Washington — NATO is looking beyond the challenges of its founding in the Cold War struggle with Soviet Russia toward an alliance that works to ensure dignity and prosperity for people worldwide, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said April 3.
Speaking to the World Affairs Council 2012 NATO Conference in Norfolk, Virginia, Clinton said the alliance, formed in 1949, needs to transform itself so that it can continue to champion the principles of “democracy, liberty and the rule of law” around the world as part of what she termed “a battle for the future.”
Across the planet, emerging powers are rising and technology is working to connect “more people in more places, and empowering them to influence global events and participate in the global economy like never before,” she said, adding, “This is all occurring against the backdrop of a recovering economy from the worst recession in recent memory.”
Ahead of the May 20–21 NATO summit, which will be held in Chicago, the secretary told members of the alliance that “the problems we face today are not limited to one ocean, and neither can our work be.”
She cited the example of Libya and how NATO’s work to protect Libyans from the regime of Muammar Qadhafi in 2011 was “a massive and complex undertaking,” but added it is “no exaggeration to say that thousands of Libyans are alive today because of your work.”
In Chicago, NATO members will recognize how their cooperation helped to defend “common values” in the Balkans, Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa, she said.
“We want to learn what worked and what didn’t, and I do believe in evidenced-based planning. And what we see in NATO is a very impressive example of that. It’s not only the planning that looks forward, but it’s the lessons learned that help us look backward to make that forward planning even better,” Clinton said.
NATO members will also discuss the next phase in the transition of security responsibility for Afghanistan to Afghan forces by 2014, and reductions in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan from “a predominantly combat role to a supporting role” through training, advice and assistance in 2013, she said.
At the invitation of the Afghan government, some ISAF forces may remain after 2014, she said, but “we do not seek permanent American military bases in Afghanistan or a presence that is considered a threat to the neighbors, which leads to instability that threatens the gains that have been made in Afghanistan.”
Clinton said a stable Afghanistan is in the interests of both NATO and the United States, and the Obama administration remains committed to achieving it, as well as to supporting Afghan reconciliation efforts to end conflict there.
She called on Taliban rebels to “make unambiguous statements distancing themselves from international terrorism and committing to a peace process that includes all Afghans.”
The secretary urged support for Afghanistan’s economic development, saying projects like the New Silk Road Initiative that would create economic and transit connections between the country and its South and Central Asian neighbors “will bind together a region too long torn apart by conflict and division.” Afghanistan’s political future and the economic future of the entire region, Clinton said, are “inextricably linked” to Afghanistan’s economic success.
“That is a lesson we have learned over and over all over the world: People need a realistic hope for a better life, a job and a chance to provide for their family,” she said.
FORMER SECRETARY MARSHALL SAW THE NEED TO INVEST IN OTHERS
In earlier remarks in Lexington, Virginia, April 3, Clinton invoked the memory of former U.S. General and Secretary of State George Marshall, who had urged Americans to help rebuild Europe in the aftermath of World War II.
In Marshall’s efforts was “a recognition that advancing our own interests depends on improving the conditions in which other human beings around the world live,” she said.
In his farewell remarks on leaving military service, Marshall said, “Along with the great problem of maintaining the peace, we must solve the problem of the pittance of food, of clothing and coal and homes. Neither of these problems can be solved alone. They are directly related to one another,” Clinton recalled.
Marshall looked at “a Europe shattered by war,” and “knew that hunger and poverty would ultimately undermine our own prosperity and opportunity, that desperation and chaos would ultimately give rise to forces that would threaten us here at home,” she said.
“Today, we can see the truth of those insights in so many ways. We see how some of the greatest threats to our security come from a lack of opportunity, the denial of human rights, a changing climate, strains on water, food, and energy,” Clinton said.
Both research and experience suggest that about 40 percent of countries recovering from conflict “revert to violence within a decade,” she said. “But when they grow their economies and raise people’s income, the risk of violence drops substantially. And there is no better way of doing that than introducing free-market principles, encouraging entrepreneurship, creating conditions for men and women to see the results of their own labor in rising incomes and better opportunities for their children.”
Clinton said Marshall understood that “in order for America to have peace and prosperity, we have to invest in that potential for others.” Clinton called on all Americans to “channel our doubts and uncertainty into a call to be better and stronger.”