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Clinton: Libya Attack Does Not Weaken US Commitment to New Democracies

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the United States must continue sending diplomats and aid workers to the Arab world's emerging democracies, despite last month's deadly attack in Libya, Oct. 12, 2012.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the Obama administration will not shrink from its commitment to new democracies in North Africa following last month's killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

Secretary Clinton says supporting democratic transitions is not a matter of idealism for the United States. It is a strategic necessity.

"We will not return to the false choice between freedom and stability. And we will not pull back our support for emerging democracies when the going gets rough. That would be a costly strategic mistake that would, I believe, undermine both our interests and our values," said Clinton.

She says the killing of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya has led many Americans to ask what is happening to the promise of the Arab Spring. Clinton says the violent acts of a small number of extremists must be weighed against the broader aspirations and actions of the people and governments of North Africa.

"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 with the United States and the world, not worse," she said.

Clinton says a year of democratic transition was never going to drain away what she calls "reservoirs of radicalism built up through decades of dictatorship" as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other terrorist groups try to expand their reach from bases in northern Mali.

She says a Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership is providing training and support to tighten border security and disrupt terrorist networks. Across the Maghreb (northwest Africa), Clinton says the United States is expanding its work with civil society organizations in prisons and schools to deny terrorists recruits.

Because economic and social challenges helped fuel revolutions in the Maghreb, Clinton says emerging democratic governments need to show that they are delivering concrete results. So the United States is working with small- and medium-sized enterprises, bringing women and young people into the formal economy, and providing capital for entrepreneurs.

She says it is a question of dignity. While that means different things to different people and cultures, it speaks to something more universal.

"Dignity does not come from avenging perceived insults, especially with violence that can never be justified. It comes from taking responsibility for one’s self and one’s community. And if you look around the world today, countries that are focused on fostering growth rather than fomenting grievance are pulling ahead - building schools instead of burning them; investing in their people’s creativity, not encouraging their rage," said Clinton.

In remarks at a Washington research institution, Clinton again paid tribute to Ambassador Stevens, saying he understood that diplomats often operate in places where soldiers do not, "where there are no other boots on the ground and security is far from guaranteed."

She says the United States will not retreat from dangerous places and remains engaged in the Maghreb and other parts of the world "where America's interests and values are at stake," because she says that is the best way to ensure continued global leadership.