September 11, 2001 : Attack on America
Remarks By U.S. Senator John McCain - "From Crisis To Opportunity: American Internationalism And The New Atlantic Order" 38th Munich Conference on Security Policy Hotel Bayerischer Hof Munich, Germany; February 2, 2002

Remarks By U.S. Senator John McCain - "From Crisis To Opportunity: American Internationalism And The New Atlantic Order"

38th Munich Conference on Security Policy Hotel Bayerischer Hof Munich, Germany February 2, 2002


American delegates to this conference have been at this table in the past and fiercely debated the nature and extent of America's obligations in Europe and the world. Lively exchanges about America's role in the new Europe, the continuing relevance of NATO, the establishment of an exclusively European security identity, the division of labor over Balkan peacekeeping, and the ups-and-downs of a tumultuous relationship with Russia have obscured the strategic clarity America and our European allies enjoyed during the Cold War.

No longer. We live in a new era. We share a common purpose, and enjoy a unique opportunity: to forge a world order maintained not by force of arms or foreign occupation but by a shared commitment to the values that unite us, backed by our collective military might, and driven by our determination that never again shall innocents on the soil of our nations be slaughtered. Central to this task is a new American internationalism motivated by these goals: to end safe harbor for terrorists anywhere, to aggressively target rogue regimes that threaten us with weapons of mass destruction, and to consolidate freedom's gains through institutions that reflect our values.

The horror of September 11th, and the existence of al Qaeda cells in this and over 60 nations around the world, dispel any notion that America's commitment to the defeat of our enemies is mere rhetoric. Just ask the Taliban. The successful military campaign we and our allies waged against the government that harbored our enemies sends what I hope is a clear signal to leaders in Tehran, Damascus, Khartoum, and elsewhere that sponsoring terrorism places national survival at risk.

Let me be clear to our European friends: Americans believe we have a mandate to defeat and dismantle the global terrorist network that threatens both Europe and America. As our President has said, this network includes not just the terrorists but the states that make possible their continued operation. Many of these are rogue regimes that possess or are developing weapons of mass destruction which threaten Europeans and Americans alike. We in America learned the hard way that we can never again wait for our enemies to choose their moment. The initiative is now ours, and we are seizing it.

We now know that despite the prosperity and peace we enjoyed since the end of the Cold War, there existed a time bomb waiting to go off. The next explosion may occur in Europe or America; it could even involve the use of weapons of mass destruction developed under state sponsorship.

Several years ago, I and many others argued that the United States, in concert with willing allies, should work to undermine from within and without outlaw regimes that disdain the rules of international conduct and whose internal dysfunction threatened other nations. Since then, two rogue regimes have fallen after military intervention by American-led allied coalitions: Slobodan Milosevic's Serbia and the Taliban's Afghanistan. In both countries, liberal reformers are now in power, and the threat each nation posed to its neighbors ended with the downfall of the tyrants who ruled them.

Just this week, the American people heard our President articulate a policy to defeat the "axis of evil" that threatens us with its support for terror and development of weapons of mass destruction. Dictators that harbor terrorists and build these weapons are now on notice that such behavior is, in itself, a casus belli. Nowhere is such an ultimatum more applicable than in Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Almost everyone familiar with Saddam's record of biological weapons development over the past two decades agrees that he surely possesses such weapons. He also possesses vast stocks of chemical weapons and is known to have aggressively pursued, with some success, the development of nuclear weapons. He is the only dictator on Earth who has actually used weapons of mass destruction against his own people and his neighbors. His regime has been implicated in the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center. Terrorist training camps exist on Iraqi soil, and Iraqi officials are known to have had a number of contacts with al Qaeda. These were probably not courtesy calls.

Americans have internalized the mantra that Afghanistan represents only the first front in our global war on terror. The next front is apparent, and we should not shrink from acknowledging it. A terrorist resides in Baghdad, with the resources of an entire state at his disposal, flush with cash from illicit oil revenues and proud of a decade-long record of defying the international community's demands that he come clean on his programs to develop weapons of mass destruction.

A day of reckoning is approaching. Not simply for Saddam Hussein, but for all members of the Atlantic community, whose governments face the choice of ending the threat we face every day from this rogue regime or carrying on as if such behavior, in the wake of September 11th, were somehow still tolerable. The Afghan campaign set a precedent, and provided a model: the success of air power, combined with Special Operations forces working together with indigenous opposition forces, in waging modern war.

The next phase of the war on terror can build on this model, but we also must learn from its limitations. More American boots on the ground may be required to prevent the escape of terrorists we target in the future; we should all be mindful that such a commitment might entail higher casualties than we have suffered in Afghanistan. The Bush Administration understands that history will judge this campaign favorably not only for our commendable success in Afghanistan, but also for our firm purpose in fulfilling our larger mission of eliminating terror at its source. Our success in Afghanistan has put al Qaeda on the run, and diminished their ability in the near term to organize and execute mass atrocities as they did in New York and at the Pentagon. But the campaign's organizing purpose is to put terrorists permanently out of business, and defeating or otherwise transforming the regimes that harbor them.

The combined examples of regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq would likely compel several other state sponsors of terror to change their ways or go out of business, accomplishing by example what we would otherwise have to pursue through force of arms. These nations -- Syria and Sudan, for instance -- have a choice, and it is in their interest to make the right one. As President Bush has said, Iran and North Korea remain question marks -- rogue regimes where a few leaders hold their people hostage, and where aggressive development of weapons of mass destruction has gone unchecked. It can go unchecked no more. The consequences of inaction, of allowing our enemies to choose their moment, are far greater than the costs we will incur in taking action against this clear and present danger.

The most compelling defense of war is the moral claim that it allows the victors to define a stronger and more enduring basis for peace. Just as September 11th revolutionized our resolve to defeat our enemies, so has it brought into focus the opportunities we now have to secure and expand freedom.

As we work with our European friends and allies to go after the network of terror that threaten our countries, let us expand the security umbrella that distinguishes Europe, the Europe of common values forged through war, from all other regions. We do not seek to expand NATO for expansion's sake alone; proponents of enlargement, of which I am an enthusiastic one, occasionally fall into the rhetorical trap of arguing that we must keep adding new members to NATO to sustain its dynamism, in the same way that you must keep moving on a bicycle to avoid falling off it.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, history's most successful military alliance, is not so fragile. We do not require the mere ceremonies of enlargement, and the new faces it brings to our councils, for fear of institutional failure, or for simple lack of some higher purpose. We must enlarge this Alliance to complete the task we started in 1948: to create an impregnable zone of stability, security, and peace in Europe that is upheld by our joint military power, rooted in our resolve to defend this territory against aggression, and inspired by our commitment to the principles of liberty, to which we pledge our sacred honor.

I believe the hand-wringing in Washington academic circles and the corridors of Brussels about the Alliance's existential crisis is misplaced. It is a subject fit for the debate between disputatious lawyers but has no standing in the court of leadership. Rather than engaging in a stifling, bureaucratic debate about NATO's purpose, we should devote our attention to sustaining the success our Alliance has enjoyed in deterring Soviet aggression, bringing a stable peace to the Balkans, and uniting our community of values. Our task is to invigorate the Alliance with this premise: that the Atlantic community is not a group of Cold War-era military allies looking for new missions to stay relevant, but a political community of like-minded nations that is dedicated to the principles of democracy, and to fostering a continent where war is unimaginable, security is guaranteed, and prosperity unbounded. This pledge reflects our common values, which are universal, and whose potency is multiplied, not diluted, as more and more people share in them.

The events of September 11th have already served to clarify NATO's role and mission. American leadership within NATO has been enhanced by our leading role in the ongoing war. The terrorist assaults have bound the Alliance more closely together, with NATO assets helping to defend the American homeland and forces of member and aspirant nations working together in Central Asia. I hope it has helped us put aside our previous differences over an emerging, if unrealized, European security identity in favor of NATO's existing security architecture. It has laid a strong foundation for NATO's future relations with Russia.

The terrorist attacks, and the West's common response, have also highlighted the critical contributions of Turkey. Turkey is a front-line state in the war on terrorism, as Germany was a front-line state during the Cold War. Turkey has made important contributions to securing the peace in Afghanistan and will be integral to any campaign against Iraq.

It is also central to our objectives of ending terrorism and promoting democratic stability in Central Asia. A tolerant Muslim nation with a secular government, Turkey's strong support and active cooperation demonstrate the fallacy our enemies would have the world believe: that our campaign against terrorism is a war against Islam. The support of Turkey, a loyal friend and ally, lays this myth to rest and stands in stark contrast to the disappointing cooperation we have received in this campaign from another erstwhile Muslim "ally," Saudi Arabia.

For too long, Europe has held Turkey at arm's length. NATO's southeastern expansion would secure Europe's southern flank, enhance stability in the Western Balkans, and end Turkey's strategic isolation from the Alliance. It would help diminish continuing frictions in Turkey's relationship with the EU, minimizing Turkish grievances over ESDP and opening the door to the development of effective coordination between the EU and NATO. I thank the Turkish delegation. A visionary enlargement of the NATO Alliance to the South combined with EU's historic expansion to the east would bring about a new and welcome cohesion of Turkey to Europe. This is in the interest of Turkey, the European Union, the United States and NATO.

The Prague Summit's task will be to institutionalize these changes, laying the foundation for an invigorated Euro-Atlantic alliance. If Prague is to provide a foundation for a stronger and more coherent alliance, the summit cannot be ambiguous about its purpose or temporize about the size and membership of the community it commits to defend. That said, our alliance is strong; we defeated Slobodan Milosevic's rogue regime, and we stand shoulder-to-shoulder as peacekeepers in the Balkans -- where American troops should remain for as long as they are needed. Our continuing operations to consolidate -- and now we hear from the American delegation -- our continuing operations to consolidate Balkan peace reflect both America's commitment to our European partners and our joint responsibility to uphold a boots-on-the-ground leadership role in Europe.

These are two pillars of ordered freedom in this new age: the overthrow or forced conversion of rogue regimes that harbor terrorists and develop weapons of mass destruction, and the consolidation of a continent of secure peace unified in freedom's defense -- a community that serves as a beacon to those who suffer in freedom's absence, as do many peace-loving people in war-torn Chechnya. To our Russian friends here today, I echo the words of President Bush on Tuesday: "America will lead by defending liberty and justice because they are right and true and unchanging for all people everywhere. No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation is exempt from them. America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity."

This campaign for freedom and against terror across the globe is a joint endeavor that will commit the United States and our friends and allies across Europe. But a necessary condition for its success is an assertive and distinctly American internationalism that will propel a global campaign to reorder international relations just as a new, more just order emerged from the ashes of this war-torn continent under American leadership in 1945.

America has been attacked, in a way we have never been attacked before; the American people's support for defeating terror by force of arms has not flagged since we went to war in Afghanistan in October; and our President properly uses every opportunity to remind us that Afghanistan represented only the first front in a global campaign that will not end until we have defeated global terrorism and the States that support it.

Rarely have Americans been tested in this way. Never have we been better prepared to help forge a new world in which we all live in safety and freedom.

We stand now before history with this mission. We ask you to stand with us. A better world is already emerging from the rubble of September 11th. A world free from terrorism's scourge, a world in which peace-loving nations no longer face blackmail or attack by rogue regimes, a Europe whole and free; these are the objectives of our age. We are worthy of them.

Thank you.

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