U.S. Elections and Transatlantic Relations
Augsburg, December 18, 2004
It is a pleasure to be back in Augsburg. Your city is not only one of Germany’s oldest -- it is also one of Germany’s most beautiful and historic cities. Two thousand years of history have shaped your city but Augsburg has also made important contributions to the history of Europe. Augsburg is most well known in history as a city of tolerance. The religious peace treaty that was signed here in 1555 was the first social contract in modern times, where two opposed religious groups acknowledged the right to have different religious opinions.
Augsburg has also been home to many members of the American military and their families. The base in Augsburg has been closed but I know that many of the relationships that were formed live on. Since 1945, altogether more than 15 million Americans have lived and worked in Germany. The relationships that were fostered by our military and the German people have been significant and enduring.
Soon, America will inaugurate President Bush to a second term. The European Union has a new Commission. And while nothing is to be gained by sugar coating the disagreements that America and parts of Europe have had over Iraq, we should not let those differences distract us from tackling the tasks ahead. After the tensions of the past two years, now is a time for fresh starts, finding common ground and moving forward.
According to pre-election polls in 2004, close to 90% of Americans rated "taking measures to protect the U.S. from terrorist attacks" as a top priority. Thus, it is not surprising that “Election 2004” generated an extraordinary political interest in issues related to security and American post-911 foreign policy. Voter turnout was huge -- even in states where the result was assured. 120 million people voted to fill a range of offices, from President of the United States to local officials. Voter participation was up 15 million over 2000.
Despite nearly universal predictions of a dead-heat race (like Florida in 2000), President Bush won by a much larger elected and popular vote than anyone predicted. He became the first Presidential candidate to win more than 50 percent of the popular vote since his father in 1988. . It is important to note that this year the President’s party also gained seats in both houses of Congress, giving the President a larger working majority to advance his 2nd term agenda.
Post-election, the poll that has garnered the most attention has been an exit poll that posed the question: "Which one issue mattered most in deciding how you voted for President?" The most cited issue on the list of seven options offered to those surveyed was "moral values" at 22 percent.
Defining core values and expressing a candidate’s personal beliefs and religious convictions clearly is important in American politics. Throughout American history, voters have viewed this as an important measure of the character of candidates.
For many Europeans, the links in the U.S. between religion and politics are perplexing and, in some ways, disturbing. One of the guest commentators at the Embassy’s election day programs was Alan Wolfe, a professor from Boston College who is spending a sabbatical year here in Germany. Professor Wolfe observed that Europeans -- who are by and large secular in their politics and who tend to view world affairs in terms of nuance and tolerance rather than evil and good -- feel that they're better off when religion plays less of a role in public life. They look back on chapters in European history that have involved religious conflict and strife and don’t understand why the U.S. wants to head in a direction that they think could have the same kind of impact. Nearly, five hundred years ago, Augsburg itself played an important role in the dramatic history of the Protestant Reformation.
For their part, many Americans are left cold by the apparent ambivalence of European leaders about religious faith and the importance of religious freedom. Some Americans believe that Europe’s secular societies are morally suspect – no longer able to distinguish right from wrong at home or abroad. Americans for the most part see no contradiction between religious beliefs and convictions and religious diversity. A powerful "truth of history" for Americans is that many of our earliest settlers came here to express their religious beliefs in an unrestricted way. We believe that this promise of American life can only be kept if Americans, both religious and secular, show respect and tolerance for each other's religious viewpoints. I find it particularly interesting to note the discussion about ethics and values and patriotism that has emerged in German politics during the last few weeks.
Transition - The
The appointment of Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State will reinforce the President’s strong presence in foreign policy decisions. The President and Dr. Rice have a very close working relationship, and share great mutual respect for each other. The State Department will also have an unusually close relationship with the National Security Council because of the appointment of Dr. Rice’s former deputy, Steve Hadley, to head the N.S.C. The result should be a very tight and coordinated foreign policy apparatus between the President, State Department and the National Security Council.
President Bush outlined his foreign policy priorities last week in his speech in Canada. “The first great commitment,” he said, “is to defend our security and spread freedom by building effective multinational and multilateral institutions and supporting effective multilateral action.” He underlined the determination of the United States to work as far as possible within the framework of international organizations, recognizing that the tasks of the 21st century, from fighting proliferation to fighting the scourge of HIV/AIDS, to fighting poverty and hunger, cannot be accomplished by a single nation alone. But, as the President also said, “the success of multilateralism is measured not merely by following a process, but by achieving results.”
Equally strong is the commitment to fight global terrorism. That includes the determination to assist the Interim Government of Iraq achieve stability, provide security for their people and complete the successful election of a national assembly. We are facing a significant challenge in Iraq. There are some who do not want this effort to succeed – but no one should doubt the President’s commitment and determination in this regard. Europe and the United States share a mutual interest in promoting a stable and democratic Iraq. We were encouraged by the recent discussions among 20 nations in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt. In November, the EU presented Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi with a 30 million euro package to support elections and an additional 200 million euros to promote reconstruction in 2005. Most significantly, we saw evidence of that mutual interest when Paris Club creditors, many of whom are EU members, reached an historic agreement to write off 80% of Iraq’s debt. Much more, of course, needs to be done – and will be done – hopefully under a coordinated U.S., UN, NATO and EU effort.
Consistent with the President’s policy to combat terrorism will be concerted action to pursue the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The United States is part of a major effort with Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia to resolve proliferation issues relating to North Korea. We are also very concerned about Iran and hope that the agreement France, Germany, and Great Britain have reached with Iran on behalf of the I.A.E.A. will provide the results that we need. Here, too, a concerted effort will be needed to achieve our mutual goal of termination of Iran’s nuclear aspirations.
Given the new challenges we face, it is clear that national and international defense doctrines, institutions and alliances will have to change to reflect not the reality of the past, but that of the present and future.
Another major priority for President Bush’s second term is peace in the Middle East. The Administration has indicated interest in moving forward on the Middle East peace initiative, recognizing that with the death of Arafat and Gaza withdrawal, this can be a unique opportunity to advance the peace process. This is yet another foreign policy initiative in which the U.S. and the EU have a mutual interest.
To encourage homegrown
reform in the Broader Middle East and North Africa we must make good
on the promises made at the G-8 Summit in Sea Island, Georgia, last
summer. The first Forum for the Future convened on December 11 in Rabat,
Morocco. The Forum for the Future is a partnership among the countries
of the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) region, the G-8,
and others -- all united around a common agenda that advances the universal
values of human dignity, democracy, economic opportunity, and social
justice. In the Middle East and around the world, there is a "policy
logic" in encouraging good governance, in promoting education,
and in alleviating poverty -- for although poverty and despair do not
"cause" terrorism, by contributing to radicalized populations
and politics, they provide a fertile environment for it to prosper.
President Bush has also signaled his intention to work with America’s European friends and allies. He plans to visit Europe early in February, with the goal of strengthening our dialogue with America's European partners.
We must stand together because we need to meet the challenges of the modern world as an alliance of shared values and goals. We are the most like-minded peoples on the planet, sharing a common history, common democratic values, and an interconnected economy.
When the President is re-inaugurated in January and embarks upon his second term, what remains, as Henry Kissinger pointed out, is to start dealing with the challenges that gave rise to what was one of the most watched election campaigns in history. Consensus on the threats facing us, agreement on strategies to address these threats and united action to execute the strategies offer the best hope for success. The transatlantic alliance has risen to major challenges before, and it must be our goal to ensure that it will do so again. We will need to work together more effectively to overcome our differences, and to recognize the strength of our collective transatlantic bond. Together the United States and Germany can be a powerful voice for freedom, peace and prosperity.
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Updated: February 2005