Marshall Center Relationships Important to Peace
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany, Dec. 2, 1999 The seal of the George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies here shows two hands clasped in front of the torch of learning.
That's a good synopsis of what this center is all about, according to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen. He and German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping spoke Dec. 1 to international military officers and civilians of the Executive Course and the U.S. Foreign Area Officers Course.
Cohen, with the flags of 44 nations as a backdrop, said the most important aspect of the Marshall Center is the contacts and friendships the students make and develop.
Cohen told the students that the world is standing at another pivot point in history, and that the work of the Marshall Center can help ensure a positive outcome.
He said some educational leaders believed free market economies and democracy would sweep the world when the Berlin Wall fell. Others said this was not the case and believed there would be an inevitable clash of civilizations.
"What we are dedicated to doing is to try to alter that vision," Cohen said. "We say no country or no region is consigned to inevitable conflict. There are ways that we can tear down walls that have separated peoples and cultures for centuries."
He said the history of Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall is proof this is possible. One example he used was the Southeast Europe Defense Ministerial he attended Nov. 30 in Bucharest, Romania. "The countries (of the region) that once looked at each other with great hostility are now sitting down at tables and talking with each other," he said. "They are trying to work out their differences peacefully."
The three new members of NATO -- the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland -- were once members of the Warsaw Pact. Their inclusion in the alliance, said Cohen, is further proof that the "inevitable" clash of civilizations can be avoided.
He said technology has shrunk the world to the point that instability in one area affects everyone. He said he was in Russia when one of a series of terrorist bombings took place. He said the United States volunteered to cooperate with Russia because the "scourge of terrorism" knows no bounds.
"We need to carry on that sort of dialogue with Russia because we all recognize that without a stable Russia there is no stable Europe," Cohen said. "Without a stable Europe, there cannot be a secure and prosperous America. This is all interconnected and this is what technology has given us."
He predicted that the officers and civilians in his audience would eventually lead their defense establishments. Cohen pointed out that the current defense minister of Georgia was a young colonel at the Marshall Center in 1994. "The rapport we share might not have happened were it not for this center," Cohen said. "But this sort of camaraderie has become commonplace."
The Marshall Center offers students a critical moment in their careers, Cohen said. "A moment to reinforce shared democratic values, a moment to reflect on the security challenges we will all face, a moment to realize the personal relationships that will be a source of strength and will cement us together," he said.
Begun in 1993, the center is named for General of the Army George C. Marshall, Army chief of staff during World War II and post-war secretary of state whose Economic Recovery Act -- the Marshall Plan -- rebuilt war-torn Western Europe. He received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
In Marshall's spirit, the center seeks to lay the foundation for a stable Europe by advancing democratic defense institutions and relationships. The center also seeks to encourage peaceful engagement, partnerships and cooperative relationships.
The Marshall Center's two-week Senior Executive Course is open to senior officers and civilian officials. A 15-week Executive Course is aimed at mid-level officers and civilians, while a nine-week Leaders for the 21st Century Course focuses on company-grade officers and their civilian equivalents. All courses are taught in English, German and Russian. The students come from nations throughout North America, Europe and Asia.