another year of Islamist assaults against U.S. diplomats and embassies from Iran to Afghanistan to Pakistan.
U.S. embassies from Cairo to Tunisia to Yemen are under siege again — in Cairo for at least the fourth time in recent months. Egypt receives U.S. aid to the tune of more than $1 billion a year. In a Telemundo interview, Obama said he doesn’t consider Egypt an ally or an enemy. Answering that question and killing those who murdered Stevens should be priorities in the war on terror.