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This is No Time to Give Up on Egypt and Libya

Article by Lindsay Lloyd February 1, 2013 //   3 minute read

This post also found on www.freedomcollection.org.

Tuesday’s attacks on United States diplomatic missions in Libya and Egypt point to the continuing challenges facing the Arab world.  The murder of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three others at the consulate in Benghazi has led some to question whether supporting the wave of change sweeping the Middle East merits support. But as the experience of Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall shows, it takes years to transform a dictatorship into a democracy.  The institutions of a democratic government, a free market economic system and a vibrant civil society need time and a sustained commitment to develop. The death of Ambassador Stevens and three others reminds us that the road to democracy and pluralism is often a rocky one. Violent extremists further complicate this already difficult path.  But Ambassador Stevens was playing a central role in helping reformers in Libya steer their country in a new direction. As Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Chair of the Bush Institute’s Board of Advisors, wrote:  “I am saddened by the tragic loss of life at our Consulate in Benghazi. Ambassador Chris Stevens was a wonderful officer and a terrific diplomat who was dedicated to the cause of freedom. His service in the Middle East throughout his career was legendary.” Ambassador Stevens knew that Libyans valued the assistance provided by foreign governments and institutions.  A survey by the International Republican Institute showed that 88 percent of Libyan respondents supported foreign efforts to aid their country’s transition to democracy. Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joseph Lieberman recognize that the transitions underway in the region are fragile and complex.  In a joint statement issued yesterday, they said, “Despite this horrific attack, we cannot give in to the temptation to believe that our support for the democratic aspirations of people in Libya, Egypt, and elsewhere in the broader Middle East is naive or mistaken.” Activists in the region also understand that wrongs that developed over decades cannot be righted overnight.  Sally Sami, an Egyptian civil society activist, said in a Freedom Collection interview, “Whatever steps we have taken towards democracy and human rights, there is no going back.”  Or as Samar El-Hussieny, also a civil society activist from Egypt, put it in her Freedom Collection interview, “We have to be patient and we have to be persistent.” As we mourn the death of Ambassador Stevens and others, we must also remain steadfast in our efforts to support the expansion of freedom and human rights in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere.

This post was written by Lindsay Lloyd, Program Director of the Freedom Collection.  Follow him on Twitter at @WLindsayLloyd.