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Anti-US attacks in Libya, Egypt, Yemen: Put security first

Violent attacks on US diplomatic posts in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and elsewhere this week underscore a lesson taught repeatedly over the past decade – namely, that security is necessary to launch fledgling democracies emerging from autocratic states.

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A protester runs from tear gas released by riot police during clashes along a road which leads to the US embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Sept. 13. Op-ed contributor Kurt Shillinger writes: 'From Sierra Leone in Africa to Iraq, examples show how important law and order are to a country’s political, economic, and social progress.'

Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

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Violent attacks on US diplomatic posts in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, and elsewhere this week underscore a lesson taught repeatedly over the past decade – namely, that security is necessary to launch fledgling democracies emerging from autocratic states.

From Sierra Leone in Africa to Iraq, examples show how important law and order are to a country’s political, economic, and social progress. Security must be a prerequisite to development, at least in the immediate term, even if development is essential to stability in the long term.

As protests spread against an anti-Muslim film, reportedly made in California, what options do these countries’ leaders and their international counterparts have to establish stability? The stakes are high in a region at its most pivotal and delicate moment in nearly a century – and so are the challenges.

Libya and Egypt, for instance, have newly elected governments with limited influence and control over their military and police forces. Both face factionalized and fragmented societies emerging from decades of injustice and state violence. Both must forge new relationships with the West amid a constant threat of Islamic extremism.

Libya achieved democracy through civil war, Egypt through popular protest. Libya is awash in weaponry, Egypt is historically a seedbed of violent Islamism.

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