By GAIL FINEBERG
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger delivered a message of hope at the Library on Oct. 10, the night before U.S. Capitol Police barricaded the Capitol, Library buildings and the Supreme Court in response to an unprecedented FBI warning to beware of terrorists' truck bombs.
Giving the inaugural Henry Alfred Kissinger Lecture on U.S. foreign policy and international relations, Mr. Kissinger said he "looks at this moment of crisis as a moment of great hope"—that the United States and its antiterrorist allies will emerge with an inclusive international system, one that deals with the "fundamental issue of inequality and poverty that are at the root of some of the problems."
Just as the United States, with the help of its allies, defeated its enemies in Europe and Japan during World War II and then "brought them back to the community of nations as equals," so "we face the same challenge now."
"We have to defeat our enemies, and we have to defeat them completely. And we cannot stop with some partial successes in an isolated outpost," he said. "But, at the same time, we must use this occasion to create a new community and new sense of participation in the international system."
The lecture marked the establishment at the Library of the Henry Alfred Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations. Welcoming the Coolidge Auditorium audience and overflow of some 100 in the Whittall Pavilion, the Librarian explained that this program, endowed by friends of Kissinger, includes an annual lecture to be given by a person with "great experience in crafting foreign policy." The second part of the program is the annual appointment of a senior research scholar to use the Library's international collections.
Dr. Billington introduced Mr. Kissinger as "one who has reflected deeply on problems of national strategy and diplomacy" during his 30-year career as scholar and statesman, as one with "a historian's sense of deep perspective and a statesman's feel for broad strategy."
At the time he wrote his latest book, Does America Need a Foreign Policy? (2001), Mr. Kissinger conceded he had not foreseen anything like the events of Sept. 11. "I treated terrorism as something that happens on the whole to other people, or to Americans abroad, but not to the territorial United States."
Had terrorists not attacked the United States on Sept. 11, Mr. Kissinger said, he would have spoken about the unique character of Americans' approach to foreign policy, about "the fact that the United States had never received a direct threat or experienced a direct threat, the fact that Americans had never lived with the experience of tragedy caused by foreign actions in their own country, about the belief that … we could choose the degree of our participation and withdraw almost at will."
But, he said, the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon "had a very profound psychological impact here, and, as it turns out, in much of the rest of the world."
Mr. Kissinger said that, in the 60 years he has lived in the United States and observed its government, "I have never seen a demonstration of defined unity as in the last month, and I have never seen such a dedication to overcoming the traditional divisions that have been existing at least since the Vietnam period."
That debate, "so characteristically American," that "foreign policy should be essentially moral or essentially realistic," can now be ended and transcended, he said. "No country, no matter how powerful, can impose all its preferences on the world without evoking universal resistance and without overextending itself. Similarly, no nation can insist that its ideals alone are the criterion by which all others can be judged."
He emphasized the importance of understanding the histories and cultures of other societies and comprehending how the evolution of their countries affects their concepts of what is legitimate. "That does not mean that we have to give up our values—our values enable us to persevere in difficult circumstances and to make hard choices—but it does mean that to create an international system, the art of the powerful is to create a degree of consensus."
In response to a question relating to the historical context of recent events, Mr. Kissinger said scholars, whose opinions he respects and shares, attribute the rage of Muslim fundamentalists to "a sense of historic humiliation." He said Islamic societies had great empires and were in the vanguard of progress for long periods of history, until the last few hundred years, when they did not modernize to the degree of surrounding societies.
"This sense of falling behind is blamed in part on Western materialism, Western imperialism, Western values." The goal of Islamic fundamentalists is to reachieve eminence by toppling the West, which they perceive as weakening, he said.
Of the foreign policy response to the events of Sept. 11, Mr. Kissinger said: "I believe the administration has conducted a wise and strong and decisive policy, and I am very impressed, not only by the vision they have shown, but by the support we have received from so many countries, but especially from our European allies."
The foreign policy challenge, he said, will be to hold this coalition through all three phases of the antiterrorist operations: the defeat of the Al Qaeda terrorist group and elimination of Afghanistan's Taliban government that supports it; the organization of a broad-based government structure to replace the Taliban; and an international effort to defeat terrorists wherever they operate and to sever them from all state support.
After military objectives are achieved in Phase I, the Taliban must be replaced with a governing structure that includes not only the Northern Alliance, but also the Pashtun population of the south, Mr. Kissinger stressed.
Organization of this structure should be turned over to some kind of international body, perhaps the United Nations, or "maybe a contact group composed of all the neighboring countries that are part of the overall coalition, plus those countries that have participated in the military operations. That would then create a kind of cooperation between countries that have not in the past looked at the stability of the Middle East as a joint problem."
The United States alone cannot be responsible for filling the vacuum created by the toppling of the Taliban, nor can the United States abandon Afghanistan to chaos, Mr. Kissinger emphasized.
The greatest challenge of Phase 3, the effort to eradicate state-supported terrorism wherever it exists, will be to hold the international coalition, which Mr. Kissinger described as one of "many different nations of traditional allies, of traditional adversaries who in this case share our objectives, of countries that share our purposes but are afraid to affirm them, of countries that do not share our purposes but use participation as a means of escaping embarrassing challenges."
Mr. Kissinger said it is essential to separate terrorists from their bases in various countries. "Without these bases, they become random criminals and can be dealt with more or less as individuals. The fundamental challenge that is posed by the terrorism we have seen is the state support that these various organizations receive. Some of that support derives from fear. There is in several countries a kind of bargain by which terrorist groups operate with relative safety so long as they don't aim their activities at their host country," he said. "Fewer countries support terrorism as a method of diplomacy and as a method of warfare."
Asked specifically about Saudi Arabia, Mr. Kissinger said the Saudi government will have to face the necessity of cutting off financial support to terrorist organizations. "They are trying to balance the fear of what these groups might do inside Saudi Arabia against the necessities they feel also of preserving stability in the region. So we should deal with Saudi Arabia with understanding and compassion for their problem, but we cannot let any country escape the consequences of the antiterrorist policy now that it has started."
Beyond Phase 3, he said, lies the historic opportunity for this or a similar coalition to undertake the kind of creative, reconstructive actions that the United States and its allies did after World War II, when they laid the groundwork for a strong, free Europe and Japan.
As for the strength of the coalition formed recently by the president and secretary of state, Mr. Kissinger said allies have demonstrated a solidarity considered improbable three months ago. From the European perspective, he said, "It is clearer now than it was then that there are some dangers that still unite us, even in the security field."
On the question of European identity, he said, the United States must recognize that Europe has its own history and will define some of its own purposes. What differentiates Europe from the United States is not as important as cooperation, he said.
He suggested that a U.S. missile-defense system will be tolerated.
"I think it is clear now that if the explosion in New York had occurred with a missile attack, and if the American people knew that some technology existed to prevent this, that its government had refused to adopt that technology for a variety of ideological and political reasons, it would totally undermine confidence in our government. For this reason, I believe the issue of missile defense in the months ahead will find its solution, not only in relations with our European allies but in our relationship to Russia."
With regard to Russia, he said, the foreign policy challenge is how to give Russia a place, not only in the international system but also in a new relationship to the West, without abandoning some of the historic fears that exist, especially in Eastern Europe. The questions are "how to have a dialogue with Russia without reigniting some imperial temptations, how to give Russia a status of equality that respects its history and its dignity and takes into account at the same time some of the institutions that have developed in the postwar period."
As an alternative to NATO, Mr. Kissinger suggested creation of "a new political consultative mechanism" that would include America, Europe and Russia, "in some manner whereby the issue of attack from Russia is made hopefully irrelevant by the intensity of consultation, but where the essential defense mechanisms remain for whatever common military efforts Europe and the United States want to undertake together."
Responding to a question about China's foreign policy, he said: "I think that for the next 10 to 15 years, China has no conceivable motive to engage in a confrontation with the United States; therefore, I believe that they will engage in a nonconfrontational foreign policy, provided [there] is a thoughtful handling of the Taiwan problem on all sides."
Noting that the China of today is not the China of the 1970s, Mr. Kissinger said Mao Zedong brought about the unity of China, Deng Xiaoping brought about the beginning of reform in China, and Jiang Zemin "has begun to face the consequences of rapid economic change outstripping political adaptation." The challenge to Jiang is how to adjust political institutions to a pluralistic economic system, he said.
The former diplomat who helped open relations with China said he does not regard China as a communist country, in the way communism was understood as an ideology during the Cold War period, but as a one-party country.
Ms. Fineberg is editor of The Gazette, the Library's staff newspaper.