"Make no mistake. Justice will be done."
Those were President Barack Obama's words Wednesday as he publicly condemned those who killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in an attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in Libya. Those who believe that response, coupled with orders to tighten security at diplomatic posts around the globe and to dispatch 50 Marines from the elite Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team to Libya, is weak should remember that this president keeps such promises. It was on his order that Osama bin Laden was tracked down and killed for his terrorist attacks against the United States.
The four Americans who died in Libya were victims of an attack on the consulate by an armed mob. There's uncertainty about what prompted the attack. Some officials say it was a spontaneous uprising prompted by an amateur film produced in California that made fun of Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Others suggested it was a planned attack that used fierce unrest over the film as cover. Whatever the case, U.S. reaction to the attack in Libya (a similar but non-lethal protest occurred in Egypt) assuredly will not be limited to Wednesday's response from the Rose Garden.
There will be more. The administration will use public and private diplomatic and military channels to seek justice. That is the proper way to deal with such a shocking attack. A show of force or criticism of the Libyan government would accomplish little and likely would be counterproductive. A multifaceted response to the assault on U.S. sovereignty is far more likely to produce a result that will honor those killed.
Obama pointedly noted that the Libyan government promptly apologized for what took place. He also noted that Libyan forces battled the mob, helped protect other U.S. diplomats and citizens and took Stevens' body to the hospital. Those are the actions of an ally, not an adversary.
Indeed, most Libyans understand that the U.S. aided the recent ouster of Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi and has played a helpful role as Libyans seek to establish a democratic society and government. Obama properly reinforced that belief, saying that the attack and deaths will not stop that work or break the bonds between the United States and Libya.
Serious events like those in Libya and Egypt that put American lives at risk require equally grave responses, not politically inspired rejoinders. The president responded properly. Mitt Romney, his opponent for the presidency, did not. Though Romney condemned the Libyan attack, he said earlier that Obama is to blame for events in Egypt and that his response to Libyan officials was weak. That's the reckless position of an opportunist who apparently will say anything to promote his candidacy.