Council on Foreign Relations
FRANK CARLUCCI: Can we come to order, please?
Good evening. I’m Frank Carlucci, your presider for the evening. And let me start off with a few announcements. One is that, henceforth, council meetings will be black-tie optional. (Laughter.) Secondly, as is contrary to our usual practice, this meeting will be on the record, so be careful what you say. Third, during the question and answer period, please wait for the microphone to be brought to you, please identify yourself, and please ask a brief question. We prefer not to have speeches since we like to get as many questions in as possible.
We are honored today by the presence of a senior member of the administration of our closest ally, and I was reminded on Tuesday of this week how close that relationship is. We paid a fond farewell to Cap Weinberger at the Fort Myer Chapel, and there, seated alongside the ambassador, who’s here tonight, was Lady Thatcher, who had flown across the Atlantic to be there for that service, just like she did for Ronald Reagan. It’s an extraordinarily close relationship. Of course, Lady Thatcher was in a Conservative government and we now have a Labour government, but the relationship is just as close and as fruitful as it has ever been, and it’s the kind of relationship that rises above politics.
And it’s in that sense that we welcome the Right Honorable John Reid tonight to our forum. John Reid has been secretary of State for Defense of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland since 2005. He’s been a member of Parliament since 1987. Prior to being minister of Defense—secretary of State for Defense, he was secretary of State for Health. But as you can see on the bios that you have before you, he has a long record in defense. He was born in Scotland, he was educated at Coatbridge, and he holds a doctorate in economic history.
He’s going to—the topic tonight is “Terrorism: Dimensions and Response,” and there is no doubt where our guest stands on the issue. Let me quote to a quotation that was in a recent publication by John Reid. He said, “and the idea that somehow by running away from the school bully, then the bully will not come after you, is a thesis that is known to be completely untrue by every kid in the playground, and it is also refuted by every piece of historical evidence that we have.” So I expect him to be provocative and definitive on the subject.
And it’s my pleasure to introduce the secretary of State for Defense of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Right Honorable John Reid. John? (Applause.)
SECRETARY JOHN REID: Thank you, Frank. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you, Frank.
I thought of Margaret Thatcher when you mentioned her when we came in, Frank, telling tales out of school. But about three months after the Labour government was elected, took over from the Conservative government, I was at a celebration—commemoration, actually—of those who had died during the Falklands War at a place called Gosport in England. And Mrs. Thatcher was there, obviously as a guest of honor, no longer in power, but she had been prime minister during that period. And after it, she came up—and I know I’m not doing my career any good by telling this story—but she held my hand.
There we stood, Margaret and I, like Jack and Condi. (Laughter.) And she said, “not one penny more off defense.” At that time I was
Armed Forces minister, and I said fine, as you do to people that grab your hand at commemoration services. But she insisted, “not one penny more.” And I said, “Actually, Mrs. Thatcher,” I said, “your government cut defense by 29 percent.” And she came back, she said, “Yes, but that’s another reason why there should be not one penny more off defense.” (Laughter.)
So in an attempt to divert this attack on myself, I said to her—since I knew that, contrary to all of the expectations the new Labour prime minister had invited a number of people in to take advice from, and one of them was Mrs. Thatcher, the former Conservative prime minister—so I said to her, “I understand Mr. Blair invited you in a few weeks ago.” She said yes. So before she could say again “not one more penny off defense,” I said, “What did you think? What did you think of him?” And she, still holding my hand, looked around to the left and to the right, and she said to me intimately, “I think he’s one of us.” (Laughter.) That probably won’t do the prime minister’s career any good, either, back home. (Laughter.)
But I just want to say that, like you, I would like to pay a tribute, Frank, to Cap Weinberger. He was a friend of the United Kingdom in difficult times. And you know, when things are going well, the easiest thing in the world is to find friends. The difficult times, the times of adversity, are the crucible in which the best friendships are forged. And certainly from the point of view of my country, Cap Weinberger delivered that friendship to a greater degree than anyone could have expected of him. So anyone who could have been such a close friend of the United Kingdom, a mentor of someone like Frank Carlucci, and a wresting partner of Donald Rumsfeld had something going for him, quite frankly. So we remember him.
And I thank also Richard Haass for inviting me to speak here at the council. I got to know Richard when we were working together and I was secretary of State for Northern Ireland. So I’ll just place those things on the record.
For those of you who want to know why I’m here, I’m here to have talks with members of your Senate and your government, Donald and Condi and others, to try and further our strategic aims, not least to make sure that in Iraq the taking of sovereignty by the government there into its own hands, hopefully a government of national unity, and the security to protect that sovereignty advances; to make sure in Afghanistan that that country never falls back into the clutches of the Taliban and the terrorists because of the consequences, which I don’t need to tell anybody in this city in this side of the United States about; and of course, to see how we foster our relationship better in a bilateral sense. While I’m here, I thought I would just share some thoughts with the best and the brightest of the United States, and even wider thinking on the subject of international terrorism.
The problem with that subject, Frank, is not knowing where to start—but quite frankly, in something like 15 or 20 minutes we’re to finish!—because it is such a complex subject. So I have a degree of humility about putting forward some thoughts tonight to you, and in advance say to you that, in looking across the whole field of global terrorism and the comprehensive and complex responses which I believe it requires from the international community, I can do no better tonight than to identify four or five what I consider to be key characteristics which are important in shaping our response to it. Because if we don’t identify the right characteristics, then we will give the wrong responses, and in particular we will draw the dividing line between potential enemy and potential friend in the wrong place, and I believe that that would be something which, however expedient and speedy it would make our response, in the long run would be to our detriment.
So I want to start with a simple proposition, which you may or may not accept, and that is we are dealing at heart here with a phenomena which has its core in an ideological struggle, in a battle of ideas, and indeed with a battle of ideas inside Islam. That is where I believe the first staging post of our consideration should be.
There is a global struggle of ideas going on within Islam itself about the nature of progress, modernity, the nature of collective responsibility, belief, and within that the nature of individual freedom. Suffice it to say that I believe that, in some ways, it represents a struggle to determine whether the prevailing worldview of so many of the adherents of Islam will be one looking forward into the 21st century or one moving back to the 8th century.
And because it is a dispute within Islam in this perspective, we non-Muslims like me—Scotch-Irish mongrels like me, lapsed Catholic if you want an even clearer definition—the biggest religion in the world, I think, probably lapsed Catholic—we, to some extent, are bystanders.
But it does mean that we have to make an effort to understand what is going on here, to understand people’s feelings and perceptions and religious beliefs and so on, because without that understanding, without that humility of approach, we can’t begin to fathom the sort of dimensions that we ought to understand if we are to tackle some of the off-chutes of that, because to some extent at least we are bystanders.
But we also, us, have an urgent and legitimate interest because we are already being targeted by one of the protagonists in this debate, in this discussion, by the minority whose ideology spills over into terrorism and indiscriminate violence, and the minority which wishes to destroy us and our civilization, not a matter which we can take as an irrelevance to our very existence and the way in which we exist. And that minority wish as well—and this is a crucial point—to impose their vision violently not only on us but on fellow Muslims who disagree with them.
So the second thing then is that although this in some way starts as a discussion and debate within Islam for the purposes of our analysis, none of us are immune from the consequences.
And this leads me to a second point, which is this, put simply, although it is linked to a debate among Muslims, it is not only a debate about Islam. The struggle against global terror is not a clash of civilizations, it is far less a clash of civilizations than a clash about civilization. It is and ought to be about the unity of civilizations against the barbarity of terrorism in its ultimate definition.
Now, witness the fact and evidence that our terrorist opponents are at war with all of the civilizations of the world not just ours, including most of the people in their own civilization and culture, Islam itself. Because the most extreme protagonists in this debate, the minority of extremists who have lapsed into that terrorism and violence have even twisted the notion of jihad away from the internal spiritual struggle, into, after the course of its development, a self- declared entitlement, among the takfiris, to excommunicate, and then legitimately kill other Muslims who they judge to be insufficiently fanatical in their adherence to a particular perverted forum of Islam.
So though we may think in terms of New York or London or Madrid when it comes to terrorism from the global scale, never forget that it is a threat now hanging over so many of our Muslim brothers and sisters, not just our allies and partners of today, because this marriage of fanaticism and violence starts with a declaration of war against infidel troops. It then transgresses into a willingness to indiscriminately murder not combatants, but innocent civilians, but finds its ultimate expression in the massacre of men, women, and little children of the Muslim faith in the streets of Baghdad, on the countryside of Afghanistan or in the hotels of Amman in Jordan.
I believe that unless we understand that, we will not understand where our potential allies and partners in the struggle exist. So, while it is obvious that this kind of violence needs to be resisted, it should be equally obvious from these two points that, just as we implacably resist the terrorists, just as we have prepared to use the iron fist of military means against those who oppose us with violence, we must also be prepared to extend the hand of friendship to those on the other side of this debate, those on the civilization side of that debating lane. Though they may have a different civilization, culture, legacy, heritage, and even in some cases values from us, because the common values we will share set us apart from the terrorists.
So as we face the same danger and threat, so we must be part of the same united solution otherwise we will not resolve the problem even after a long, hard wide and deep struggle. In the profoundest sense, we are on the same side. That is why I believe that in the long struggle against terrorism it is important to re-emphasize that what we combat is not a religion; it is a twisted evil using religion as cover. Even a passing observation of European history will illustrate that on the plains and hills of Spain there are terrorists who have used nationalism as a cover for what they’re doing. In my own country, sometimes they have used Christianity as a cover for terrorist activity. On the backstreets of Bologna, they have used both extreme nationalism and socialism. And the Baader-Meinhof brigades in Germany, they have used creed as a color—as a cover as well.
So it goes without saying that no religion or creed is immune to being used as a camouflage for terrorist activity. It does not mean that they are inherently terrorists. So what we combat is not a creed or religion; it is a twisted evil, I repeat, using religion as a cover. We need to expose that, and to win the battle of ideas by proving the superiority of moderate and realistic alternatives to murderous extremism and meeting human needs across the planet.
But these ideological and cultural aspects are not the only important features of the new conflict that we face in which I’d like to identify tonight. There’s another one. And the third element I would choose is the nature of the enemy and its tactics and philosophy. So that third element is the utter lack of constraint—legal, moral, conventional, self-disciplined or imposed. No constraint whatever shown by our enemies in respect to any norms in the use of violence and conflict.
Now this is not entirely without precedent in our history, even our recent history. Of course, in World War II our parents and grandparents overcome Nazi and Japanese war criminals who either didn’t ratify international legal provisions such as the Geneva Convention, or who ignored any legal inhibitions in pursuit of genocide, conquest and exploitation. But what is new is the combination of wholesale license in the intention side in the use of indiscriminate violence allied to modern technological capacity and capability, at least potentially, on the capability side. And bringing those two together, the unconstrained license of intent,* and the (almost limited ?) destructive capacity of the capability presents us with a threat which potentially, I think, is greater than anything we’ve ever faced.
We now face an adversary which revels in mass murder; which sets out to cause the greatest pain to innocent people; which is entirely unconstrained by law; which sees all civilians, including women and children, not as non-combatants but as easy targets; which is completely contemptuous of any legal, conventional or moral restraints. And indeed, when it comes to morality, on the contrary, it is spurred on to even greater human destruction by its own perverse perception of morality. So it is driven to take innocent people as prisoners and degrade them, humiliate them, even ritually murder them on camera to terrorize others.
That is what terrorists do, but never on a scale using today’s technology—methods which we could not conceive of even a short time ago.
And these are not isolated aberrations. These are not somehow an accidental offshoot of the central purpose. They are the systemic, intrinsic means by which they choose to impose theirs wills on other. So the perpetrators aren’t condemned or punished when discovered by superiors.
None of us should be arrogant enough to think that we live in political systems or military organizations that incapable of falling beneath the standards of humanity which we ourselves determine are the necessary baseline. Of course that can happen. When it happens, they have to be exposed. We hope they are not systemic. They are irregular. They are not part of our purpose.
Not so with the terrorists. These are the systemic tools of globalized terror, and more frightening, as I said, because they’re aided and abetted by modern science and technology.
So while the evil intent was there in previous generations, constrained by relative deficiencies in technology, Al Qaeda and related groups can pick and choose from the latest commercial devices—the Internet to communicate; telecommunications and satellite television, in order to terrorize; horror and intimidation on a greater scale, in order to cow and to frighten; mobile phones from remote destinations, in order to explode improvised explosive devices; jumbo jets, to transform them into weapons of mass destruction; and, crucially, the proliferation and potential access to modern destructive capacity on a hitherto unimaginable scale, in the form of chemical, biological, radiological or, God forbid, nuclear weaponry.
That is the third huge, significant characteristic of the enemy we face.
And there’s another one, because that willingness to exploit the modern world and everything that it has to offer is the key to a wider aspect of this struggle. The military people here would have called it asymmetric warfare. It is not new, but it’s new in its application. It is using the strength of your enemy to turn towards a weakness by which you can penetrate the enemy’s strength.
To achieve their aims, our new stateless adversaries will not only employ our technology. They will try to use our very freedoms against us, against the great nations of the world, in a way that the nationally-based tyrannies of the 20th century could not—modern asymmetric warfare, using our freedoms against us to destroy our freedom.
Today they see the free Western media as a borderless virtual battleground in itself, where swaying public opinion away from the necessary support for the campaigns against them might be a swift path to easy victory, a quick way of undermining our public morale and therefore endurance.
You will remember that endurance, Napoleon said, is an even more important characteristic of soldiers than courage. And it is morale which underpins endurance. And that is why undermining morale is an immensely destructive strategic aim, and using the freedoms that we so value to undermine the morale which underpins the endurance may be a quicker way of destroying the campaign against the terrorists than anything they can do with weaponry.
So the strategic goal of the act of terrorism, remember, is fear. It is directed towards us. The indiscriminate murder is not indiscriminate. It is indiscriminate in its victims, but it has a purpose. And the purpose is to break the opponent’s will.
To a terrorist, the news reporting of an incident is not a method of information. It is not a sharing of some wider piece of knowledge. It is a method of amplifying and transmitting that fear of the act itself.
Now this, of course, is a difficult bind, especially from a free media in democratic countries, whose news values are driven partly by information but partly by commercial competition in an international world. If we don’t cover it, someone else will.
But be in no doubt; whatever our motivations, the terrorists want to use our democratic freedom of speech to destroy our will to fight for democratic values.
There would be no free media in a world run by al Qaeda, but they are happy to issue press releases and videos to independent news organizations in the hope and expectancy that they will broadcast their messages of terror meant to cow the populations of democratic countries.
There is no curtailment of systematic violence against civilians by al Qaeda; quite the opposite. But they and their apologists will be the first to complain and propagandize and exploit aberrant and isolated unlawful acts or any shortcoming of the democratic countries in the maintenance of their high and civilized standards. In this life-and-death struggle, they want both their hands free and both our hands tied behind our back.
And the terrorists have become adept at using the media to their ends. It is not our responsibility as politicians; it is the media’s responsibility to ensure that in reporting the facts, which it can and must do, it does not fall victim to this campaign.
And I make no complaint today about the media. It is a difficult position they have. The same way we have to balance freedoms and security here in the United States and at home, decide which laws we should pass to constrain or to extend freedom, so the media have a difficult task.
And I know that responsible news organizations battle with this dilemma daily. And I never forget that journalists, many journalists, have died at the hands of the terrorists for trying to report these realities too.
But I do merely point out that there is a dimension to this which is the modern application of asymmetric warfare, which is attempting to use our freedoms in order to undermine them on a scale that is probably greater than ever before.
Now on all these fronts, we could argue that our forces are fighting at a disadvantage. I want to make another thing plain, because this so-called disadvantage is often precisely what we are fighting for. That’s the preservation of our standards and our freedom. It is for the rule of law, the virtue of freedom of expression, and the opposition to barbarism.
So it is a “disadvantage” which I neither renounce nor reject, and I’m sure that is shared by everyone in this room. And I don’t renounce it. I don’t reject that. I accept that as a constraint and disadvantage which we have to suffer, because it is based on our own morality, our own sense of values, our own legality, our democracy, our own sense of proportion, our own hard-won ideals of decency and behavior. Indeed, what might be a short-term tactical disadvantage, I believe, in the long term gives us the (legitimacy ?) of a strategic advantage.
And therefore I make clear here that the British forces will operate within the law. We embrace the constraints that operating under the rule of law imposes on our forces. It is not a difficulty we reject.
But I do also say that we must make sure that those laws are kept relevant to the conflicts which we face today.
On Monday I made a speech in the United Kingdom about how the international community needs, among other things, to adapt to face this new threat. And I made the point there that international law has developed on the basis of a set of values which must be preserved. But I call for a discussion, for a debate about whether international law, including conventions such as the Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols, needs to be strengthened, to be extended in the face of the new challenges.
You see, when we inherit sets of international values, laws and conventions, and that inherited set of laws, conventions and values comes face to face with more recently developed and hitherto unenvisaged circumstances and threats, our response should not be to abandon those values, laws and conventions but to develop and strengthen them to encompass these new circumstances which we face. And it is the duty of friends not only to criticize when we believe others are getting it right, but to help to develop new international conventions and laws which get rid of the necessity for anomalies to continue.
Finally, let me remind you of the obvious, and that is that the resolute preparedness to use military means where appropriate is a necessary but not a sufficient condition of success. If the central issue we’re talking about here is ideological, it is fuelled by political, social and economic considerations, and those help shape its ultimate expression in violent terrorism. All means—ideological, political, financial; commercial—aid, trade, debt relief—and diplomatic, necessarily complement military means in our arsenal of action.
That is why I emphasize how broadly we will have to learn to think about this enemy and how to tackle them. Winning requires us to recognize that they represent an interconnected global ideology. They will have to be defeated by our ability to posit different, and ultimately more persuasive values and ideas, against a retrogressive, reactionary and restrictive agenda, which as we know has led to slaughter, ignorance and impoverishment. So, however energetically we develop and coordinate our military responses, or for that matter our diplomatic and media strategies, and our legal thinking, these alone will not be sufficient. We need to see the ever closer interlinking of the world as throwing up continuous series of opportunities for the development of a comprehensive strategy against terror. In other words, use the phenomena of globalization, with all of its difficulties and challenges, to use the opportunities it brings us in an interdependent, increasingly shrinking world to develop that unity on a whole range of fronts.
In the field of trade it would suggest an enlightened economic approach that aims to spread employment and encourages and rewards work.
In politics it means encouraging democracy and political change as widely as possible to enable all opinions to be heard.
In aid and development policy it means generous and farseeing assistance around the globe, where it is merited, especially at times of need—in the speed, quality and scale of international responses to humanitarian disaster, for instance, like earthquakes or a tsunami.
Overall—and this has been my main theme—the responsibility is upon governments and experts in the international community to work together in developing and instigating a firm, but comprehensive international strategy against global terror, based upon democratic values and humane, legally defensible, and realistically achievable objectives.
So I believe that it is ideas, based upon emerging and unmistakable realities, which will in the end progressively discredit and defeat the poisonous vision of our unconstrained enemies. I have been trying tonight to set out what seems to me the key aspects of what is a hugely complex international phenomena requiring a hugely complex response, in the belief that if we can identify at least the key strategic elements which we should be addressing, and the manner for our understanding of the problem, in which we ought to address them, that we will better effect the struggle against terrorism.
I am under no illusions that it will be a long, wide and deep struggle. But I hope that some of the points that I have made identifying the challenges of the new strategic situation help to stimulate wider thinking. And since I’m in front of such an expert and eminent audience today, I also ask you to join me in that essential discussion and debate.
Thank you for your invite here tonight. I hope what I have said stimulates some discussion. I say it in humility. I claim no definitive response to the problem that we face, but I look forward to receiving your questions, comments, abuse—(laughter)—standing ovation, if you’re still awake—(laughter)—before I go off to form that very special relationship which it seems I now have to develop with Donald Rumsfeld to compete with Jack Straw and Condi. (Laughter.)
Thank you very much indeed. (Applause.)
CARLUCCI: Well thank you very much, John, for those very comprehensive and provocative remarks. I’m sure you stimulated a lot of questions.
Let me make an observation. I suspect that most of the people, if not everybody in this room, would agree with you a hundred percent that this is a struggle of ideas and that the way to carry out that struggle is to work with moderate Arab states who are willing to embrace some of the ideas and ideals that have made Western society what it is. Although our Congress did not seem to understand that during the Dubai Ports deal. And I’d be interested in any comments you may have on how best to educate the public and politicians along the lines you suggested.
On the more narrow front, while this is—while the military aspect is not the principal aspect of this struggle, it is an important component. Let me ask you if you think that suicide terrorists are in one way or another deterrable, or do you just have to kill them? The Israelis have used tactics to destroy the family’s home with some success, but that’s, of course, alien to our culture. But are there any tactics we ought to be looking at along those lines to try and deter some of the terrorist activity?
REID: I think it’s very difficult to deter someone who believes that the action they’re about to carry out is their passport to paradise. It seems to be difficult to deter someone when that is the motivation. It’s not the first time we’ve had people who are prepared to commit suicide. The United States faced it in kamikaze pilots. And there’s a long history of people committing acts where they sacrifice themself for what they believe in, however bad or evil that action.
I think ultimately the answer to this will be to do whatever we can in operational and military means, Frank. And it is by no means an easy thing to counter. I mean, we had some 30 years of struggle in Northern Ireland against urban guerrilla warfare, against some of the best practiced and most effective urban terrorists in the world. But they wanted to survive. Had they wanted to commit suicide, then the problem we would have had would have been magnified hugely.
So I don’t underestimate it. So you have to do what you can there.
But ultimately this, I think, will only be diminished in its attraction to young people if two things are shown. One is the futility of the action because people are seeing, their families seeing that young people are sacrificing their lives for no purpose because their opponents are not going to be cowed by the use of that tactic, and secondly, by illustrating that there is another avenue, which is democracy and politics, through which they can resolve some of their underlying problems.
Now, that isn’t going to stop any particular case, but ultimately it is the use, as I said earlier, of implacable opposition to anyone gaining through the use of violent terrorism, whether it’s suicide or the destruction of others, without destroying yourself, at the same time as we show people there is another way. Now, that means we have to be positive, proactive in addressing some of the political problems, the economic deprivation, the injustice that goes on, which does not excuse their action, but so often fuels it and is used as an excuse for it.
I don’t have a magic wand for these things and I don’t have anything that will enable it to be solved very quickly. I think ultimately it is the opposition to that what is wrong and the opening up of avenues to that which is right but perhaps hasn’t been opened up.
CARLUCCI: We now welcome questions from the floor. Arnaud?
QUESTIONER: Arnaud de Borchgrave, CSIS, Minister. I don’t think—as Frank said, no one could possibly disagree with anything you said.
REID: That’s very good. That reassures me. I was rather disturbed when Frank said he found some elements of it provocative. That’s what my civil servants tell me is very courageous. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: But my question, Minister, is how, then, can you refute that the Iraqi war has acted as a force multiplier to evildoers?
REID: Well, I mean, I think anyone who knows the history of this and who follows what I was talking about, which was the ideological debate spilling over to terrorism, would find it an astounding misreading of history to think that this started four years ago or that even four years ago was a significant multiplier in this.
If you really want to know where this took off, I mean, it goes back decades, but if you wanted to relate it to actions in Iraq, actually the first intervention in Iraq probably inflamed to a far greater extent al Qaeda than the second intervention, because if you remember, when the Saudis, the custodians of the two holy places, invited in the infidel—not to put too fine a point on it, the Americans, along with others—you know, onto the holy ground, and women soldiers, this completely inflamed. This is where al Qaeda, you know, finally broke with Wahhabism and attacked the Saudis themselves, to get rid of them.
So of course, in a world where everything is interconnected to everything else, it is possible to say that all of these things have some impact in the struggle, but to argue that, you know, this development started, you know, four years ago with the intervention into Iraq, when Afghanistan happened before it, Yemen happened before it, Saudi happened before it, Kenya, Tanzania, Bali—as it happens we believe that the first al Qaeda attempt in the United Kingdom happened before as well, it was unsuccessful—so I think it’s just a misreading of history to try and suggest that if it hadn’t been for this, we wouldn’t have been targets.
I mean, the idea that if we close our eyes to this and go away, and if we hadn’t stood up to it, you know, it’s—the whole of history teaches the opposite. Frank said at the beginning—wasn’t it from a speech I gave about the bully. But what I do know is that people were not prepared to act at a given stage in the 1930s, because they said if you go in there, this will just cause problems. Let them go into the Ruhr. Don’t complain when he’s establishing an army. If you go in there, it will just start a fight. Just let him go into Austria, it’s an Anchloss, (they’re doing it by ?) agreement. You know, this old warmonger Churchill, he’s trying to get—look, it doesn’t matter about the Sudetenland. You know, why do you have a war? You’ll lose lives, and what do you end up with; losing 60-odd- million lives. Because at every stage somebody said if you go in there you’ll anger them, you will cause a fight.
So both in the historical side and as a degree of principle, I don’t find it persuasive. I genuinely don’t. I wish it was the case that all of this has been caused by one event recently. It isn’t. It has been building up over a period of time. And I understand why people who did not agree with the intervention in Iraq would argue this case. I think that you can argue the case against intervention without pretending that all the ills of the world have come from there, from that incident.
QUESTIONER: Jim Moody, Merrill Lynch. Taking further your point about the establishment of bases on the holy ground of Saudi Arabia and how that began—inflamed what was already a simmering feeling, what do you feel—and since the psychological-political-religious-cultural dimensions are so important—and I totally agree with what you’ve said—what does that tell us about the value of adding bases,
permanent military bases in that region, in contrast to the Cold War, when we were dealing with a rational foe and we needed bases and strategic positions to demonstrate our willingness to contain. What do these bases in Saudi Arabia or in Iraq or however—do they begin to have a negative impact on the dimensions you very rightly point out?
REID: I think, again, it’s an answer that is more general than you would like, but I think it depends on a number of circumstances, one of which is the reception of the host government and the host nation. I think that the more we see this as a global dimension, where the division ought to be, if we can do it, between those who use indiscriminate violence against civilians for political ends when there are political opportunities open to them, and all civilizations on this side—in other words, the more we are prepared to try to understand, to embrace and to cultivate friendships across a wide range of religious and cultural civilizations and backgrounds, the more it becomes possible to have troops working together with allies.
If you look at Iraq, for instance—I mean, the thing that strikes me about Iraq in the round historical sense is that it is absolutely amazing in Iraq—not that people are fighting, are finding it difficult to come together, but that groups who have suffered such a deep destruction of their own peoples—the Kurds, these women and children were burned from the inside out by mustard gas; the Shi’a, whose—against whose people acts of genocide were committed by taking away the very water on which they existed; many cities who were literally chopped to bits by the former fascist regime— the miracle is not that they, you know, have antagonisms. The miracle is that in three or four years they have come together—people from different backgrounds have come together. They are on the verge of forming a government of national unity despite that background and despite the fact that the terrorists are intentionally massacring the Shi’a to try and provoke a civil war.
Now, why is that relevant to what you say? It is relevant because I believe that despite all of these predictions, we should look with a degree of humility about what’s going on there. In my country, Jim—it’s Jim Moody, isn’t it? Is that an Irish name? There you are. In my country, it took several centuries for the Scots to sit down with the English. It was only five years ago we got a final constitutional settlement. As far as the Irish are concerned, we’ve been at it for 837 years and we still haven’t finished it. We landed there, you’ll remember, in the Wexford estuary, in 1169. Me. I remember it well. It was right—you know, we looked—(laughter). Robert Fitzstephen and 400 men from England—actually, they were Normans. This has nothing to do with your question, but it’s interesting. (Laughter.) They were Normans who arrived from France in 1066, conquered Britain, ran out of land, decided we’ll go to Ireland, landed there 100 years later, had a look round, thought, “This will do. Beautiful. It’ll be all over in a month.” And here we are. So just remember, it’s Normans. It’s the French that’s behind every trouble, isn’t it? (Laughter.) I mean, they—
So there we—it took us centuries to arrive at that constitutional settlement between Scots, English, Welsh and Irish in our country. Over there, these people—Muslims, Arabs, Iraqis—have, despite everything, come together. They deserve our support.
Now, around them—this is why it’s the question of bases around them are nations who don’t agree with us in everything, who have a different culture. Saudi Arabia being one of them you mentioned, but there’s others—Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey. Now, I would like to see
them play a bigger role in the ultimate solution of security in that area. Of course, there are others we have yet to persuade to diplomatically be constructive. I hope Syria are going down that path. Iran, tragically, at the moment, don’t look as if they are, but we want them to go down that path. So what I’m saying is that the ultimate solution to that area would be to ensure that these countries of the region itself play an important role in stabilizing that region. And the best thing, in a sense, we can do, apart from giving them our friendship, is to encourage them to progress towards some form of democratic government which is commensurate with their own values because democracies very rarely go to war with each other. They do sometimes, but very rarely.
So that would be my answer, that ultimately the security of the region is better guaranteed by the people in that region themselves, and friendship with us and in democracy in themselves.
CARLUCCI: We can take one more.
REID: I’ll try and make the next answer shorter.
CARLUCCI: Way in the back. Way in the back.
QUESTIONER: Good evening, sir. David Ensor. I’m from CNN.
So, given your job and given my job, I’d like to ask you, first of all, do you think that—some people argue that more troops in Iraq and more troops in Afghanistan would lead to a better result. Do you think—do you agree or disagree with them? And secondly, how long do you think British troops will be in these places?
REID: Well, what will help Iraq are more Iraqi troops trained and capable, and that’s precisely what we’ve been having over the past 18 months; Iraq itself governed by a democratic, representative government, which, despite all in their past, comes together to form a government of national unity. That is the highest priority.
And if we get that—and I think that is quite possible in the not-too-distant future—then a government of national unity, democratically elected, represented by—sorry, representative of all the people of Iraq, and their own security forces leading up operations, is precisely the successful strategy which we set out to achieve. And it’s also the exit strategy because as that comes on stream, the conditions for success create the conditions for us handing over to the Iraqis themselves.
In Afghanistan, the argument is roughly the same. We all know why we’re there—we are there because the Taliban and the terrorists used that country, a failed state, as an empty shell, a Trojan horse, within which they planned, rehearsed and launched the worst, most terrible terrorist act in history, which people in this part of the world have reason not to forget. And we are there to help the democratically elected government of Afghanistan, under President Karzai, to develop their economy, their own means of government and their own security forces. Why? Because we never want that country to fall back under the heel of the Taliban or the terrorists again. Never again do we want that to be used as a launchpad for terrorist attacks of the nature that we saw in the Twin Towers and elsewhere.
So I don’t know that I can say any more, even to a reporter from CNN. (Laughter.)
QUESTIONER: You don’t know how long—
CARLUCCI: I think—
QUESTIONER: You don’t know how long—
REID: I can’t hear your question. Sorry.
QUESTIONER: You do not have any idea when the British troops will leave?
REID: Will leave where?
QUESTIONER: Either of those two places.
REID: Well, yes, I’m absolutely plain. I’ve said it since I was secretary of State. We will leave Iraq when the job is done.
When will the job be done? When the Iraqi government itself, democratically elected, says: we now have the security forces to counter the terrorist threat and their attempts to bring down democracy. As soon as they say that is now the position, then we will be off. That will not be an event which happens everywhere in Iraq on the one day. It will be a process that will start in some provinces sooner than in others, but as soon as the Iraqis themselves feel we are capable to defend our own democracy, then that process of handover will begin. Until that stage, we and the other nations—predominantly the United States, but many other nations as well—we will be there as long as it takes.
Let me just say absolutely firmly to you—because I read with interest what is said in this country—this is not the time for shaky nerves and lack of will to see this through in Iraq. This is the time for firm resolve, and for seeing through the commitment we gave to the democratic politicians of Iraq and to the courageous people of Iraq who, despite the threats from death and destruction for them and their families, turned out in the democratic elections in numbers hugely above the numbers that people in this country or in my country turn out in elections. We owe that to those people to see that through.
And in Afghanistan, we owe it to the people of the United States, to the people of the United Kingdom, to the people of all the civilized world to make sure that never again will people like the Taliban and the terrorists who used that country to murder thousands of our citizens, including many Brits—we’re never going to allow that to happen again.
So if that is the question you’re asking, then that is my answer to it.
CARLUCCI: It’s now 7:00. Let me take one last question. Mrs. Anderson.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. Speaking of one penny more, we need more than one penny to fund the war that’s going on in Iraq now. And I’ve always wondered, after we went into Iraq, why there wasn’t an effort to get more people or more countries involved in the rebuilding of Iraq at that time, the oil wells and et cetera, so that probably, their having an interest, we would have more money to fund the war. I’ve warned my children at this time—I’m a housewife; I work with a budget—save your pennies, because I feel our country is rented out now to people who will buy our bonds and our treasuries. And you’ve read the polls; our people here in America are getting restless about the war. Even though the goals are noble and everything you say may be true, we need a few pennies more.
REID: Well, I—you know, I welcome the initiatives taken by Saudi Arabia, by countries in the area to give increasing degree of interest and support to what is happening in Iraq. I hope that once there’s a government of national unity formed which is clearly
democratically elected and which has come together despite all of the differences, I hope that countries in the region will find it easier to deal in partnership with that new democratic government because I believe it’s for the benefit of the world and the region that there is progress towards democracy.
See, why are the terrorists so frenetic in their efforts to destroy Iraqi democracy? It is because this isn’t just a matter that affects Iraq, though it is important for the people in that country; it is because the whole basis of the terrorist propaganda is that democracy and individual freedom is incompatible with Arabs or Islam. If there is a living illustration that that is completely untrue, a country in the Middle East which is Arab and Muslim but has a democratic form of government, tailored with a constitution that takes some of our freedoms with all of their values, which can take human rights and the Shari’a and the Koran and put that together and work together, it is a huge strategic blow to the Muslim extremist terrorists, a huge strategic blow. And that is precisely why they cannot allow this to succeed, and that is precisely why it is important to us on a global scale, as well as defending our countries and contributing towards helping the Iraqis themselves.
CARLUCCI: Thank you, John, for a wonderful presentation.
REID: Thank you. (Applause.)
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