Clinton: U.S. Must Back Arab Spring Reforms

Despite Turmoil, Secretary of State Pushes Democracy

By Reuters

Published October 12, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The United States must look past the violence and extremism that has erupted after the “Arab Spring” revolutions and boost support for the region’s young democracies to forge long-term security, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Friday.

Clinton, seeking to reinforce the Obama administration’s Middle East policy following a wave of anti-American violence and last month’s deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, said Washington cannot be deterred by “the violent acts of a small number of extremists.”

“We recognize that these transitions are not America’s to manage, and certainly not ours to win or lose,” Clinton said in a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

“But we have to stand with those who are working every day to strengthen democratic institutions, defend universal rights, and drive inclusive economic growth. That will produce more capable partners and more durable security over the long term.”

Middle East unrest has become fodder for the U.S. presidential campaign, where Republican candidate Mitt Romney has sought to portray President Barack Obama as an ineffectual leader who has left the United States vulnerable at a time of international crisis.

Romney and other Republicans have focused on the Sept. 11 Benghazi attack, which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans, accusing the Obama administration of security and intelligence lapses in what officials now describe as a terrorist attack.

Clinton noted that the Benghazi incident was the subject of an official probe and vowed the United States would track down those responsible for the attack.

But she stressed that U.S. diplomats must engage with an uncertain and dangerous world if they are to promote and protect U.S. interests. “We will never prevent every act of violence or terrorism, or achieve perfect security. Our people cannot live in bunkers and do their jobs,” she said.

‘UNDIMMED PROMISE?’

Clinton acknowledged that political turmoil in Libya and Yemen, the rise of Islamist parties to power in Egypt and Tunisia and the expanding crisis in Syria were all tests for U.S. leadership - but said more engagement, not less, was the only way forward.

“For the United States, supporting democratic transitions is not a matter of idealism. It is a strategic necessity,” she said.

And she pointed to the “undimmed promise of the Arab Spring” in the backlash against extremist groups in Libya and Tunisia, saying that in many cases newly empowered Arab societies were standing up for peaceful, pluralistic democratic principles.

Clinton pointed to the challenge in Egypt, where on Friday liberals and Islamists clashed in the first street violence since Islamist President Mohamed Mursi took power in June, injuring more than 100 people.

“We stand with the Egyptian people in their quest for universal freedoms and protections,” Clinton said. “Egypt’s international standing does depend both on peaceful relations with its neighbors and also on the choices it makes at home and whether or not it fulfills its own promises to its own people.”

The Obama administration has earmarked some $1 billion in assistance for countries emerging from the Arab Spring revolutions, and has asked Congress for a separate $770 million fund tied to specific political and economic reforms.

But Republican lawmakers remain wary, citing political uncertainties in the region and the need for careful accounting in an era of fast-rising budget deficits.

Clinton urged the lawmakers to release the money, citing U.S.-sponsored programs and security partnerships she said could both reinforce democratic gains and increase pressure on extremist groups.

“We have, as always, to be clear-eyed about the threat of violent extremism. A year of democratic transition was never going to drain away reservoirs of radicalism built up through decades of dictatorship,” she said.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.