By Jim Garamone, AFPSSeptember 17, 2012
ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (Sept. 16, 2012) -- The recent anti-American demonstrations that have occurred in many Muslim countries "demands for us to be more engaged, not less engaged," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today during an aircraft flight from Sibiu, Romania, to Ankara, Turkey.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said the situation is the most complex he has seen since becoming chairman.
In Libya, a coordinated attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi resulted in the deaths of four Americans including the U.S. ambassador to the country. There have been anti-American demonstrations in Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Pakistan and many others.
While the spark that ignited the demonstrations was a crude video that denigrated Islam, there are several factors that have contributed to rage against the United States, the chairman said.
The chairman wants to learn from the situation.
"At some level, I think what we are seeing are societies that have been suppressed," he said. "They have not had anything like freedom of speech or even the ability to congregate."
Security forces in these countries are for the first time under civilian rule, and are less likely to intervene unless directed by political leaders, the chairman said.
And, he said, there are often power struggles within the countries.
"Some of those groups are truly anti-American and radical and violent," Dempsey said. "Certainly you have these groups that are anti-American, who are extreme, who are competing for power in the country."
These extremist groups often did not accumulate the number of votes they'd thought they would get in free elections, Dempsey said. Such groups that experienced failure at the ballot box, he added, could "now try to gain some traction around the idea of being anti-American in order to gain influence for themselves. These groups are trying to manipulate the population."
Now is not the time for the United States to withdraw from these countries, the chairman said.
"It demands for us to be more engaged, not less engaged," he said, "so that we can counter that message of extremism that is being propagated by these violent, extreme organizations."