Whether we like it or not, U.S. policy will need to adapt to the reality that post-Arab-Spring governments will no longer be able to ignore the popular will of their people as Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gaddafi did, and that new potentially challenging security problems will arise with the breakdown of the old regimes, which will give al-Qaeda and other extremist groups a new opportunity to spread violence and launch attacks. 

Even on the narrow issue of embassy security, Romney and Ryan’s attacks seem to be distracting us from the essential question that Eric Nordstrom, the security official who was responsible for protecting U.S. diplomats in Libya until July, raised in his testimony at Wednesday’s congressional hearing: namely, whether the ferocity and intensity of the Benghazi attack signaled “a new security reality, just as the 1983 Beirut Marine bombings did for the Marines, the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings did for the State Department — and just as 9/11 did for our entire country.”

This is a question that, for the sake of all Americans in the region, we should think hard about.