We truly are in a battle between two epic forces: Those of integration based on civil society and human rights, and those of exclusion based on race, blood and radicalized faith. It is the mistake of Western elites to grant primacy to the first force, for it is the second that causes the crises with which policy makers must deal—often by interacting with technology in a toxic fashion, as when a video transported virtually at the speed of light ignites a spate of anti-Americanism (if not specifically in Benghazi).

The second force can and must be overcome, but one must first admit how formidable it is. It is formidable because nations and other solidarity groups tend to be concerned with needs and interests more than with values. Just as the requirement to eat comes before contemplation of the soul, interests come before values.

Yet because values like minority rights are under attack the world over, the United States must put them right alongside its own exclusivist national interests, such as preserving a favorable balance of power. Without universal values in our foreign policy, we have no identity as a nation—and that is the only way we can lead with moral legitimacy in an increasingly disorderly world. Yet we should not be overturning existing orders overnight. For it is precisely weak democracies and collapsing autocracies that provide the chaotic breathing room with which nationalist and sectarian extremists can thrive.