SPEECH BY FORMER PRESIDENT F W DE KLERK
TAIPEI, TAIWAN, 12 MAY 2006
MAINTAINING PEACE IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM
In our globalising world no-one can remain indifferent to conflict anywhere. We cannot ignore the violence in Iraq or the unresolved relationship between Israel and Palestine. We cannot turn a blind eye to the reality that North Korea has nuclear weapons or the possibility that Iran might soon develop them. We must be aware of the tensions between Taiwan and the mainland; of the potential for new ethnic violence in Sri Lanka and the mounting deaths in Darfur.
The reality is that in our shrinking, globalised world all or any of these conflicts might impact on the interests and security of all of us. For example, who would have thought five years ago that Moslem fundamentalists in Afghanistan could possibly have any impact on the financial heart of down-town New York? Who would have thought that the grievances of rebels in southern Nigeria could affect the price we pay for gasoline?
During the 1990s – following the collapse of the Soviet Union – the world had moved into a rare unipolar mode with only a single undisputed global power. The ‘Washington consensus’ was rampant. It was based broadly on the idea that liberal democracy and free enterprise could solve all the problems of mankind. Francis Fukuyama proclaimed that we had come to the ‘end of history’ because we had finally discovered the economic and political system best serving the interests of mankind.
All this has coincided with the acceleration of the process we know as globalization. During the past decades we have begun to lay the foundations of a new supranational global community which is bound together by mass jet transportation; satellite telecommunication; the internet and rapidly increasing international trade.
All this is reflected in the emergence of integrated markets in a new global consumer culture: the whole world wants the most up-to-date electronic products from Taiwan and Japan; the newest cell phones from Scandinavia; the latest fashions from Paris and Milan; luxury cars from Germany and new and more powerful computers and software from the United States. The malls we shop in; the office towers where we work; the homes in which we live; now look very much the same whether we are in Toronto or Taipei; Manchester or Mumbai, Chicago or Shanghai. We eat the same breakfast cereals; drink the same soft-drinks and watch the same movies and TV shows regardless of where we find ourselves in the world.
All these developments have created a new global strategic environment with new tensions and threats to peace.
- We live for the moment in a world with only a single global super power;
- There are now very few wars between countries. Nearly all conflict takes place within countries – usually involving religious, ethnic and cultural communities; and
- We have seen the emergence of global terrorism as one of the greatest threats to peace.
If the world has become a globalised village, there can be little doubt that the United States is its Chief of Police. America holds this position – not because it has been elected to it – but because of its unchallenged military pre-eminence. It is the only country with the resources and – for the moment the will – to project its power throughout the world.
The absence of countervailing forces will inevitably tempt any sole surviving super power to use its global military superiority to promote its national strategic interests and its global ideological agenda. Such a sole surviving super power will also be less inclined to limit its freedom of action by subjecting itself to multilateral processes. These two factors explain many aspects of the United States current foreign policy.
America’s strategic priority of combating global terrorism and its ideological agenda to promote democracy converged in its decision to invade Iraq. Now it is discovering the enormous difficulties of extended intervention on the ground in complex and volatile situations.
America’s role as de facto global leadership bears with it heavy burdens and responsibilities:
- It has to spend a disproportionate share of its national wealth on the upkeep of its global military capability; it currently has 500 000 troops stationed overseas and has so far committed more than $ 320 billion dollars to its activities in Iraq – and this amount is expected to double before the war is over.
- The United States’ pre-eminence also makes it a target for disaffected groups all over the world. Osama bin Laden would not have targeted the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon if they were not military and commercial symbols of the richest and most powerful country in the world;
- The price of pre-eminence is, and always had been, unpopularity. America must endure the jealousy of some of its oldest allies, many of whom delight in taking pot-shots at her policies, while sheltering beneath her strategic umbrella;
- The United States is likely to be criticised, whatever it does. If it acts to enforce United Nations resolutions on Iraq, it is accused of imperialism. If it fails to intervene in other crises – such as the present conflict in Darfur – it is slated for being insensitive to the plight of Africans.
However, it is unlikely that the United States will retain its pre-eminent position for long. Inevitably, emerging giants – like China, India and the European Union – will ensure that the world will revert to a multipolar model. It is also quite possible that America’s experience in Iraq will in coming years discourage further attempts to project its power far from its own borders.
The second change in the pattern of global conflict has been the reduction of wars between countries and national liberation wars and the persistence of conflicts within countries – most of which involve ethnic, religious or cultural communities. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute there were 19 serious conflicts in the world in 2004 all of which were intrastate conflicts. Six of these conflicts were in Africa and six in Asia. Three were in the Americas and three in the Middle East and one was in Europe.
A deep sense of cultural or ethnic alienation lies at the root of many of the nasty little wars throughout the world – most of which seldom impact on the evening news. Who, for example, has ever heard of South Osetia, a break-away province of Georgia, where local forces supported by Russia are ranged against Georgian forces trained by the United States and Britain? Who knows about the bitter conflict in Guatemala where the native Mayan people are struggling to maintain their cultural identity – or the numerous cultural, religious and ethnic tensions in India, South-East Asia and Africa?
Too often, minority communities around the world feel that they are not sufficiently accommodated, politically or culturally, in the processes by which they are governed. They feel that their governments are insensitive to their languages and cultures; that they are subject to discrimination, repression and efforts to integrate them forcibly into the majority culture.
This sense of alienation often breaks out in conflict, rebellion, demands for secession and sometimes in acts of terrorism. Present or recent conflicts in Chechnya, Sri Lanka, The Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Northern Ireland and in many countries in Africa provide more examples of this phenomenon.
Religion also lies at the root of much of the ongoing conflict in the world. Differences between Catholics and protestants in Northern Ireland; Hindus, Moslems and Sikhs in India; and Moslems and Christians in Nigeria and Sudan all create volatile situations that can explode into violence and terrorism at almost any time.
The third major threat to peace since the beginning of the new millennium has been the emergence of global terrorism.
Since 9/11 the security focus of the world has shifted away from conventional international conflict to the threat posed by global terrorism.
9/11, Madrid, Bali and London have seared themselves into our consciousnesses. They have had a more powerful and immediate impact on most of us than traditional conflicts elsewhere in the world that have claimed many more lives.
The objective of terrorists is to fill ordinary civilians with terror.
By this definition, the authors of the 9/11 attacks were spectacularly successful. Despite the horrific damage done to downtown Manhattan and the Pentagon and despite the 3 000 lives that were lost, it can be argued that the secondary damage caused by the attacks was even greater. It took many months for airline flights to return to pre-9/11 passenger levels; markets throughout the world were affected, as was the American economy. The attacks also had a dramatic effect on the American body politic and led to the adoption of quite draconian measures, including the Patriot Acts and the establishment of a powerful new bureaucracy – the Department of Homeland Security. This necessarily more restrictive political atmosphere provided the backdrop for the United States decision to invade Iraq and for the development of global politics ever since then. As intended, the terrorist attacks in Spain had a significant impact on the national elections that followed shortly afterwards.
How then should the international community react to the threat of global terrorism and intra-state conflict?
I believe by understanding the degree to which we now live in a globalised world, and by developing strategies to deal with the logical consequences of this reality.
The attacks in the United States, Spain and the UK were global events. People all round the world watched them unfold from hour to hour on television sets from Sydney to Stockholm; from Toronto to Tokyo; from Mexico City to Cape Town. Virtually every person on the planet with access to a TV set was drawn personally into the crisis caused by terrorism through the omnipresence of the media.
9/11 also underlined another frightening escalation in global terrorism: the fact that easy access to modern technology has greatly enhanced the destructive potential of terrorists. Powerful bombs can be built with industrial and agricultural components that are commercially available to anyone. Seemingly peaceful items – like cars, trucks, ships and planes – can be converted into deadly weapons. Populations can be threatened with potent biological and chemical agents. Most seriously, terrorists might one day acquire a nuclear weapon. Coupled with implacable fanaticism, modern technology can present a potentially disastrous threat to society.
In order to deal with this in a meaningful way we need to analyze the deeper motives involved and then to develop our strategies.
The reality is that most terrorists are motivated by nationalism or religious fanaticism. The rampant advance of globalised consumer culture with its attendant political and social ethos, poses a fundamental threat to conservative societies and particularly to fundamentalist Moslems. They fear it with every fibre of their being precisely because their people find its shiny consumer products, its flashy, free-wheeling life-style and its amoral pop culture so alluring.
They believe – probably quite rightly – that the attendant liberal values of unrestrained freedom, democracy, sexual emancipation, abortion on demand, gender equality and materialism are irreconcilable with the austere piety of the vision of their Prophet.
The result is fanatical rejection of western culture and its chief exponent, the United States.
This is further exacerbated by the sense of deep injury that most conservative Moslems feel over Western influence in their region. They are deeply aggrieved
- by continuing American support for Israel;
- by western influence on what they regard as corrupt Moslem national leaders and governments;
- by the western invasion of Iraq; and
- by what they regard as the defilement of their most holy places by the continuing American presence in, and influence on, Saudi Arabia.
The response is a type of religious fanaticism that has introduced a dimension of irrationality into global affairs. The new terrorists are not people who bargain, who put demands, who wish to see mutually positive outcomes. On the contrary, they are motivated by blind hatred and by a cold-blooded determination to destroy and to kill, without remorse and without compassion. As they themselves boast: they embrace death.
How should the world react to the irrational fanaticism which lies at the root of the most serious terrorist threats?
- Firstly, we should continue to do everything that we can to tighten our security. We need the best possible intelligence. We need to improve our surveillance and vigilance. Governments must develop the capabilities and adopt the laws and procedures that they will require to combat terrorism.
- Secondly, because terrorism is a global phenomenon the international community must work closely together to combat it. In particular, the international community must apply strict measures against any state that harbours, supports or tolerates terrorists.
- Thirdly, the international community must do everything that it can to strengthen controls over nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to ensure that they do not fall into the hands of terrorists.
- Finally, the international community must address the underlying causes of terrorism and cultural and ethnic conflicts within the countries.
This includes the following:
- We must address the problem of cultural and ethnic alienation
The international community must devise principles, approaches and mechanisms to deal with the relationships between groups in multi-community states. We must create a climate for the promotion of collective rights of minorities in the same way that we have promoted a climate of civil and political human rights for individuals.
We must allow cultural and religious communities to promote their identities and their traditions. We should encourage toleration and inclusivity. Simple majoritarianism, where significant minorities can be excluded from important processes of decision-making should be avoided. All communities should feel that they are adequately represented in all of the institutions through which they are governed.
- We must show the greatest sensitivity when dealing with other religions and cultures.
Although the West may be convinced of the superiority of its liberal, democratic and free-market model, it must refrain from trying to impose it on others. The West must engage with other religious and cultural groups with a sense of respect and toleration. Let them conduct their affairs as they see fit and evolve systems of government and social values that best suit their cultures and conditions.
People in the West may find many of the customs of other cultures unacceptable – particularly those relating to women’s rights. However, non-western societies are often equally affronted by many of aspects of Western attitudes and lifestyle. Despite Francis Fukuyama’s idea that the West has perfected human political and economic society, the West must in all humility accept the prospect that its system might not be best for all people at all times.
- We must address political conflicts that exacerbate international relations. The international community should redouble its efforts to work for a just and lasting peace in conflict situations throughout the world in such places as the Sudan; Sri Lanka; Chechnya, and Kashmir.
In particular, it must address the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. This unresolved conflict remains one of the primary causes for regional and international terrorism. Similarly, the United States, it allies and the countries of the region should do everything they can to create a situation in Iraq that will enable the coalition forces to withdraw as soon as practicable. Whatever its justification, there can be no doubt that the continuing presence of western troops in Iraq is the other principle cause of international terrorism.
- In the long term the West must address the prime reason for its continuing involvement in the Middle East – its dependence on oil from the Gulf.
For as long as the West remains dependent on the Middle East for its primary energy source it will be tempted to secure and promote its interests in the region. In so doing it will inevitably alienate significant elements within societies that are both complex and extremely volatile. Sooner or later, environmental factors and the rising price of oil will force western economies to lessen their dependence on Middle Eastern oil through the development of alternative energy sources. The sooner this happens, the better – also from the point of view of the campaign against terrorism.
I believe that these then are the prime steps that we need to take to maintain peace in the new millennium:
- We must continue to improve our security;
- We must co-operate internationally in the struggle against terrorism;
- We must ensure that chemical, biological and nuclear weapons do not fall into the hands of terrorists;
- We must address the root causes of terrorism and intra-national conflict, which lie in ethnic, cultural and religious alienation and in Islamic fundamentalism. We must do this
- By making the world safe for diversity – and particularly by promoting respect for the rights of cultural, religious and ethnic minorities;
- By showing the greatest sensitivity to the religious and cultural concerns of Moslems;
- By working for the resolution of ongoing conflicts throughout the world – but especially in Israel/Palestine and Iraq; and
- By developing alternative energy sources that will lessen our dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
If we do all these things we shall improve our chances of maintaining peace in the new millennium.
One of the implications of the globalising world is that no country can achieve its international objectives through unilateral action. Another is that no country – however powerful – will be able to achieve its goals through military means. Increasingly, the key to our collective security will be acceptance of the need for global cooperation in the pursuit of peace.