Despite recent violence in Libya, POMED Executive Director Stephen McInerney explains why the United States should increase support for, and seek to develop new relationships within the Middle East’s changing political landscape.

In the wake of recent violence, including the tragic death of Ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya, some have called for the United States to decrease its diplomatic engagement with the Middle East. With perceptions of America in the region already greatly damaged by a legacy of narrow relationships with autocratic governments, such a move would be a grave mistake with dire consequences for U.S. foreign policy and national security interests. Ambassador Stevens was among the strongest advocates of building relationships with the Arab public, and it would be tragically ironic to see his death lead to an abandonment of this critical task.

Now is the time for the United States to embrace the historic changes in the region by taking action to support democratic transitions and putting pressure on repressive governments to change. A diplomatic retreat or a cutoff in foreign assistance at this time could do long-term damage to American strategic interests and to democratic transitions currently under way. The next American president should seize the opportunity of this pivotal moment and reimagine American policy toward the Middle East and North Africa.

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