Nevertheless, because of our very existence, the United States provides the flashpoint for hostility — both anomic and calculated. Nobody joining a diplomatic service believes life overseas is as safe as in Topeka or Toronto, but we are providing terrorists with target rich environments by pushing diplomatic presence into volatile areas. The size of some embassies is ludicrous — Baghdad before reductions was 16,000, larger than Kenora, Ont. — and extending U.S. diplomacy into tiny “presence” consulates has philosophical rationales but practical problems. And sometimes fatally such.

This would be a good time for a systematic scaledown; reducing embassy staffs to skeleton dimensions in most of the Islamic world and closing (temporarily at least) many consulates. Frankly, while a live diplomat has certain on-the-ground advantages, a dead diplomat doesn’t.