John Findley Foundation Lecture
delivered 9 March 1996, Westminster College, Fulton MO
[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]
Mr. Chairman, Mr. President, Governor, ladies and gentlemen:
I am sensible of the honor you do me in inviting me to give this memorial lecture. May I thank you, Governor, your kind and generous welcome.
When my distinguished predecessor delivered his Fulton speech, exactly fifty years ago, he journeyed hither by train in the company of the President of the United States. On the way, they played poker to pass the time. And the President won 75 dollars -- quite a sum in those non-inflationary times for an unemployed former Prime Minister. But in view of the historic impact of his speech on American opinion and subsequently on United States foreign policy, Sir Winston Churchill later recorded that his loss was one of the best investments he had ever made.
I did not travel here by train; nor in the company of the President of the United States; nor did I play poker. I don't have the right kind of face for it. But there is some similarity in the circumstances of fifty years ago and today.
Mr. Churchill spoke not long after the second world war. Towards the end of that great conflict, the wartime allies had forged new international institutions for post-war co-operation. There was in those days great optimism, not least in the United States, about a world without conflict presided over benevolently by bodies like the United Nations, the IMF, the World Bank, and the GATT. But the high hopes reposed in them were increasingly disappointed as Stalin lowered the Iron Curtain over Eastern Europe, made no secret of his global ambitions and became antagonist rather than ally. Churchill's speech here was the first serious warning of what was afoot, and it helped to wake up the entire West.
In due course, that speech bore rich fruit in the new institutions forged to strengthen the West against Stalin's assault. The Marshall Plan laid the foundations for Europe's postwar economic recovery. The Truman Doctrine made plain that America would resist communist subversion of democracy. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization mobilized America's allies for mutual defense against the Soviet steamroller. And the European Coal and Steel Community, devised to help reconcile the former European enemies, evolved over time into the European Community.
Stalin had overplayed his hand. By attempting to destroy international cooperation, he succeeded in stimulating it along more realistic lines -- and not just through Western "Cold War" institutions like NATO. As the West recovered and united, growing in prosperity and confidence, so it also breathed new life into some of the first set of post-war institutions like the GATT and the IMF. Without the Russians to obstruct them, these bodies helped to usher in what the Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm, has ruefully christened the "Golden Age of Capitalism". The standard of living of ordinary people rose to levels that would have astonished our grandparents; there were regional wars, but no direct clash between the superpowers; and the economic, technological and military superiority of the West eventually reached such a peak that the communist system was forced into, first reform, then surrender, and finally liquidation.
None of this, however, was pre-ordained. It happened in large part because of what Churchill said here fifty years ago. He spoke at a watershed: one set of international institutions had shown themselves to be wanting; another had yet to be born. And it was his speech, not the "force" celebrated by Marx, which turned out to be the midwife of history.
Today we are at what could be a similar watershed. The long twilight struggle of the Cold War ended five years ago with complete victory for the West and for subject peoples of the communist empire -- and I very much include the Russian people in that description. It ended amid high hopes of a New World Order. But those hopes have been grievously disappointed. Bosnia, Somalia, and the rise of Islamic militancy all point to instability and conflict rather than co-operation and harmony.
The international bodies, in which our hopes were reposed anew after 1989 and 1991, have given us neither prosperity nor security. There is a pervasive anxiety about the drift of events. It remains to be seen whether this generation will respond to these threats with imagination and courage of Sir Winston, President Truman, and the wise men of those years.
But, first, how did we get to our present straits? Like the break-up of all empires, the break-up of the Soviet empire wrought enormous changes way beyond its borders. Many of these were indisputably for the good:
These were -- and still are -- real benefits for which we should be grateful.
But in the euphoria which accompanied the Cold War's end -- just as in what Churchill's private secretary called "the fatal hiatus" of 1944 to 1946 -- we failed to notice other, less appealing, consequences of the peace. Like a giant refrigerator that had finally broken down after years of poor maintenance, the Soviet empire in its collapse released all the ills of ethnic, social and political backwardness which it had frozen in suspended animation for so long:
No one can forecast with confidence where this will lead. I believe that it will take long years of civic experience and patient institution-building for Russia to become a normal society. Neo-communists may well return to power in the immediate future, postponing normality; but whoever wins the forthcoming Russian elections will almost certainly institute a more assertive foreign policy, one less friendly to the United States.
A revival of Russian power will create new problems -- just when the world is struggling to cope with problems which the Soviet collapse has itself created outside the old borders of the USSR. When Soviet power broke down, so did the control it exercised, however fitfully and irresponsibly, over rogue states like Syria, Iraq, and Gaddafi's Libya. They have in effect been released to commit whatever mischief they wish without bothering to check with their arms supplier and bank manager. Note that Saddam Hussein 's invasion of Kuwait took place after the USSR was gravely weakened and had ceased to be Iraq's protector.
The Soviet collapse has also aggravated the single most awesome threat of modern times: the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These weapons, and the ability to develop and deliver them, are today acquired by middle-income countries with modest populations such as Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Syria -- acquired sometimes from other powers like China and North Korea, but most ominously from former Soviet arsenals, or unemployed scientists, or from organized criminal rings, all by way of a growing international black market.
According to Stephen Hadley, formerly President Bush's assistant secretary for international security policy (and I quote): "By the end of the decade, we could see over 20 countries with ballistic missiles, 9 with nuclear weapons, 10 with biological weapons, and up to 30 with chemical weapons."
According to other official United States sources, all of northeast Asia, southeast Asia, much of the Pacific and most of Russia could soon be threatened by the latest North Korean missiles. Once they are available in the Middle East and North Africa, all the capitals of Europe will be within target range; and on present trends a direct threat to American shores is likely to mature -- if that is the right word -- early in the next century.
Add weapons of mass destruction to rogue states, and you have a highly toxic compound. As the CIA has pointed out: "Of the nations that have or are acquiring weapons of mass destruction, many are led by megalomaniacs and strongmen of proven inhumanity or by weak, unstable or illegitimate governments." In some instances, the potential capabilities at the command of these unpredictable figures is either equal to -- or even more destructive than -- the Soviet threat to the West in the 1960s. It is that serious.
Indeed, it is even more serious than that. We in the West may have to deal with a number of possible adversaries, each with different characteristics. In some cases their mentalities differ from ours even more than did those of our old Cold War enemy. So the potential for misunderstanding is great and we must therefore be very clear in our own minds about our strategic intentions, and just as clear in signaling these to potential aggressors.
And that is only the gravest threat. There are others.
Within the Islamic world the Soviet collapse undermined the legitimacy of radical secular regimes and gave an impetus to the rise of radical Islam. Radical Islamist movements now constitute a major revolutionary threat not only to the Saddams and Assads but also to conservative Arab regimes, who are allies of the West. Indeed they challenge the very idea of Western economic presence. Hence, the random acts of violence designed to drive American companies and tourists out of the Islamic world.
In short my friends, the world remains a very dangerous place, indeed one menaced by more unstable and complex threats than a decade ago. But because the risk of total nuclear annihilation has been removed, we in the West have lapsed into an alarming complacency about the risks that remain. We have run down our defenses and relaxed our guard. And to comfort ourselves that we were doing the right thing, we have increasingly placed our trust in international institutions to safeguard our future. But international bodies have not generally performed well. Indeed, we have learned that they can't perform well unless we refrain from utopian aims, give them practical tasks, and provide them with the means and backing to carry them out.
Now let's have a look at some of these institutional bodies and their failure.
Perhaps the best example of utopian aims is what is called "multilateralism." This is the doctrine that international actions are most justified when they are untainted by the national interests of the countries which are called upon to carry them out. Multilateralism briefly became the doctrine of several Western powers in the early nineties, when the United Nations Security Council was no longer hamstrung by the Soviet veto. It seemed to promise a new age in which the United Nations would act as world policeman to settle regional conflicts.
Of course, there was always a fair amount of hypocrisy embedded in the multilateralist doctrine. The Haiti intervention by United States forces acting under a United Nations mandate, for instance, was defended as an exercise in restoring a Haitian democracy that had really never existed; but it might be better described in the language of Clausewitz as the continuation of American immigration control by other means. But honest multilateralism without the spur of national interest has led to intervention without clear aims.
No one could criticize the humane impulse to step in and relieve the suffering created by the civil war in Somalia. But it soon became clear that the humanitarian effort could not enjoy long-term success without a return to civil order. And no internal force was available to supply this. Hence, the intervention created a painful choice: either the United Nations would make Somalia into a colony and spend decades engaged in "nation-building," or the United Nations forces would eventually withdraw and Somalia revert to its prior anarchy. Since America and the United Nations were unwilling to govern Somalia for thirty years, it followed that the job of feeding the hungry and helping the sick must be left to civilian aid agencies and private charities.
Conclusion: Military intervention without an attainable purpose creates as many problems as it solves.
This was further demonstrated in the former Yugoslavia, where early action to arm the victims of aggression, so that they could defend themselves, would have been far more effective than the United Nations' half-hearted, multilateral intervention. A neutral peacekeeping operation, lightly-armed, in an area where there was no peace to keep, served mainly to consolidate the gains from aggression. Eventually, the United Nations peacekeepers became hostages, used by the aggressor to deter more effective action against him. All in all, a sorry and tragic episode, ended by the Croatian army, NATO air power, and American diplomacy.
The combined effect of interventions in Bosnia, Somalia and, indeed, Rwanda has been to shake the self-confidence of key Western powers and to tarnish the reputation of the United Nations. And now a dangerous trend is evident: as the Haiti case shows, the Security Council seems increasingly prepared to widen the legal basis for intervention. We are seeing, in fact, that classically dangerous combination -- a growing disproportion between theoretical claims and practical means.
Compare this hubris with the failure to act effectively against the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and the means to deliver them. As I have already argued, these are falling into dangerous hands.
Given the intellectual climate in the West today, it's probably unrealistic to expect military intervention to remove the source of the threat, as for example against North Korea -- except perhaps when the offender invites us to do so by invading a small neighboring country. Even then, as we now know, our success in destroying Saddam's nuclear and chemical weapons capability was limited.
And we cannot be sure that the efforts by inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Authority to prevent Saddam putting civil nuclear power to military uses have been any more successful. We may reasonably suspect that they have not.
What then can we do? There is no mysterious diplomatic means to disarm a state which is not willing to be disarmed. As Frederick the Great mordantly observed: "Diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments." Arms control and non-proliferation measures have a role in restraining rogue states, but only when combined with other measures.
If America and its allies can't deal with the problem directly by pre-emptive military means, they must at least diminish the incentive for the Saddams, the Gaddafis, and others to acquire new weapons in the first place. That means, my friends, the West must install effective ballistic missile defense which would protect us and our armed forces, reduce or even nullify the rogue state's arsenal, and enable us to retaliate.
So the potential contribution of ballistic missile defense to peace and stability seems to me to be very great. First, and most obviously, it promises the possibility of protection if deterrence fails; or if there is a limited and unauthorized use of nuclear missiles. Second, it would also preserve the capability of the West to project its power overseas. Third, it would diminish the dangers of one country overturning the regional balance of power by acquiring these weapons. Fourth, it would strengthen our existing deterrent against a hostile nuclear super-power by preserving the West's powers of retaliation. And fifth, it would enhance diplomacy's power to restrain proliferation by diminishing the utility of offensive systems.
Acquiring an effective global defense against ballistic missiles is therefore a matter of the greatest importance and urgency. But the risk is that thousands of people may be killed by an attack which forethought and wise preparation might have prevented.
It is, of course, often the case in foreign affairs that statesmen are dealing with problems for which there is no ready solution. They must manage them as best they can.
That might be true of nuclear proliferation, but no such excuses can be made for the European Union's activities at the end of the Cold War. It faced a task so obvious and achievable as to count as an almost explicit duty laid down by History: namely, the speedy incorporation of the new Central European democracies -- Poland, Hungary, and what was then Czechoslovakia -- within the European Union's economic and political structures.
Early entry into Europe was the wish of the new democracies; it would help to stabilize them politically and smooth their transition to market economies; it would ratify the post-Cold-War settlement in Europe. Given the stormy past of that region -- the inhabitants are said to produce more history than they can consume locally -- everyone should have wished to see it settled economically and politically inside a stable European structure.
Why was this not done? Why was every obstacle put in the way of the new market democracies? Why were their exports subject to the kind of absurd quotas that have until now been reserved for Japan? And why is there still no room at the Inn?
The answer is that the European Union was too busy contemplating its own navel. Both the Commission and a majority -- Both the commission and the majority of member-governments were committed to an early "deepening" of the European Union -- that is, centralizing more power in the European Union's supranational institutions; and they felt that a "widening" of it -- that is, admitting new members -- would complicate, obstruct, or even prevent this process.
So, while the "deepening" went ahead, they arranged to keep the Central Europeans out by the diplomats' favorite tactic: negotiations to admit them. In making this decision, the European Union put extravagant and abstract schemes ahead of practical necessities in the manner of doctrinaire "projectors" from Jonathan Swift down to the present -- and with the usual disastrous results. The "visionary" schemes of "deepening" either have failed or are failing.
The "fixed" exchange rates of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism have made the yo-yo seem like a symbol of rigidity; they crashed in and out of it in September 1992 and have shown no signs of obeying the diktats of Brussels since then.
The next stage of monetary union agreed at Maastricht -- the single currency -- is due in 1999 when member-states will have to achieve strict budgetary criteria. With three weeks -- three years to go, only Luxembourg fully meets these tests; the attempts by other countries to meet them on time have pushed up unemployment, hiked interest rates, depressed economic activity, and created civil unrest.
And for what? Across the continent businessmen and bankers increasingly question the economic need for a single currency at all. It is essentially a political symbol -- the currency of a European state and people which don't actually exist, except perhaps in the mind of a Brussels bureaucrat.
Yet these symbols were pursued at a real political cost in Central Europe. The early enthusiasm for the West and Western institutions began to wane. Facing tariff barriers and quotas in Western Europe, the Central Europeans began to erect their own. And those politicians there who had bravely pursued tough-minded policies of economic reform, believing that they were following the advice of European leaders, found themselves left in the lurch when the going got rough. Only the Czech Republic under the very able leadership of Vaclav Klaus has remained on course to a normal society.
In the last few years, the democratic reformers have fallen one by one in the former communist satellites, to be replaced by neo-communist governments promising the impossible: transition to a market economy without tears. This is a tragedy in itself, and an avoidable one. But with Russia lurching politically into a more authoritarian nationalist course, and the question of Central -- Central Europe's membership of NATO still unsettled, it has more than merely economic implications.
Which brings me to my last example of institutional failure, mercifully only a partial one counterbalanced by some successes, namely NATO. NATO is a very fine military instrument; it won the Cold War when it had a clear military doctrine. But an instrument can't define its own purposes, and since the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, Western statesmen have found it difficult to give NATO a clear one.
Indeed, they have shilly-shallied on the four major questions facing the Alliance:
Such questions tend to be decided not in the abstract, not at inter-governmental conferences convened to look into the crystal ball, but on the anvil of necessity and in the heat of crisis. And that is exactly what happened in the long-running crisis over Bosnia.
At first, the supporters of a European foreign policy and a European defense identity declared the former Yugoslavia "Europe's crisis" and asked the United States to keep out. The United States was glad to do so. But the European Union's farcical involvement only made matters worse and, after a while, was effectively abandoned. Then the United Nations became involved, and asked NATO to be its military agent in its peacekeeping operations. Finally, when the United Nations-NATO personnel were taken hostage, the United States intervened, employed NATO air-power with real effect, forced the combatants to the conference table, for better or worse imposed an agreement on them, and now heads a large NATO contingent that is enforcing it.
In the course of stamping its authority on events, the United States also stamped its authority on the European members of NATO. And since the logistical supply chain goes through Hungary, it drew the Central Europeans into NATO operations in a small way. Whether NATO will apply the logic of this crisis in future strategic planning remains to be seen; but for the armchair theorists of a closed, passive, and divided NATO, Bosnia has been no end of a lesson.
These various institutional failures are worrying enough in their own terms and in our own times. If we look ahead still further to the end of the twenty first century, however, an alarming and unstable future is on the cards.
Consider the number of medium-to-large states in the world that have now embarked on a free-market revolution: India, China, Brazil, possibly Russia. Add to these the present economic great powers: the United States and Japan, and, if the federalists get their way, a European superstate with its own independent foreign and defense policy separate from, and perhaps inimical to, the United States. What we see here in year 2096 is an unstable world in which there are more than half a dozen "great powers," all with their own clients, all vulnerable if they stand alone, all capable of increasing their power and influence if they form the right kind of alliance, and all engaged willy-nilly in perpetual diplomatic maneuvers to ensure that their relative positions improve rather than deteriorate. In other words, 2096 might look like 1914 played on a somewhat larger stage.
This need not come to pass if the Atlantic Alliance remains as it is today: in essence, America as the dominant power surrounded by allies which generally follow her lead. Such are the realities of population, resources, technology and capital that if America remains the dominant partner in a united West, and militarily engaged in Europe, then the West can continue to be the dominant power in the world as a whole.
What is to be done? I believe that what is now required is a new and imaginative Atlantic initiative. Its purpose must be to redefine Atlanticism in the light of the challenges I have been describing. There are rare moments when history is open and its course changed by means such as these. We may be at just such a moment now.
First, security. As my discussion of the Bosnian crisis demonstrated, the key lies in two reforms: opening NATO membership to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, and extending NATO's role so that it is able to operate out of area.
Both reforms will require a change in NATO's existing procedures. An attack on the territory of one member must, of course, continue to be regarded unambiguously as an attack on that of all; but that principle of universality need not apply to out-of-area activities. Indeed, it needs to be recognized that a wider role for NATO can't be achieved if every member-state has to participate in an out-of-area operation before it can go ahead. What is required are flexible arrangements which, to use a fashionable phrase, permit the creation of "coalitions of the willing."
Would NATO expansion mark a new division of Europe and give Russia the right to intervene in states outside the fold? Not in the least. Among other reasons, we could hold out the possibility of admitting those countries which subsequently demonstrate a commitment to democratic values and which have trained military forces up to an acceptable standard. That would be a powerful incentive for such states to pursue the path of democratic reform and defense preparedness.
NATO also provides the best available mechanism for co-coordinating the contribution of America's allies to a global system of ballistic -- ballistic missile defense: that is, one providing protection against missile attack from whatever source it comes.
If, however, the United States is to build this global ballistic defense system with its allies, it needs the assurance that the Alliance is a permanent one resting on solid foundations of American leadership. That raises, in my view, very serious doubts about the currently fashionable idea of a separate European "defense identity" within the Alliance.
Essentially, this is another piece of political symbolism, associated among European federalists with long-term aspirations for a European state with its own foreign and defense policy. It would create the armed forces of a country which does not exist. But, like the single currency, it would have damaging practical consequences in the here and now.
In the first place, it contains the germs of a major future Trans-Atlantic rift. And in the second, it has no military rationale or benefits. Indeed, it has potentially severe military drawbacks. Even a French general admitted that during the Gulf War the United States forces were "the eyes and ears" of the French troops. Without America, NATO is a political talking shop, not a military force.
Nor is that likely to be changed in any reasonably foreseeable circumstances. Defense expenditure has been falling sharply in almost all European states in recent years. Even if this process were now halted and reversed, it would take many years before Europe could hope to replace what America presently makes available to the Alliance by way of command and control facilities, airlift capacity, surveillance, and sheer fire-power. Defense policy can't be built upon political symbolism and utopian projects of nation-building which ignore or even defy military logic and fiscal prudence.
But even a vigorous and successful NATO would not survive indefinitely in a West divided along the lines of trade and economics. One of the great threats to Atlantic unity in recent years has been a succession of trade wars, ranging from steel to pasta, which have strained relations across the Atlantic. So the second element of a New Atlantic Initiative must take the form of a concerted program to liberalize trade, thereby stimulating growth and creating badly needed new jobs. More specifically, we need to move towards a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Area, uniting the North American Free Trade Area with a European Union enlarged to incorporate the Central European countries.
I realize this may not seem the most propitious moment in American politics to advocate a new trade agreement. But the arguments against free trade between advanced industrial countries and poor Third World ones -- even if I accepted them, which I do not -- certainly do not apply to a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade deal.
Such a trade bloc would unite countries with similar incomes and levels of regulation. It would therefore involve much less disruption and temporary job loss -- while still bringing significant gains in efficiency and prosperity. This has been recognized by American labor unions, notably by Mr. Lane Kirkland in a series of important speeches. And it would create a trade bloc of unparalleled wealth (and therefore influence) in world trade negotiations.
Of course, economic gains are only half of the argument for a Trans-Atlantic Free Trade area. It would also provide, my friends, solid economic underpinning to America's continued military commitment to Europe, while strengthening the still fragile economies and political countries of Central Europe. It would be, in effect, the economic equivalent of NATO and, as such, the second pillar of Atlantic unity -- the first, security; the second, trade -- under American leadership.
Yet, let us never forget that there is a third pillar -- the political one. The West is not just some Cold War construct, devoid of significance in today's freer, more fluid world. It rests upon distinctive values and virtues, ideas and ideals, and above all on a common experience of liberty. True, the Asia-Pacific may be fast becoming the new center of global economic power. Quite rightly, both the United States and Britain take an ever closer interest in developments there. But it is the West -- above all perhaps, the English-speaking peoples of the West -- that has formed that system of liberal democracy which is politically dominant and which we all know offers the best hope of global peace and prosperity. In order to uphold these things, the Atlantic political relationship must be constantly nurtured and renewed.
So we must breathe new life into the consultative political institutions of the West such as the Atlantic Council and the North Atlantic Assembly. All too often, my friends, they lack influence and presence in public debate. Above all, however -- loathe as I am to suggest another gathering of international leaders -- I would propose an annual summit of the heads of government of all the North Atlantic countries, under the chairmanship of the President of the United States.
What all this adds up to is not another supra-national entity. That would be unwieldy and unworkable. It is something more subtle, but I hope more durable: a form of Atlantic partnership which attempts to solve common problems while respecting the sovereignty of the member States. In the course of identifying those problems and co-operating to solve them, governments would gradually discover that they were shaping an Atlantic public opinion and political consciousness.
The reaction, fifty years ago, to that earlier Fulton speech was swift, dramatic and, at first, highly critical. Indeed, to judge from the critics you would have imagined that it was not Stalin but Churchill who had drawn down the Iron Curtain. But for all the immediate disharmony, it soon became evident that Fulton had struck a deeper chord. It resulted in a decisive shift in opinion: by May, the opinion polls recorded that 83 percent of Americans now favored the idea of a permanent alliance between the United States and Britain, which was subsequently broadened into NATO.
By speaking as and when he did, Churchill guarded against a repetition of the withdrawal of America from Europe which, after 1919, allowed the instability to emerge that plunged the whole world -- including America -- into a second war.
Like my uniquely distinguished predecessor, I too may be accused of alarmism in pointing to new dangers to which present institutions -- and attitudes -- are proving unequal. But, also like him, I have every confidence in the resources and the values of the Western civilization we are defending.
In particular, I believe -- to use Churchill's words, for there are no better -- that: "If all British moral and material forces and convictions are joined with your own in fraternal association, the highroads of the future will be clear, not only for us but for all, not only for our time, but for a century to come."
That, my friends, at least has not changed in fifty years.
Research Note: Audio
provided by Joseph Slife, Emmanuel College Communication Dept. (Franklin
Page Updated: 1/3/21
U.S. Copyright Status:
Text, Audio, Image = Uncertain.
Research Note: Audio provided by Joseph Slife, Emmanuel College Communication Dept. (Franklin Springs, Ga.)
Page Updated: 1/3/21
U.S. Copyright Status: Text, Audio, Image = Uncertain.