by George P. Shultz
The following is the text of a speech given on May 29, 2002, by former Secretary of State George P. Shultz on the occasion of the dedication ceremony for the George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington, Virginia. —Ed.
Mr. Secretary, friends of the Department of State and Foreign Service: Today’s ceremony, which links my name to this Institute and to the Foreign Service, is an honor beyond anything I ever imagined. I take it as a profound compliment not only from the wonderful colleagues with whom I served in the State Department, but also from that long line of strong and creative men and women who have served our country’s diplomacy across the generations. I am humbly grateful for the tribute you offer me today.
I came into office as Secretary of State with a war going on in the Middle East and a bigger war—the Cold War—keeping the world in turmoil and keeping me busy to an extent I could hardly have imagined.
When I answered President Ronald Reagan’s call to service, I also brought to the job a way of thinking developed from years of experience in government, business, and universities. I knew I would be dealing with many crises on a day-to-day basis and that for American foreign policy to succeed over time, I would have to pay attention to long term issues. But my experience also taught me that to succeed in these efforts, I would need the help and support of the people who were devoting their careers to the understanding and conduct of diplomacy. So I would try to strengthen the institution, to make the best use of its people, to pay attention to their careers and their aspirations to serve their country. I wanted to leave the Department of State and the Foreign Service in better shape than I found them.
In the process, I learned a few things. The Foreign Service is the custodian of our country’s diplomatic experience in the world: not theories or abstractions but actual experience. Recognizing the importance of experience, I decided, as Secretary of State, to pull together a collection of books about American diplomacy. That collection is still up there in Colin Powell’s office. (And I know from my tenure in that office that he doesn’t have time to read those books.) The Foreign Service Institute should be the center for such works that record our nation’s diplomatic experience: ideas written down that get into people’s heads and can make a practical difference.
The conduct of diplomacy requires a clear understanding of what is happening and the ability to make a clear record of it and report it honestly and in depth. This may seem obvious and easy. It is not: it requires exceptional intellectual skills and qualities of character and discipline. As former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan describes, “The true diplomatist [is] aware of how much subsequently depends on what clearly can be established to have taken place. If it seems simple in the archives, try it in the maelstrom.”
Fast-moving media coverage, impressive though it may often be, is almost inevitably focused on the newsworthy. The United States must conduct diplomacy on a global scale, clearly dependent on careful reporting from posts around the world and interpretations by people on the ground who speak the language and understand cultural nuances. And, of course, results of discussions need to be written down immediately. Memories are all too often faulty or self serving.
So we need to encourage careful record-keeping and teach and nurture that skill in the foreign service. This is no mere technical matter; in these times it takes courage, and issues of national interest may be at stake. Even in my time, if a cable came in from an ambassador with a highly critical or sensitive set of observations about the country where the ambassador was stationed, the existence of this cable would often become the subject of rumor. Relentless demands for that cable would almost inevitably follow. I fought those pressures because the release of such a cable would mean, of course, that the ambassador’s role would be diminished, sometimes even ended. Nonetheless, the pulling and hauling has an impact. Candor in the cables inevitably suffers. Reliance on telephone diplomacy increases, with all its imprecision, vulnerability to misunderstanding, and loss to the vital diplomatic record.
More broadly in our society, whether in business or government, there is now a widespread and conscious reluctance to create records—and a disposition to destroy them if made. What I worry about is our ability to conduct our affairs with precision and to portray history accurately if such records are not at hand and the statesman tries to rely on his or her own memory, which invariably is flawed in signiflcant ways. A living history requires tools of remembrance. Moreover, so much of what we do today depends upon our understanding of the past. Each generation creates the record of the past for succeeding generations. If we lose that past, we are also going to lose an important key to the future. So, members of the Foreign Service, keep records.
The ability to comprehend other cultures must be central to our diplomacy. This is an area of comparative advantage for the Foreign Service. Even in this age of globalizing influences, we are finding that traditional cultures not only continue to exist but in many places are gaining greater influence. Sometimes they serve a useful role as ballast in the rough weather of globalization. At other times’ they are used—sometimes badly misused—in the interests of some cause or grievance. I do not need to tell you that those who speak the local language have a greater sensitivity to cultural variations, a greater ability to comprehend mood and nuance, and a heightened capacity to convey those realities back to Washington. So the Foreign Service Institute’s world-class capacity to teach language skills must be nourished and used.
We also know that language study is not enough. The field of area studies, once regarded as essential but later disparaged, needs to be given new life. When I was a dean at the University of Chicago, I developed a strong point of view about the value of experience. Yes, experience is a great teacher. Formal education should develop the ability to learn from that experience. We all have seen instances where four or five people share an experience but only one or two of them learn much from it. For the others, that experience might as well never have happened. A key objective for the Foreign Service Institute is to provide our people with the language, analytical, and area skills they need in order to be the ones best able to learn from their experiences out there in the world.
America’s need for a seasoned Foreign Service and the intelligent management of Foreign Service careers are inextricably bound together. Half of the career service will retire in the next six years. State and other departments—with the exception of the Department of Defense—have never handled the problem of intake well. Secretary Powell tells me that applications for the Foreign Service—including lots of strong minority candidates—are two to three times what they were in recent years, so here’s a chance to get it right. Good training is essential at the beginning and throughout a productive career. The Foreign Service Institute provides a real advantage, as a place where careers can be developed, enhanced through training, and provided with substantive depth. Then there is career structure, particularly the length of the Foreign Service career. We need to preserve access to senior positions, so that our finest people do not resign or retire to start their next careers just when they are coming into the peak years of performance at the top of the Service.
Careers in the Foreign Service have their risks. You can get shot at. On opposite walls of the entry hall to the Main State Building are two lists of names of officers killed in the line of duty, covering the years 1780 to 2002. We lost 209 officers. In the first 187 years of our history, we lost 83 officers. In the most recent 35 years, we have lost 126. The losses per year now are almost nine times as great as in earlier times.
All too many of those casualties were the result of acts of terror, a reality that today confronts us in more urgent terms and in greater magnitude than ever before. I want to say a few words about this acute problem, one on which I worked hard and endured the frustrations and agonies that come with death and destruction. I remember so well flying back from Pakistan on August 21, 1988, with the remains of a talented and beloved Foreign Service officer, Ambassador Arnie Raphel. That was a sad and moving day.
September 11 was a riveting wake-up call for the people of America. Stunned and horrified, we saw in a flash our vulnerability. As we reacted, we also saw our strengths and we experienced a renewal of patriotism and national pride. We deepened our realization of how closely intertwined our fortunes are with developments elsewhere, sometimes far away culturally as well as geographically.
That attack was also a transforming event here and in many places throughout the world in attitudes toward terrorism. For decades, terrorism has been all too frequent, mostly in the Middle East, but also in Europe and Asia, often aimed at Americans. We saw our share of it in the 1980s, when I was in office. The pace picked up in the 1990s, by which time the capabilities and intentions of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network were well known. I said in 1984, “We cannot allow ourselves to become the Hamlet of nations, worrying endlessly over whether and how to respond.” But for whatever reasons, we did not respond effectively during these past two decades. Face it: the lack of effective response encourages terrorism, not the other way around.
But now, opinion has changed. When, in that same 1984 speech, following terrorist attacks on our embassy and on the Marine barracks in Beirut and the IRA effort to blow up Margaret Thatcher in Brighton, I called for “active prevention, preemption, and retaliation,” and said we “must be willing to use military force,” I was disowned and dismissed by official Washington and on leading editorial pages. (After I had a chance to go over my thinking carefully with President Reagan, he said he agreed with me.)
By contrast, we all cheered—I at the top of my voice—when Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld said on the Jim Lehrer News Hour on February 4 of this year:
“If you think about it, we have no choice. A terrorist can attack at any time at any place using a range of techniques. It is physically impossible to defend at every time in every location against every conceivable technique of terrorism. Therefore, if your goal is to stop it, you cannot stop it by defense. You can only stop it by taking the battle to the terrorists, where they are and going after them.
“When it’s something like smallpox or anthrax or a chemical weapon or the radiation weapon or killing thousands of people at the World Trade [Center], then you say to yourself,’Well, if we can’t stop terrorists at every location of every technique at every moment of the day or night, what must we do—just sit here and take the blows like the World Trade [Center], take the blows that biological weapons would pose to us?’ The answer is No.’ You have a responsibility to defend your country. Everyone in the world knows—even the UN Charter provides for the right of self-defense. And the only self-defense, the only effective way to defend, is to take the battle to where the terrorists are. They are planning, they are plotting, they have trained thousands of terrorists very well, and we have no choice but to find those people and root them out, as the president said, and stop them from doing what they’re doing and stop countries from harboring them.”
So preemption with military force is now an operative idea, with wide support. That is essential. But continuing threats are all too real, so we must not flag or be distracted in our efforts to end the use of this terrible and unacceptable weapon: terrorism.
President Bush has given us the concepts we need. This is a war, not a matter of law enforcement. States that support terror are as guilty as the terrorists. They are in the cross hairs, and the principle of state accountability is being established Our goal is not primarily to punish and retaliate but to prevent acts of terror through intelligence that enables us to preempt and ultimately to eliminate the source. These are big and far-reaching ideas that must be kept front and center: this is a war; states must be held accountable. We are calling on states to step up to their internal responsibilities to end any terrorist presence, while saying also that we reserve, within the framework of our right to self-defense, the right to preempt terrorist threats within a state’s borders. Nat just hot pursuit: hot preemption. The juxtaposition of these ideas calls for sophisticated diplomacy, clear intelligence, and the will to act with the courage of our convictions.
This war is of worldwide dimensions and must be fought on many fronts. I will identify six of them.
First, we have the front of the hinterlands, those places around the world where states have failed or where no state authority reaches. In these places, terrorists find sanctuary where they can train and plan and can emerge to strike again. Afghanistan was the main such area, but it’s not the only place. You can name them as well as I, and you need more than the flngers on your two hands. We have conducted a brilliant campaign on the Afghanistan front.
Afghanistan cannot now serve as a terrorist refuge and staging area. But an enormous task remains to be completed there. The fires still burn. A state must be built from the ground up and attain the legitimacy and authority to prevent the country from sliding back into terrorist hands.
Another front is in Europe and, to a degree, in our own country. In the liberal, open, welcoming democracies of the West, terrorists have been able to establish themselves, move about easily, communicate and develop their plans with little interference from the authorities, particularly in many European countries. The terrorists know that they can enjoy and employ the freedoms offered by the democratic West to plan the destruction of our liberal institutions and societies. This, too, is a matter of making the state -the democratic state—effective and accountable. We in the democratic West have to get ourselves in order. We must enhance and better coordinate our investigative capabilities. We must change our mind-set. Our task is to prevent criminal acts, not just catch and punish after the damage is done. Through intensive intelligence-sharing and cooperative police work, the war on this front can and must be fought effectively—and within the framework of protective civil rights and proper judicial procedures.
Another front that needs our attention is that of the regimes of Arab and Islamic countries. Over the years, in the knowledge that many of the terrorists seek their overthrow above all else, these regimes have, each in its own way, made their deals with the terrorists. They have paid them off, propagandized them to focus on external enemies, or sought to use them to build up the religious legitimacy of those regimes. They have created a monster. They may have bought some time for themselves, but they are sealing their own doom if they keep on this path. Since September 11, some of them have come to their senses. These regimes have to take responsibility as states and they must be held accountable. They have to stop playing the double game. They should be encouraged and supported if they work seriously to put their states and societies on the right track. But I have to say, when money is collected to reward the families of suicide bombers, that is support for terrorism. There is no other way to describe it.
We must also look at the front where terrorists are pushing out to radicalize countries that previously had escaped the terrorist scourge. Most prominent and crucial here is Indonesia, where Jihadists have in the last several years become more visible, active, and intimidating to the population. In the southern islands of the Philippines, terrorists have become more daring and outrageous in their hostage-taking and murders year by year In Singapore, the discovery of a sophisticated al-Qaeda network shocked everyone, because we consider Singapore to be one of the most tightly run states in the world. Jihadist terrorism no doubt has plans for the new countries of central Asia, and for China as well.
Kashmir presents compelling issues, especially since nuclear weapons lurk in the background. The outline of a potential settlement is much easier to identify than is the process by which to get there. As elsewhere? the starting point is to hit hard against terrorism as the method of influencing policy on any side of the problem.
And now we come to the front of the Israelis and Palestinians, who confront each other violently and whose conflict captures attention virtually throughout the world. We can see that terrorist extremists have gotten their hands around the throat of the Palestinian movement. Those hands need to be wrenched away so that people with determined but constructive attitudes can emerge to take over leadership in a restructured Palestinian Authority. Strength and diplomacy must go hand in hand: fight terrorism relentlessly even as negotiations for peace get started again. We now have some developments to work with, but nothing comes easily.
I offer three thoughts:
First, in Negotiation 101, we teach a negotiator to study his opposition. You want counterparts capable of taking “yes” for an answer and of delivering on tough commitments. Saudi Arabia has led Arab states into an initiative on behalf of the Palestinians. For the first time since King Hussein bowed out in 1988, states on the Arab side are involved. So I welcome the President’s and the Secretary’s effort to move this initiative forward and bring this potentially important measure of state-based competence to the negotiating table. Realists recognize that progress will only come with emerging experience of commitments that are not only made but kept. Whatever the vision of a final settlement, that vision will come into being through a step-by-step process.
Second, declare a commitment to an eventual Palestinian state up front. But make clear that a proclamation does not create a functioning state. Patterns of government must be created and the legitimacy of leaders established so that properly made sovereign decisions are effective, and means of accountability for policy decisions and for handling funds are instituted. If a Palestinian state were to be established without a far-reaching reform of the present Palestinian Authority, it would be a failed state at birth. And just as a Palestinian state can hardly even begin to function effectively where citizens cannot move about from one urban center to another, so the state of Israel cannot agree to anything other than its own secure, defensible, and internationally recognized borders.
Third, realize that transformation in this tiny area is a necessity. Palestinians and others in the region now lead miserable lives without the light of hope for a better future. Israelis continue to live within the lethal environment of a hostile neighborhood. A major effort is imperative to improve the quality of life in the region: security, water, education, health, the opportunity to create the Jobs on which standards of living depend. Help in the form of private as well a public initiatives is critically needed. So there is lots of work to do.
Finally there is the most important problem of all—what is in the minds of the world’s people. There are still those who profess not to know the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter. The difference is clear. The deflnition of terrorism is simple and unmistakable. Terrorists use random violence on as large a scale as possible against civilian populations to make their points or get their way. Anyone who claims to be confused at this point in history will have to face up to being known as an apologist for terrorism.
We have a war to win. Every tool available must be used aggressively. The message of the Great Seal of our Republic is front and center once more. The eagle faces the olive branches to show that the United States always seeks peace, but holds onto the arrows to show that the United States understands that, if we are to be effective in seeking peace, we must be strong. The message comes from the earliest days of our Republic: strength and diplomacy go together.
The end of World War II brought a compelling opportunity to put in place a new vision of how the world would work. Looking back at the remarkably creative response to that opportunity, we see Foreign Service officers—George Kennan, Chip Bohlen, Foy Kohler, and others, notably Paul Nitze—as well as the soldier-statesman of that time, George C. Marshall, developing the ideas and the institutions that shaped the way one American generation after another engaged the world during the dangerous Cold War years. Once again,with the huge changes in world affairs since those days, punctuated by the trauma of September 11 and the shifts in attitude toward state accountability and rights to preemption, the times demand a new burst of creativity and sustained efforts to achieve needed transformation. Now the ball is in the hands of a new generation of Foreign Service officers, under Colin Powell, today’s distinguished soldier-statesman, able to work with a president, George W. Bush,who is decisive, bold, and resolute.
So I salute the members of the Foreign Service and this center for learning the practice of diplomacy. We are lucky that you and your leaders are strong, experienced, and wise. You have lots of work to do.
Let me conclude with a story from my time in office. When an ambassador had made it through the hurdles of nomination and confirmation, I invited him or her to my offlce and said, “Before you can leave, you have one more test. Go over to that globe and show me that you can identify your country.” Without exception, the ambassador-to-be spun the globe and located the country to which he would be posted.
One day, the late Mike Mansfield, already many years our ambassador to Japan and an old friend from my previous times in the cabinet, came in for a visit just before he was to return to Tokyo. I told him about my little test and said, “Mike, how about you?” He and I laughed, and he went to the globe. Mike put his hand on the United States and said, “Here’s my country.”
In this setting dedicated to representation, always remember Mike’s words. Be proud to be a citizen, let alone a representative, of the greatest country ever, the United States of America.
Text courtesy of Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) E-Notes, 1528 Walnut Street, Suite 610, Philadelphia, PA 19102-3684. Tel. 215-732-3774. For information, contact Alan Luxenberg at email <email@example.com> or www.fpri.org.