A New Partnership for the Greater Middle East

By Lugar, Richard | Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly, July 15, 2004 | Go to article overview

A New Partnership for the Greater Middle East


Lugar, Richard, Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly


Since the end of World War II, we have recognized that our national security rests on four strong pillars: our own democratic values and the example of freedom that we hold out to the world; our military strength; our alliances with other countries and our ability to work cooperatively with the rest of the international community; and an enlightened use of both hard and soft power, including diplomacy, aid, and trade, that promotes friendship while protecting us from enemies.

To meet the threat from the Soviet Union, we maintained a strong military and created NATO. But we did more. We also launched the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe and helped create the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization. The aim was to promote international cooperation, to spread the values of democracy and respect for human rights, and to fight poverty. Over time, we developed more institutions and mechanisms: bilateral defense treaties, regional development banks, the Helsinki Process, and the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program, just to name a few.

Today we in the West face a major challenge. It is the threat of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, failed states and instability that arises in major part from extremist organizations in the Greater Middle East. The terrorist ideology generated there has global reach. The region is the prime source of what I believe is the greatest single threat to modern civilization in the 21st century - that is, the nexus between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. We must promote security and stability in this vast but troubled region, where demographics, religious extremism, autocratic governments, isolation, stagnant economic systems, and war have often overwhelmed the talents of its peoples and the wealth of its natural resources.

Common Interest

This is a challenge for all of us in the developed world. Instability, poverty and joblessness increase the flow of migrants to Europe. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict causes unrest and discord among Europe's Muslim populations. For some, this long- standing struggle is both a reason and an excuse for anti- Americanism and anti-western sentiments in the Arab world. Last week's response to the killing by Israel of Hamas leader Sheik Yassin is yet another illustration of how events there can reverberate around the region, and a foretaste of the conflagration that could ensue if we can't end the spiral of violence. It underscores my strong belief that we cannot take an election-year time-out in the quest for peace.

Iraq and Beyond

While we cannot ignore the repercussions of the U.S.-led military action in Iraq, it is now time to look forward. European and Asian countries have the same interest as the United States in seeing that Iraq becomes a stable democratic country. By so doing, it can become a catalyst for positive change throughout the region, where millions of people suffer from grinding poverty and hopelessness. This has led some young people to terrorism and to express their despair by lashing out at others more fortunate. At the extreme, some have chosen suicidal missions.

But if we strongly support in Afghanistan and Iraq citizens who are striving to build successful states that embrace freedom and enjoy broadly shared economic development, their success could generate extraordinary encouragement to millions of people now mired in hopelessness.

Likewise, if we help to produce a resolution of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, fresh political winds would sweep through the region and new possibilities for political reform would flourish. We should make solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict an integral part of our larger strategy, not an adjunct to it, and consider new structures that bring moderate Arab countries into the process. …

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