Wesley Clark: Restore unity with Europe

The Democratic candidate says Bush's token alliances with Tonga and the Marshall Islands are no substitute for key European allies in the global fight against terror.


Salon Staff
December 18, 2003 1:54AM (UTC)

Thank you for welcoming me here to the Netherlands Institute for International Relations.

As you may know, I have come to The Hague at the request of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to offer testimony in the war crimes trial of Slobodan Milosevic.

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But because of the arrangements under which I am testifying, I will not be able to discuss the evidence I gave earlier today and that I am giving tomorrow to that Tribunal. Nevertheless, I want to give the Netherlands great credit for all the work it has done to host this Tribunal, which the UN Security Council voted to establish in 1993.

In so many ways -- from development assistance to peacekeeping -- this nation is taking responsibility for building a world that is more peaceful and more just. And its people here have shown us the power of and effectiveness of international cooperation. And I also want to thank the members of Netherlands armed forces -- many of who I worked with in NATO and in the Balkans.

Yesterday's capture of Saddam Hussein makes the work done here in the Hague that much more significant. Important precedents and lessons are being learned everyday here about what happens when a former dictator faces the bar of justice.

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It is no secret that the war in Iraq caused great divisions between Europe and America and divisions within America itself. My own concerns about this issue are well-known. But, as a candidate for President in the United States, I want to avoid replaying our domestic debate while traveling overseas.

Regardless of your views or my views about the war in Iraq, I am pleased that so many agree that the capture of a brutal dictator like Saddam Hussein is good news. After all, this is a dictator who was responsible for starting two wars in the Gulf, whose regime brutalized the Iraqi people, who committed massive human rights abuses, and who used chemical weapons against the Kurds and against Iran.

It has been a long time since there has been good news coming from Iraq. We were long overdue.

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The capture of this dictator is good news not only for the Iraqi people -- but for people around the world. And I wish to congratulate the American forces and the intelligence units involved in this mission.

But a day of good news in Iraq doesn't change the challenge we face there. The war is not over. There were insurgent attacks all this week against American forces. There was an attack yesterday and there was even an attack this morning. The entire resistance in Iraq was not run by a pathetic ex--dictator hiding in a hole. We still do not know how many outsiders have come to Iraq for suicide missions against American forces and the international community. We still not know how many insurgents are driven by a misguided nationalism. And we still do not know how many of the guerrilla fighters from Saddam's militias and intelligence service will fight harder or will give up now that he has been captured.

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Our purpose of going to Iraq was not to capture Saddam Hussein. But in the chaotic aftermath of war, his capture was necessary to eliminate the fear that he inspired in so many Iraqis.

But it is not sufficient. Iraq is still in danger of becoming a failed state. A failed state would be a stunning success for Al Qaeda.

And let us be clear on what Al Qaeda is. Al Qaeda does not want to persuade us; they want to destroy us. They are seeking weapons of mass destruction. And the United States is not their only target. They are a deadly threat to Europe too.

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Javier Solana, who I had the privilege of working with at NATO, has warned that the idea of obtaining weapons of mass destruction is attractive to Al Qaeda, and that Europe is both a target and a base for their activities.

So what does success in Iraq mean? To me, it means that we have brought the insurgency under control. It means that Iraq is strong enough to sustain itself without substantial outside forces, but not so strong as to threaten its neighbors. It means that representative government has taken root, so that Iraq is not just free of a dictator but can become a model for democratic change throughout the Middle East.

And finally, success means that Iraq will not become a breeding ground for radical Islamic terrorist organizations.

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Capturing Saddam Hussein was important; but it was only one step towards those goals for Iraq. Meeting these goals will take years; it will take tens of billions of dollars; and it will take enormous stamina. And that's why I believe it will take Europe and America coming together again.

But I believe that coming together is essential. I know first-hand that working through alliances can be hard.

Eight years ago this week, I was in Dayton, Ohio, where America used a careful mix of diplomacy, alliances, and force to end the war in Bosnia. Three years later, I was the NATO commander when we put the contributions of 19 NATO allies together to wage the war in Kosovo.

Was it more cumbersome to fight that way? Perhaps. Did it require more persuasion and argument to get things done? You bet. But we were far stronger together. We won the war, in no small measure because Belgrade could not break the will of 19 democracies united in common cause.

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And today, the Balkans are at peace and stable. When we use the power of international law and diplomacy, we can achieve decisive results, even without decisive force.

I believe that, even in this age, we can fight and win wars through collective action. I believe alliances are indispensable, not inconvenient. And I prefer coalitions of the committed rather than coalitions of convenience.

I would rather have capable European forces with a say in making decisions, than to have Tonga and the Marshall Islands with no strings attached.

But even more importantly, I believe that if America works with its allies, it can engage in diplomacy, developmental assistance, and a full array of legal actions to deal with crises before they erupt into war, and to ameliorate the conditions that might lead to those crises in the first place.

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And that's also what I'm here to talk to you about today: the importance for the United States of strengthening the partnerships and alliances that have served us so well over the past five decades.

We should begin with a common understanding of the world in which we live and the threats and challenges we face.

We must recognize the need to be tough on Al Qaeda and just as tough on the reasons why terrorism draws so much support from the Arab and Islamic world.

We must recognize that globalization brings the benefits of the free flow of communication, information, ideas and capital. But that it also has a dark side that allows the spread of terror, weapons of mass destruction, crime and drugs to grow with or without state sponsors.

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We must recognize that the deficit of democracy in the Middle East has not only deprived hundreds of millions of people their universal rights -- but it also helps create the resentments on which Al Qaeda and others have fed.

We must recognize that the ongoing violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories has not only made Israelis insecure, and increased the suffering of Palestinians, but it has also been a source of anti-Americanism in the region and beyond;

And finally, we must recognize that the threat of environmental catastrophe is nearing and must be addressed.

With a common threat perception along these lines, I believe we can restore the tradition of collective action that the world wants and people deserve.

Atlantic Charter

Recognizing these challenges is only the first step. Working together to tackle them is another. Sixty-two years ago, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt launched the first Atlantic charter from the deck of the USS Augusta off the Canadian coast. That agreement was critical in building the relationships that ultimately overcame the Axis Powers in World War II. It helped form the alliance that later toppled the Berlin Wall.

Now, decades later, the United States should sit down with its European allies to agree upon a new Atlantic Charter -- one poised for the trials of the twenty-first century. This Charter would begin with America declaring its commitment to work with its democratic allies as a first, not last, resort in addressing the security issues it faces.

European nations would make the same commitment to give primacy to NATO. Such a pledge would renew the sense of solidarity without which the NATO alliance cannot exist.

The Charter would also establish missions for NATO that address pressing international problems, including ethnic cleansing and failed states, and, of course, it would promote the peaceful resolution of international disputes.

Most important of all, the Atlantic Charter would call on NATO to confront the fundamental security challenge of the 21st century: The possibility that terrorists or rogue states will acquire and use nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction.

Together, America and its allies must review and strengthen treaties and norms and recommit themselves to enforce the norms currently in place. We should join and improve the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Biological Weapons Convention.

When it comes to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, America should ask its European allies to confront the reality that states can comply with the Treaty, and when ready, break out of it to build a nuclear weapon. Together, we must be prepared to impose sanctions on countries that seek nuclear weapons under the cover of this treaty regime.

We will need to agree to do more, far more, to control weapons of mass destruction. Not only the demand for such weapons, but also their supply. We must remove nuclear material entirely from the world's most vulnerable sites, to destroy remaining stocks of chemical weapons, and to upgrade public health systems worldwide to deal with the threat of biological weapons.

But sanctions and new controls are not enough. If the West is to maintain the cohesion and solidarity necessary for NATO to thrive in this new century, we have to be able to answer the most difficult question of all: when is it necessary to act preemptively?

Everyone from the Secretary General of the United Nations to the President of France recognizes that a possible nexus between WMDs, rogue states and global terrorists presents the newest and most acute danger to international security. The West won the Cold War with a strategy based upon the doctrine of collective security and deterrence. Now, in the new Atlantic Charter I am proposing, we must agree on collective responses -- diplomatic, economic and legal -- to this threat, just as we did to the threat of Soviet aggression.

And then only as a matter of last resort in the case of imminent danger NATO should prepare for collective preemption. Of course, unilateral action may be necessary when the threat is imminent, the evidence persuasive, and other options unavailable.

Collective preemption means that we must set conditions and create the capabilities to enable NATO to respond rapidly and decisively to interdict shipments of crucial WMD materials and if necessary to destroy WMD capabilities that have or are about to become operational.

But NATO can be used first for prevention, too. And the Middle East is a perfect example of that. The United States needs to work with its NATO allies on a political strategy to promote reform, human rights, and the rule of law in the greater Middle East. So long as people there have no peaceful outlets for expressing dissent, they will seek violent outlets. So long as children in many parts of this region are educated in schools that preach hate, they will continue to grow into adults who practice hate.

We will not succeed in transforming the Middle East by suggesting that regimes will be changed through military force. A better model is offered by the joint approach Europe and America took after the Cold War to transform Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Together, we successfully promoted stability, security, economic reform and democratic progress throughout that region. We offered these states the opportunity to work with and participate in Atlantic and European institutions. They were encouraged to settle historic disputes, integrate their economies and adopt open political systems.

Our emphasis was upon carrots not sticks, inclusion not exclusion, assistance and encouragement not sanctions and coercion.

As NATO commander, I worked with the countries in Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet Union. I saw the salutary effects of these programs on the evolution of these countries first-hand.

I see a similar role for NATO, the European Union and the United States, operating once again in unison, encouraging a similar evolution within the Greater Middle East. Certainly this will be a labor of a decade or more. And certainly, we won't achieve our goals if the world sees our plan as one of coercion and military occupation. Instead, we should look for inspiration from programs like NATO's Partnership for Peace. Middle East countries, under the right conditions, should be encouraged to join.

Likewise, inclusive arrangements like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe could also be adapted for and extended to the Greater Middle East.

A commitment by Europe and America to work in partnership along these lines should be another key component of a new Atlantic Charter.

But a new Atlantic Charter is more than simply revitalizing NATO. It is a new appreciation for the perspectives and responsibilities of partners and peoples on both sides of the Atlantic. That is why the Atlantic Charter must have a second chapter that reflects the new perspectives and concerns of Europeans, too.

Just as Franklin Roosevelt offered a New Deal with the American people, we need to offer a "New Compact" with our European allies and the international community. As part of this compact, the United States must respond to the very real concerns of its allies about the environment.

America should be willing to meet the Europeans half way and negotiate binding reductions on emissions along the lines of the Kyoto agreement.

The United States must also rejoin efforts to establish an International Criminal Court. I would insist on changes in that agreement to allow America to participate. But I would work with our allies, especially the governments here in Europe, to improve the court by meeting them halfway, rather than staying out altogether.

And finally, many here in Europe will rightly expect the United States to make a greater effort to deal with the issue of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which I know is one of your primary concerns in the region. In recent weeks, past leaders of Israel's security services and the current Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces have spoken out. They have concluded that military measures alone will not provide security for Israel. I agree.

I would commit America to real Middle East diplomacy again -- starting in the White House, but including at all levels of our government -- to breathe life into the road map for peace that has veered tragically off course. We must play a leadership role again to encourage both sides to meet their commitments. The Palestinians must start by taking decisive steps to combat terrorists and the infrastructure of terrorists.

But the Israelis have responsibilities, too.

By restoring America to its historic role of peacemaker in the Middle East, we can seek an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and give confidence to our European friends that their concerns are our concerns too.

Each of these steps is wise policy for the United States. But because they also reflect the views of America's European allies, they will help breathe life into Trans-Atlantic relationships. An America committed to international law would be better able to ask allies to help enforce its norms when they are violated.

An America committed to diplomatic peacemaking would have an easier time winning European contributions to military peacekeeping. An America committed to using NATO when it decides to wage war would have greater authority to ask its allies to spend more to build their military capabilities.

The greatest example of this commitment -- to international law, to diplomatic peacekeeping, to utilizing NATO -- was the nineteen-country alliance in Kosovo. The war in Kosovo was a time of testing -- testing whether we could confront evil, whether we could prevail, whether we could honor the obligations of the alliance and our own values. It was a time of testing for many of us who were morally appalled at the massacres in Bosnia, in Rwanda -- and had asked ourselves what we would have done if we were in a position of responsibility. It was clear to me that the stability of Southeasten Europe was at stake.

A nation cannot be a world leader unless it is also a moral leader -- and you lose your moral leadership if you choose to be a spectator to slaughter. In April of 1999, a few weeks into the Kosovo War, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Elie Wiesel addressed a gathering at the White House on the subject of the 20th century. He spoke from the experience of a young Jewish boy in a Nazi concentration camp, as he said:

"Our only miserable consolation was that ... the leaders of the free world did not know what was going on behind those black gates and barbed wire ... if they knew, we thought, surely those leaders would move heaven and earth to intervene."

He described what it felt like as he later came to learn that the world did know -- and did not intervene. Yet, his speech that night was not empty of hope. At the close of his remarks, he spoke of Kosovo, and said: "This time the world was not silent."

It is because of Kosovo that I have come to the Hague today. So let me close by saying that I will never forget the lessons of that crisis and the Balkans: That Europe and America must act in the face of evil; and that we are far better off when we act together.

It is high time for Europeans and Americans to restore that unity and that action.

Thank you.


Salon Staff

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