Senator Joseph Lieberman
"Winning the Wider War Against Terrorism"
Georgetown University Lecture Fund

January 14, 2002

(As prepared for delivery)

It’s a pleasure and an honor to join you today to discuss both the current status and the future course of the war against terrorism. It’s a pleasure because when I’m in Washington, I live just across the street, so I didn’t have to go far. It’s an honor because of my respect for this great university and the Jesuits who for so long now have constructively combined within it both profound faith and free inquiry. This Georgetown University Lecture Series continues, in the words of the Hoya’s own newspaper, “the Jesuit ideal of lifelong, comprehensive learning,” so thank you for asking me to speak today.

 These are unsettling but important times here on campus, throughout America, and around the world. I know that this university lost members of its family on September 11th, and I extend my condolences to you. I must say that I’ve been impressed by your strength as a community, exemplified by your new President, Jack DeGioia. And I admire the fact that so many of you are more eager than ever to channel your talents and energy into constructive public service. I hope that government will help make it easier for you to do just that.

 On Thursday night, I returned from eight days in Central Asia, where Senator John McCain and I were proud to lead a nine-member Senate delegation on a mission of appreciation, dialogue and fact-finding.

To the leaders of countries in the region we wanted to underline how much we appreciate their ongoing support, especially as we enter the next chapters of this struggle, and we wanted to reassure them that we and our coalition partners intend to stay involved for the long haul. And to the men and women of our military, we wanted to express our gratitude for their tremendous service and sacrifice for our security. I’m happy to report that on the heels of our defeat of the Taliban and liberation of Afghanistan, the morale of our troops is very high.

They know that there is still hard work ahead, but they’re committed to our cause, proud of their successes, and ready for the challenges to come. They know they are the best fighting force in the history of the world because of their talent and training, and the technology they employ in battle. But what ultimately sustains them is the broad support they feel from the American people here at home.

 America’s great military strength, including particularly the precision air attack and special forces capabilities built up by President Clinton during the 1990s, and commanded so well by President Bush over the past year, has been stunningly impressive in this war to date.

 That’s no small achievement, because we have, in so many ways, entered unfamiliar military territory. What happened on September 11th in Manhattan, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania showed more clearly and painfully than before that we will be engaged increasingly in different kinds of combat. It’s now clear that unconventional and asymmetrical attacks against civilians are likely to be the tactic of choice for those determined to do us harm.

 But something much more profound than military and defense strategy changed on that new day of infamy. The illusion of America’s invulnerability was punctured, and we began reconsidering our place and policies in the world. Anyone who nurtured the illusion that, after the Cold War, the United States could recline comfortably on the fringes of the world community, engaging other nations at our convenience, and still remain secure, was foolishly mistaken. It’s clearer than ever that we’re standing at the center of a shifting and tumultuous world where advances in technology present us with both thrilling opportunities and agonizing dangers. The new world will engage us whether we like it or not, so we must act affirmatively to shape its effects on us.

 We at home should begin with a far-reaching discussion about how to protect our national security and promote our values in this dramatically changing world. With this in mind, I want to offer some reflections today on America’s defense and foreign policy after 9/11.

Specifically, I will propose that, as we continue the critical work of rooting out our terrorist enemies militarily, we launch a long-term geopolitical and ideological initiative -- akin to the great campaign that won the Cold War -- to combat the despotism, poverty and isolation that terrorists exploit. If we don’t help Islamic nations affirmatively choose the path of progress and peaceful coexistence by actively encouraging political reform, economic advancement, and cultural integration, the conditions that enabled yesterday’s terrorists to kill 3,000 Americans will spawn many more and even worse threats to our nation and people in the future.

In other words, while we drain the swamp, we must also seed the garden. We have won the first battles of the war against terrorism in Afghanistan, but to paraphrase Churchill, this is just the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end. Now is the right time to talk together and work together to draw up the plans that will enable us to win the longer, wider war. This is a moment for reflection and rededication to the goal of preventing anything resembling the attacks on America of September 11th from ever happening again. Today, I will set out my own thoughts and suggestions in broad outline, which I hope to expand upon in the months ahead.

Our first responsibility to the American people is to continue to pursue and punish those responsible for the horror of September 11th.

 1. Pursuing and Preempting Al Qaeda. Having seen Afghanistan up close, I can attest that our work there -- and the work of the international community -- is far from finished. Keeping order and helping the country recover will be tough and trying work that demands our unwavering attention and perseverance, and that of our coalition partners.

We should give it not only for moral and humanitarian reasons, but for geopolitical purposes as well. Since the end of the Second World War, the United States has played a vital stabilizing role in the Pacific, advancing freedom and free markets and checking the ambitions of the great powers in that region.

In much the same way, leaders in Central Asia told our delegation that they welcome an American presence—not only because it promises to improve their quality of life and protect them from fanatical extremists like Al Qaeda, but because it promises to protect their independence in relation to some of their larger neighbors. We have no hegemonic designs in Central Asia, but our limited presence their can be a critical guarantor against the rise of any other potential hegemonic powers.

 The next military challenge before us, however, is more narrow: destroying the remaining Al Qaeda and Taliban who have taken to the hills and valleys, and denying them new sanctuary in the region or outside it. No other nation can be allowed to harbor, breed or enable them to establish bases as Afghanistan under the Taliban did.

Our Defense and State Departments have appropriately begun to focus pressure and resources on failed or failing states like Sudan and Somalia where Al Qaeda might relocate, demanding that authorities in those nations take decisive action to arrest terrorist leaders and destroy terrorist bases.

 2. Stepping Up Pressure on Supporting Governments. While we finish the job against Al Qaeda, we must not neglect other tangible terrorist threats to international security.

 We have no choice. Throughout the world, terrorists are aiming at American values and interests. And because their presence in regional hot spots could turn localized national, ethnic or religious conflicts into broader global crises, we cannot ignore them.

 In the Middle East, for example, Hamas and Islamic Jihad thrive in their disruption of the peace process thanks in no small part to the havens they find in Iran and Syria, and the support they receive from those two countries. Such support must stop -- not next year, not next month, but now, if Syria and Iran hope to develop better relations with the United States.

 We must also continue to demand that the Palestinian Authority end its tolerance for and in some cases sponsorship of terrorism, or our relations with the Authority will end.

And we must act aggressively to defuse the most urgent and literally explosive global security crisis today -- which is on the border between India and Pakistan, where well over a million soldiers are confronting each other. Last week, our Senate delegation had an excellent meeting with President Musharraf, in which we thanked him for Pakistan’s great support of our military operations against terrorists in Afghanistan and urged him to do the same inside Pakistan. The speech he gave over the weekend was a very significant statement against fanatics using Islam to justify terrorism, and set out a specific course of action which should not only reduce the current temperature of Pakistan’s relationship with India, but, if implemented fully, can begin a whole new chapter in the history of Pakistan and the region.

 I am encouraged by India’s favorable responses thus far to Musharraf’s principled statement, and urge both countries to pull back their troops from the border so that an accident or an extremist act does not start a war. I also again urge President Bush to immediately send a high-level envoy to the region to help seize this moment of opportunity between India and Pakistan. Though the parties themselves want progress, they may well not be able to make it without our encouragement and mediation.

 3. Addressing Iraq. These are all important next steps to take in the war against terrorism, but it is also true, as I have said before and I will say again today, that this war will not be over until Saddam Hussein is removed from power in Iraq.

 Saddam is a sworn enemy of the United States and is still seeking revenge for his humiliating Gulf War defeat. Remember: a decade ago, he tried to assassinate President Bush’s father.

 His regime has the means -- chemical and biological weapons that he hasn’t hesitated to use in his own backyard, killing at least 25,000 Iranians and Kurds in at least ten different attacks. And by all accounts, Saddam has been actively working to develop nuclear weapons since the end of the Gulf War. Remember: he expelled U.N. inspectors more than three years ago. All that needs to present itself to him is the opportunity, and I for one am not willing to wait passively for that day to arrive.

Since the Gulf War, the United States has carried out a policy of trying to contain and manage Saddam’s tyranny. It is not costless or riskless. In fact, it costs us more than $1 billion a year. Our pilots are flying 35 combat air sorties a day in the no-fly zones, and are regularly shot at by the Iraqis. Other of our military forces enforcing sanctions against Iraq have been attacked by terrorists, causing many U.S. casualties.

 It’s time to acknowledge that our strategy of trying to manage this menace has not succeeded, and our current policy options—sanctions, international pressure, limited military strikes—have been exhausted without reducing the threat to us or helping the people of Iraq live better lives. In fact, the people of Iraq continue to suffer because of the way in which Saddam has reacted to the U.N. sanctions policy.

 Trying to manage the Iraqi threat under Saddam is like trying to cool a volcano with a thermostat.

 We must therefore declare a new objective. Our clear, unequivocal goal should be liberating the Iraqi people and the world from Saddam’s tyranny, as we should have done in 1991.

 We can begin by building up the Iraqi opposition’s capabilities day by day as we systematically break down Saddam’s power piece by piece. Despite the fact Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Iraqi Liberation Act in 1998 -- law that a bipartisan group of us sponsored, and that, among other things, directed our government to provide material and financial assistance to the Iraqi opposition -- full implementation has not been carried out by either the Clinton or Bush administrations. We have to stop paying lip service to that policy and start paying for it.

 Ridding the world of Saddam’s tyranny may require not only stronger opposition within Iraq but the exercise of power from outside -- and we must be prepared to do that if necessary. Of course, it is better to build coalitions and act collaboratively when engaging in conflict for a cause. But in this case, the unique threat to American security by Saddam Hussein’s regime is so real, grave and imminent that, even if no other nation were to stand with us, we must be prepared to act alone, and we are fully capable of doing so. If we make it clear that we are prepared to act decisively against Saddam, I am convinced many others will join us.

 The decisions about how and when we move against Saddam are up to our Commander-in-Chief, but the question of whether we should do so cannot be in doubt. I hope the White House, Pentagon, State Department, and intelligence services have begun to draw up plans and options for changing the regime in Baghdad. I am confident that President Bush can and will give this critical cause the leadership and advocacy it deserves.

At the moment, the military campaign against terrorism is, necessarily, the core of the war. But it’s not the whole war. The events of September 11th opened our eyes to a wider conflict before us -- the threat from a small group of fanatics who find justification for evil behavior in Islam, and are engaged in a great civil war with the vast majority of their fellow Muslims who do not share their beliefs or behaviors.

 Like it or not, the United States is at the center of that conflict. The Islamic world is beset by political, economic, and cultural circumstances that over the last generation have limited freedom and increased isolation, repression, and anti-American anger. These include vast income inequalities… economic and political isolation… cultural balkanization… and little or no democracy through which to constructively channel and resolve this strife. Islamic terrorism grew in this swamp -- not in a vacuum. We in America are its favorite target -- not just because we are large and powerful, but because our cherished values of freedom, opportunity, tolerance, and democracy are its antithesis.

 But the tradition of tolerant and moderate Islam, which is practiced by the vast majority of people in the Muslim world, is its target, too. In every one of the six nations we visited last week -- Turkey, Uzbekistan, Tajikstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Oman -- this tradition was clear and proud. In Tashkent, for instance, we visited with the Mufti of Uzbekistan, who showed us one of four copies of a beautiful book, the first recorded Quran, and spoke of its tradition of tolerance. He said that because of the violence and intolerance practiced by Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorists, he had declared that they were not Muslims at all.

 And in Oman, the Sultan gave me the text of a sermon delivered in December there by a leading cleric. It spoke of the condemnation within Islam of imposing one’s faith on others. The sermon says that the Quran states, and I quote, “There is no forcible belief” and urges Muslims to “invite to the way of creation with wisdom by preaching kindly, and argue your points graciously.”

 This moderate majority -- which understands that there is great promise for progress for nations that undergo internal modernization and seek to engage with the rest of the world -- is under assault by the ethnocentric, extremist few who blame external powers (most frequently the United States, Israel, and European imperialism) for all their ills. And they see Jihad -- the virtueless cycle of violence, repression and revenge -- as the only answer.

In 1946, Churchill described the Communist domination of Eastern Europe as an iron curtain that had descended across Europe, from Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, separating the rigid and repressive orthodoxies of Communism from the free and open societies of the world. Today, from Iraq in the Persian Gulf to terrorist camps in the mountains of Central Asia, from the sands of Somalia, Sudan and Saudi Arabia to cells in Singapore and Indonesia and Hamburg and London, the fanatical forces of Jihad are trying to build a “theological iron curtain” to divide the Muslim world from the rest of the globe -- a Berlin Wall built with bricks made from poverty and tyranny, and cemented by the mortar of hatred and violence.

 General Douglas MacArthur once said, “The history of failure in war can be summed up in two words: too late. Too late in comprehending the deadly purpose of a potential enemy; too late in realizing the mortal danger; too late in preparedness; too late in uniting all possible forces for resistance; too late in standing with one’s friends.”

 It is still not too late for us to stop this theological iron curtain from falling. We must act now, proactively and aggressively, to help the millions of moderate Muslims in the world who are being besieged by isolation and intolerance. Because if the curtain should someday fall, it would be a great and grave danger to our own security… and could bring awful repression to the hundreds of millions of Muslims trapped behind it.

 Our actions under President Bush’s strong leadership since September 11th have gone a long way toward forestalling this new iron curtain. Throughout my visit to Central Asia, I saw heartening evidence of the secondary effects of America’s resolve, with the leaders of every country our delegation visited taking a clearer and stronger stand for moderation and modernity than they had before September 11th. We have empowered them to give voice to their moderate message and to provide leadership to fight the forces of fanaticism. President Musharraf’s principled and historic statement over the weekend should serve as an example for other allies of ours in places like Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Let’s hope it does.

1. Reorienting Diplomacy Around Human Rights. Our strategy to stop the theological iron curtain from falling should begin with a fundamental reassessment of our diplomatic relations with many Muslim nations. We should start with a clear and correct understanding of the diversity and breadth of the world’s population of 1.2 billion Muslims. You may not know that less than a fifth of the world’s Muslims are Arab, or that most Muslims live under democratic governments in countries like India, Indonesia, Turkey, throughout Western Europe and right here in the United States. Islam is a powerful and positive presence all across the globe.

But it's also true that too many people in Islamic countries are struggling to thrive against difficult odds. Thirty-six of the 47 Muslim-majority countries in the world are not democracies. Twenty-three percent of countries in the Islamic world have democratically elected governments, compared to 76 percent in the non-Islamic world. And according to a report recently issued by Freedom House, over the last twenty years, the nations of the Islamic world have grown increasingly less free, experiencing a "significant increase in repressive regimes" as the world at large moved dramatically in the opposite direction. Where has American policy been? For too long, our government has looked the other way while many regimes in Muslim nations have denied their citizens human rights and economic opportunity.

Our alliances with and aid to some of these regimes naturally makes us targets of citizens of those countries. The American people know the United States has a proud record, in the last decade alone, of protecting Muslim people around the world from oppression -- in Kuwait, Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, and now Afghanistan. We have an equally proud tradition of creating a nurturing freedom of religion here at home that has enabled Islam to flourish within our own borders.

But many in the Muslim world are blinded to these realities by our close alignment with regimes whose behavior is inconsistent with the American values we otherwise work so hard to uphold and defend.

The United States should steer a new course -- one closer to American values, and closer to the values that grow from our common humanity.

 We can and must demonstrate to ordinary people throughout the Islamic world that the United States will take risks to support their freedom, aspirations, and quality of life. We must make those values a premise of our alliances and a condition of our aid. The inalienable, God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness don’t end at America’s borders.

 That means, among other things, that the United States must be a vocal proponent of women’s rights throughout the Muslim world. For years the United States has muted our support for the rights of women for fear of upsetting our relationship with existing regimes. It’s time to become a more outspoken advocate for the right of women to be educated, to live freely, and to rise as far as their talents and hard work will take them, as they do in many Muslim countries today like Turkey.

 2. Opening Economies through Free Trade. Stagnating economies and awful poverty feed the fanaticism that has begun to emerge in many Muslim countries.

Some there blame globalization for their woes, and a handful of American commentators have supported that thesis. In reality, the economic problem of the Muslim world is not that there’s too much globalization, but that there’s too little.

Since 1980, as the population of the Muslim Near East (the Arab League plus Iran) has doubled, its share of world investment has fallen by half and its share of world trade by two-thirds. That means a smaller and smaller economic pie is being shared by more and more people.

 How has that happened? While in recent decades, the world has torn down old economic barriers, many Muslim countries have fortified them. Most Middle Eastern countries maintain trade practices that are among the most burdensome in the world. Egypt, for example, imposes high tariffs and other barriers on imports of clothing; Syria bans imports of processed foods, puts a 250 percent tariff on cars, and requires a license for all imports.

 While other parts of the world have adopted mutually beneficial regional trade programs such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, South America’s Mercosur, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Free Trade Area, Middle Eastern nations have increased trade restrictions and sanctions on one another and the rest of the world. Half of the Arab League’s 22 members, and Iran as well, remain outside the World Trade Organization (WTO) -- so Middle Eastern export priorities receive little consideration in global trade negotiations. The net result is growing economic misery for growing numbers of people.

 It doesn’t have to be that way. Since 1999, Jordan has sharply cut tariffs and other trade barriers, launched an economic integration project with Israel, and completed a full free trade agreement with the United States. The results are impressive. In the past two years alone, Jordan’s exports to the United States have risen tenfold, and more than 25,000 jobs have been created.

American workers have also benefited from these new economic opportunities. For the sake of their people, other governments in the Muslim world need to follow Jordan’s lead. We in the United States can help them do that by inviting them back to the global economic table. We should encourage Muslim nations to embrace more open economies so that they can join the WTO. That would both spur further reform of their trade policies and help them succeed in export industries.

Just as the Clinton administration helped Jordan, Oman, and Bahrain enter the WTO, the Bush administration should follow through with some of the larger economies in the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia, for example, applied to join the WTO in 1993, and we should actively support that effort in concert with Saudi Arabian economic reforms.

 In Congress, we can help by adopting additional trade preference programs for countries that prove themselves to be good global citizens, including duty-free treatment and freedom from quotas for certain goods. We passed a trade preference law for the countries of Africa in 2000 and it’s working to help that part of the developing world control its own economic destiny.

 3. Building a New and More Vigorous Public Diplomacy. Just as vital to the future as a freer flow of goods and services is a freer flow of information. In the Cold War, we understood that opening markets and opening minds go hand in hand. We have to understand that now as well.

Regrettably, in many Muslim-majority countries, governments allow their citizens minimal access to news and information from outside and filter what news is made available. And official state-controlled media outlets are often brimming with inflammatory anti-American rhetoric. The result, not surprisingly, is a distorted understanding of the world -- especially of the United States -- and too many people willing to embrace anti-American conspiracy theories.

 The United States can and must fill this information gap -- and fortunately, we’ve begun to make some progress in doing exactly that. Together with the United Kingdom, we are better coordinating the messages we disseminate in the Muslim world so that people can have the opportunity to absorb a more balanced view of world events. The 2002 budget as passed by the House and Senate included $21.5 million for a new 24-hour news and entertainment radio service aimed at young listeners in the Middle East. We must also make clear to our many allies in the Muslim world that we will no longer close our eyes and ears to the anti-American propaganda in their state-run media and state-sponsored mosques and madrasses.

 Since the end of the Cold War, we’ve sold short many critical tools of public diplomacy. The United States Information Agency was eliminated, and State Department posts around the world have reduced the general public’s walk-in access and closed the lending libraries that once stood open to all visitors. The United States Foreign Service, which represents the most significant official American presence overseas, has also been underfunded. We need to think and work long and hard about how to better convey our values not only to opinion leaders and elites, but to the people at large in the public square.

 Young people tend to be the first to open their minds to new ideas and perspectives. That’s why foreign exchange programs that bring students from the Muslim world to the United States to work, study or live must not become another victim of September 11th. Here at Georgetown -- where over 2,000 people from more than 130 foreign countries study, research, and teach -- you know how valuable student exchanges are in opening the world to American strengths and values, and in opening Americans to the strengths and values of other countries and cultures.

 4. Reconceptualizing Foreign Aid. Money is the last part of the equation, and an important one. Helping Afghanistan rebuild itself will require substantial foreign aid and investment. We’ll have support from our coalition partners throughout Europe, Asia and the world -- in fact, they’ll contribute more than 75 percent -- and ultimately their future will be up to the Afghan people themselves, but the United States must play a central role. We need to work together to get this right, because the fate of the people of Afghanistan will be the first test of American involvement in the civil war of beliefs and behaviors I have described that is now being waged in the Muslim world.

 We already provide hundreds of millions of dollars per year to nations throughout the Muslim world. In each case, we now have to ask, are the people there benefitting? And are attitudes toward America improving? It’s time to take a hard look at how we spend this money -- where we might want to make strategic new investments, and cut out old, failing ones. That’s something I will speak to in more detail in the weeks ahead.

 But for now let me say that may mean re-targeting funds toward better public education systems, stronger public health infrastructures, more independent media outlets controlled by citizens and not the state, and reinforcement of the basic civic values of tolerance, equality and opportunity throughout these societies.

Islam is a great religion, one of the three great monotheistic faiths. It is linked closely to the Judeo-Christian tradition which most Americans follow in its belief in one God, its reverence for much of the same Biblical and prophetic history, and its humane values.

 The duty to “commend good and reprimand evil” is one of the core obligations of Islam. It should also be at the core of our relations with the Islamic world. Since September 11th, the United States has been working hard to reprimand evil with a fierce and focused military campaign.

 Over the long term, the fight for American security will require a parallel campaign to commend good by supporting freedom, tolerance, democracy, and prosperity throughout the Muslim world. That is the best way to prevent a new theological iron curtain from falling between Islam and the rest of the world, suffocating the lives of millions of Muslims behind it and providing a base for terrorist attacks against us.

 The historian Edward Gibbon wrote that, “The greatest success of Mohammed’s life was effected by sheer moral force without the stroke of a sword.” So too will the greatest success of this long and noble struggle against terrorism by us and our Islamic allies be effected by moral force -- through the consistent application of our shared values. I am confident that together we will rise to meet that challenge and to seize that opportunity.