The U.S. Ambassador to Libya, John Christopher Stevens, was killed along with three other Americans, in Benghazi Tuesday in an attack on the American consulate, reportedly in response to a film that ridiculed Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. President Obama has directed an increase in security at U.S. diplomatic posts around the world, and the State Department has strongly condemned the attacks.
Nicholas Burns, a former U.S. ambassador who teaches at Harvard University, says President Obama has a long list of issues that keep him up at night on the international front, and that it’s incumbent upon the U.S. to stay engaged in a positive way with the rest of the world to assure peace here and abroad. Watch his interview with genConnect below:
“I think President Obama has maybe the most difficult job an American president has ever had, looking out at the rest of the world,” Burns said. “He’s got mile-high problems, from the global recession … to the war in Afghanistan … to the fact that Iran and North Korea are running amok, creating problems around the Middle East; North Korea and Asia trying to become nuclear weapons powerhouses,” to the Eurozone crisis, to the Arab revolutions, he continued.
“All that’s in the inbox” of Obama, and that doesn’t even include transnational problems like climate change, human trafficking, drug cartels, and terrorist use of chemical, radiological or biological weapons, Burns added.
“That’s what’s keeping up the president at night, but it’s also a time of great opportunity,” Burns said, particularly with the power of the Internet to create democratic movements like the Arab Spring. The U.S. also has a responsibility to stay engaged with other countries to help solve global diplomacy problems and for America to stay at peace, he added.
“Right now, we’re the strongest country in the world,” Burns said. “If we’re not part of the solution, good things usually don’t happen.”
The Benghazi attack is just one more international challenge for Obama. In the Benghazi bombing, Stevens, 52, and the others who were killed were fleeing the consulate when a rocket-propelled grenade struck their car, according to news reports on the ground. Libya’s interim president, Mohammed el-Megarif, apologized to the United States for the attack, calling it “cowardly.”
“We condemn this vicious and violent attack that took their lives, which they had committed to helping the Libyan people reach for a better future,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The State Department on Wednesday requested the U.S. Marines send in an anti-terrorist team to help boost security in Libya after the attack. Obama said he directed his administration “to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe.” He later said in a press conference the U.S. would work with the Libyan government to bring the killers “to justice.”
“No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation,” Obama added. “Make no mistake: justice will be done.”
Stevens was a longtime Middle East foreign policy pro with the State Department and took the post as U.S. Ambassador to Libya in May. He had worked in Libya for a number of years, both before and after the fall of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.
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