Calm resolve and determined patience should undergird American reaction to the terrorist bombing of the Western military barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Resolve that the United States will neither panic and withdraw, nor be driven from the Gulf as it was from Lebanon by the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks there. Patience to find those responsible before pointing fingers or jumping to policy conclusions.
The timing of the bombing, just weeks after the Saudi government executed four men for a November attack on a US military compound, casts suspicion on disaffected Saudis who deeply resent any Western presence.
These elements may be working alone or with foreign assistance. A large number of Saudis fought in the Afghan war and learned terrorist techniques there. The possibility of Iraqi involvement is a real one; the Dhahran air base is the location from which the US-led Gulf war coalition enforces the no-fly zones over Iraq. Saddam Hussein has been flexing his muscles again lately, apparently hoping to exploit coalition differences.
Many disaffected Saudis are Shiite Muslims, which leads some to suspect Iranian involvement. Iran denies it is behind unrest in the neighboring island of Bahrain, but US military presence in the Gulf has for years thwarted Iran's goal of hegemony there.
Meanwhile, all Americans' hearts go out to the families of the Dhahran casualties.