"I can guess at two additional motives, one of an immediate, narrowly targeted nature, and the other considerably more general and strategic in nature.
"America is hurtling towards presidential elections in which Barak Hussein Obama is running for a second term. For large sections of the American Christian Right (closely allied to rightwing Zionism), Obama is, if not the anti-Christ, then at the very least a Muslim mole planted in the White House.
"For his part, Obama, from the very start of his presidency, had set out to douse the fires of the 'clash of civilizations,' then still raging courtsey of Messrs Bush and Bin Laden, among others. An editorial in the New York Times commenting on Obama's famous address to the Muslim world from Cairo University, lauded him for having 'steered away from the poisonous post-9/11 clash of civilizations mythology that drove so much of President George W. Bush's rhetoric and disastrous policy.'
"To reignite 'the clash' in some form serves to bolster the American Right as a whole, the American Christian Right (which is a mainstay of the Republican Party) in particular, while at the same time undermining Obama, who at best had acted to bring this clash to an end, and at worst is 'a bloody Muslim' himself.
"A much broader motivation, which does not exclude Obama as target, is to tarnish, even to deny the very existence of an Arab Spring."
Republican candidate Mitt Romney has refused to back down from his initial reaction to the attacks on U.S. embassies. In his immediate response to the news, Romney attacked President Obama for "apologizing" for what Romney termed, "American values."
This stubborn refusal by Romney suggests that he is locked into a playbook of the U.S. Christian right wing, no matter how much the mainstream media scolds him for making political comments at the time of an international event that led to the death of four U.S. diplomats in Libya. Which leads to the further suspicion that this Romney is not his father's son in neither political sagacity nor the ability to exercise national leadership at home or abroad.
President Obama responded to the attacks by pledging that "justice will be done." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described those responsible for the death of four U.S. diplomats as "a small and savage group." Obama also said the U.S. would cooperate with Libyan officials in bringing the members of that "small and savage group" to justice.
The Washington Post has reported that "senior U.S. officials and Middle East analysts raised questions Wednesday about the motivation for the Benghazi attack, noting that it involved the use of a rocket-propelled grenade and followed an al-Qaeda call to avenge the death of a senior Libyan member of the terrorist network."
The uprisings were apparently also timed to coincide with the 9/11 anniversary. Advance planning, which U.S. officials are assuming, should help in the search for those responsible for attacking the U.S. Benghazi consulate. The deadly attack, according to Libyan officials, may have been planned to operate under the cover of citizens' protests.
In Tripoli, Libya's capital, the Libya Herald reported:
"Libya today denounced the killing of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other US embassy staff.
"Speaking at a joint press conference in Tripoli, both Prime Minister Abdurrahman El Kib and Mohamed Magarief, president of the General National Congress, expressed sorrow for what they called 'a criminal act.'"
To return to Juan Cole's analysis of the "butterfly effect" that began with the appearance of an insignificant movie preview in California, which was ignored by everyone until the film was translated into Arabic and put on YouTube.
Immediately, social media had the expected impact the makers of the film intended. The insult to Islam and the Prophet Muhammed reached a world audience.
After tracing in considerable detail his analysis of the journey of the initial flapping of the butterfly wings to the death of four U.S. diplomats, Juan Cole offered this word of hope: