The September 11 assassination of four American diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, and the assault on Washington’s embassy in Cairo was a complete surprise to the White House. Immediately thereafter, violent demonstrations in other Middle Eastern countries quickly resulted in the deployment of Marine anti-terrorism security units, and the drawdown of non-essential personnel from U.S. embassies in Tunisia and the Sudan.

Undoubtedly, the violence will ebb and flow, as it did throughout the region in 1979, culminating in the seizure of our Tehran embassy, where the Iranian ayatollahs held Americans hostage for 444 days. Important questions about why the United States did not see the terrorism of this second September 11 coming, and what to do in response, should prompt a wide-ranging political debate in the weeks before the November 6 presidential election.