U.S. embassies are closed in 20 some nations this week. Apparently there’s some intelligence that’s pretty specific except for the location. Some have described the reaction as “cringing,” arguing that it’s unbecoming for the world’s only superpower to hide at the mere threat of violence. Embassies, especially ours, have a precarious dual role: on the one hand, they represent a permanent diplomatic presence, a symbol of global cooperation. On the other hand, they are an island of sovereign American soil abroad. Can you really be a good neighbor when you live in a literal fortress? One can’t help but think of Rome in decline, when paying proconsuls to govern remote backwaters just wasn’t worth the trouble.