A Changed World

This FPRI E-Note is a condensed version of the Kissinger Lecture delivered by former Secretary of State George P. Shultz on February 11, 2004, at the Library of Congress.

We are at one of those special moments in history: the topic of the day is Iraq and weapons not accounted for; but our action in Iraq has implications that go far beyond this in areas including Israeli-Palestinian issues and our own dangerous dependence on imported oil.

The Problem of Terrorism

We have struggled with terrorism for a long time. In the Reagan administration, I was a hawk on the subject. I said terrorism is a big and different problem, and we have to take forceful action against it. Fortunately, Ronald Reagan agreed with me, but not many others did (Don Rumsfeld was an outspoken exception). I argued against those who said that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” Some people are still saying this; they are dreadfully wrong.

In those days we focused on how to defend against terrorism. We reinforced our embassies and increased our intelligence effort. We established the legal basis for holding states responsible for using terrorists to attack Americans anywhere. Through intelligence, we did abort many potential terrorist acts. But we didn’t really understand what motivated the terrorists or what they were out to do.

In the 1990s, the problem began to appear even more menacing. Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda were well known, but the nature of the terrorist threat was not yet comprehended and our efforts to combat it were ineffective. Diplomacy without much force was tried. Terrorism was regarded as a law enforcement problem and terrorists as criminals. Some were arrested and put on trial. (Early last year, a judge finally allowed the verdict to stand for one of those convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.) Terrorism is not a matter that can be left to law enforcement, with its deliberative process, built-in delays, and safeguards that may let the prisoner go free on procedural grounds.

Today, looking back on the past quarter century of terrorism, we can see that it is the method of choice of an extensive, internationally connected ideological movement dedicated to the destruction of our international system of cooperation and progress. We can see that the 1981 assassination of President Sadat, the 1993 bombing of the WTC, its destruction in 2001, and scores of other terrorist attacks in many countries were carried out by one part or another of this movement.

What Should We Do?

First and foremost, we must shore up the state system. The world has worked for three centuries with the sovereign state as the basic operating entity, presumably accountable to its citizens and responsible for their well-being. In this system, states also interact with each other to accomplish ends that transcend their borders. They create international organizations to serve their ends, not govern them.

Increasingly, the state system has been eroding. Terrorists have exploited this weakness. But no replacement system is in sight that can perform the essential functions of establishing an orderly and lawful society, protecting essential freedoms, providing a framework for fruitful economic activity, and providing for the common defense.

Our great task is restoring the vitality of the state system. All established states should stand up to their responsibilities in the fight against our common enemy, terror; be a helpful partner in economic and political development, and take care that international organizations work for their member states. When they do, they deserve respect and help to make them work successfully.

We need to remind ourselves and our partners of the message carried on the Great Seal of our Republic. The central figure is an eagle holding in one talon an olive branch and in the other, thirteen arrows. As President Harry Truman insisted at the end of World War II, the eagle will always face the olive branch to show that the United States will always seek peace. But the eagle will forever hold on to the arrows to show that, to be effective in seeking peace, you must have strength and the willingness to use it.

Strength and diplomacy: they go together. They are not alternatives; they are complements. As President Bush put it in his 2004 State of the Union address, “Nine months of intense negotiations involving the United States and Great Britain succeeded with Libya, while 12 years of diplomacy with Iraq did not. And one reason is clear: For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible, and no one can now doubt the word of America.”

The civilized world has a common stake in defeating the terrorists. We now call this what it is: a War on Terrorism. In war, you have to act on both offense and defense. The diplomacy of incentives, containment, deterrence, and prevention are all made more effective by the demonstrated possibility of forceful preemption. If you deny yourself the option of forceful preemption, you diminish the effectiveness of your diplomatic moves. With the consequences of a terrorist attack as hideous as they are, the U.S. must be ready to preempt identified threats. And not at the last moment, when an attack is imminent, but before the terrorist gets in position to do irreparable harm.

Over the last decade we have seen more of the “failed state,” an ideal environment for terrorists to plan and train. Earlier, people allowed themselves to think that, for example, an African colony could gain its independence, be admitted to the UN as a member state, and thereafter remain a sovereign state. Then came Somalia. All government disappeared. No more sovereignty, no more state. The same was true in Afghanistan. Who took over? Islamic extremists. They talked about reviving traditional forms of pan-Islamic rule with no place for the state. They were fundamentally, and violently, opposed to the way the world works.

The United States launched a military campaign to eliminate the Taliban and al-Qaeda’s rule over Afghanistan. Now we and our allies are trying to help Afghanistan become a real state again. Yet there are many other parts of the world where state authority has collapsed or, within some states, areas where the state’s authority does not run. That’s one area of danger: places where the state has vanished. A second area of danger is found in places where the state has been taken over by criminals, gangsters, or warlords. Saddam Hussein was one example. Kim Jong-Il of North Korea is another.

They seize control of state power to enhance their wealth, consolidate their rule, and develop their weaponry. As they do this, they claim the privileges and immunities of the international system, such as the principle of non-intervention. For decades these thugs have gotten away with it, and the leading nations of the world have let them. This is why the case of Saddam Hussein and Iraq is so significant.

The War Against Iraq Was Necessary

After Saddam Hussein consolidated power, he started a war against one of his neighbors, Iran, and in the course of that war he committed war crimes including the use of chemical weapons. About ten years later he started another war against another neighbor, Kuwait. In the course of doing so he committed war crimes. He took hostages and launched missiles against a third and then a fourth country in the region.

That war was unique because Saddam totally eradicated another state and turned it into “Province 19” of Iraq. The aggressors in wars might typically seize some territory, or occupy the defeated country, but Saddam sought to erase Kuwait from the map of the world. That got the world’s attention. That’s why, at the UN, the votes were wholly in favor of a U.S.-led military operation— Desert Storm— to throw Saddam out of Kuwait.

When Saddam was defeated, in 1991, a cease-fire was put in place. Then the UN Security Council decided that, in order to prevent Saddam from continuing to start wars and commit crimes against his own people, he must give up his arsenal of WMD. Recall the way it was to work. If Saddam cooperated with UN inspectors, produced his weapons and facilitated their destruction, then the cease-fire would be transformed into a peace agreement between the international system and Iraq. But if Saddam did not cooperate, and materially breached his obligations regarding his WMD, then the original Security Council authorization for the use of “all necessary force” against Iraq would be reactivated and Saddam would face another round of U.S.-led military action. Saddam agreed to this arrangement.

In the early 1990s, UN inspectors found plenty of materials in the category of WMD and dismantled a lot of it. They kept on finding such weapons, but as the presence of force declined, Saddam’s cooperation declined. He began to undermine the inspection effort.

By 1998 the situation was untenable. Saddam had made inspections impossible. President Clinton, in February 1998, declared that Saddam would have to comply with the UN resolutions or face American military force. UN secretary-general Kofi Annan flew to Baghdad and returned with a new promise of cooperation. But Saddam did not cooperate. The U.S. Congress then passed the Iraq Liberation Act by a vote of 360-38 in the House of Representatives; the Senate gave its unanimous consent. Signed into law in October, H.R. 4655 supported the renewed use of force against Saddam with the objective of changing the regime. By this time, Saddam had openly rejected the inspections and the UN Security Council resolutions.

In November 1998 the Security Council passed a resolution declaring Saddam to be in “flagrant violation” of all the UN resolutions going back to 1991. That meant that the cease-fire was terminated and the original authorization for the use of force against Saddam was reactivated. President Clinton ordered American forces into action in December 1998. But the U.S. military operation was called off after only four days— apparently because President Clinton did not feel able to lead the country in war at a time when he was facing impeachment.

So inspections stopped. The U.S. ceased to take the lead. The inspectors reported that as of the end of 1998 Saddam possessed major quantities of WMD across a range of categories, and particularly in chemical and biological weapons and the means of delivering them by missiles. All the world’s intelligence services agreed on this. But from that time until late last year, Saddam was left undisturbed to do what he wished with this arsenal of weapons. The international system had given up its ability to monitor and deal with this threat. All through the years 1998-2002 Saddam continued to rule Iraq as a rogue state.

President Bush made it clear by 2002, and against the background of 9/11, that Saddam must be brought into compliance. It was obvious that the world could not leave this situation as it was. The U.S. made the decision to continue to work within the scope of the long line of UN Security Council resolutions to deal with Saddam. After an extended and excruciating diplomatic effort at the UN in New York and in capitals around the world, the UN Security Council late in 2002 passed Resolution 1441, which gave Saddam one final chance to comply. When on December 8, 2002, Iraq produced its required report, it was clear that Saddam was continuing to play games. His report, thousands of pages long, in no way accounted for the remaining WMD that the UN inspectors had reported to be in existence at the end of 1998. That assessment was widely agreed upon.

That should have been that. But the debate at the UN went on and on. And as it went on it deteriorated. Instead of keeping the focus on Iraq and Saddam, France induced others to regard the problem as one of restraining the U.S.— a position that seemed to emerge from France’s aspirations for greater influence in Europe and elsewhere. By March 2003 it was clear that French diplomacy had resulted in splitting NATO, the EU, and the UN Security Council, and probably convincing Saddam that he would not face the use of force. The French position, in effect, was to say that Saddam had begun to show signs of cooperation with the UN resolutions because more than 200,000 American troops were poised on Iraq’s borders ready to strike him; so the U.S. should just keep its troops poised there for an indeterminate time to come, until presumably France would instruct us that we could either withdraw or go into action. This of course was impossible militarily, politically, and financially.

Where do we stand now? These key points need to be understood:

  • There has never been a clearer case of a rogue state using its privileges of statehood to advance its dictator’s interests in ways that defy and endanger the international state system.
  • The international legal case against Saddam— 17 resolutions— was unprecedented.
  • The intelligence services of all involved nations and the UN inspectors over more than a decade all agreed that Saddam possessed WMD that posed a threat to international peace and security.
  • Saddam had four undisturbed years to augment, conceal, disperse, or otherwise deal with his arsenal.
  • He used every means to avoid cooperating or explaining what he has done with them. This refusal in itself was adequate grounds for resuming the military operation against him that had been put in abeyance in 1991 pending his compliance.
  • President Bush, in ordering U.S. forces into action, stated that we were doing so under UN Security Council Resolutions 678 and 687, the original bases for military action against Saddam Hussein in 1991. No nation in the history of the UN has ever engaged in such a sustained and committed multilateral diplomatic effort to adhere to the principles of international law and organization within the international system. In the end, it was the U.S. that upheld and acted in accordance with the UN resolutions on Iraq, not those on the Security Council who tried to stop us.

The question of WMD is just that: a question that remains to be answered, a mystery that must be solved. Just as we also must solve the mystery of how Libya and Iran developed nuclear capability without detection, how we were caught unaware of a large and flourishing black market in nuclear material, and how we discovered these developments before they got completely out of hand and have put in place promising corrective processes. The question of Iraq’s presumed stockpile of weapons will be answered, but that answer will not affect the fully justifiable and necessary action that the coalition has undertaken to bring an end to Saddam Hussein’s rule over Iraq.

As Dr. David Kay put it in a February 1 interview with Chris Wallace, “We know there were terrorist groups in state still seeking WMD capability. Iraq, although I found no weapons, had tremendous capabilities in this area. A marketplace phenomena was about to occur. [They had] the knowledge of how to make them. Iraq remained a very dangerous place in terms of WMD capabilities, even though we found no large stockpiles of weapons.”

Above all, and in the long run, the most important aspect of the Iraq war will be what it means for the integrity of the international system and the effort to deal effectively with terrorism. The stakes are huge and the terrorists know that. That is the reason for their tactic of violence in Iraq. And that is why, for us and our allies, failure is not an option. The message is that the U.S. and others in the world who recognize the need to sustain our international system will no longer quietly acquiesce in the takeover of states by lawless dictators who then carry on their depredations behind the shield of protection that statehood provides. If you are one of these criminals in charge of a state, you no longer should expect to be allowed to be inside the system at the same time that you are a deadly enemy of it.

North Korea is such a case. The circumstances do not parallel those of Iraq, so our approach is adjusted accordingly. China, Japan, Russia and South Korea must man laboring oars. One way or another, that regime will undergo radical change or come to an end. Iran is another very different case, where the interplay of strength and diplomacy is producing tentative results and where internal turmoil may change the complexion of the state.

The Middle East

Demography plays a role here. In the Middle East, the population is exploding out of control, youth is by far the largest group, and these young people have little to do. Governance in these areas has failed them. In many countries, oil has produced wealth without the effort that connects people to reality. Physical work is often done by imported labor in some of these countries. The submissive role forced on women has led to the population explosion. Generations of young people have grown up in these societies with a surplus of time on their hands and a deficit of productive occupations. Disconnected from reality, they live in a world of fantasy. Denied opportunity, many have turned to a destructive, terror-using ideology. Islamism is the name most specialists have settled on. Yet these young people can see on their TVs that a better life is possible in many other places in the world. Their frustration is immense. A disproportionate share of the world’s many violent conflicts is in the Middle East.

Many Muslin regimes in the area have finally realized that the radical variant of Islam is violently opposed to the modern age, globalization, secular governance and those Muslim regimes themselves— their primary target. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan top the target list. Years ago these regimes, and others, began a frantic search for ways to deflect the threat. Some tried to coopt the Islamists into their governments. Some paid extortion money. Some pushed the Islamists into other countries and then subsidized them. Some of them pumped out huge volumes of propaganda to incite the Islamists to turn their attention from the “near enemy,” such as Saudi Arabia, to the “far enemy,” Israel and the United States. Some of these targeted regimes tried all these defensive tactics in an attempt to buy time.

Since 9/11, some of these Muslim regimes have begun to realize that this approach is a loser; it only strengthens their Islamist enemies, who will, sooner rather than later, turn against them directly. They have now had a reality check. We are witnessing nothing short of a civil war in the Arab-Islamic world. On one side are those who, for reasons they ascribe to their version of Islam, reject the international system of states, international law and organization, international values and principles such as human rights, and diplomacy as a means to work through problems. On this side are al-Qaeda and similar non-state terrorist groups that have spun a network running from West Africa to the East Indies, with outlying cells on every continent. Also on this side was the dictatorship of Saddam’s Iraq, a pirate sailing under the false flag of statehood. And on this side as well are those Middle Eastern regimes such as Syria that have facilitated terrorism elsewhere in an attempt to keep it from bringing them down at home.

On the other side of the civil war are those regimes in the Arab-Islamic world that, however much they may have appeased, bought out, or propagandized the terrorists, have nonetheless now recognized that they are members of the international system of states and must find a way to reconcile their Islamic beliefs and practices to it. Saudi Arabia and others in the world of Islam must, in their own interests, recognize their responsibility to stop the preaching of hate and to reform their societies. Young people must have access to the world of opportunity. Women must be free to play substantial roles in their societies.

The U.S., in our war with Iraq, has just intervened in this civil war in the Middle East. Because we have used our strength credibly and because we stand for good governance and the right of Middle Eastern peoples to participate in the international system, and as these peoples see that we will stay the course, we can expect attitudes in the region to shift in a positive way.

The Israeli-Palestinian Problem

And we have taken our longstanding role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a new and deeper level, also because of a renewed recognition of the importance of the state. In 1979 Egypt and Israel recognized each other as legitimate states and signed a peace treaty. At that time Egypt took on the role of state negotiator with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians, who did not have a state. This was in recognition that states can make peace only with other states within the international state system.

But after Islamists murdered President Sadat, Egypt dropped its role as state negotiator. Jordan took up that role, but dropped it in 1988. Since that time the negotiations have not made serious progress, despite some apparent highpoints, because there has been no state partner to sit across the table from the State of Israel.

But now the picture has some new possibilities. Yes, optimists should stand aside, but fatalists should, too. You do not work on probabilities in this area, just possibilities. But work we must— and with energy and timing— since the issues involved are vital in this dangerous world. The possibilities are far more in evidence than is commonly assumed.

Security for Israel is clearly an essential for fruitful negotiations. So far, nothing has worked. Those who seek to eliminate the State of Israel have regarded efforts at Oslo or Camp David II and elsewhere as proof that terrorism works, and that every Israeli step toward peace is really a sign of weakness. Now a security barrier is under construction. Israel has stated that its path can be changed in the event of a negotiation. Israel seems ready to pull back some settlements beyond the new barrier, as in Gaza. If Israel, through these measures, gains security in its land, that will be a major step toward peace. Once again, Israel will have demonstrated that it cannot be beaten militarily, this time by terrorist violence. And when Palestinians face the fact that terrorism has become both ineffective and self-destructive, that realization may enable them to take a major step toward peace.

What else can we list as a basis for possibility? The war in Iraq has eliminated a rogue state that repeatedly acted to disrupt progress toward peace. And Operation Iraqi Freedom has had an impact all across the region: as Iraq stabilizes, people in the Middle East will see that change for the better is possible.

Importantly, for the first time in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, important Arab states have stated a willingness to promote peace between Israel and Palestine. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan are the keystones of this structure. Remember the important initiative of Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, under which the Arab League, in the event that a peace agreement is reached between Israel and a State of Palestine, would recognize Israel as a permanent, legitimate state in the Middle East and the international state system.

And there is a “Roadmap” to work from. This document spells out the general directions for progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace. No document since the founding text of the peace process— the 1967 UN Security Council Resolution 242— has had such wide, even if tentative, international support. Israelis and Palestinians, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and “the Quartet”— the United States, the EU, Russia, and the UN— all have indicated willingness to take this Roadmap as a working paper of the parties to the conflict, and of the leading nations and organizations of the international state system itself.

This approach incorporates a way to fix the negotiating problems of the past twenty years. It provides for the establishment of a Palestinian state, not at the end of the negotiations, but in the midst of the effort. Of course, there is much more to making a state than an announcement. But a structure of governance can be established and, if Egypt and Jordan will help, violence can be suppressed and the emerging state can control the use of force. Then there would be a Palestinian state partner for the State of Israel to negotiate with. The Palestinians charged with governance will have more leverage, and the Israelis will have more confidence that their negotiating partner can deliver on the deal that is made. Put some projects in the mix, about water, for example, to energize those Palestinians who yearn for peace and a chance for a better life. Help them take the play from extremists so that their state has a chance for decent governance. Who knows, maybe possibility could become probability and then a new reality.

A World of Danger and a World of Opportunity

I cannot emphasize too strongly the danger and extent of the challenge we are facing. We are engaged in a war, a long and bitter war. Our enemies will not simply sit back and watch as we make progress toward prosperity and peace in the world. But 9/11 forced us to comprehend the extent and danger of the challenge. We began to act before our enemy was able to extend and consolidate his network. If we put this in terms of World War II, we are now sometime around 1937. In the 1930s, the world failed to do what it needed to do to head off a world war. Today we are doing what needs to be done. With a powerful interplay of strength and diplomacy, we will win this war.

We and our partners throughout the world can then work and live in a time of immense promise. Scientific and technological advances are breathtaking virtually across the board. The impact on the human condition is profound. New technologies are changing the way we live and work, globalizing access to an extraordinary range of information. People everywhere can see that economic advance has taken place in countries of every size, with great varieties of ethnic, religious, and cultural histories. So we should not be surprised that— as Freedom House and the Heritage Foundation and The Wall Street Journal carefully document— open economic and political systems are becoming more common.

This new reality means that America’s political-military-diplomatic policy must be joined by economic policy aimed at transforming the international energy picture. Our strength and our security are vitally affected by our dependence on oil coming from other countries and by the dependence of the world economy on oil from the most unstable part of the world: the Middle East. Presidents from Eisenhower on have called for energy independence. Ike, no stranger to issues of national security, thought that if foreign oil were more than 20 percent of our consumption, we were headed for trouble. The number is now pushing 60 percent and rising. What would be the impact of terrorist sabotage of key elements of the Saudi pipeline infrastructure? I remember proposals for alternatives to oil from the time of the first big oil crisis in 1973. Pie in the sky, I thought. But now the situation is different.

Hybrid technology is on the road and increases gas mileage by at least 50 percent. Sequestration of effluent from use of coal may be possible. Maybe coal could be a benign source of hydrogen. Maybe hydrogen could be economically split out of water by electrolysis, perhaps using renewables such as wind power. An economy with a major hydrogen component would do wonders for both our security and our environment. With evident improvements in fuel cells, that combination could amount to a very big deal. Applications include stationary as well as mobile possibilities. Scientists, technologists, and commercial organizations in other countries are hard at work on these issues. The administration is coordinating potentially significant developments. We should not be put off by experts who say that the possible is improbable. Scientific advance in recent decades is a tribute to and validation of creative possibilities. Bet on them all. Sometimes long odds win.

Now is the time to push hard on research and development with augmented funds directed at identified targets such as sequestration, electrolysis, and fuel cells, and other money going to scientists with ideas about energy. You never know what bright people will come up with when resources and enthusiasm combine. We can enhance America’s security and simultaneously improve our environment.

So an unprecedented Age of Opportunity is ahead, especially for low-income countries. The United States and our allies can rally people all over the world: Don’t let the terrorists take away our opportunities. We have the winning hand. We must play that hand with skill and confidence.