REVIEW: Article

The New Agenda for Global Recovery: The New Alliance and Its Significance

I want to talk about the abiding United States (US) partnership with Europe. But the challenge before our eyes is the tragedy that is still unfolding between Israelis and Palestinians. Secretary Powell left the Middle East on April 17, having made some progress. A process is under way, but where it will lead I cannot speculate here. Events are moving quickly; speculating about the future is not a worthwhile exercise. You know and share our vision of Israel and Palestine as two states living side by side in peace and security. You know too how difficult that task is. We all pray for success.

As I stand here, the United States is continuing a phase of consultation with our friends, looking for ideas as much as presenting our own. I agreed to speak tonight out of a sense of obligation to this distinguished audience. My hope is to present some views about leadership in the world. Not about leadership by one country or statesman, but a perspective on the need to keep up a vigorous, united coalition of the whole civilized world.

Last fall one such coalition confronted and solved together a relatively specific security problem. The people of Afghanistan, backed by the military power of the US and its allies, including Greece, have rid their country of a nightmare regime, in a relatively quick and focused military operation. The unholy alliance between the Taliban and al- Qaeda has been disrupted; their leadership is dead or in hiding. You can say we did this to meet our own security needs. That’s true, but we didn’t stop there. We have a tradition of helping others in need, and we also know that an unstable Afghanistan breeds instability everywhere. The US and the rest of the international community have come in with generous assistance, to build up a new government representing all major groups in Afghanistan. Children have begun school again. Women are no longer prisoners in their houses. It is reasonable to suppose that this new, freer Afghanistan will no longer be the training ground or hiding place for armed extremists. But I’m afraid I have to agree with a great American author Louis L’Amour: “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.”

The essential security question we are now asking our friends, our allies, and even our rivals, as well as ourselves is: How do we bring peace and stability to the Middle East and, more generally, to the world? As one who has worked on the Middle East peace process, I’m well aware of how daunting the challenges are. Over a long process since Oslo, Madrid, and Washington, there has been agreement among Americans, Europeans, Palestinians and Israelis on the various plans, the road maps of how to bring about a Palestinian state living at peace with Israel. The vision exists, but how do we persuade the leaders and people of Israel and Palestine to implement it? The European Union (EU) is important in this process. Foreign Minister Papandreou, along with his Turkey colleague Foreign Minister Cem, are bringing their influence to bear, in close coordination with Brussels and Secretary Powell. Working sometimes separately, sometimes together, we must use all the influence we have to bring the violence to an end and return to a serious political process. This is what Secretary Powell and General Zinni are trying to do. But any hope for the people of the region depends on Chairman Arafat and the Palestinians living up to their responsibilities, and on Prime Minister Sharon and the Israelis living up to theirs.

As I turn to the issue of the US partnership with Europe, let me praise the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its Diplomatic and Historical Archive Service. They have just published three volumes of documents regarding the Marshall Plan in Greece. Reading those documents from 50-odd years ago, I’ve been reminded of shared history. The civilized world emerged victorious but exhausted from World War II. A number of inspired leaders vowed to make sure that the mistakes made after World War I, the so-called “War to End Wars” would not be repeated.

The core of that effort was a US vision of a united democratic Europe as the bastion against future threats. In August 1949, the Greek Ambassador to Washington Vasilis Dendramis reported back to Athens: “In reality the European Economic Union constitutes for the moment only a beautiful thought, since in Europe, due to the prevailing conditions and the tribal differences and rivalries inherited from the past, the European states are unable to look with the necessary objectivity toward the European Union the US so fervently desires.”

Obviously times have changed since 1949, with a United Europe now far more than just a beautiful vision. And the US has not changed its position promoting that united Europe. On the contrary; though we may have—and surely will continue to have— occasional quarrels about trade, we have no regrets about our contribution to uniting Europe. The past seven months have reaffirmed, not weakened, the reasons why the US supports a strong and effective European Union, alongside a strong and effective North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as leader as well as partner in our shared battles.

Many of the leaders taking part in this conference represent NATO aspirant states. The expansion of NATO to include Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic fulfilled a dream for millions of us. I see the next round or rounds of NATO expansion as equally vital contributions to the collective security of Europe, and to anchoring democracy throughout this continent. Let me quote Deputy Secretary of State Armitage: “We want the most robust enlargement possible. That means that aspirant countries have to not only continue to reach their Membership Action Plan goals, but to be able to show to everyone that their intention is to continue with reform long after they have gained entry into NATO.” I am delighted that Greece and Turkey are partners in assisting their Balkan neighbors meet the requirements for membership.

Let me say a word about European Security and Defense. In every significant use of military force the US and Europe have worked together as allies. Just look at how many countries are together now in Afghanistan, in Bosnia, in Kosovo. The United States welcomes Europe’s goal of developing an effective European military capability, not to defend Europe’s borders against aggression (NATO does that very effectively) but to promote an effective European foreign policy in less cases where NATO as a whole is not engaged. To make best use of scarce resources, this European force will need to call upon NATO capabilities and structures for certain purposes. The EU and NATO need an understanding on how to do this. As we all know, Greece has expressed certain concerns, which the EU is trying to resolve. Until they are resolved, Europe will not have an autonomous military force capable of implementing a unified EU foreign policy. I hope a solution will be found, one that reflects the inseparability of our security.

The goal of any alliance is the collective security of its members. The people of the United States want the same things as everyone else. We want to feel safe, we want economic security, we want justice. Every four years we elect leaders we believe can offer those things. And the thirst for security is a very basic one. Greeks of a certain age remember vividly the cost of war. Others in this room have seen the ugly face of war much closer at hand, in the Balkans, in the Middle East. The horrible death of 3,000 innocent people before the eyes of the whole world on September 11 burst the bubble of security Americans had enjoyed at home for most of our history. It reminded us that to be safe, it is not enough simply to be law abiding citizens of a country far from the conflicts that continue to rage.

And one thing that hurt us was that we suffered partly because of the thing that makes us proudest of ourselves. We are an open society, a land of opportunity for all. How many countries are there where a foreigner with motivation, intelligence, but little money can become a great success? How many countries will allow foreigners with unknown motivations to come and learn to pilot an airplane? Do we want to be less free and open as a country? Of course we don’t. Are we changing? As little as we dare. But we are confronted with difficult choices, the kind of choices that require leadership of a special kind.

Terrorism is a global threat. The task of the coalition we built together against al-Qaeda was not to eliminate one man, was not to neutralize one group of fanatics who reject the values of the civilized world. The goal is to make the international system we live in stronger, more effective, more vigilant, in order to protect its citizens without sacrificing the values and principles that make us worth protecting. The war against terrorism is not a war of one civilization against another. Terrorism is not a tool of civilization. Rather, we are fighting one more historic campaign in a conflict between civilization and barbarism that has lasted as long as the human race has. Frankly, the human race cannot afford to lose.

I wish we had a way to persuade a number of people who hate our so-called Western values that they are making a mistake and should love us. We will try, but the world is full of powerful men who, like President Mugabe in Zimbabwe, have mobilized racial or tribal hatreds and resentments as a tool to keep themselves in power after they have failed to achieve legitimacy by the ordinary methods of good governance and democratic election. Though we condemn the choices of such men and exert whatever moral pressure we can, ultimately most of them stand or fall by the judgment of their own people. In the end, history has proven time and again that “dictators” meet the fate they deserve.

But certain leaders have reached beyond their borders to trouble the peace of the whole planet. The US and Europe have fought a slow, steady, rearguard action against the expansion of weapons of mass destruction in the world. There have been successes—for example in South Africa, which renounced along with apartheid a highly developed nuclear weapons program; Ukraine abandoned the nuclear capability it inherited from the Soviet Union. There also have been failures, most recently when India and Pakistan dropped the veil from their own nuclear arsenals. With the stakes so high, I am not sure how many failures the world can survive. Those countries closest to acquiring a nuclear weapons capability are precisely those countries least under the control of ordinary norms of international behavior.

Add to the threat of nuclear proliferation the equally dangerous threats of chemical and biological weapons. Recent events have proved how great the damage from weapons of mass destruction can be, even from small groups or individuals, even where no state actor is directly involved. Picture the chaos that would ensue if, as is now perfectly plausible, the resources of some terrorist group were used to spread death and terror in a city like Washington or Athens.

When President Bush referred to an Axis of Evil, he was talking about specific people, specific policies, specific capabilities or programs, which could bring incredible pain, suffering, and death to the world. We are not saying that it is the role of the United States to stamp out evil around the planet. We are simply telling our friends and foes that there is a problem to be faced, and faced sooner rather than later. I can tell you flatly, because I know the people involved: the US administration understands the limits of military action; we understand perfectly well why our friends in the Middle East counsel restraint, despite what they already know about Iraq’s ongoing chemical, biological and nuclear weapons programs and about Saddam Hussein’s demonstrated willingness to use such weapons even against his own people.

I am proud indeed that President Bush announced in Monterrey an increase that will soon amount to an additional five billion dollars per year in US development assistance. This money is needed and will be well spent. However, this money is by no means a sign that we have adopted the notion that poverty and injustice somehow excuse terrorism. When we study terrorists, whether in the US, Greece or Afghanistan, we see that terrorism is spawned not by poverty and ignorance. Rather, it is a by-product, for certain blighted souls, of an ideological half-education that offers little preparation for the modern world and rejects the values of tolerance and the worth of the individual. The deficits of democracy, of justice, of security that exist in much of the world must be dealt with. But the cure for lack of democracy is more democracy, not murder; the cure for injustice is more justice, not more injustice.

The EU is working to complete the institutional and legal changes required for a common front against terrorism, illegal immigration, trafficking in narcotics and in persons. I welcome this. In an interconnected world the security of the borders of Europe directly affects the security of my own country. I am convinced that the remaining legal and practical obstacles to improving our cooperation can and will be overcome.

Leadership is in large part the ability to make reasonable decisions in real time, without the luxury of perfect information, and then stick by them. When we are dealing with closed and repressive states, information is at a premium. The best cure for incomplete information is better communications. We are frequently challenged to tell the world what we know, especially by friends who have seen perhaps a different piece of the same puzzle. We cannot always say everything we know, certainly not publicly. But we are committed to sharing information with our allies, as fully as possible. We talk, we listen, we persuade, we are persuaded. If European and US institutions do not always talk to each other as frequently and as openly as they need to, let me say that the will on our side exists.

Let me quote again from the Greek Foreign Ministry Archives, this time a crucial 1948 speech of Senator Arthur Vandenberg, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, defending the Marshall Plan. “It would be a far happier circumstance if we could close our eyes to reality, comfortably retire within our bastions, and dream of an isolated and prosperous peace. But that which was once our luxury would now become our folly. This is too plain to be persuasively denied in a foreshortened, atomic world. We must take things as they are.”

The horrors of World War II had turned Senator Vandenberg from a leading isolationist into a leading internationalist. My message for this evening is that the world faces real, grave challenges comparable in some respects to those Europe faced after World War II. Though in most respects the average citizen of the United States or European Union can and should feel safer than at any previous point in three thousand years of human history, the preservation of that security requires permanent vigilance, permanent sacrifice. An “isolated, prosperous peace” is not an option for any of us here.

The death of 3,000 Americans and foreigners on September 11 thrust President Bush and my country into a new position we had never faced before. The Arab-Israeli conflict offers a fresh reminder that in times of grave crisis the world still looks to the US for leadership. Leaders have responsibility to keep saying what many do not want to hear, that the tasks ahead are difficult, the solutions require painful compromises and must be paid for.

It is easy to read the European press and shake heads sadly about alleged American unilateralism. A more thoughtful person would look around and realize that the United States has never acted unilaterally, despite frequent temptations. We live within a web of international relationships on which our economic and political security depends. We do not have the luxury of the famous essayist and moralist G.K. Chesterton, who could write: “I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.” We are looking for the best advice from our friends here, and that advice will go into the building of new, effective coalitions to face the threats ahead of us.

Thank you.[*]

[*] Editor’s Note: This text is based on a speech delivered by Ambassador Miller to the Economist Conference at the Astir Palace Hotel in Vouliagmeni, Greece, on April 17, 2002.

Issue Date


United States Ambassador to Greece