Militant Islamist mobs have killed Americans. A U.S. ambassador and three State Department employees lie murdered on Libyan soil—in a country that a year ago begged for and received U.S. protection from its own bloodthirsty tyrant.
Flag-burning Salafist hordes assaulted our consulate in Benghazi, Libya and our embassy in Cairo, Egypt yesterday -- on Sept. 11, a day of our most solemn mourning. They desecrated an American flag and replaced it with the black flag of the jihadists at our embassy in Egypt’s capital. And the ruling Muslim Brotherhood called for the initial protests due to a perceived “offense” against Islam from an Internet movie.
These barbarities remind America of an unavoidable truth: Radical jihadist elements are still at war with us. The fight may not be of our choosing, but unless America bares its teeth and defends its principles, these most recent atrocities could be the first of many to come in the weeks ahead. We must respond forcefully, and that requires identifying the underlying nature of this extremist enemy.
Islamic extremists prey upon weakness, and conciliation only encourages further aggression. Before the riot began at its gates, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo showed a remarkable lack of spine as it apologized for a random anti-Islamic YouTube movie posted by a man thousands of miles away. Even President Obama’s White House has since repudiated this abdication of U.S. dignity abroad. Hours after the apology was released, rioters stormed our embassy in Cairo and Islamist cutthroats in Benghazi ambushed and murdered four U.S. diplomats.
Americans are outraged, but some in the chattering classes will see their role as mitigating our reaction. A small army of pseudo-intellectuals, quisling politicians, and Islam apologists stand ready to downplay these acts of war. There will be nonsense talk of the “balance” between free speech and religious respect. And yes, the violent mobs in Cairo and Benghazi are indeed only one segment of much larger and more diverse societies. But this obfuscates a critical realization.
What we have seen is the dark underbelly of the Arab Spring on full display. As the tyrants of the region disappear into dungeons or shallow graves, aggressive Islamist ideology has flourished in their absence. The factions of jihad are coming together. Dedicated extremists may be in the minority, but they wish to seize power. And it is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the open rise of Islamism in a region where a majority of citizens still refuse to believe that Arabs perpetrated the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
As for America’s reaction now, it must be swift and resolute. Our leaders must quit the placating double-speak and say, without hesitation or second thought, that the most powerful nation the world has ever known will not be blackmailed, threatened, or forced to its knees for any reason. This is a war of ideology with extremists, a clash of beliefs. It’s time we make the case for our side, without apology.
We must tell the world that America does not beg forgiveness from self-righteous Islamists because of any film. Free expression and respect for the rule of law form the core of who Americans are as a people. While we are willing to debate any idea, the right to debate itself is not up for discussion. Intellectual freedom is the foundation of individual freedom. We will fight any enemy with words -- and if need be with weapons -- if they try to take this away from us.
Religious sensitivities may be considered an excuse for cruelty to some factions in the Arab world, but that doesn’t make it moral, and it doesn’t mean America will cave to angry mobs to avoid hurt feelings. We cannot force others to abide by a just and reasonable social order, but we absolutely must protect our own at home and abroad.
The battle lines have once again been drawn for us. America is still at war with the ideology of radical Islam. Whether this administration will defend our core principles remains an open question.