Though President Barack Obama was right to close 19 U.S. embassies in the Middle East in response to a “credible” al-Qaida threat, we hope they reopen in the very near future.
More recently, the State Department warned all Americans living in or visiting Yemen to leave that country as soon as possible. Yemen is home to AQAP — al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula.
This warning and the embassy closings are tied to electronic communications between Ayman al-Zawahari, Osama bin Laden’s successor as leader of al-Qaida, and Nasser al-Wuhayshi, AQAP’s leader. Al-Zawahari called for an attack that was to have occurred as recently as last Sunday.
Closing the embassies was a prudent move; even key Republicans who have taken issue with President Obama on security matters consider the step wise. Rep. Peter King, one of the president’s most vocal critics, said on ABC that it would have been “totally negligent” not to take the steps the government took.
Closing the embassies wasn’t universally welcomed, however. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican who was guest-hosting on Sean Hannity’s radio show on Monday, said the closings make the United States “look like a bunch of cowards.” Recalling the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others were killed, Rep, Ghomert said the United States must look tougher to its adversaries. “We didn’t learn then, by golly. We’d better learn it now or we’re going to get hit again and we’re going to look weak,”
Though his shrillness doesn’t help, keeping the embassies closed for an extended period would be counterproductive. A better alternative would be to shore up their security to whatever extent is necessary and reopen them. Bolstering security would cost more money than has been set aside for such matters. It would also be negligent not to provide funding for adequate security despite Republicans’ concerns about the budget.
Although details on the threat are scarce, we’re confident that our intelligence community, in cooperation with those of our allies, is doing everything within its power to uncover imminent and potential threats and neutralize them. They’ve uncovered a number of plots and killed key al-Qaida leaders, actions that have diminished the terrorist network’s strength.
As this incident illustrates, however, there’s much work left to do.