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Democratic Challenges In The Maghreb

Tunisian women carry placards protesting their rights.
Tunisian women carry placards protesting their rights.

"The broader view, supports rather than discredits the promise of the Arab revolutions."

The path to democracy in the Middle East and North Africa is a very challenging one, said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a recent speech, especially in light of the recent terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including the Ambassador. However, said Secretary Clinton, "it is important to look at the full picture – to weigh the violent acts of a small number of extremists against the aspirations and actions of the region's people and government."

"The broader view," said Secretary Clinton, "supports rather than discredits the promise of the Arab revolutions. It reaffirms that, instead of letting mobs and extremists speak for entire countries, we should listen to what the elected governments and free citizens are saying. They want more freedom, more justice, more opportunity – not more violence. And they want better relations not only with the United States, but with the world."

Supporting democratic transitions in the Middle East and North Africa is a strategic necessity. That's why the U.S will not "pull back [its] support for emerging democracies when the going gets rough. That would be a costly mistake," said Secretary Clinton, "that would. . .undermine both [America's] interests and its values."

The U.S. recognizes that these transitions in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt are not America's to manage. But the U.S. has 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 and more durable security over the long term.

If these countries are to succeed in their transitions, they must reject violence, terrorism, and religious extremism; abide by the rule of law; support independent judiciaries; and uphold fundamental freedoms. "Upholding the rights and dignity of all citizens," said Secretary Clinton, "regardless of faith, ethnicity, or gender, should be expected."

"I remain convinced," said Secretary Clinton, "that the people of the Arab world do not want to trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob." The people of Benghazi made this clear when they rejected the extremists in their midst. And so did the leaders of Libya when they challenged the militias. That is the message we should take from the events of the last month.