Clinton sees struggle for 'soul' of 21st century
By Brad Wright
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former President Bill Clinton told foreign service students at Georgetown University Wednesday the world is in a "struggle for the soul of the 21st century" and called for a great debate with the Muslim world over its values versus the values of the West.
The former president returned to his alma mater in typical Clinton style. He received a rock star's welcome from the crowd of about 400 even though his arrival was more than a half-hour late.
Clinton's call for a debate with the Muslim world came in the context of encouraging foreign service students to help bring the world together through the adoption of a common set of values and expansion of democracy.
"There is a war raging within Islam about what they should think about the United States in particular and the West in general," Clinton said.
"And we've now reached a point with all these people lying dead and with all these terrorists, with the anthrax and everything, where people need to actually say what it is that they believe. What do you believe is right and wrong?"
Clinton suggested that if ordinary Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere knew about the role of the United States in the Middle East peace process, their view of the United States and democracy might be different.
"We need to do a better job of getting the facts out," Clinton said. "Most Muslims in the Middle East, I guarantee you, don't know [that] the last time we used our military power was to protect poor Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo."
Clinton said he believed most Muslims do not know that the United States has advocated a Palestinian state that lives in peace with Israel.
Indeed, he said even U.S. allies in the Middle East sometimes allow their citizens to believe the West is the source of all their problems.
"In the complex combustible mixture of a lot of these countries," Clinton said, "a lot of the governments allow people to go into the mosques and demonize us, and demonize the West and demonize Christianity and demonize Jews, because as long as they do that, they think they're shifting the heat of popular distress off of the governments."
Clinton told the students to remember that no campaign of terror has ever succeeded as a military strategy because people always find a way to defend themselves, even though terrorists score victories at first.
He said that "we have to support the fight" abroad and at home. It may be frightening, he said, but he counseled the students to "stay centered."
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