Remarks by the Dputy Secretary of Defense
The honorable Gordon R. England
21 Jan 2007
Thank you very much, Dr. Lerman, for the warm introduction. And thank you to the President of IDC Herzliya, Professor Amnon Rubinstein…to Conference Chairman, Professor Uzi Arad…and to the Institute for Policy and Strategy for putting together this very important conference. Mainly thank you for inviting me to be part of it.
It is truly a delight and a privilege to be back here in Israel, and to address this conference with its large diverse audience around the world.
My relationship with Israel dates back to the mid-1970’s.
It strikes me that I have now had a close relationship with Israel for over half its own modern history of independence – an independence our nations have celebrated and supported together, since literally its first moments.
I personally have many longtime and highly respected friends in Israel, many I see here tonight, and many newer and equally respected friends throughout the Middle East.
My personal philosophy is that friendship between nations is an abstract notion. At the core it’s about friendship among individual people. We build friendships between nations by building friendships between people. Conferences like this one are helpful. It takes real effort by people everyday to reach out and build bonds of friendship and trust.
Tonight, I’ll be discussing several of my personal, broad perspectives on security based on, now seven years of experience in senior government positions, as someone with a long career in the defense industry, and as a long-time, close observer and close friend of the Middle East region.
This is an incredibly complicated region of the world, and while I’m fascinated, I certainly don’t pretend to be an expert. But then, while there are many knowledgeable people, I’m not sure there are any real experts!
The Middle East can be a region of extraordinary violence… but it is also a region of extraordinary generosity and good will. One story last year particularly impressed me… It seems that last summer, two Israeli brothers were killed in a Hizbollah rocket attack in northern Israel.
Another brother donated their eyes to surgeons – to help others see. One recipient turned out to be an Arab. So even in the turmoil of the Middle East the Old Testament philosophy of “an eye for an eye” can take on new meaning.
It might be a bit odd for those actually from this part of the world, that so many of the rest of us feel such a strong vested interest in it. According to tradition, the die was cast the day Abraham – or Abram – or Ibrahim – and his family left their home in the ancient City of Ur, in modern-day Iraq, eventually settled here, and launched the complex history that gives meaning to so many of our lives.
“Iraq” is actually a good way to introduce a few observations about the Middle East region.
There has been a lot of talk about building a democratic, stable, market economy in Iraq – and recently President Bush articulated America’s updated strategy for supporting Iraq’s transition. The idea has been that Iraq would serve as a model for the whole Middle East - and that is still a noble and worthy goal. But it surprises me a bit that sometimes people forget that there is already a thriving democracy in the Middle East – right here in Israel…a country without oil, or gas, or even much water, but with highly educated, innovative and entrepreneurial citizens.
Plus, something else – and perhaps most important of all: since 1948, Israel has not only survived but has developed a flourishing democracy – including the all-important benchmark, peaceful changes of administration.
And Israel has created an economic environment of opportunity for its citizens – no guarantees, but if you have good ideas and work hard, you may very well achieve phenomenal success. Israel is an environment for people to excel.
Just look at the start-up software company Mercury. It was created in 1989 by bright young Israelis, who sold it last year to HP for 4.5 billion dollars. That’s about 19 Billion Shekels. 4.5 billion! Even in the Department of Defense, that’s a significant number!
Now the announcement and then the sale of Mercury took place in the general time frame of the fighting last year between Israel and Hizbollah. So while young Israelis were working hard at business and technology, young members of Hizbollah were working hard at launching rockets over the border at Israeli civilians.
Quite a profound and stunning contrast.
You might conclude that Israel is simply exceptional – and no doubt it is! But Mercury’s success also shows that characteristics of this region of the world – its geography, or the natural resources a country may or may not have – do not automatically limit opportunities.
And oh by the way – it’s also not a question of religion or nationality. I’ve spent some time reaching out to Muslim-American communities, who are woven in an absolutely integral way into the diverse fabric of American life. It turns out that Muslim-Americans – who come from many different national backgrounds and sects - are, on the whole, more successful economically than the average US population. And a great number of Muslims in Israel have also achieved remarkable successes, some quiet noteworthy – like the Arab Muslim Ali Yahya, who serves as Israel’s Ambassador to Greece.
And in the broader Middle East, there are also numerous “success stories” of business people from different religions, in countries throughout the region … but not yet enough of them. Clearly, there’s something about giving people opportunity that simply works.
My conclusion is that, at the end of the day, it’s about creating the right set of political, social and economic conditions that let human ingenuity thrive. So the good news – and the reason for hope – is that peace and prosperity are theoretically available to everyone. Now of course, that word “theoretical” can be a great chasm to close but peace and prosperity are what the United States seeks in Iraq and elsewhere in the region.
One prerequisite to peace and prosperity is making sure that societies have the right legal underpinnings. Basically that means the rule of law – a fundamental pillar of stability, and also necessary to protect the economic and social welfare of citizens.
People have to have reasonable confidence that hard work and investment are more likely than not, to pay off. Most importantly, in a society based on the rule of law, there is no place for corruption in government. It seems to me that there is a direct correlation between systematic government corruption and State failure, particularly if you look around the world at failed states.
The rule of law is also the cornerstone of democracy – a pain-staking and time-consuming process…perhaps a reminder to those critics who continue to look for “instant success” in Iraq.
Look at the history of the United States… After the American Revolution, it took five more years to ratify our first fundamental law, the Articles of Confederation, and eight more years to replace them with a workable basis for American democracy, the US Constitution. But it took many more decades – and a bloody Civil War – before American democracy became fully participatory.
It’s not a smooth path – all the more reason to make sure that the rule of law is firmly in place, and that citizens are protected. Perhaps, some near-term expectations need to be re-set. For some countries achieving full democracy all at once may be too great a leap. Achieving “Rule of law” on the other hand may be a less threatening and a more realistic initial goal. It is, after all, the first essential step toward democracy.
In the security arena – the rule of law means in part that security forces are fully accountable to the state, and fully in control of that state’s sovereign territory. There is no such thing as a state-within-a-state solution – not in Lebanon, and not anywhere.
Without security – based on the rule of law – legitimate businesses can’t thrive, and economies can’t develop.
The bottom line is that security and economic development are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have economic development without security, but in the long-term, you can’t have security without economic development. It applies to countries but also to regions.
Perhaps that’s what the Israeli and Palestinian leaders had in mind when they agreed last month on the transfer of frozen tax funds to the Palestinian Authority – a transfer reportedly carried out these past few days. Improving conditions and creating jobs are essential parts of laying the groundwork for long-term security.
Security and economics are tightly linked at the local level – and help explain the success of companies like Mercury. But the linkage doesn’t stop at national borders – again, look at Mercury and H.P. Economic opportunities are global in scope – and so is security. Security is no longer a function of a particular country, but also of the entire neighborhood and the larger global community. Unfortunately, countries don’t get to choose their neighbors.
There are some players in the Middle East region – terrorist groups like Hizbollah and Hamas, and bellicose states like Iran and Syria – that are clearly turning their backs on shared interests. They are gambling instead on a dangerous and high-stakes but unlikely, winner-take-all outcome….and threatening the security of the region as a whole, with their actions. Terrorist groups have no place in a peaceful and secure Middle East.
The people of Iran and Syria do have a right to expect and should expect a better future than their leaders are currently building for them. If terrorist organizations or states with aspirations towards regional dominance have their way, every country in the region will undoubtedly suffer from serious, long-term repercussions, even if they don’t suffer directly from attack. Neither the region nor the United States can accept that outcome.
It’s worth thinking about what a region pragmatically based on shared economic and security interests might look like, and about the concrete small steps you’d take, if you wanted to get there. Ironically, Iran’s aggressive behavior prodding states in the region to opt for shared security rather than an “every country for itself” approach.
In the turbulent security environment of the Middle East, individual nations can choose to stand alone – but it strikes me that they are much stronger in the long run, with much better prospects for their citizens, if they choose to stand together. Otherwise, terrorist groups, and bullying states like Syria and Iran will continue to make life unpleasant or untenable for everyone else in the region.
The economic prospects part is important. For example, the idea behind America’s updated strategy for supporting Iraq is making sure that security actions are closely followed and complemented by economic development – visible reconstruction and real jobs that pay salaries and produce goods that give people hope for the future.
For its part, the United States remains deeply committed to all of our close partners in the Middle East – to all who are willing to stand together in the name of freedom. The stakes couldn’t possibly be higher, for any of us.
Meanwhile, all the tumult in the Middle East is unfolding against the broad backdrop of dynamic globalization.
Today’s global security challenges require global solutions. No one country can control the entire environment – the flow of ideas and materials around the world. The most effective approaches are broad, multi-national efforts.
For example, economically, the United States has concluded free trade agreements with a number of international partners – including with Israel, back in 1985. More recently, the United States has concluded free trade agreements with Jordan, Morocco, Bahrain and Oman. Those agreements boost economies, help build concrete relationships, and lay the groundwork for shared long-term security.
“In the security arena, many of the most effective approaches are also international – and the broader the better. In the Proliferation Security Initiative, the US and Israel are standing together with 80 other partner nations to stop the proliferation of WMD and other dangerous materials.
The Department of Defense strategy – including the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review – raises the importance of international partnerships to new levels. It emphasizes the need to update long-standing alliances, like NATO, and to reach out to new partners around the world – helping them build the capabilities they need to protect and defend themselves, and to contribute meaningfully to multi-lateral efforts.
But as we expand the ties of international friendship and commerce it is also vitally important to address new security threats.
On one hand, globalization has produced ample benefits – and frankly, I marvel at the changes within my own lifetime of nearly 70 years.
The broad reach of communications today helps extend the marketplace of ideas – including the basic precepts of democracy – to every corner of the earth. And scientific and technological advances are significantly improving the lives of people around the world.
But at the same time, all of these advances are equally available to those who would abuse them. Today, technological advances are disseminated extraordinarily quickly around the world. It used to be that to utilize cutting-edge technology, you had to go to graduate school to understand the basic science involved. Now, a terrorist can skip all that, hop on the Internet, and easily find a ‘recipe’ for destruction. .
And technologies that used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars – like GPS – are broadly available, easily affordable and can now be picked up at the corner store.
Today terrorists use relatively unsophisticated means to defeat highly sophisticated systems. That’s what most Improvised Explosive Devices are all about. And modern communications allow terrorists to share their IED expertise and ‘lessons learned’ in real time over the Internet. Israel is no stranger to every form of explosive wielded by an enemy, or to the agonizing challenges of telling friend from explosive-carrying foe in civilian populations. The US continues to benefit greatly from our partnership in sharing technology and lessons learned.
So it’s all the more important to safeguard access to important technology from those who would abuse it. The US and Israel are working closely together, to keep key tools out of the hands of the extremists.
Israel has taken important, concrete steps forward, including passing new legislation, and it’s critically important that our nations continue to operationalize and strengthen our partnership in technology security. That’s the firm foundation we’ll need as we consider future opportunities for cooperation on programs like the Littoral Combat Ship, and the Joint Strike Fighter.
One final comment I’d like to make tonight – is about the role of the media, the media that, for example, is broadcasting every word I’m saying this evening, in real time, to Israel and beyond. But the media doesn’t just broadcast – it dissects and interprets…reduces complex messages into sound bites! This is not a critique – merely a description of the world we live in.
If a picture’s worth a thousand words then the video and pictures in today’s integrated and instant communications world can overwhelm our intended messages or otherwise create messages of their own.
Today, words and visuals travel instantaneously around the world, whether they’re true or false, clear or convoluted. In fact, the media is actually changing how we think about things, like how “victory” or “defeat” are defined. For example, is the level of violence in Baghdad the right metric of winning or losing in Iraq?
In the fight against Hizbollah last year, was the right measure of success, the number of rockets launched into Israel? The media is a truly integral part of modern life, an integral part of modern warfare – and those of us concerned with national defense need to understand the ramifications better. In today’s interconnected world, while military action may be necessary, it may no longer be the deciding factor in the outcome.
I do thank the organizers of this timely conference, for bringing leaders together to tackle some of the hardest problems we face together – thank you for your dedication and for all you do to promote peace and security.
To the leaders and the people of Israel – thank you for this opportunity to speak with you, for your friendship, and for the inspiring example of your courage and commitment to freedom.
And to all the people of the Middle East region – to all those who stand for freedom – thank you for your own partnership and friendship with the government and people of the United States, and for your own commitment to freedom and liberty for all people.
President Ronald Reagan said it best, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” That’s the mission we all share today – all of us here this evening, and everyone at home.
Shalom! And Good night.