Engagement Is Not Liberal Mush
Chris Patten is External Relations Commissioner of
the European Commission. The last British governor of Hong Kong, he also
served as chairman of the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern
Ireland in 1998 and 1999.
London-When I was a junior minister in the Northern
Ireland Office, I used to get sent to Washington to lobby Congress and
successive administrations against private American funding of Irish terrorism.
While I am not sure that I ever achieved very much, I always got a polite
I argued vehemently that free societies had a duty to defeat the evil
of terrorism. I strongly defended the actions we took as a government
on the security front. But if I had tried to deny that there was any political,
cultural or social context for the violence in Ireland, I fancy that I
would have been shown the door pretty smartish. Only a fanatic fringe
argued that politics wholly explained or justified the murder of the innocent;
but there was a general perception that Irish terrorism could not be defeated
without a political, as well as a security, response. And so it proved.
If there is one thunderingly obvious lesson to draw from that in the global
campaign against terrorism, it is that carefully and steadily applied
force is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for victory.
The military campaign in Afghanistan under American leadership, with 17
allies committing their forces to this theatre, is entirely justified.
Let no one pretend that other credible options were available.
That campaign needs to be pursued with a grim determination until the
job is done. European soldiers have been fighting alongside their American,
Canadian and Australian comrades. Britain has just announced a further,
very substantial deployment. It may be that the coalition will need to
fight elsewhere, too, before we are through.
But four other things are required if the courage-and sacrifices-of our
soldiers are to deliver a safer world in the long term.
First, the defeat of terrorism requires international cooperation to enhance
the effectiveness of policing across borders and to cut off the funding
of violence. Since September 11, the United States and the European Union
have worked closely to achieve this.
International cooperation demands international agreements, conventions,
rules, arbitration and policing. So we must work to enhance the prestige
and credibility of the United Nations and other institutions of global
Second, we now know, to America's terrible cost, that failed states do
not just threaten their own citizens and neighbors. Afghanistan has exported
more than terrorism: Ninety percent of the heroin on the streets of Europe
comes from that region.
Nine months ago, most people had no idea what was happening in Afghanistan,
and no interest either. They worried about state-sponsored terrorism,
but not about terrorist-sponsored states. Alas, they do now.
We can see similar problems from the Balkans to the Congo; from Sudan
and Sierra Leone to the cocaine-producing criminal haunts in parts of
Mr. Blair was much jeered for making a passionate speech along these lines
at his last party conference. But he is right. While we cannot rid the
world of original sin, we must do more to combat some of its consequences,
with different countries sharing the diplomatic, economic and security
burden according to their competence and their previous involvement in
regions of danger.
Is it really impossible to put the Congo back together again, or Sudan
or Somalia? Embarrassed, even humiliated, and threatened by bloody disaster
on our own doorstep, we have managed laboriously to restore greater stability
and hope to the Balkans, though much still remains to be done. And we
are starting on the expensive and hideously complex task of building a
government and civil society in Afghanistan. Some, with a curl of the
lip, dismiss all that as "social work." To which the obvious
response is that it is a pity there was not more social work after the
eviction of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in the 1980s.
The third requirement is to work coherently and aggressively for a settlement
in the Middle East on the basis of the Mitchell plan and the recent Saudi
proposals. The bloody feud between Israelis and Palestinians directly
fuels the doubts, suspicions and hostility in the Islamic world directed
against America and Europe. This mood was reflected in a recent sobering
Gallup survey, which took the political temperature in nine Islamic countries.
There is a particularly important role for Europe in preventing Samuel
Huntington's thesis about the "clash of civilizations" from
becoming self-fulfilling. We must put more energy and political commitment
into our contractual partnership with the countries of the Southern Mediterranean
and develop our relationship with the Gulf States and Iran, whose reformist
government deserves hard-headed engagement.
Fourth, the approach and involvement of the rich nations will be taken
by developing countries as an indication of whether we have any conception
of how the problems of security and terrorism look to them.
Poverty and environmental degradation do not cause or justify terrorism.
Nor are the poor more wicked than the rest of us. But just as poor people
are the major victims of crime in rich societies (and impoverished neighborhoods
the main criminal battlefields), so political instability and violence
are most prevalent in the poorest countries.
This is scarcely surprising. Deprivation makes it more difficult to sustain
decency. Moreover, not only does one-fifth of the world take home four-fifths
of the world's wealth, but the impoverished four-fifths suffer from ills
that range from epidemic disease to crime and drugs. And we cannot protect
ourselves from the consequences, as though we were residents in fortified
suburbs. It is good news that President Bush announced a big increase
in America's aid budget, and that EU leaders agreed in Barcelona to raise
aid budgets steadily over the coming decade.
Walls are not the answer to global woes. But engagement is-with more help
for the poor, more access for them to our markets and more commitment
on their part to improve their standards of government in return for our
more generous help.
Liberal mush? Actually, no-just a more comprehensive and effective way
of beating the current generation of bin Ladens and preventing the development
of new ones.