Hot Preemption

Tuesday, July 30, 2002
George P. Shultz at the dedication of the State Department’s George P. Shultz National Foreign Affairs Training Center in Arlington, Virginia, May 29, 2002. (Photo by Bob Kaiser)

September 11 was a riveting wake-up call for the people of America. Stunned and horrified, we saw in a flash our vulnerability. As we reacted, we also saw our strengths and experienced a renewal of patriotism and national pride. We deepened our realization of how closely intertwined our fortunes are with developments elsewhere, sometimes far away culturally as well as geographically.

That attack was also a transforming event here and in many places throughout the world in attitudes toward terrorism. For decades, terrorism has been all too frequent, mostly in the Middle East but also in Europe and Asia, often aimed at Americans. We saw our share of it in the 1980s, when I was secretary of state. The pace picked up in the 1990s, by which time the capabilities and intentions of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network were well known. I said in 1984, “We cannot allow ourselves to become the Hamlet of nations, worrying endlessly over whether and how to respond.” But for whatever reasons, we did not respond effectively during these past two decades. Face it: The lack of effective response encourages terrorism, not the other way around.

But now opinion has changed. In that same 1984 speech—following terrorist attacks on our embassy and on the marine barracks in Beirut and the IRA effort to blow up Margaret Thatcher in Brighton—I called for “active prevention, preemption, and retaliation” and said we “must be willing to use military force.” At that time, I was disowned and dismissed by official Washington and on leading editorial pages. (After I had a chance to go over my thinking carefully with President Reagan, he said he agreed with me.) By contrast, we all cheered—I at the top of my voice—when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on February 4 of this year:

If you think about it, we have no choice. A terrorist can attack at any time at any place using a range of techniques. It is physically impossible to defend at every time in every location against every conceivable technique of terrorism. Therefore, if your goal is to stop it, you cannot stop it by defense. You can only stop it by taking the battle to the terrorists, where they are and going after them. . . . We have no choice but to find those people and root them out, as the president said, and stop them from doing what they’re doing and stop countries from harboring them.

So preemption with military force is now an operative idea, with wide support. That is essential. But continuing threats are all too real, so we must not flag or be distracted in our efforts to end the use of this terrible and unacceptable weapon: terrorism.

President Bush has given us the concepts we need. This is a war, not a matter of law enforcement. States that support terror are as guilty as the terrorists. They are in the crosshairs, and the principle of state accountability is being established. Our goal is not primarily to punish and retaliate but to prevent acts of terror through intelligence that enables us to preempt and ultimately to eliminate the source. These are big and far-reaching ideas that must be kept front and center. This is a war; states must be held accountable. We are calling on states to step up to their internal responsibilities to end any terrorist presence, while saying also that we reserve, within the framework of our right to self-defense, the right to preempt terrorist threats within a state’s borders. Not just hot pursuit: hot preemption. The juxtaposition of these ideas calls for sophisticated diplomacy, clear intelligence, and the will to act with the courage of our convictions.

No Place to Hide: The Multifront War on Terrorism

This war is of worldwide dimensions and must be fought on many fronts. I will identify six of them.

• There is the front of the hinterlands, those places around the world where states have failed or where no state authority reaches. In these places, terrorists find sanctuary where they can train and plan and can emerge to strike again. Afghanistan was the main such area, but it’s not the only place; you need more than the fingers on two hands to count them. We have conducted a brilliant campaign on the Afghanistan front. Afghanistan cannot now serve as a terrorist refuge and staging area. But an enormous task remains to be completed there. The fires still burn. A state must be built from the ground up and attain legiti-macy and authority to prevent it from sliding back into terrorist hands.

• Another front is in Europe and, to a degree, in our own country. In the liberal, open, welcoming democracies of the West (particularly in many European countries), terrorists have been able to establish themselves, move about easily, communicate, and develop their plans with little interference from the authorities. The terrorists know that they can enjoy and employ the freedoms offered by the democratic West to plan the destruction of our liberal institutions and societies. This, too, is a matter of making the state—the democratic state—effective and accountable. We in the democratic West have to get ourselves in order. We must enhance and better coordinate our investigative capabilities. We must change our mind-set. Our task is to prevent criminal acts, not just catch and punish after the damage is done. Through intensive intelligence-sharing and cooperative police work, the war on this front can and must be fought effectively—and within the framework of protective civil rights and proper judicial procedures.

• Then there are the regimes of Arab and Islamic countries. Over the years, in the knowledge that many of the terrorists seek their overthrow above all else, these regimes have, each in its own way, made their deals with the terrorists. They have paid them off, propagandized them to focus on external enemies, or sought to use them to build up the religious legitimacy of their regime. They have created a monster. They may have bought some time for themselves, but they are sealing their own doom if they keep on this path. Since September 11, some of them have come to their senses. These regimes have to take responsibility as states and must be held accountable. They have to stop playing the dou-ble game. They should be encouraged and supported if they work seri-ously to put their states and societies on the right track. But I have to say, when money is collected to reward the families of suicide bombers, that is support for terrorism. There is no other way to describe it.

• There is also the front where terrorists are pushing out to radicalize countries that previously had escaped the terrorist scourge. Most promi-nent and crucial here is Indonesia, where Jihadists have in the last several years become more visible, active, and intimidating to the pop-ulation. In the southern islands of the Philippines, terrorists have, year by year, become more daring and outrageous in their hostage-taking and murders. In Singapore, the discovery of a sophisticated Al Qaeda network shocked everyone because we consider Singapore to be one of the most tightly run states in the world. Jihadist terrorism no doubt has plans for the new countries of Central Asia and for China as well.

• Kashmir presents compelling issues, especially since nuclear weapons lurk in the background. The outline of a potential settlement is much easier to identify than is the process by which to get there. As elsewhere, the starting point is to hit hard against terrorism.

• And last we come to the front of the Israelis and Palestinians, whose violent confrontations and conflicts capture attention virtually throughout the world. Terrorist extremists have gotten their hands around the throat of the Palestinian movement. Those hands need to be wrenched away so that people with determined but constructive attitudes can emerge to take over leadership in a restructured Palestinian Authority. Strength and diplomacy must go hand in hand: Fight terrorism relentlessly even as negotiations for peace get started again. We now have some developments to work with, but nothing comes easily.

Prospects for Peace in the Middle East

I offer three thoughts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. First, in Negotiation 101, we teach a negotiator to study his opposition. You want counterparts capable of taking yes for an answer and of delivering on tough commitments. Saudi Arabia has introduced a peace initiative on behalf of the Palestinians that has been embraced by most of the Arab states. For the first time since Jordan’s King Hussein bowed out in 1988, states on the Arab side are involved. So I welcome President Bush and Secretary Powell’s effort to move this initiative forward and bring this potentially important measure of state-based competence to the negotiating table. Realists recognize that progress only comes from commitments that are not only made but kept. Whatever the vision of a final settlement, that vision will come into being through a step-by-step process.

Second, declare up front a commitment to an eventual Palestinian state, while making clear that a proclamation does not create a functioning state. Patterns of government must be created and the legitimacy of leaders established so that properly made sovereign decisions are effective and that means of accountability for policy decisions and for handling funds are instituted. If a Palestinian state were to be established without a far-reaching reform of the present Palestinian Authority, it would fail at birth. And just as a Palestinian state cannot begin to function effectively when citizens cannot move about from one urban center to another, so the state of Israel cannot agree to anything other than its own secure, defensible, and internationally recognized borders.

Third, realize that transformation in this tiny area is a necessity. Palestinians and others in the region now lead miserable lives without hope of a better future. Israelis continue to live within the lethal environment of a hostile neighborhood. A major effort to improve the quality of life—security, water, education, health, job creation—in the region is imperative. Help in the form of private and public initiatives is critically needed. So there is an enormous amount of work to do.

The Challenge Ahead

Finally there is the most important problem of all—what is in the minds of the world’s people. There are still those who profess not to know the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter. The difference is clear. The definition of terrorism is simple and unmistakable. Terrorists use random violence on as large a scale as possible against civilian populations to make their points or get their way. Anyone who claims to be confused at this point in history will have to face up to being an apologist for terrorism.

We have a war to win. Every tool available must be used aggressively. The message of the Great Seal of our republic is front and center once more. The eagle faces the olive branches to show that the United States always seeks peace but holds onto the arrows to show that we in the United States understand that, if we are to be effective in seeking peace, we must be strong. The message comes from the earliest days of our republic: Strength and diplomacy go together.