Stevens’ habits contrast with those of many US diplomats in unstable countries like Libya. Security concerns keep many within the walls of fortified embassies, while security details during trips outside can make it hard to get friendly with locals. While his exposure has been questioned in light of his death, the risks of his outreach helped advance America's image.
Winning Arab trust is no easy task. While Arabs often say they respect Americans as individuals, many also cite decades of American military ventures – notably wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and support for Israel as grounds for distrusting the US government.
Just 21 percent of people in four Arab countries, plus Pakistan and Turkey, believe the US supports democracy abroad, according to a July poll by the Pew Research Center in Washington. Libya isn’t among the countries polled, but skepticism of US foreign policy is echoed here. Many Arab autocrats, including Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, have spent years portraying the US as their peoples’ enemy.