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CHARLES STITH

Mark Gearan:

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to tonight's President's Forum lecture. We welcome our students, faculty, friends from the Geneva community and the many listeners on WEOS, our national public radio station, to tonight's President's Forum series.

One of the themes of this year's President's Forum series is really to focus on some of the important international issues we're dealing with at this time and inviting many ambassadors and former ambassadors to come to Geneva. My hope is that we have an opportunity to engage in some rich dialogue from individuals who spent very recent time in diplomacy and service work and humanitarian efforts that can reflect upon their service in various capacities from around the world.

Africa is the subject of tonight's lecture; Tanzania in particular, and the intersection of some of the issues we see being played out in the world's stage today with Ambassador Charles Stith. There's no better person, I believe, by virtue of his experience and education and energy in what he's doing now at Boston University to reflect upon this than Ambassador Charles Stith. He's presently at Boston University and has been appointed to establish the African Presidential Archives and Research Center. The center provides a forum and resources for exchange on political and economic developments in sub-Saharan Africa during a period of profound and historic change. Recently, the Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle has appointed Ambassador Stith to be commissioner of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

He's a long time resident of Boston, Mass., graduating from the Harvard Divinity School. He is the founder and the former national president of the Organization for New Equality, which focuses on expanding economic opportunity for minorities and women. Prior to heading this position, he was the senior minister of the historic Union United Methodist Church in Boston. He's been an adjunct faculty member at Boston College and Harvard Divinity School. He serves on several national boards. He is the author of Political Religion and many op-ed articles appearing in national newspapers from the Boston Globe and Herald, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, the New York Times and the Chicago Sun Times.

It's a personal pleasure to be able to welcome Ambassador Stith. When I was director of the Peace Corps I had the good fortune to work with Ambassador Stith because we have a very active and important program in Tanzania, which I visited after the embassy bombings. When the bombings occurred in Tanzania, Ambassador Stith was the top United States representative there on all of our behalf. Dealing with the issues of terrorism back then, particularly with the embassy bombing, seems very relevant today as we unpack and observe and try to make sense of the entire times we live in. Join me in welcoming Ambassador Charles Stith.

Ambassador Stith:

Thank you, President Gearan. While your distinguished president and my friend made reference to the intersection of our careers while he was the director of the Peace Corps and I was the United States Ambassador to Tanzania, our relationship extends much beyond that. We were both significantly younger when we met. I had more hair and less of it was gray. He still is handsome and as brilliant as ever. But when we met as younger men committed to doing what we could to make our country a better place to live, there were a couple of things that struck me about him, which I'm sure you've come to appreciate here. And one is that he brings a tremendous amount of passion, creativity and vision to bear in any situation in which he locates himself. The second thing that struck me, because of those characteristics, that he was someone that would continue to play a cutting-edge role within our country, moving it to higher heights.

And I must say one of the things that struck me, and I made mention of it earlier, after watching his moves in the political environment I always felt that one of these days I'd have the opportunity to call him President Gearan. Now, I didn't know it would be in this context first, but it certainly is a fitting title for one of America's great citizens. When our founding fathers were fashioning the foundation of this republic they knew what they were establishing was a work in progress and they knew it would take a steady stream of patriots to perfect this experiment in governance. I'm not only happy to be here because of what I've encountered with the student body and the professorial staff, but it is a pleasure to be here with a person who I feel really is one of the pantheon of patriots that has contributed to our country being a better place-your president and my friend, Mark Gearan-and I wish you would do this for me: give him a round of applause.

The title of my lecture this evening is "Peace, Security and Justice: A Post-9/11 Prescription." As a pretext for the observations that I want to offer on the subject let me quote from the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam (stanza 71, translated by Edward Fitzgerald). 'The moving finger writes and having writ, moves on, nor all your piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all your tears wash out a word of it.' On September 11, 2001, the moving finger wrote. The handwriting is on the wall and there are several things that should be abundantly clear.

First of all, relative to the world as we have known it, to borrow a line from Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, 'Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore.' On September 11 a rag-tag group of fanatics, without a country, economy, or standing army, as we know it, made clear we are in a different place. Forces from which we thought we were insulated by two oceans made clear that such a sense of security is based on a false assumption. We are neither isolated nor insulated.

Secondly, 9/11 made clear that war had been declared on the United States of America. To be sure, it is drastically different from any war for which we've rehearsed, but it is war. Ironically, on September 11, 1998, I began my tenure as the United States Ambassador to Tanzania.

My first day started with me sifting through the rubble of what was left of the U.S. Embassy because it had been bombed on August 7 by Al Qaeda. What I came to appreciate over time was that what happened in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, and-Mark, I'm sure you were aware Kampala, Uganda, was also slated to be attacked-what happened in those three places were not simply acts of terrorism. Those assaults in Africa were not meant simply to get our attention in the Untied States or chip away at our sense of invincibility. Those were acts of war on a global scale. While Africa certainly might not be considered the first theater in the prosecution of this world war, the Nairobi offensive signaled our enemies were prepared to fight us wherever they perceived us to have a presence or an interest.

The third thing 9/11 punctuated was that simply extolling our values as the world's most enduring democracy won't save us. Clever arguments about the virtue of our cause won't secure our future. 'The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on, nor all our piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line, nor all our tears wash out a word of it'. If our response, my friends, to this threat is not strong and swift, clear-headed and comprehensive, then the American way as we've lived it, the American dream as we've pursued, it will be diminished because of our negligence.

It is the response we are required to make that I want to address myself this evening. Unless something dramatic happens on the Iraqi front, any day now the United States will launch a major military counter-offensive in the war against fanaticism. However one might feel about if and or when Iraq should be our next target, whether one narrowly or broadly reads just-war theory, it is inarguable that the United States is within its rights and our leaders have an obligation to defend our country and citizens from the sort of assault we experienced on September 11; that this defense of our nation will continue to have a military element is also obvious given the violent bent of our adversaries.

Unfortunately, what is less obvious but no less true is there are some profound limits to military intervention. Nowhere are the limits more exposed than in the Bush administration's change in America's defense policy from one of containment, the defining principle of our defense policies post-WWII, to pre-emption, which is the defining principle of our defense policy post-September 11. While there is a logic to pre-emption as a counter to the tactics of Al-Qaeda, there are also profound limits to pre-emption if it is defined solely in military terms.

In a speech our President gave at West Point's most recent graduation he indicated that Al-Qaeda and similar networks have a presence in close to 100 countries around the world. This poses a rather significant problem. On the one hand, not only would an attempt at pre-emption in a military sense stretch our defense capabilities beyond the breaking point, on the other hand to become so engaged would be politically impossible. The political impossibility of mounting such interventions is nowhere more clearly reflected than in our difficulty in galvanizing the global consensus around a pre-emptive attack on Iraq. So where does this lead us? What do we do?

Well, one way to say it using the paradigm that President Bush has crafted is that if our response to this enemy is going to be driven by the principle of pre-emption, then pre-emption must be defined more broadly than military strategy. Or, I would say it this way, that if we are going to defeat the threat posed by Al-Qaeda, it means accepting and embracing the premise that there can be no peace and security without justice. As daunting as the task before us might seem, defeating bin Laden and what he represents is do-able. I believe we can know peace and security in our time. On the question of what do we do, there are a number of things that must be on that list.

Obviously, as a nation we will need to become much more security-conscious, the most immediate thing being increasing security at major transportation centers. Some of that's already begun. We need to beef up our technological capacity for surveillance. But investing in technology is not enough. We must also invest in people. Those people with the responsibility for security. They will need to be better trained and better paid in order to keep them on the job.

With the imposition of tougher security measures, the caveat is that we, as Americans, must accept inconveniences relative to life as we know it. In addition, we must also understand that security also has its limits in a free society. We can harden what are now considered 'soft targets' but in a free society we cannot become impenetrable.

A related area that needs added attention is intelligence beyond technology. This is another area where we need to invest in people. If we are going to stand a chance in thwarting similar attacks in the future, we must invest in more people on the ground doing intelligence gathering. As much as we'll be required to mobilize around the initiatives I've laid out and those similar to them, my friends, this is the easy stuff. Much more difficult will be to reject the isolationist sentiments that are bound to surface in the months and years ahead as we try to sort our way through this mess. Whether those sentiments are expressed as 'let's cut our losses and let Israel go it alone' or 'let's forge a new complement of new surrogates to do our bidding and protect our interests,' we must understand that neither option is morally or materially acceptable.

So where do we go from here?

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, we have been reluctant to assume the de facto responsibility to provide the necessary leadership to mediate the world's conflicts. We are the last super-power standing. We are the world's most prosperous and peaceful nation. As the Bible reminds us, 'those to whom much is given, much is required'. It's time for the United States to step up, and as the kids would say, 'step up big-time'. And by this, I don't mean simply supplying military muscle in trouble spots around the world.

While this might be necessary in some cases, the bigger challenge is launching a diplomatic offensive. Not simply to organize a world-wide commitment against providing safe-havens for terrorists, but to deal with finding real solutions to the problems of discontent and poverty that serve as breeding grounds for fanatics who've identified us as the enemy. This will take time, but another reality of this situation is that there are no quick fixes.

As we attempt to win this war we must be confessional about our past policy failures, particularly those rooted in the containment policies of the Cold War. We spent billions of dollars destabilizing parts of the world, like those countries in Africa, and in the process, making enemies where we could have been making friends. Several weeks ago, there was piece in the paper, an Associated Press article, indicating that according to a 1994 Senate Banking Committee report-and Mark, you may have seen this-and in a 1995 follow-up letter from the CDC to the Senate during the Reagan administration when the United States supported Iraq in its war against Iran, strains of all the germs Iraq used to make weapons, including anthrax, were transferred by our government. This revelation caused Senate Arms Services Chairman Robert Byrd to query Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and he said "we are in fact now facing in Iraq the possibility of reaping what we have sown."

My point is that anyone not willing to admit that there have been failures is either naïve at best, or delusional at worst. Even the less egregious failures, if you want to call them that, such as the effort to contain such acts as we experienced in New York, Washington and outside Pittsburgh to other parts of the world don't work. The point simply put, my friends, is rather simple. That if we continue to do the same thing the same way we'll get the same thing. And that same thing is the sort of threats we experienced on September 11. Yes, we must confront every threat. Militarily, when called for, but maybe more important are the ideological threats.

We must be much more aggressive and proactive about assisting the growth of fledgling democracies, not only because it creates conditions that would enable us more effectively to counter terrorism, but more importantly because propagating those sorts of values are at the heart of what we are about as Americans. This is what justice demands in the peace and security formula I offered earlier. The demands of justice should make us mindful that we can catch or kill bin Laden, but if we do not counter bin Laden-ism, we will win the battle but lose the war. The demands of justice should cause us to appreciate that our best weapon in this struggle against bin Laden-ism is not our technological superiority nor developing our intelligence superiority. The ultimate weapon we have is to propagate a way of life that offers humankind the best opportunity to fulfill their God-given potential.

In other words, we must develop a comprehensive game plan to encourage, support and enable burgeoning democracies in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, as well as those in Europe, to take root.


Several months ago I was in Brussels for a number of high-level meetings at the Directorate of Development and Humanitarian Aid and I was reminded by the Chief of Staff, Klaus Sorøsen, that at the U.N. Millennium Summit in New York, which was held ironically almost one year to the day before the attack on September 11, that the developing nations of the world made a commitment to contribute 0.7 percent of their GNPs to help ease the burden of poverty for other developing nations of the world. Our European partners seemed to be committed to reaching this target. They reconfirmed that commitment at the Gothenberg European Council in June 2001, and to date, four E.U. member states, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden, and one non-E.U. member, Norway, have reached or exceeded the promised 0.7 percent. Ireland has been one of the most recent nations to announce its commitment to reaching this goal.

The sense of urgency by our European partners reflects their belief that we will only be safe from terrorism when we deal with the conditions that feed fanaticism. Given that September 11 defines the new reality in which we operate in this global village, how can the United States have any less of a sense of urgency than European states? The demands of justice would require us to look at the paltry-and I underscore paltry-0.1 percent of our GNP now devoted to foreign aid, most of which goes to Israel, Egypt and Russia. And those demands would challenge us based on an old biblical dictum, 'those to whom much is given, much is required'. We need to step up to the plate to expand aid, not only in terms of amounts, but also in terms of what it means in order to make the difference we should. Doing so would not only mean the United States standing on the right side of the moral equation but, as important, it would also give the United States the moral standing to set out conditions for aid that would result in this effort being more than simply throwing money at a problem or, as some would argue, throwing good money after bad.

There are a number of things that ought to be on this list of initiatives to combat poverty by developing countries, if the result is going to be greater hope and opportunity for the masses. If countries want more aid, and I'd add trade and investment, their agendas should entail those countries coming forward with strategies for a number of things. One: a clear agenda for democratization; two: demonstrable efforts toward privatization of their economies; three: reordering priorities so that more is spent on education, health, roads and airports than bombs and bullets; four: dealing with corruption, a part of which is reducing tariff and taxes that encourage corruption; five: developing local capital markets which entails reforming and strengthening their national banking systems as a way of encouraging citizens to invest in their own economies. The demands of justice would require us to take these steps to make the international community a more equitable and livable place. But the moral imperative doesn't stop there. It also compels us, I would suggest, to say and do something about our obligations in our local communities.

There is a profound synergy between our efforts to save the world and save our own. As we should have learned as a result of our excursion in Vietnam, we need to be mindful of the danger that the buildup to fight the war against terrorism abroad has, relative to its potential to eviscerate our efforts and need to continue to fight the war against poverty, despair and disappointed dreams right here at home.

There are some clear and present dangers in that regard. Experts suggest it will take about $100 billion to prosecute the war in Iraq alone. We have just increased our commitment to the Millennium Fund to combat global poverty to $10 billion. Against the backdrop of looming budget deficits and the debates that are sure to follow regarding budget cuts, the problem is the traditional tension between trying to provide guns and butter is something that we've got to be sensitive to because we've demonstrated over time we've never been able to achieve that balance.

The point is that maybe if we understand that we need to give more priority to producing the 'butter' we might not have to rely on the guns as much. Sadly, some don't get this point.

Not long after the September attack I attended church service at the church I formerly pastored. One of the members approached me and I asked how she was doing and she responded 'not well'. She went on to say that she had worked for one of the major airlines for 32 years and then on September 25 she received an e-mail that said she should clear out her desk by September 28. Fortunately, her family will probably be all right. They had a nice little 'rainy day fund' and her husband has a good job. But, some people in her position, who have struggled from the margins of life in America to the mainstream, are now in trouble.

During the eight years of unprecedented growth in the 1990s there are a number of Americans who, through hard work and playing by the rules, finally got a foothold on the first rung on the ladder of economic opportunity. Because of the deterioration of the economy and through no fault of their own, they are now hurting. What we do, my friends, to maintain hope and opportunity in America is as important in this war against fanaticism as anything we will do anywhere. We can't rebuilt the main streets of Afghanistan and ignore the back streets of America. We can't do battle with despair and discontent on continents far away and allow despair and discontent to carry the day in our own country. It is politically inconsistent and morally unacceptable. These are some of the challenges, both national and international, to which I believe we're called to rise. And if I might move from professor to preacher, let me say that I believe that if we rise to meet those challenges to paraphrase Teilhard de Chardin 'it will be like that coming day, when after harnessing space, the winds, the tides and gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies vested in hope and harmony, and on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.'

If we rise to the challenge I believe we shall discover fire, which represents a passion so hot as to melt the stone cold avarice born of citizens and brighten the way to new opportunities. If we meet the challenge, we shall discover a fire so hot as to melt the icy barriers that divide us along country, class and community lines, and fire us to fever pitch to make the spaces in which we find ourselves better places. If we meet the challenge, we will discover a fire that will light the path to a new day and illumine our search for a new way that would have people from one end of the world to the other see this global village as their village, as your village, as my village, as our village. This is our challenge. To do what we can as we can, where we can, in a way that is consistent with our highest principles in order to move this world in which we live to a higher plane.

May God bless all of you and may God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.

 

 

INFORMATION

"Peace, Security and Justice: a Post-9/11 Prescription"

October 28, 2002