Navigationsleiste U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany About the USA Sitemap Suche

U.S. Seal on Flag

The Transatlantic Community and Two Great Challenges
Kurt Volker, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs
Remarks at the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia
Philadelphia, PA, October 18, 2007


As prepared

Thank you, Claudia and Maureen, for that kind introduction. Before coming here, I went to your website and saw the enormous richness of visitors and events organized by the World Affairs Council. It is very impressive, and an honor for me to be included among them. There can be no question that this institution contributes greatly to our national dialogue, and to our nation's foreign policy.

I had the privilege to speak with a group from the World Affairs Council visiting the State Department a few months ago. I speak with a lot of visiting groups, but I should have known - this delegation from Philadelphia was the toughest crowd I've faced in three years. Leave it to Philadelphians to have, putting it gently, high standards.

I say I should have known because I spent the first 20 years of my life in and around Philadelphia, and still consider this my home town. Some great memories are here. You can't find good soft pretzels outside of Philadelphia, nor does the rest of the country seem to really know what a hoagie is. An event I will always remember was singing in the choir at the Academy of Music, with Riccardo Muti conducting, in a performance of the Verdi Requiem, honoring Eugene Ormandy after his death. It was both a personally moving experience, and also a remarkable musical experience.

This was the Academy of Music over on Locust Street. And across the street was DiLullo Centro. My grandfather was a DiLullo, and it was his nephew who had that restaurant. Now that I have kids, I tell them stories about my grandfather, which all took place in this part of the country.

And, of course, I have to tell them about Philadelphia's role as the birthplace of our nation. The Continental Congress, Carpenter's Hall, the Liberty Bell, and Benjamin Franklin - someone who was not only a great citizen and great contributor to our nation at its birth, but was also America's first real diplomat.

Washington may be our capital but Philadelphia is our cradle. Men with rare faculties, whose courage was only matched by their idealism, met in the clubs and halls of this city to forge the democracy we still enjoy to this day.

Two weeks ago, I happened to be in London and visited the Franklin House - as I understand it, the only standing structure where Ben Franklin actually lived. He went to London to seek to build better understanding between the crown and the colonies, and to prevent war. In a sense, this building was America's first Embassy.

And it is a place Philadelphians would be proud of, because it captures Ben Franklin's personal history, his whimsy, his diplomatic contributions, and his passion for scientific discovery, with a few hands-on things for kids. They are still building up the programs at the Franklin House and seeking to create a permanent endowment, under the leadership of an extraordinarily dynamic director. Given the special connection of Franklin in Philadelphia, I would encourage the World Affairs Council to take a special interest in the Franklin House in London.

I know I'm here to talk about American foreign policy, and our work together with Europe, but Philadelphia, and Franklin, are really an excellent place to start. Because values are at the heart of what we are as a nation, and are, therefore, at the heart of our foreign policy.

Democracy is a gift not only meant for Americans, but for mankind. This is a point the Founding Fathers were very clear on. Rights are a part of human existence, and cannot be suppressed without harmful consequences. Governments that do not respect their own people will not be respectful and responsible partners in the international system.

The United States has long been associated with the defense of freedom around the world. That is true of this Administration, and of the many that preceded it - from Wilson to Roosevelt to Kennedy, Reagan and so on. The truth is, the defense of freedom has always been a tenet of U.S. foreign policy. I'll be the first to say we are not always seen or understood this way, and many often question our policies and actions, despite our motives.

This defense of freedom and a democratic ideal were an element in our first war as an independent nation, Jefferson's excursion against the Barbary Pirates. The desire to see freedom in other lands then played a central role in our first war as an emerging industrialized giant: Our repugnance at the suppression of freedom in Cuba was the great motivator of the Spanish-American War. And of course, all our wars in the 20th Century, hot and cold, were conceived in the defense of freedom.

Officially, the defense of freedom has been the policy of every administration since Truman enunciated the Truman Doctrine. One could go further, and say that understanding international relations depends in part on understanding the progress of human values, and the advances of freedom in the world over time. There's a lot else that matters too, but this is a central feature that cannot be dismissed.

What constitutes global affairs, after all? A rule of thumb definition is that it's a struggle for the advance of democracy, human development, prosperity, peace and security. In the 21st century, the well-being of citizens in society is not attained through territorial gain, or with the ownership of resources, or by attaining some valueless balance of power in the world.

Those were the thoughts of nations for centuries - nations, I might add, who were most often not democratic, or were colonial powers ruling without democratic means in governed territories. For developed democracies in the world today - including the United States and Europe - those days are long gone.

In their place is a concept of well-being based on good governance, democratic politics, open, trading market economies, and building peace and security in the world. This is where the ideals of Philadelphia and the imperatives of foreign policy come together.

President Bush, I think, put it very well when he said in his second Inaugural Address: "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world." Since I am the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe, what that means is that my job is to find ways for America and Europe to work together to advance freedom and address common challenges, in order to make the world a better and safer place.

Today, Europe and the United States form a single, democratic, transatlantic community based on shared values, common challenges, and need for common responses. Those who believe that this is passé after the collapse of the Soviet Union are wrong. Our relationship with Europe has if anything strengthened.

For over 50 years, our agenda with Europe was mainly about Europe: fighting World War II, building democracy out of those ashes, then defending freedom against Soviet communism and-starting with the historic decision of the German people to tear down the Berlin Wall in 1989-helping the new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe build strong, free societies, and ending ethnic conflict in the Balkans. Europe was the strategic center of our interests.

While the work of building a Europe whole, free, and at peace is not done, we have come a long, long way. Now, the greatest challenges we face are rooted well beyond Europe.

Instead of problems in Europe being the principal objects of foreign policy, Europe is now a critical partner in addressing global challenges, whose origins may lie far from Europe geographically. Sometimes a highly critical partner, I should note.

This is an essential development. It is "post" post-Cold-War. It is even "post" post-9/11. It takes us back to foundations of common democratic values, and their expression in the world. The United States and Europe must continue to deal with those remaining challenges in Europe, but we must also work together on global challenges, based on our shared democratic values.

Rebuilding transatlantic relations along these lines has been a key objective of the Bush Administration over the past few years. It was explicitly stated as a key objective by President Bush in his early press conferences after re-election. It was a theme of Secretary Rice's confirmation hearings in the Senate. Europe was Secretary Rice's first trip as Secretary of State, as it was President Bush's first destination as a second-term President. He was the first President to meet with the EU in its institutional headquarters in Brussels. Secretary Rice has spent two thirds of her time traveling overseas in Europe.

And, by the way, that is a lot of time. In the 34 months of the second term, Secretary Rice has spent around two months abroad. Of the 65 countries she has visited, 42 have been in Europe. Thank goodness Europe doesn't have a single tax code, or she might owe taxes.

We're working together across the board on some of the most sensitive issues of our times, because we understand that the U.S. and Europe are better positioned to further our goals overseas if we work together. Polls confirm that both Americans and Europeans want their governments to work together tackling key challenges.

And so that's what we're doing - issue by issue, building a new strategic consensus within the transatlantic community on the major global challenges we face, from Iran to Afghanistan to climate change and so on.

But rather than go through the laundry list of all the key issues in the world, I'd like to take a longer view of the nature of the challenges our transatlantic community faces in the world today.

In my view, there are really two huge, long-term issues that our societies are going to have to address together over the coming several years.
The first has to do an ideology of violence that is destroying lives and societies across the Broader Middle East, and attacking democratic ideals and societies around the world. The regional crises we face - whether in Afghanistan, or Israeli-Palestinian issues, or Iraq, or Lebanon, or Iran - are bound up in this in some fashion - as are the functional issues of terrorism, poverty, governance, and proliferation of WMD technologies.
The second is the issue of energy, in all its dimensions - how we power economic well-being and human development in the world, what happens when that power produces greenhouse gases that warm the climate (and how do we prevent this), whether nations can be truly independent if they are dependent on a small number of energy suppliers for their economic health, and how the dollars and euros we spend on energy get used by those we pay: whether it furthers democracy, development, and peace in the world, or sets it back. It is a challenge that touches every nation on earth.

There is no simple, short-term fix to either of these challenges. And in fact, our day-to-day policy will surely be driven by the individual component pieces of these issues, rather than by taking them as a whole. But it is important to think about them as a whole, so we can understand where our short term actions are leading us in the long-term.

Let me start with the first mega-trend - a cancerous ideology of violence. And let me start by making clear from the outset that this is not Islam. Yes, those who espouse this radical ideology assert that they do so in the name of Islam. And they seek to radicalize and recruit terrorists and suicide bombers through Islamic-based messaging.

But the fact is that this ideology is a usurpation of Islamic faith. It exploits Islam and young people. Most of the victims of this ideologically-based violence are themselves Muslim. By using terrorist means, they deliberately attack the innocent in society - the elderly, children, women. They indoctrinate and exploit - outfitting children with suicide belts, and randomly killing shoppers in a market-place.

We see similar patterns, whether with al Qaeda, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Hezbollah, Hamas, or militias in Iraq. Now, lest anyone think I can't tell my Sunnis from my Shiites, and that I conflating different problems, let me assure you that I know that the Iranian regime and their Hezbollah proxies are Shiite extremists and that the Taliban and al-Qaeda are Sunni extremists. I know, moreover, that these two sides are battling each other in Iraq even as we meet here this evening. But there is a conceptual linkage in the endorsement of violence against society as a legitimate means of engagement.

What al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza have in common is their determination to enforce their will by force on people who disagree. Their conception of power is the same as tyrants and totalitarian movements of the past -it comes out of the barrel of a gun, not from peaceful decisions made at voting booths.

They cannot win an open and peaceful debate on ideas. They know their populations will reject their theories and methods, as we have seen in Anbar Province and Baghdad in Iraq. Society, whether in Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan, is not with the extremists.

They also cannot win on a battle field. Open battle, army to army, is as an option as closed to them as the market place of ideas.

So the only option they have is brutal and dramatic attacks that have no military strategic value but are meant to sow fear, and sap the will of mainstream, moderate people throughout the world. They want the media here to report on these attacks and create the impression of defeat. Not understanding our open societies, open debate in the press or between parties, their bet is that we're weak and cannot meet the challenge.

We must not be taken in. In Iraq, we're seeing some signs of improved security. Casualties are down, al Qaeda has been weakened, and some militias that formerly fought U.S. forces are now building security in the country. With the help of troops from Britain, Poland, Denmark and other Allies, we are trying to stabilize that country. Unsurprisingly, the populations are losing their fear and rejecting al Qaeda.

Our own hometown newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, said six days ago:

"The surge is working. The data coming out of Iraq for the month that ended in September are the most encouraging news since the winter of 2004…. The new tactics also are crippling the enemy."

Yes, I know, it is supposed to be newspapers quoting government officials, rather than the other way around. But I think it's significant that the media is suddenly reporting success in Iraq, so I wanted to quote one of our country's leading newspapers in its own words.

In Afghanistan, NATO is officially helping the people of that country fight for a normal life. We are helping an elected government, the first in many decades, build roads and schools. Over 1.5 million girls are in school today, something that zero girls could do under the rule of the Taliban, just six years ago. Over 65 percent of the population has access to medical care, compared to only 8 percent in 2001. The economy has tripled in size.

But building roads and schools is not enough. They must be kept safe. The Taliban and al Qaeda have literally gone into schools, dragged teachers out, and shot them in front of their students. Imagine that. Any of us with children must wince at the thought of a child being scarred for life in this manner.

The good news, and there is good news, is that this increasing brutality, this barbarism, betrays desperation. The Afghan people are in fact winning. The picture the Taliban want us to have here is one of chaos. But tens of thousands of Afghans, Americans, Europeans and others are making a difference in Afghanistan, creating a stronger society there. And with attacks like this, it is increasingly clear to the Afghan population that the Taliban and al Qaeda are against them, not for them.

We're fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda not because we are at war with Islam-as our enemies put it in their disinformation-but, on the contrary, because we stand for human values, and are allied with important Islamic peoples in doing so. We are working with them to fight against corrupters of this great world religion - whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, or Muslim communities in Europe.

We must not abandon them, but stick with them and help them succeed. We should not allow them to succumb to the minority with guns and the willingness to use unspeakable brutality.

And in the long term, this ideology of violence itself is what must be turned around. And the only way to turn it around is for the mainstream of society in the world to stand up for life, and society, and human development, and reject the violence of the extremists. We will have to deal with the dangerous manifestations in the immediate term - such as helping provide security in Afghanistan or Iraq. But we must also focus on the long-term: supporting stable, healthy societies - which the vast majority of people throughout the world genuinely want.

The second long-term challenge I wanted to highlight revolves around energy. Let me start by outlining the challenge.

Despite all the problems in the world today, we see today the greatest reach of democratic society, economic development, and improved human development, that the world has ever seen. This is powered by the engine of the global economy.

And the engine of the global economy is powered by energy - mostly fossil fuels: oil, gas, coal. The demand for energy is soaring. Oil passed a new record a few weeks ago, passing $80 a barrel. Now it is nearing $90. The economies of China and India are growing enormously and, given their population size and relative level of development, they have a long way to go. And this is a good thing - we want to see the people of China and India prosper.

But we must also look at the consequences of our fossil fuel consumption. One is that we are putting enormous amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which is having an impact on the global climate. Even if the United States and Europe cut their emissions to zero, the developing world would have to cut its projected emissions in half if we are to achieve a 50 percent reduction in global emissions by 2050. This is a major challenge which the world as a whole needs to tackle - and it is why President Bush held a meeting of the worlds 16 largest economies that comprise 80 percent of emissions in Washington three weeks ago.

To really affect global emissions, we have to change the way our economy works through new technology. In other words we must break the link between economic growth-which we cannot do without-and greenhouse emissions.

There are only three ways to lower your national emissions, once you think about it.
You can reduce your economic activity, and thus reduce emissions by a corresponding amount;
You can shift parts of your economy to other countries, so they show up on someone else's books, not yours (think about the movement of manufacturing jobs from Europe or America to China and India). But this has no net effect on global emissions; or
You can change the way your economy works by using alternative fuels and technologies, so that it produces fewer emissions for the same or even greater levels of economic output. In other words, breaking the link between economic output and greenhouse gas emissions.

We need to do the latter, if we want to reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, without reversing the global trend of improving human development.

But there is another aspect to this, which is geopolitics. Who has the oil and gas, and where does the money go?

Unfortunately, a lot of the money we spend on energy in turn gets turned to purposes that do not foster democratic development and global security. Supporting extremist Islamist education; funding political movements that seek to undermine democratic societies in Latin America; propping up the Castro regime in Cuba; funding Iranian foreign policy; or political pressure on states dependent on monopoly suppliers of oil gas.

Oil revenue allows the Iranian regime not just to repress its own population, but to fund Hezbollah and Hamas, two terrorist organizations trying to prevent a lasting peace reconciliation and peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

And unexpected oil windfalls have allowed Hugo Chavez to bankroll the repressive system run by the Fidel and Raoul Castro in Cuba, throwing a lifeline to a regime that hasn't allowed the Cuban people to vote or express themselves freely for nearly half a century now. It allows Chavez to try to export his ideas to other parts of Latin America, a region that cannot afford to lose any of the ground it had gained economically or politically.

These are profound long-term challenges. I think we will deal with each of the issues incrementally over time. But we also need a long-term strategy for changing patterns of energy consumption - for ourselves and the world - in order to reverse this cycle of greenhouse gas emissions, on the one hand, and bankrolling some of the very foreign policy challenges we have to cope with, on the other.

I will stop here and take some of your questions. I have divided the problems that the United States and Europe face together into two mega-trends. They are not exclusionary: these two mega-trends don't include all the problems the transatlantic community faces.
The first is the question of violent ideological extremism, how it corrupts and distorts Islam and young people, and contributes to crises throughout the Broader Middle East. It is clash of pre-modernity and post-modernity, a warped way of staving off globalization.
The second involves energy, security, independence, healthy democratic development, and climate change, issues that are all interlinked, and center stage.

Thank you. You have been a wonderful audience and I am delighted to be here in Philadelphia. I look forward to your comments and questions.

Any reference obtained from this server to a specific commercial product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement by the United States Government of the product, process, or service, or its producer or provider. The views and opinions expressed in any referenced document do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government.
  U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany /Public Affairs/ Information Resource Centers  
Updated: June 2008