American Foreign Policy in an Emerging New World

J. Thomas Schieffer
U.S. Ambassador to Australia
National Press Club, Canberra

July 10, 2003

The year since I last spoke to the National Press Club has been a year when the news was dominated by issues of security. It has been a year when the relationship between Australia and the United States, while always close, deepened. Never has a Prime Minister of Australia been closer to a President of the United States. Never has an Australian Government's counsel and advice been more sought after or acted upon by an American administration. Much of the news of our relationship has focused on the war in Iraq. Both our governments came under enormous pressure in the lead up to the war from critics who opposed our policies. Both came out of the war with publics that essentially agreed that the world would be a better place without the regime of Saddam Hussein.Now, it is time to step back a bit and look for some perspective. Today, I would like to go beyond the Iraqi debate and offer some views, on what I believe is an emerging, new world order; one quite different from the past, but one that can give us great hope for the future.

Five, 10, 15 years from now, I believe, we will look back on the tragedy of Sept. 11 and say it was the day when the old Cold War era finally ended and a new world order began. Today, we find ourselves in the most fluid international situation since the end of the Second World War. Old enemies fade away, old friendships change, old assumptions are questioned. Over more than 50 years we became comfortable with the norms and expectations of the Cold War era. We essentially knew where the red lines were and tried not to step over them. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the reunification of Germany, the economic successes of the European Union and Japan, we still viewed the world through the prism of the Cold War. We took comfort in the realization that in Europe, at least, the values of the West - freedom, tolerance, democracy - had triumphed over the values of closed, intolerant, authoritarian regimes like the Soviet Union and its satellites. We looked forward to a peace in the world similar to the peace we had all finally found in Europe.

Sept. 11 shattered that thought and that world. Americans in particular felt a vulnerability that they had not felt since the darkest days of World War II. In many ways, Americans may have felt even more vulnerable, because the largest American city, and the nation's capital, the icons of finance, commerce, culture and military power had come under direct attack. Those planes did not just slam into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They slammed into the psyche of America - and America may never be the same again.

Over the past year, I have read many articles and listened to many commentators who purported to know the 'real' reasons we went to Iraq. Some said it was about oil, some said it was the work of a shadowy cabal of so-called neo-conservatives intent on remaking the world in America's image. Some said it was all about American arrogance and imperial overreach. All of them were wrong. Iraq was about the security of the United States and our allies.

President Bush gave great comfort to the families of the victims of Sept. 11. But he came away from those encounters with an incredible resolve never to have to do it again. Iraq was about security - pure and simple. The President perceived a threat to the American people and our allies and he chose to act before it could grow stronger.

But, I have promised to talk about more than Iraq. So let us look at some of the features of this new world order that is emerging. First, the likelihood of conflicts between the traditional Great Powers of Europe and Asia now seem to speak much more to the past than the future. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China, and Japan may have their differences, but they are not likely to lead to war. With the exception of Taiwan, it is nearly impossible to name an issue today among the traditional Great Powers where their approaches are so markedly different that an exchange of nuclear weapons or even a conventional war is plausibly real. That has not happened before. It is a good thing, and we should be grateful. It does not, however, mean the world has ceased to be a dangerous place for the Great Powers or anyone else. The peace is still threatened, but now it is threatened in a different way.

In the Cold War, the threats we faced were fairly conventional, even if the weapons involved were often nuclear. Nations faced nations. Armies faced armies. Weapons deterred weapons. This was the stuff of history and it lent itself to historical interpretation. Strategies and doctrines evolved on the basis that there was a rational desire to survive on both sides. That world has not completely gone away - we still want the security of a military that can defend us in the event our new friends become old enemies, but our feelings of insecurity now come from quarters we seldom feared in the past.

Today, terrorists seem to threaten us more than any army. The zealot whose organization we may not even know or the true believer whose cause is only vaguely known is more likely to be the killer of our fellow citizens and the disturber of the peace than any foreign soldier. Let me offer some examples. In Iraq 209 Americans and 42 British troops have been killed in the recent war and its aftermath, thankfully no Australian soldiers have died. Contrast that with what happened in New York where 2,106 Americans, 53 British and 10 Australians were killed at the World Trade Center. In Bali, 88 Australians, 23 British and 7 Americans were killed. Since I was sworn in as Ambassador of the United States to Australia not quite two years ago, 46 Americans have been killed by terrorists around the world in 23 different incidents. And while some were killed in the Middle East by Muslim fundamentalists, others were killed in places like Ecuador, Colombia, and Russia.

The scourge of terrorism has spread around the world and has mutated over the years. Time was when terrorists were fairly predictable. They had defined goals and agendas. The terrorism would stop, they said, when a government was overthrown, a prisoner released, a foreigner expelled, or an ideology adopted. Those terrorists are still with us in the world, but they have been joined by a new breed, the non-state terrorist with no specific agenda. They move across borders, planning a harvest of death in one place with weapons acquired from another for reasons known only to themselves. Their goals are ill defined, their explanations lacking.

Almost two years after the tragedy, do we know what it was the terrorists hoped to accomplish on Sept. 11? I know ample theories have been put forward, particularly by Western commentators, but with regard to the terrorists themselves, has anyone ever said, "I did it for this reason to accomplish this purpose?" No, because they do not work that way. The non-state terrorist reserves the right to kill first and explain later.

In Chechnya, it is one thing, in the Middle East, it is another, in Indonesia, something else. But whatever the cause, the result is the same, innocent people die. We are sickened to learn how cheaply these terrorists regard human life and how transitory are their reasons for taking it. We listen in disbelief as Osama bin Laden urges Americans to be killed because they are infidels, Australians because they intervened in East Timor, Egyptians and Jordanians because they oppose Islamic states. Ali Imron, the bomb maker at Bali, said he did it because the Sari Club "was a place of sin." Imron and his two compatriots expressed satisfaction at the number killed because, "Australians, Americans, whatever, they are all white people."

Sometimes we look at these terrorists and try to attribute some sympathetic cause to their crimes. Surely, they did this because they were poor, or oppressed or somehow misunderstood. We are disturbed that our fellow human beings could have so little regard for another life. But we must be careful not to rationalize with our value system acts that are essentially irrational. We need to understand that terrorists are outlaws and thugs, and like outlaws and thugs, they often do not act with great foresight or intellect. They act out of hate and envy, prejudice and ignorance. They kill by choice, not chance or circumstance.

Terrorists in Colombia, terrorists in Saudi Arabia, terrorists in Israel, may kill for a myriad of reasons, but they share one common belief - someone else must die to advance their cause, and the more they kill, the better they like it. That is the philosophical underpinning of what they do - their cause, their faith, as only they interpret it, their reason and their reason alone is sufficient to take another's life. It strikes at the heart of what we believe civilization is all about. If they were allowed to go unchallenged we would find ourselves in the midst of a new Dark Age.

There are those who argue that terrorism, especially the non-state terrorist, is an American problem and should be left to America to solve. They persuade themselves that their culture, their power, their values are uniquely their own and would never attract the attention of terrorists in the way that America does. They comfort themselves with the thought that Americans somehow brought all this on themselves and, surely, the terrorists can see that they are not Americans. Keep us out of sight, they argue, and the terrorists will leave us alone. Their views are at odds with the facts. Whether you live in Morocco or Saudi Arabia or Indonesia or France, you do not have to be supporting American foreign policy to attract the ire of terrorists. Terrorists choose their victims for their own reasons, and the victims do not get a vote. Those who hope to avoid the terrorist threat by letting others deal with it alone risk being alone in a world dominated by terrorists. Terrorism is a threat to civilization and the whole of civilization must fashion a response.

And there can be a response that will make a difference. Regardless of their cause, terrorists need three things to be successful - money, a place to hide and a weapon to use. The more the international community comes together to deny them all three, the more we will hasten the day when terrorism is eliminated as a serious threat to the peace of the world. The opportunities are many.

In the past, technology has been the friend of terrorists. They have been quick to realize that instruments like the internet provide a means to communicate, fund raise and do research. Now, we must make technology their enemy. Through advances in things like bio-technics and data sharing, we can make the free flow of terrorists across borders much more difficult than it has been in the past. For those who raise huge sums of money around the world, often under false pretenses, we must make it increasingly difficult to access the benefits of the international banking system. Since the war on terrorism began not quite two years ago, we have, in concert with some 150 nations, seized over $137 million in terrorist assets. This is a huge sum in the terrorist world, but it is estimated that hundreds of millions of dollars are still out there waiting to finance more terrorist activities. We must also understand that things like drug trafficking, kidnapping, money laundering, and counterfeiting once thought to be the exclusive purview of the underworld are now standard operating procedures for many terrorists groups. They do these things for money. As such, they are issues that must move to the center of our foreign policy agenda. We must dry up the money to terrorists, if we are to defeat terrorism.

In the emerging world of the last two years, terrorism is not the only thing that has changed. We have increasingly come to understand the perils of the failed state. During the Cold War, the failed state was no doubt regrettable, but it did not often present itself as a threat to the peace of the world as it does today. Now, the failed state provides the terrorist - especially the non-state terrorist - the perfect place to hide, the place where training and basing can occur until the next strike against civilization occurs. Governments too weak to provide minimum services or minimum security to their citizens are too weak to resist the parasites of terrorism. Weak states that will either look the other way or accept money for safe haven are the perfect hosts for terrorist groups. This situation has turned the old Cold War paradigm on its head. Then the strongest threats came from the strongest states. Now, the strongest threats may actually originate in the weakest states. Our line of defense is therefore much longer than it used to be. Every failed state, whether it is in the Pacific or the Middle East or Africa, is a potential launching pad of disaster for the rest of the world. And failed states are not alone.

Rogue states present new and more complicated threats than ever before. Not only do we need to worry about them acquiring and using weapons of mass destruction, now, we must be concerned that they will hand those weapons off to terrorist groups for ideological reasons or just plain money. Nor do the problems stop there. North Korea is a case in point. Remember this was a regime once sponsored by the Soviet Union. When the Soviets were no more, the North Koreans had a revenue shortfall. They seem to have decided that a Mafia-like business model is the best way to replace that revenue. They have been caught trying to sell pornography in Finland and prohibited animal products like rhinoceros horn in Africa, counterfeiting in Kuwait and trafficking in heroin in Australia. We also know they have freely sold missile and nuclear technology to anyone who would buy it. This is a rogue state desperately in need of money. The prospect of their taking nuclear weapons to the black market is indeed frightening.

In the months and years ahead, American foreign policy must be innovative and creative. We must focus on new strategies and doctrines that will meet the threats posed by terrorists of every stripe and governments of failed or rogue states. We must consult with allies, like Australia, whose views can be both enlightening and broadening to our own. We must make the argument over and over again that every nation, every people, every religion has a stake in ending terrorism.

As we fashion our responses, it is logical to expect that new strategies will look different than the strategies and doctrines used to wage and win the Cold War. Good generals are prepared to fight the next war not the last. We should not be afraid to talk about new ways to deal with these new threats. At the same time we must find ways to reinvigorate old institutions.

In the lead-up to the war in Iraq, much was made about whether the United States would render the United Nations useless. President Bush wisely took the matter of Iraq to the U.N. and pleaded for that body to act on its own resolutions. Sixteen and then seventeen times the U.N. implored, pleaded and threatened Saddam Hussein to destroy the weapons of mass destruction that he acknowledged he had at the end of the first Gulf War. Each time the U.N. allowed itself to be manipulated into inaction by Saddam's conduct. In the end, a frustrated President Bush, with the strong support of Prime Ministers Blair and Howard, led a coalition of the willing to do what the U.N. should have done on its own - enforce the 17 U.N. Security Council resolutions that had already been passed. The United States and its allies, the United Kingdom and Australia, did not want to act outside the U.N., but all felt that action had to be taken lest others be emboldened to defy the international community in the way that Saddam Hussein had done for twelve long years. Yes, we believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and yes, we believe they will still be found, but we also believe that convictions must be acted upon, not deferred forever. No one wanted to risk winding up in a world where wrong is never righted and the guilty are never brought to justice. A strong, functioning United Nations is in everyone's interest including the United States, but a United Nations incapable of meeting the modern threats to world peace is an institution that risks irrelevance.

During the lead up to the war in Iraq, much was made of the differences between our old allies France and Germany and ourselves. On reflection, perhaps those differences stemmed as much from what is going on in Europe itself as they did with Iraq. Europe increasingly is drawn to the concept of speaking with one voice. It is a concept that America has welcomed and encouraged, but it is also a concept difficult to implement. In the economic sphere, it has been largely successful, though much is still to be done. Militarily, however, much less has been decided. There is no clear consensus as to whether France and Germany will continue to speak for themselves or be a part of a chorus of voices speaking for Europe as a whole.

The United States believes that NATO can be the voice of Europe when it comes to military affairs. But we all need to reassess the role of NATO in the light of a changing world. NATO was the great success of the Cold War because it met a defined need. It was easier to explain a strategy for NATO when Europe was divided between East and West. Now that the Red Army is not deployed across Eastern Europe, it is harder to articulate NATOfs mission. We believe NATO has not outlived its usefulness. We think it can be reinvigorated through strategies like a Rapid Reaction Force that would give Europe a military voice for the future.

Regardless of whether NATO adopts such a strategy, America remains committed to Europe. We have been through too much together, our economies are too intertwined, our values are too similar for us to go our separate ways. We share much more than we differ. Like the good friends that we are, we must work at our relationship to insure its survival as we face the common threats of a changing world.

So, too, must we assure old allies like Australia, Japan, and South Korea that we are committed to Asia. We are a Pacific nation with interests throughout the region, and no interest is greater than securing a good and just peace where democracy and tolerance can flourish.

Whether it is Europe or Asia, we must, in consultation with our allies, look around the world to see if our forces are deployed in the most effective manner possible to meet the military challenges of this newly changed world. When we realize that most allied forces are where they are today because of Cold War requirements, we should ask ourselves if those deployments still make the most sense in the threat environment we now face. They may, but we should at least ask why. We should not be afraid to question old assumptions and our questions should not be seen as proof of an American intent to go it alone or to withdraw from the world.Profound change has already occurred in the world and we must be sure that we have adjusted to it in such a way that the peace can still be secured.

I said at the beginning that I thought this could be a time of great hope in the world and I repeat again that it can. If at the end of the Second World War, I had said to an audience like this that Europe and the world would end the 20th century without another World War and democracy would extend on the continent from Portugal to Russia, no one would have believed me. Yet, that is just what happened. The United States did its part to make that world come about. Today, we live in a world full of terrorism, failed states and rogue states, but we also live in a world where more people vote for their governments than ever before. We live in a world where the genius of free markets has never been more accepted nor the wealth of those markets delivered to more people. We live in a world capable of feeding and clothing itself and a world where medical science can deliver a longer, better quality of life to our citizens Democracy, tolerance, free speech and a free press are in the ascendancy. Freedom of religion has never been more important. These universal values - values that have brought a lasting peace to much of the world - are values that appeal to the best in human beings, not the worst. They foster hope, not hate.

For over 60 years, Americans have joined with Australians and free men and women everywhere to defend those values against the forces of militarism, fascism and communism. The world is a better place for what we have done.

Now, we - Americans, Australians and citizens of the civilized world - face different challenges, challenges that can be just as dangerous to our citizens as those that have come before. But we can meet those challenges if we remain true to our values and find that last ingredient of success - the courage to act on our convictions.