Iraq and Beyond: Common Euro-American Interest in Stabilizing the Greater Middle East

Article excerpt

NATO was founded to address the major security challenge of the time, the Soviet Union. After winning the Cold War, NATO again took on the greatest security challenge of the time-namely, extending a zone of peace and stability to the new and newly freed states of eastern and central Europe and the Balkans. NATO's decision to go "out of area," rather than "out of business" has proven to be wise, despite hesitation and doubts at the beginning.

Now the world-and NATO-faces a major new security 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, stagnant economic Systems, and war have often overwhelmed the talents of its peoples and the wealth of its natural resources.

Common Interest

It is a challenge for all of us in the West, North Americans and Europeans alike. 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.

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, proved that two oceans are not sufficient to protect my homeland from the threat of Islamic terrorism. Yet Europe is, geographically, even more vulnerable. Indeed, many of the September 11 plotters planned their attacks in Europe and were based there. Al Qaeda has already launched a deadly attack against one NATO member, Turkey. Al Qaeda tried to blow up the plane of another, France. Al Qaeda has attacked European citizens throughout the world. The Greater Middle East remains the home of many dangerous WMD capabilities-nuclear, chemical and biological.

Iraq and Beyond

As we deliberate together on how we can best meet the central security challenge of our time, we should not ignore the repercussions caused by the U.S. military action in Iraq. The United States' decision to go to war, the process and timing of this decision, and the recruitment of supportive allies all this deeply divided many in Europe from America, and opened a fissure in NATO. NATO has largely healed that breach, but considerable discord remains. As Lord Robertson told the North Atlantic Council upon his departure last December, "With Saddam now captured, a cancer has been removed from Iraq and the Middle East." But the allies and the Middle East don't have the luxury of a lengthy period of recuperation from that operation.

It is now time to look forward in Iraq. It is in the interest of European countries and the United States that Iraq becomes a stable democratic country which embraces the goals of individual, religious and political freedom and a market economic system which could lead to a much higher standard of living for all of its citizens.

Hundreds of millions of people in the Greater Middle East suffer from grinding poverty and hopelessness. As a result, some young people have been attracted to terrorism and express their despair by lashing out at others more fortunate. At the extreme, some have chosen suicidal missions. We all recognize the huge gaps between the world's rich and poor. Some 24,000 people die each day from starvation and another 8,000 die daily from combinations of HIV/ AIDS, tuberculosis, and malnutrition. We are working through the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and bilateral programs to alleviate the suffering. …