WASHINGTON - The United States must stand by reformists in the Middle East and North Africa as the euphoria of revolution gives way to the tough work of building democratic societies, former US President George W. Bush said on Tuesday.
Bush, who launched the 2003 invasion of Iraq that deposed Saddam Hussein, called the Arab Spring "the broadest challenge to authoritarian rule since the collapse of Soviet communism."
However, he warned that the difficult path to democracy would test those societies and their supporters.
"There are no guarantees, and there will certainly be setbacks," he said in a speech in Washington. "But if America does not support the advance of democratic institutions and values, who will?"
Bush dismissed the arguments of those who saw inherent risks in democratic change in the Middle East and North Africa and felt the United States should be content "with supporting the flawed leaders they know in the name of stability."
"It is not realistic to presume that so-called stability enhances our national security," he said.