A U.S. ambassador has been killed in Libya, along with three others, during an attack on our consulate there. So much for liberating Libya, folks.

Our embassy in Cairo was also attacked and our flag destroyed. This is worse than the Palestinians who were caught on camera rejoicing eleven years ago on 9/11. When they got caught on camera, they still feared the United States enough to cover up the celebrations. The Washington Post reports:

Protests at the U.S. Embassy are a regular feature of life in Cairo, where many people are suspicious of the United States and resent it for its support for Israel. But no previous protests have actually breached the embassy compound.

This is a new day in U.S.-Middle Eastern relations, and I for one am not calling it springtime.

The immediate cause for the riots is a film that reportedly attacks Islam and the prophet Muhamad. The writer/director is Sam Bacile, a California developer and who calls himself an Israeli Jew, and who thinks Islam is “a cancer.”  That may be offensive to you, but in the U.S. Mr. Bacile has every right to make such a film. That there might be riots in the Middle East was predictable—what was not predictable was that the rioters would be brazen enough to kill a U.S. ambassador and tear down our flag. Let me translate this action, if any is needed: the U.S., fount of vast sums of foreign aid, is not feared in the Middle East.

John Podhoretz makes the very important point that the killing of our ambassador was not an act of the Libyan government. If it were, it would be an act of war.

Here is the first response from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo (from its website via Hot Air):

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others

Podhoretz writes of this response:

The strange spectacle of the dreadful initial response from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo—apologizing for an offense that the United States did not offer and that under any circumstances would not justify an attack—followed by a White House disavowal six hours later (“we didn’t clear it”) can be ascribed to the initial daze of a two-pronged attack that must have left everyone in shock. That lack of clarity must end today, or there will be more of this. Much more.

The U.S. has often responded badly to challenges in the Middle East. It could be argued that President Reagan's decision to leave Lebanon after the 1983 attacks on the Marine barracks was a mistake. Whatever the case, Podhoretz notes that this is now "a time of testing" and that President Obama is the one being tested.

Here in part is the apparently later response from the president of the United States to the killing of our ambassador:

I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.

I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.

Strongly condemn doesn’t quite cut it, does it? Mitt Romney responded:

"I'm outraged by the attacks on American diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt," the Republican presidential candidate said in a statement.

"It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathise with those who waged the attacks."

Not surprisingly, the Obama campaign does not sympathise with Mr. Romney, saying it was disgraceful of him to launch a “political attack” on a day of national mourning. Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said this:

“We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Governor Romney would choose to launch a political attack," he said.

Let’s hope we can get past the so-called political attack and respond adequately to another kind of attack–you know, the kind that kills a top-ranking American diplomat and several others. No, of course, we don’t need military action—but we do need something less pathetic than “strongly condemn.”