Tampa: Notwithstanding a rising China, the world is likely to be a more dangerous and chaotic place without American leadership, former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said.
"American ideal is indeed in danger today. There is no country, no, not even a rising China, that can do more harm to us than we can do to ourselves if we do not do the hard work before us here at home," Rice told a cheering audience at a Tampa city convention centre in Florida, host to the Republican national convention.
Rice, who served under the previous Bush Administration, received a standing ovation from the thousands of people attending the convention.
"We have seen that the desire for liberty and freedom is indeed universal, as men and women in the Middle East rise up to seize it. Yet the promise of the Arab Spring is engulfed in uncertainty. Internal strife and hostile neighbours are challenging the young, fragile democracy of Iraq," Rice said.
"Dictators in Iran and Syria butcher their people and threaten regional security. Russia and China prevent a response. And everyone asks: Where does America stand?," she pointed out.
"Indeed, that is the question of the hour. Where does America stand? You see, when friends or foes alike don`t know the answer to that question unambiguously and clearly, the world is likely to be a more dangerous and chaotic place," Rice said.
"Since World War II, the United States has had an answer to that question. We stand for free people and free markets. We will defend and support them. We will sustain a balance of power that favours freedom," she added.
"Now to be sure, the burdens of leadership have been heavy. I know, as you do, the sacrifice of Americans, especially the sacrifice of many of our bravest is the ultimate sacrifice," she said.
"But our armed forces are the sure shield and foundation of liberty, and we are so fortunate that we have men and women in uniform who volunteer. They volunteer to defend us at the front lines of freedom, and we owe them our eternal gratitude," she added.
Rice said it has not always been easy, though it has been rewarding, to speak for those who would otherwise not have a voice: the religious dissident in China, the democracy advocate in Venezuela, the political prisoner in Iran.
She pointed out that it has been hard to muster the resources to support fledgling democracies and to intervene on behalf of the most desperate: the AIDS orphan in Uganda, the refugee fleeing Zimbabwe, the young woman who has been trafficked into the sex trade in Southeast Asia.
"It has been hard. Yet this assistance, together with the compassionate work of private charities, people of conscience and people of faith, have shown the soul of the country," she said.
"I know, too, that there is a weariness. I know that it feels as if we have carried these burdens long enough. But we can only know that there is no choice, because one of two things will happen if we don`t lead. Either no one will lead and there will be chaos, or someone will fill the vacuum who does not share our values," Rice said.
"My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead, and you cannot lead from behind," she said.
Pitching strongly for Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, and his running mate Paul Ryan, Rice said the two understand this reality.
"Our well-being at home and our leadership abroad are inextricably linked. They know what to do. They know that our friends and allies must again be able to trust us. From Israel to Colombia, from Poland to the Philippines, our allies and friends have to know that we will be reliable and consistent and determined," Rice said.
"And our foes can have no reason to doubt our resolve because peace really does come through strength," she said amidst another round of applause and cheers.
Rice pointed out that more than at any other time in history, greatness is built on mobilising human potential and ambition.
She said that the US has always done that better than any country in the world.
"People have come here from all over because they have believed our creed of opportunity and limitless horizons. They have come here from the world`s most impoverished nations just to make a decent wage," she said in her speech, referring to immigration policies of the Obama Administration, which was mostly devoted on the foreign policy.