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Ceremony in Honor of NATO Secretary General Javier Solana
Remarks as Delivered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, The Pentagon, Washington, D.C. , Thursday, September 23, 1999

Secretary General [Javier] Solana; Deputy Secretary [John] Hamre; General [Wesley] Clark [Supreme Allied Commander, Europe]; Secretary [of the Army, Louis] Caldera; General [Eric] Shinseki, [U.S. Army Chief of Staff]; Undersecretary [of the Navy, Jerry] Hultin; [NATO spokesman] Jamie Shea.

Let me express thanks to all of you for joining us to pay tribute to Secretary Solana. Somerset Maugham once said that the secret of Spain’s greatness lay not in its culture, but in the leaders it produces. The preeminence of Spain, he wrote, is its "preeminence of character." He said, "In Spain, it is the men that are the poems, the pictures, the buildings, and the philosophies. The Spanish excel in what is greater than art—in man."

So today, we are taking just a few moments to express our gratitude and appreciation to a great man -- indeed, one of the great leaders -- that Spain has produced: a leader whose career reflects excellence not only in that rarefied world of theoretical physics, but in the rough-hewn world of politics.

Four years ago, when he assumed the office of Secretary General, Javier noted in a somewhat scientific analysis that his selection was—in a word—improbable. He said that "life, and the wind of life, have taken me places I never thought I would be." I think many of us here in this room today could use that same expression. But it is worth noting that many observers in both Europe and the United States believed that the challenges that lay before him were indeed—in a word—improbable and impossible.

He faced the immediate task of coordinating what was then the largest military deployment ever undertaken by NATO -- a multinational force of 60,000 soldiers that was preparing to enter Bosnia. And General Clark is here to bear witness to the leadership that Javier exhibited at that time. He faced the unexpected opportunity of reintegrating France into NATO’s active military operations after an absence of nearly three decades. And he faced the historic challenges of expanding the membership of NATO, of reaching out to embrace old foes as allies, and redefining NATO’s mission to prepare for a new century.

More than any other individual in our alliance, the man who we honor today helped to accomplish all of those goals and more. He did so by keeping in the very foremost of his mind a principle that was captured in a Spanish proverb: "To observe the past is to take warning for the future."

Javier, he recognized that the forces of history which had fractured Europe for so many centuries --the powerful ideologies that were capable of inflaming age-old animosities--they simply could not be ignored. Nor could they be contained behind some sort of arbitrary division or line. He knew that these forces had to be confronted with candor, with courage, and with patience. And so while we honor him for bringing the reborn nations of the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland into NATO, we also thank him for his vision and vigilance that he brought to our growing partnership with nations beyond NATO -- such as Russia, Ukraine, and many more.

The poet Mathew Arnold once observed that for the creation of a masterpiece "two powers must concur—the power of the moment, and the power of the man." The evil that was unleashed in Kosovo this year will surely be regarded as a defining moment in the evolution of Europe. And I will tell you that there is some irony involved in having to wage war on the [NATO] 50th anniversary of the celebration of peace, here in Washington. But Javier, in the eye of this unexpected storm, maintained his focus and he used his talents to create a diplomacy, a masterpiece of diplomacy that will be studied for years to come.

And his power, to a great extent, was more personal than official. I would say that only a man of calm determination could have persuaded the reluctant and the restless to stay the course. Only a man of relentless optimism could have stood strong against the raging currents of criticism. Only a man of deep perspective could have earned the respect and admiration of such a diverse array of leaders. Indeed, we are fortunate that the power of this man was more than equal to the power of the moment.

Einstein was perhaps the most brilliant of theoretical physicists. He once said that "a hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depends on the labors of other men, both living and dead, and I must exert myself in order to continue to give them the measure I have received and am still receiving."

Let me say to all of your friends, Javier, that the legacy that you leave -- to millions of Europeans and Americans -- will be profound for our outer lives, for you are also handing over an institution of strength and stability that will secure the blessings of freedom for generations to come. But you also affected our inner lives. You have given us a legacy of hope, of humanity, the hope for the liberty and peace that only democracy can author. And so for that we are deeply appreciative, and if you all will join me in a round of applause. [Applause.]