Question 4: In light of recent political upheavals across the Middle East and North Africa, what changes, if any, would you advocate in U.S. aid to, and relations with, the newly constituted Arab governments? What assurances would you require with regard to fighting terrorism, promoting democracy and human rights, protecting minorities, assuring equal treatment of women, curbing weapons proliferation, ending anti-Israel incitement, and advancing regional peace?
Response from President Obama
The popular movements that have reshaped the Arab world in the past year speak to some of America's most deeply held values. In the Middle East and North Africa, the changes we are witnessing have been building for years. They are the expressions of a universal longing for self-representation, because all people should get to pick their leaders and have a say in the laws that govern their lives.
It will be many years before the story of the Arab Spring is complete. There are going to be huge challenges that come with change. But I believe that the United States will benefit from having partners in the region who complete their transitions to democracy — because ultimately democracies have proven to be our best friends in the world. Whenever people are reaching for the same democracy and basic human rights that the United States stands for, that is a good thing. That's why my Administration has supported those aspirations, and opposed the use of violence against the people of the region.
As we support these democratic transitions, I have made it clear that I will stand up for America's core interests in the region - including the security of Israel, countering terrorism, and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons. And we will be steadfast in calling on the nations of the region to meet their international obligations as they go through these transitions. For example, we continue to provide assistance to Egypt because it's in our interest to help them advance regional security. And we've made it clear that they must uphold their peace treaty with Israel and continue transitioning to democracy.
Ultimately, the people of the region themselves will determine the outcome of these upheavals. In some places, change will come faster than others, and progress will often come in fits and starts. But we are committed to helping these nations consolidate their democratic gains and working to further integrate them into the global economy.
Response from Governor Mitt Romney
The United States cannot be neutral about the outcome of revolution and political upheaval across the Middle East and North Africa. To protect our national interests and to promote our ideals, my administration would support groups and governments seeking to advance the values of representative government, economic opportunity, and human rights, and oppose any extension of Iranian or jihadist influence.
To improve and provide greater accountability to our efforts in the greater Middle East, I will reorganize all diplomatic and assistance efforts under one regional director, who unlike recent "special envoys" or region "czars," will possess unified budgetary and policy authority. With real authority, this official will set regional priorities, craft a unified regional strategic plan, and properly direct our soft power toward promoting American interests in the region.
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