Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was right to ask what difference it makes whether the administration had thought an anti-Muslim video or terrorism or both contributed to the fatal attack on the Benghazi consulate, since, as she noted, the job now is to provide better security. But her question — what difference does it make — rings true on another level.
There seems to be a false dichotomy between the anti-Muslim video and the role of terrorists, where Republicans are suggesting the big problem in the Middle East attack was plain old terrorism. Yet both terrorism and anti-Muslim hate speech can be great threats to stability in the region — it’s not one or the other. Even if it was terrorists alone who executed the Benghazi attack, the fact that hundreds of thousands of demonstrators were drawn to explosive protests against the video in Pakistan, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and elsewhere signifies that hate speech is still a serious national and global security issue.
It’s not that we should sacrifice the First Amendment, but we must deal with all security threats in some appropriate manner. The administration had good instincts when it attempted to focus on the contributory role of exporting hate speech, even though all involved, Democrats and Republicans alike, need to do more to beef up security.