Take bold action to protect American diplomats

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The cornerstone of diplomacy between civilized nations is the expectation that diplomats will be afforded safe haven in their own sovereign compounds, which are considered an extension of American soil. When this most basic of international principles is breached in a barbaric homicidal assault, it is time for a change in our strategy. The enemies of freedom will only be emboldened if we stand by and do nothing or simply hope that next time they won’t be successful.

That is why I am calling for a suspension of aid to Egypt and Libya until their leaders not only condemn the action of the thugs who killed Ambassador Stevens and the three Americans serving with him, but also until they can ensure the safety and security of our diplomats in their countries. This is not only common sense, it is essential. We give Egypt $1.5 billion a year and Libya $20 million. What’s more, our diplomats serving abroad risk life and limb to bring freedom to places that never had it. American diplomacy, the very thing that was threatened with the murder of our ambassador, is in part responsible for helping ensure that the citizens of Libya and Egypt have governments not born of coups or appointments, but of their choosing.    

And while it might be easy for Americans to lose heart, especially when we see images splashed across the news of angry mobs burning our flag and storming our embassies, our international policy goals and values are worth fighting for. The notion that all humans are born with inalienable God given rights should continue to guide our foreign policy. After all, anti-Americanism is nothing new. 

In 1951 an Egyptian intellectual wrote a book, The America I Have Seen, blasting everything in American culture from our freedoms to our jazz music.  After living in Colorado for two years, he wrote, disapprovingly, that we “danced to the gramophone” and tapped our feet to the music. Yet in the decades following the book’s release, Egyptian immigration to America was unprecedented. 

We are still and always will be the shining city on the hill for people who come from oppressive regimes. Yes, there are anti-American activists, those who will protest and even kill to try to extinguish the light of liberty. But we are on the side of right and we will not be intimidated. That is why our diplomacy must not be compromised by murderous brutes. The substantial funding and basic freedoms we’ve helped provide to Egypt and Libya must be tied to the assured safety of those brave Americans who bring lamps where darkness threatens.     

Christopher Stevens was a representative of each one of us and he took the fall in our place. He went to Libya with the values we hold dear, befriending the people and helping them build their society after decades of autocratic rule. He was brave, and his death is a loss. We can honor his memory by ensuring that those Americans who follow in his footsteps are protected. This is the least we can do.  

McCaul chairs the Homeland Security Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee and serves on the Foreign Affairs Middle East Subcommittee.