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George C. Marshall European Center for Strategic Studies
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, Garmisch, Germany, Wednesday, December 01, 1999

Thank you, Dr. [Robert] Kennedy [Marshall Center Director], for your kind introduction. [German] Minister [of Defense Rudolf] Scharping, [U.S.] Ambassador [to Germany, John] Kornblum, Major General Werner [Marshall Center Deputy Director], [U.S.] Ambassador [Victor] Jackovich, students and staff of the Marshall Center, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Let me, before I begin, pay tribute to a gentleman who is sitting in the audience that I would like to say a few words about, and that is General [Wesley] Clark.

Minister Scharping and I have spent the morning together addressing the Bundeswehr. Minister Scharping giving his vision for what needs to be done with the Bundeswehr for the 21st Century and much of it also centered around lessons learned from Kosovo, the strengths that were exhibited and demonstrated during the Kosovo conflict and also the weaknesses that were revealed.

One of the great strengths that was in fact disclosed and revealed is that of the genius, the competence and the professionalism of General Wesley Clark. I don’t know of anyone who had a greater challenge than to hold nineteen democracies together while conducting some 34,000 sorties and holding and managing all of that together during a very stressful time. I would like to pay tribute to his professionalism and the outstanding job that he has done serving as our SACEUR [Supreme Allied Commander; Commander-in-Chief, European Command], so General Clark it is a pleasure to be here with you.

Dr. Kennedy, let me say under your stewardship this center has acquired an international reputation for excellence and I want to again, thank you for the outstanding leadership and energy that you have provided. Ladies and gentlemen, let me begin. I know we are running a little bit late, so I will try to be as brief as possible.

Minister Scharping gave a very comprehensive speech to the Bundeswehr this morning. I indicated that I felt that following him was like the time that a Senator, who had to follow Mark Twain who had given a speech to an audience, and they all kind of warmly applauded. Then the Senator got up and said, "Mark Twain and I had an agreement this morning. We swapped speeches. He agreed to give the one that I had prepared and I am delighted that you thought it was so wonderful." [Laughter.] "Unfortunately, the one he gave me I have lost and I can not remember a word he had to say." [Laughter.]

Let my try at least to pre-empt a little bit of what Minister Scharping talked about this morning and about this center.

Shortly after he led America through the waning days of the Second World War, President Harry Truman said as follows, "Individuals make history, it’s not the other way around." He said, "Progress occurs when courageous, skillful leaders seize the opportunity to change things for the better." The mission of this center is to produce such individuals. I think it is fitting that we should be joined here today by Minister Scharping. He is a courageous and skillful leader who is seizing the opportunity to reshape the German military and this nation’s role in European security.

Again, earlier today we had the opportunity in Hamburg to address the senior German military leadership on the imperative of reform. Just as it is an honor for the United States to stand with Germany on the world stage, it is an honor to stand with Minister Scharping on this stage today. At this institution, our nations created together and continue to sustain a partnership and one that serves both as a symbol and a stronghold of our shared vision of a Europe that is undivided, prosperous and at peace.

I would say that few individuals did more to change the history of the 20th Century for the better than the namesake of this center. George Marshall's portrait hangs in my office. If any of you have ever been to visit me in Washington, you will look behind that magnificent desk that belonged to General "Black Jack" Pershing, you will see a portrait of George Marshall. He is there because he represents not only an outstanding soldier but also a great statesman.

As a soldier, George Marshall saw that our nation’s destiny rested in no small measure on our military, on a strong military. During the First World War, he was among the first American soldiers to arrive in Europe. There was more than a year that would pass before most of our forces were really properly equipped and prepared to fight. And then before the Second World War, he was head of a force that ranked seventeenth in military capability and might. Just two years later, he had hounded our Congress for adequate funding. He had harnessed our industry to produce modern weaponry and he had helped to amass an army of more than one million soldiers trained in tactics and doctrine and strategy that would win the coming war.

Then as a statesman, Marshall saw that a nation’s destiny also rests on a far-reaching diplomacy and engagement with the world. He understood the costs of the mistakes of Versailles and so, gaining the reluctant support of a weary American public and giving hope to the nations of Europe, he offered a plan for which he is justly famous. That is a plan that showed a deep appreciation for the vital link between prosperity and security.

So here we are half a century later and we stand also at a pivot point in history with another opportunity to shape a new future. I would say today the world seems little more than a ball spinning on the finger of science. Technology has really miniaturized the globe. If you think about it, today, countries were once separated by vast oceans that seem almost as small as ponds today. Countries that were separated by miles and miles of geography are almost as close as neighbors by virtue of technology.

I am mindful of the observation of the ancient Greeks about predicting anything - because, "those whom the gods would destroy, they first made prophetic," so I will try not to be too prophetic here today. But, think about what has happened in just a very short period of time. Alvin Toffler, that great futurist, wrote more than twenty-five or thirty years ago about future shock. He said we are living in an age of future shock in which time is speeded up by events and we are witnessing hurricane winds shaking virtually everything that we have known in the past.

If you think about what has happened in just a ten year span of time with the fall of the Berlin Wall, you may recall that Francis Fukuyama, the great academician, at that point predicted the end of history. He said that economic freedom and capitalism, the market economies were going to sweep across the face of the earth. That prompted a South African academician by the name of Peter Vale to respond. He said "rejoice my friends or weep with sorrow. What California is today, the world will be tomorrow." Of course, that prediction was challenged almost immediately by another academician, Samuel Huntington. Huntington said that Fukuyama has it all wrong, that it is not going to sweep across the face of the earth with market economies and freedom and democratic societies, because there will be an inevitable "clash of civilizations." Of course, he wrote that very provocative book describing those clashes that were about to come.

What we are dedicated to doing is to try to alter that vision to say that no country is consigned, and no region is consigned, to inevitable conflict. There are ways in which we can tear down walls -- certainly represented by the Berlin Wall -- but walls that have separated countries, peoples and cultures over the centuries.

If you think about what has happened just during a ten year period, where you now have a united Germany; where you now have a Southeastern European Defense Ministerial and [related] initiatives; where countries that once just looked at each other with great hostility are now meeting -- I just came yesterday from a meeting in Romania -- and they are talking to each other trying to work out their differences. If you think about the fact that we have three new members of NATO, countries that, once again, looked at each other through hostile lenses in the past, they are now members of NATO.

If you look to South America where I was just a week or ten days ago -- you will see the kind of reconciliation taking place between Peru and Ecuador, border disputes being settled; agreements being reached between Argentina and Chile. Everywhere there is an opportunity for people to come together, to sit down and to discuss issues, to meet with their counterparts -- there is an opportunity to change that vision that there must be an inevitable clash of cultures and clash of civilizations.

I was in Russia not too long ago, because Russia is very much on our minds in terms of what is taking place in that country. I went there for a variety of reasons: to discuss progress we hope will be made on START II, which has been ratified by the U.S. Senate but not by the Russian Duma. To talk about START III, to talk about shared early warning because there is some concern as we approach Y2K and the new millenium, that perhaps all of our computer systems haven’t been reconciled. We want to make sure that the Russians feel secure that, if something happens to their early warning system, this is not a sign that there is any kind of imminent attack. We have Russian experts who will be traveling to the United States soon and will set up shop, so to speak, in Colorado Springs; there they will witness what is taking place with our early warning systems and with their early warning systems, sharing information. Next year, we hope to have an early warning center in Moscow.

So we are discussing those issues as well as national missile defense. While I was there, I saw the evidence of terrorism. Another bomb, I think it was the third or fourth by that time, had exploded and it killed eighty or ninety people [in Moscow] and they were in fact truly energized to say the least by what was taking place in their society. They had never had a situation where systematic terrorism had suddenly started to erupt within their own country.

At that time, I had pledged to them that we would do everything in our power to work with them, to share information, to share intelligence, to share technology because the scourge of terrorism affects all of us. It has the capacity to tear societies apart.

We need to carry on a dialogue with Russia because we all recognize that unless there is a stable Russia, there cannot be a stable Europe. Without a stable Europe, there cannot be a secure or prosperous America. This is all interconnected. That is what technology has done.

I would like to talk just a little bit about the kind of threats that we have to face. At one point we were looking at each other across the divide and we saw the Soviet Union as the archenemy, the one we had to prepare to deter and defend against. That no longer is the case, but we have different types of threats today.

We have terrorism, as I mentioned. We have rogue regimes, we have rekindled nationalism and ethnic hatreds. We have a reckless proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It is important that we start to address these new types of threats that can undermine societies. Because we are living in an ear of great promise as we look to the future, it is also one of great peril.

If we look at the recent events in Iraq and the Balkans and Southeast Asia, they suggest that, in the next century, we are going to be dealing with a wider range of threats and dangers and a wider range of battlefields and weapons, from chemical weapons and biological weapons to information warfare, and to many different kinds of missions, from war fighting to peace keeping to humanitarian operations.

One thing that we are trying to do is to look at NATO to see how its mission should be transformed, to look at the Partnership for Peace programs, which also have become instrumental in promoting stability. This Center, bringing together such diverse soldiers and citizens that we see here today is really designed to build a spirit of community of interest.

I would predict to you that, as if you look out at the audience and see the level of soldiers that are here today, as you see young colonels or captains, lieutenants, general officers, one day, they will be, you will be, leaders in your own countries in the military. I point to Minister of Defense Tevzadze of Georgia. I believe it was about four years ago, Dr. Kennedy, that he was here as a young colonel. Four years later, he is now leading the Ministry of Defense in Georgia. The rapport that he developed here and the rapport that he and I share, might never have happened were it not for this center. But today this is the sort of camaraderie that has become commonplace. I think for every country represented here today we can point to a success story.

To give you another example, there are students who came here in 1994 were joined by Major Johannes Kert from the Estonian military. Today Lieutenant General Kert is commander of Estonia’s defense forces. And so again, I look out into the audience today and I can see that those of you who are here will one day be in charge of your militaries or indeed, perhaps, your ministries of defense.

I’d like to encourage you to heed the advice of George Marshall. He said "we encourage the ideal of patriotic self-sacrifice but we must be far-sighted and sound in our national defense." His former protégé who then became president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, observed that Marshall had "a panoramic view of everything concerning and affecting the nation’s security."

No less than in Marshall’s time, I believe that today’s world demands that individuals must be flexible, they must be far-sighted and not paranoiac but panoramic. They must be panoramic in their view of the world situation. That can only be gained through training, education and exchange of ideas.

So, in this sense, your presence here at the Center underscores the direct and very deep connection between efforts to promote openness and transparency and efforts to promote democracy. Every time our forces train together, every time we come together in educational settings, we understand each other more, and the more we understand each other, the more we trust each other. Trust generates security, and when you have security, you have the opportunity to promote prosperity and it becomes a self-enforcing type of cycle.

Let me conclude, as Lady Godiva said, "I’m nearing my clothes. That may not translate well but let me tell you, I wanted to keep this as brief as possible. After Minister Scharping gave a very comprehensive speech this morning I was told to be brief, and I was.

I would like to quote from the brilliant Russian military tactician Field Marshal Suvarov who once said that, "the moment provides the victory. One moment decides the outcome of a battle and the success of a campaign."

The Marshall Center has afforded you a critical moment in your careers, a moment to reinforce shared democratic values, a moment to reflect on shared security challenges that we all face in the future, a moment to realize the personal relationships that will be a source of strength and the sinew binding our nations together. It is a moment that I encourage you to seize as you help shape the future of peace and security for all of our nations.

Again, I want to thank all of you for not only participating in the Center, I want to thank all the citizens who are here from the community, to thank the mayor for being such a great host of this center and to encourage all of you to keep the line of communications open.

I will close with just one other comment. It is a favorite story of mine because I went to Moscow back in 1984 to advance a concept called the guaranteed nuclear build-down. I don’t know if you recall that at all but at that time we were talking about how we could have smaller nuclear arsenals in each of our countries and yet how could we modernize. I helped develop a concept called the "guaranteed build-down."

I went to Moscow to try to persuade the Academy of Sciences to accept this concept. During that occasion, I also went out to meet with some of their poets. I met with Yevtushenko and another man by the name of Andrei Voznesenski. Yevtushenko has become a long-time friend and, as we concluded an entire afternoon of talking about the world situation, about literature, about life, he said, "Bill, you and I should stay in contact with each other. Otherwise, we’ll forget each other’s faces."

It was a very poetic way for him to describe the meaning of that moment, saying that if you lose contact, if you fail to stay in touch with one another, then in times of great stress, it becomes all too easy to demonize the other side. But if you can continue to put faces on the countries that you deal with in the future, if you continue to nurture the relationships that you have established, then you can in fact work through those times of stress. You can realize that there is humanity behind the ideologies or the articulation of policy and you have a chance to build a stable, peaceful world.

So my advice to you is to make sure you stay in contact with each other, otherwise you’ll forget each other’s faces and that is something that we should all seek to avoid. Thank you very much. [Applause.]