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Remarks at World Summit on Sustainable Development
America's Challenges in a Changed World
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America's Challenges in a Changed World

Richard L. Armitage

Deputy Secretary of State
Remarks at the United States Institute of Peace Conference
Capital Hilton, Washington, DC
September 5, 2002

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I just said to Chet privately what I'll say to you publicly: I don't think I've ever had such a kind, gracious introduction, and I am yet again in your debt. I'm in your debt yet again, Chet, because I look around at just the tables nearest to me and I see some of the giants of the Foreign Service who have gone before us -- you yourself, Walt, Dick Solomon. It's just unbelievable to look around this room, so thanks a million for inviting me. Now, you mentioned basketball. I'm up here right now wearing my latest trophy, a finger the size of Rhode Island, and that's from last night's game. I could barely limp up the stairs. But you might wonder what I'm doing playing basketball. I figure for a guy who's carrying the weight for a fellow 6'8", my growth spurt has got to kick in sometime, and I want to be ready for the big leagues when it does. (Laughter.)

I had a conversation this morning in the course of business with Senator Chuck Hagel, who is going to be one of your afternoon speakers, I believe, this afternoon. He mentioned that I was going to precede him to the podium and he felt quite sure that I'd set my usual low bar, which he would be easily able to leap over and sweep the table. So when you have Senator Hagel here this afternoon, please let him know that I let the secret out. (Laughter.)

Chet, again, thanks so much for the introduction. I believe you once wrote that the business of foreign affairs should be attempted only by the most talented, the most committed and tenacious of people who are prepared to act "with relentless intensity." Well, I'm not sure how many of us in the administration would live up to that standard, Chet; but I think as far as my experience is concerned that you could well have been describing yourself.

Now, this week marks an important annual ritual as children all over the country return to school, some enthusiastically, or some like mine, less so. In many ways, for most of us, the start of this school year is probably no different from any other, and that's a good thing. Last fall, President Bush urged Americans to return to our normal lives, to refuse to be terrorized, and by and large we have lived up to his charge.

So today we've come back from the beach and we've closed down the local pool and we've bought new shoes for the kids, and we return to the reassuringly familiar patterns of American life. But this year we can't quite escape a sense of uneasiness and dissonance. Last year, when this young generation of schoolchildren, born into a mild season of peace and unprecedented prosperity, sat down to their desks, they had no way of knowing how deeply the world was about to change. They had no way of knowing that outside their classrooms an insidious enemy was systematically invading our nation with a single-minded ruthless intent. And they had no way of knowing that they had started the year of war.

So we all learned a new lesson last September and learned in a visceral way that a failed state in Central Asia, or for that matter the curriculum in an obscure school in Pakistan, the political oppression, grinding poverty half a world away all can have a direct and devastating effect on the security of our nation.

And so today, for the families of more than 3,000 who were killed in the attacks on September 11, nothing feels the same. For the families of those who have been killed in action, of the 8,000 American men and women in uniform who continue to serve in Afghanistan, nothing feels the same. And for our family, the Department of State, we have lost far too many in this war. But for all Americans, even as we go about our lives more or less as we did before, for all of us nothing feels the same. And so today, we find ourselves and our nation in an era of difficult challenges and of profoundly deep changes.

I used to give a stock speech about the challenges the Department of State would face in the 21st century, and in many respects I could give that same speech today. I could tell you about the need to shut down the spread of weapons of mass destruction and to calm down the violence in the Middle East and to cultivate China and Russia and India as partners rather than simply viewing them as competitors. We have to find a way to bring together the world to deal with the thorny transnational problems, from the brown cloud of haze over Asia to HIV/AIDS to trafficking in persons, and to make sure that all nations have the opportunity to know the benefits of a globalized economy.

Well, these were the challenges the administration was prepared to face before we took office and that we indeed continue to face on a daily basis now. But now there's a fundamental change in how we view these challenges, and I would describe this change as something of a conundrum. Today, America has unprecedented preeminence. We've got power, prestige, influence and clout far beyond that known in the history of man. And this is true in all respects -- economic, military, cultural, and political. In a way, you'd think that this should be all we need to address any challenge to our security, and yet we've never been more aware of our vulnerabilities. And who here among us has not felt this in a personal way? Who has not hesitated before opening an unexpected envelope from an unknown address? Who hasn't looked out the window or looked overhead to wonder if that plane didn't look a little too low, and wait to make sure that it turned away?

So we have to ask ourselves this question: How do we harness our preeminence to meet the long-term challenges to peace and yet, at the same time, deal with the immediate and overwhelming threat to our nation? Well, clearly there's not a simple answer, nor an easy one; but I believe that if we go about today's battles the right way, if we meet the immediate and the overwhelming threat of terrorism with the right blend of leadership, cooperation and forethought, we'll not only win the war against terrorism, we will be placing this nation in a far better posture to meet every other challenge to our security in the 21st century.

And in that sense, we have in this post-September 11 world the opportunity to turn our vulnerability into strength. The past year has shown us what works, what it will take to triumph over terrorism, to secure a lasting peace and lasting prosperity. It will take strong and unapologetic American leadership. But it will also take the singular and concerted efforts of many nations; and it will take global remedies for the underlying pathologies, such as poverty, disease and tyranny that give rise to anger and to hopelessness and violence. These are the conditions that can deprive whole populations of their fundamental rights as human beings and the conditions that all too often provide sustenance and shelter for terrorists.

We know that winning this war against the global reach of terrorism will take that American leadership. It is fashionable today in some circles to deride the primacy of the United States, and there are times when we receive a certain amount of resentment from abroad. But when it actually matters, few would deny the importance of the US role in nearly every issue of significance, whether it is a territorial dispute involving Spain and Morocco over a tiny uninhabited island or arriving at realistic measures for alleviating global poverty through sustainable development. Secretary Powell says we may not be the world's policeman, but the calls come to us when somebody dials 911. Indeed, no other nation in the world could have gone from no war plan on the shelf to such a full spectrum of operations in such a short space of weeks. We moved not just thousands of combat forces into the region and a vast array of equipment -- everything from carrier battle groups to modern field hospitals -- but we also mobilized the assets other than our military. We used our diplomatic muscle. We also worked with our allies to marshal a worldwide anti-terrorism coalition. We negotiated access and basing agreements and commitments to fight al-Qaida from scores of nations. We used our financial clout. We worked with other nations to locate and freeze money trails for some 50 terrorist groups and organizations. We used our intelligence. We used our investigative powers. We uncovered and shut down scores of terrorist cells, including a number in other countries where we joined together with counterparts to make arrests. And we used our economic might. We worked with partners in the public and the private sectors to provide thousands of emergency supplies and rations to people long starved by war and drought.

And today, one result is that Afghanistan is not quite the same country it was a year ago. Not so long ago, al-Qaida and the Taliban held terrible sway over the lives of 23 million people in that nation. Regardless of the recent spate of bombings, including the tragic events of today, that is simply no longer the case. Today's apparent failed assassination attempt will not stop President Hamid Karzai, the legitimate leader of Afghanistan, from continuing to bring his people together.

President Bush reminded us at the outset that this would be not be an easy victory, and we are in it for the long haul. But what we see in Afghanistan is that even with such a difficult situation, one with complicated root causes and solutions, confident, clear-eyed leadership from the United States is one prerequisite for progress. But in every instance I have cited, leadership was never synonymous with unilateralism. We act and will continue to act in our own interest whenever necessary without asking for permission; but the fact is that we rarely act alone.

So we also have to be confident and clear-eyed enough to know that there are limits to American preeminence. Multilateral cooperation has to be more than a tool of convenience to use when it suits us and only on our own terms; otherwise, we will find over time that such instruments become blunt and broken at best and that our preeminence will not serve us as well as we would hope.

Today, we would not be winning the war against terrorism without effective multilateral cooperation. In fact, our national tragedy had from the outset profound international implications. Consider that the al-Qaida network had active cells hidden in the dark corners of some 60 countries and that citizens of more than 90 nations perished on September 11.

It's fitting, then, that we swiftly saw an international agenda for countering terrorism. Days after the attacks, the UN Security Council adopted UNSC 1373, the most comprehensive anti-terrorism measure ever passed by the United Nations. In the months since, regional organizations, from the OAS to ASEAN, have adopted similar conventions and similar measures.

But nations have also put their military might and their money behind their rhetoric. Most nations in the world today are contributing something to this war consistent with their capabilities, and many are receiving some kind of assistance according to their needs. Over 180 nations are part of our coalition against terrorism; 122 offered the support of their military forces; 25 are now engaged in military operations, including Operation Enduring Freedom and the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. And at the same time, 132 nations have signed the International Convention to Suppress Terrorism Financing; 136 have contributed some other concrete assistance, running the gamut from humanitarian supplies to the use of airspace and landing rights.

The relationships that we have built and the new momentum around counterterrorism have encouraged not just collaboration on this one issue, but patterns of cooperation that are helping us progress on other issues where we perhaps have less common ground, in places such as Central Asia where today's cooperation does center around our counterterrorism efforts. But we are also building a baseline that might lead to richer bilateral engagement on a cross-section of issues, from economic development to human rights.

I've just returned from a trip to Asia and South Asia where I saw the benefits of our partnership against terrorism. In India and Pakistan -- and that was my second trip, as you mentioned Chet -- this summer we not only discussed the direction for ongoing operations in Afghanistan and the overall direction for our promising but still emerging strategic and economic relationship, but we also continued to engage in diplomatic efforts, aided by the hard work of many other nations, particularly Great Britain, to dampen down the temperature and hopefully defuse the tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir.

In China, where I met with the foreign policy leadership, we prepared for the third summit with our two leaders, this one in Crawford in October. Our discussions included extraordinarily frank exchanges on topics that have not always been easy to broach so directly. This included our approaches to regional issues, from Central Asia to Russia to Taiwan. It included our views on human rights and religious freedoms and our views of the problems of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

And I also had the opportunity to visit Sri Lanka, including the Jaffna Peninsula, and I can honestly say that I've not seen such a blasted, sad landscape in a long time, certainly since my service in Vietnam. I spoke to Tamil and Sinhalese politicians and leaders and spoke about their weariness with the costs of war and how palpable was the desire the security. Indeed, Sri Lanka is now looking forward to the best chance in a generation to reach some kind of a peace settlement. We spoke of the possibilities for stepped-up relations with the United States. I also saw a clear reminder of just how difficult a war against terrorism can be. For peace in Sri Lanka to stick, it will take political will and sustained effort to address the underlying resentments, inequities and human rights abuses which have long provided shelter and support for terrorists in that country.

For Afghanistan, the conditions that have left a no less blighted land -- 23 years of conflict, repression and privation -- will be just as difficult to address and to redress. While multilateral contributions will certainly be a key part of any military success, such cooperation is also essential to the longer term effort to deal with the underlying conditions that drove that nation to such chaos.

Indeed, if we look around the world, the evidence is clear: poverty, illiteracy, disease, environmental degradation, hunger, repression, the lack of basic human rights, political participation and economic opportunity -- these are the conditions that give rise to desperation, to hopelessness and ultimately to failed states. Too often this is where criminals and terrorists find their recruits and the refuge and safe haven where they can hide.

So to secure the peace in Afghanistan and across the world in any lasting way, we must address these underlying conditions of conflict. Frankly, it's better and cheaper, in terms of blood and money, to resolve some of the problems that can feed and sustain terrorism than to have military operations against it.

We do indeed have a moment of rare opportunity, with the support of the American public and the urgency of this moment, to mobilize domestic resources for aid and trade and investment on a scale not seen in half a century. Even so, of course the United States cannot carry this burden alone, but our leadership can catalyze a broader international effort. In the reconstruction of Afghanistan, we can see how this has to be done. We cannot even begin to fix the almost chronic shortages of food and shelter without basic infrastructure, everything from sanitation to schools. While the needs are truly overwhelmingly, in the past year alone there has been a lot of progress, I am sure as Zal Khalilzad probably pointed out to you this morning. We've helped clear over 1 million landmines and pieces of unexploded ordnance, which in turn has helped spur an 82 percent increase in crop production. We've seen the launch of more than 100 new public works projects. The United States has already committed funds to all this; but the fact is the only hope of meeting these needs on the scale required is the collective will of the international community, this international community which committed $4.5 billion to reconstruction last January in Tokyo.

So there's nothing inevitable about the return to peace and prosperity in Afghanistan, or for that matter, anywhere else. It will take sustained attention and sufficient resources. On the global level, this administration has committed both our attention and our resources. We are increasing funding for fighting crippling diseases such as HIV/AIDS. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development we worked in cooperation with other nations to set realistic and reachable commitments which will allow us to address in real time environmental degradation and sustainable development. President Bush is proposing the Millennium Challenge account, which commits a historic increase of 50 percent in America's core development assistance, which over the course of three years will reach $5 billion a year over the current funding levels. These new resources will help nations who need it -- nations which show strong commitment to good governance, a strong investment in the health and education of their people, and in engagement with the economic policies that stimulate enterprise and entrepreneurship.

And just as the administration has adopted policies better suited to a changing world, we've also changed ourselves and our way of doing business from the days these giants were roaming the halls of the State Department. We've reorganized and reformed our management structure to reflect the new priorities. We've put more funding into supporting our personnel overseas and at home, giving them the tools and skills for today's needs and concentrating on increasing and improving our public diplomacy to communicate the many good and generous policies of successive governments, and more importantly, the great story we have to tell about the enduring values and ideals of our people.

Now, at the beginning of this long and rather hot summer, I had a chance to give commencement addresses to two high schools. I said to those seniors that they started out the school year with hope and exuberance and enthusiasm and they ended the school year a nation at war. And it's true. These young people have been forever changed by what happened on September 11. But in a strange way, maybe they've also gained something from the tragedy. Last fall, our President said, "In our grief and in our sadness I see an opportunity to make the world a better place for generations to come." And perhaps this young generation of schoolchildren has an opportunity to regain the sense of purpose and vision, of affection for the things that really matter to us all: our families, our values, our faith in our democratic system and the rule of law and the dignity of human life and the sanctity of the basic right to freedom.

Today, in this war, we have an opportunity to secure a sense of national purpose, to join together American preeminence with a coalition of like-minded nations in a common fight not just against a clear foe, but against the underlying conditions that allow such terrible tragedies to play out far too many places in this world. In winning this war we have the opportunity to create not just a more secure nation for these children, but for all the children of this 21st century.

Chet, thank you very much and thank you all very much. (Applause.)

MR. CROCKER: Thank you so much, Rich. You've really laid it out there beautifully for us. We've got about 10 minutes or so. The Secretary has kindly offered to take some questions. Please indicate your name and affiliation in posing the question.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.), Foreign Policy Forum. How does Iraq fit into your realignment? (Laughter.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Oh, the "I" word. (Laughter.) Iraq, I think, was spoken about quite fully by the President yesterday and he indicated he'd be speaking more about it in his September 12 address to the United Nations. Iraq is a problem that has been around at least for the last 11 or 12 years and we're going to have to deal with it, and the President has said we will deal with it. It's not a question of that. The question of how and what time and what manner is still open. The President hasn't made a decision.

But my own view is that all of these efforts are clearly better off done in a multilateral context. If we have a change of regime in Iraq under any circumstances, there's going to be a lot of room for cleanup after. If for no other reason than for help cleaning up after, we need a large coalition. I think that's the direction the President indicated he was leading yesterday when he said he was going to be consulting not only with Members of our Congress, the House and the Senate, but with international leaders in the days and weeks as he moves forward.

MR. CROCKER: I see the hand of another giant walking the hall. Ambassador Platt.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, actually they referred to you as dinosaurs. (Laughter.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Certainly not Nick, though. He's a giant.

QUESTION: I'm going to raise another "I" word. Last week, President Khatami in Iran seemed to have thrown down the gantlet to hardliners within the governmental system, and I'm wondering how we, you, the State Department and the government (inaudible) position ourselves in response to this.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, clearly there's something going in Iran, Nick, and there's a struggle for hearts and minds, particularly of young. In the first instance, I think the best thing the United States can do is simply continue to tell the truth about what our values and what our ideals are.

Beyond that, we have had, I think, over the past months, particularly through the Bonn process leading to the interim government in Afghanistan, a very good working relationship with the Iranians on a strict issue of Afghan in the future, and that continues to some extent today.

I would only note, Nick, that finally when we have our exchanges through third parties and sometimes in the 6 plus 2 talks, there's been a lot of change in rhetoric, both from the Iranian side and from our own. We're very businesslike, and I think that's a pretty good basis on which to move forward. But it's going to be, I think, if there's forward movement, it's going to have to come from Iran first. They've got to resolve their internal or the common issues, say, the internal contradictions that exist. MR. CROCKER: Yes, sir. In the back there. Identify yourself, please. QUESTION: (Inaudible.) (Approaching microphone.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Don't touch anything you're not sure of. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Actually, there is an impression (inaudible) has replaced Soviet Union in the Muslim world. I know from having lived here for so many years this is not the right (inaudible) but there is that impression. How far an attack on Iraq now can deepen this impression?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well first of all, sir, you're making the assumption that -- and I assume when you say attack that's a military attack, which is not something the President has spoken about.

I think as a general matter there's no one in the Arab world who has any affection for the present regime in Baghdad. That's not open to question. If the President or when the President decides to move forward, I think it's very incumbent upon us to explain our case very well throughout the world, including in the Arab world, of course; and then to enlist as many like-minded folks to move forward with us.

You know, there is a good argument which can be made that the whole face of the Middle East, and particularly those in the Gulf, would be dramatically changed for the better if you had a more congenial regime in Baghdad. I think that's a pretty good basis, as I said in answer to an earlier question, on which to move forward.

I don't accept, of course, that specter that the United States has replaced the Soviet Union in the minds of many, but I've heard it said from time to time.

MR. CROCKER: Yes, sir.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) from The Washington Post. Recently, your old friend, Anthony Zinni, noted that none of the leading (inaudible) Iraq have (inaudible) military service. As a combat veteran from Vietnam yourself (inaudible)? (Laughter.)

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well, of the observation I make that Tony Zinni is still my friend and Tony Zinni still is a consultant to us and has performed admirably and well, and I certainly trust he'll continue to in the future. Whatever opinions I have about people serving or not serving are my own. I will only note that there are lots of reasons people didn't serve in the Vietnam War. There were people of conscience who went to other countries, who inconvenienced themselves for their view. I personally have a great deal of respect for that. There are other people who became CO's, who for their views inconvenienced themselves. I have a great respect for that. But as my view, I will just keep that to myself and watch interestedly from the sidelines as General Zinni sallies forth. (Laughter.)

MR. CROCKER: Okay, go ahead.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Buck, this one's for you. QUESTION: In the war on terrorism, a group that isn't mentioned very often is one that you're very familiar with, Hezbollah. It has killed more Americans than any other terrorist group before September 11. I just would like to hear whether they (inaudible).

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Well let me, for those who don't know you, Buck -- Buck Revell, formerly of the FBI, was one of the leading voices for anti-terrorism activities during the second Reagan Administration and was absolutely key in some of the takedowns we had at the time, and I appreciate the question.

Hezbollah may be the A-team of terrorists and maybe al-Qaida is actually the B-team. They're on the list and their time will come. There is no question about it. They have a blood debt to us, which you spoke to; and we're not going to forget it and it's all in good time. We're going to go after these problems just like a high school wrestler goes after a match: We're going to take them down one at a time.

MR. CROCKER: Time for maybe a couple more. In the back.

QUESTION: Elena Poptodorova , Ambassador of Bulgaria, sir. And I had the privilege of presenting my (inaudible) to you.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: The privilege was mine, Madame.

QUESTION: We read in the papers that there is a forthcoming meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair. What is the likelihood of brokering a compromise on the ICC at that meeting?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: Prime Minister Blair has been invited to Camp David this weekend and he'll be visiting on Saturday afternoon and evening with our President. I have noted the statements out of Great Britain that they are trying to find a way to be able to negotiate something like an Article 98 agreement, which we need to be able to continue in our peacekeeping.

I don't think that Article 98 will be the main subject of their conversation at Camp David. (Laughter.) But it has been the subject of recent conversations between my boss, Secretary Powell, and Jack Straw of Great Britain. I noted that the EU seems to be becoming a little more flexible and is trying to find a way, a way out; and of course, Bulgaria has been very helpful to us in this regard.

MR. CROCKER: From the head table, another dinosaur, Walt Cutler.

QUESTION: Walt Cutler, Meridian International Center. You made reference to public diplomacy. A number of people in this room have been involved in one aspect or another -- the old USIA and so forth. To what extent do you attach long-term importance to this element among many elements of diplomacy, including direct international exchanges?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ARMITAGE: First of all, Walt, what used to be USIA and now our public diplomacy is physically together with the State Department, but I'm of the view that the merger hasn't fully taken. Part of this is management's fault, and we're working on it, trying to make sure we reward and award and recognize the efforts of good PD officers and ambassadorships in our terms eventually. We just, by the way, had Ambassador Barbara Moore going to Nicaragua, who is a PD officer. So we've got to make them more of the family, first of all. Second of all, there's no question from Secretary Powell's point of view, and I think internationally and certainly on the Hill, that this has been an area where we're short -- we've been short historically.

If I went around to different posts and I think if I went around today to the more than 180 embassies that we have and asked PD officers what their duties are, I would get probably maybe 150 different answers. That's one of the problems. We've never, in my view, really directed them and put their efforts all together. It's a long-term proposition, it's going to take long-term funding, and people like Chairman Frank Wolf of the House Appropriations have been in the forefront of making sure we pay attention to it, and second of all, that there's funding which backs it up.

You know, we've had a lot of trouble in communicating, particularly to Islamic audiences. We've done a lot of almost market research here recently to try to figure out how we could communicate, what are our values as Americans and what are traditional Islamic values. We narrowed it down to about 10 values that most Americans would sign up to and about 10 values that most Islamic -- people of the Islamic faith would sign up to and we found three that are completely identical. One is the need for security. Second, faith, because we are a religious nation. We are a nation who has a higher percentage of people who profess one faith or another and regularly attend church than any other Western nation. And the third is family.

So we're building our public diplomacy as we look at the Arab world and the Islamic world -- not just in the Middle East, but in Indonesia and Malaysia -- on those things we have in common, those common values, and particularly security, family and faith, religion. Our view is we're making little inroads. But that's not something any of us can judge today. About three or four years from now you'll know if we made some inroads. We all will. But it's a source of enormous concern and effort by Secretary Powell.

MR. CROCKER: I would like you to join me in thanking Rich Armitage for being with us today. (Applause.) Let me just say, as you look around this room, there's a number of people that'll come out to greet you and to hear you, Rich. It's a real testimony. And to those who've been waiting patiently, we thank you for your patience. We do have more than one food group to present to you, so hang in there.