As we continue to learn more about the heartbreaking events that took place last night in Libya, it remains vital that we recognize this for what it is: a tragic, but largely isolated setback in what will be a long and complex process of regional transformation. Despite the destructive actions of small minority, we continue to be confronted with a moment of historic opportunity in the Middle East. Everyone’s goal should be to make this region more open, democratic, and prosperous. As those changes begin to take hold, we should expect that reactionary forces – both domestically and abroad – will seek to disrupt the tremendous progress that is being made.
The vision that the President laid out in Cairo remains the best path forward for long term American interests and though much hard work lies ahead, North Africa has made profound progress that would have been unimaginable four years ago. The Libyan National Congress will today elect their new Prime Minister through an open and democratic process. The attack on the US consulate provides a stark picture of the cross-road that we face. Will we redouble our efforts to support the transitions and aid the newly elected Prime Minister, or retreat from this challenge, empowering the very criminals who attacked and killed our brave diplomats? I believe that the correct choice is clear.
Now that Congress is back in session, they should respond to these events by giving the President and the State Department the tools it needs to aid moderates in this region, build on recent successes, and create a real path forward. The Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund was requested by the President last year to do exactly this, yet it remains unfunded by the House of Representatives. After last night’s attacks, that situation is unacceptable. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have been quick to use this attack as a way to criticize the President, but if their foreign policy vision actually is based on “confidence in our cause and clarity in our purpose,” they should immediately articulate the concrete policies they support to empower moderate governments in the region, and work with President Obama and the Congress to implement them. Will Congressman Ryan call upon his colleagues in the House to support the Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund?