Well, thank you very much and thanks to you, Joe, for your leadership, your dedication to country, your absolute commitment to doing all that you can to serve your fellow man and woman. Charlie, I don’t know what to say. You were getting close to talking about my favorite foods, my – I don’t think there’s anything left unsaid. But I am delighted and honored to be here with you. (Applause.)
It’s a real pleasure to join BENS tonight. I admire the work that you do. I’m grateful to follow in the footsteps of my esteemed colleagues, Secretary Gates and General Jones, with whom I have the privilege of working closely on a daily basis on the range of issues facing our country. I want to thank General Chuck Boyd, a former colleague from our time together on the Joint Forces Command Transformation Advisory Group, and I also want to recognize one of the predecessors in this extraordinary position as Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, whom you will hear from later in the evening.
It is a special treat for me to be given an award named for President Eisenhower, because as you have just heard (inaudible) I’ve been in public service for four decades, and alive for a little longer than that. And the first president who was part of my understanding of our country was, of course, President Eisenhower, and he was someone who I looked at from afar as a child, who I studied as a young adult, and who I admire even more today. I think it’s fair to say that he helped to lead our country to recognize the nature of the threats that we faced in the years after World War II. And yet at the same time, he (inaudible) very profound level about the responsibilities we had in the new era of the postwar world, and how important it was to be constantly self-reflective and even self-critical about how we organized ourselves and how we went about the difficult business of protecting our national security, and exercising the responsibility that we had inherited from our victory in the war.
I think that his caution and his example are ones that we’d do well to look to today. And so I am deeply honored to receive an award named for him. I also had the pleasure of speaking at the annual Washington Forum in 2006 as a senator from New York. And although I may now view our national security from a different perch on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue deep in Foggy Bottom, I am as committed today as I was then to helping to address the urgent concerns that we face. Although our threats may be different from those confronted in President Eisenhower’s time, we recognize that every generation and every era has the challenges that one must address, and although they may be different, they still threaten liberty, they threaten freedom, they threaten human rights, they threaten democracy, all of the values that our country has stood for and exemplified for so many years.
Those who are plotting to harm our nation may not fight under a single flag or stand together in a conventional army. They aren’t confined to one nation or one region, even. Their weapons include not only artillery, but also ideology. And so a strictly military response can only get us so far. We therefore need a more comprehensive strategy that confronts the extremists themselves as well as the political, economic, and social forces that help to fuel their extremism.
Tomorrow night, the President will address the nation from West Point. I will have the privilege of accompanying him there as Secretary of State after having visited before as a senator and as a First Lady to see the extraordinary young men and women who will be charged with the responsibility of protecting our nation and of fighting our wars. The President tomorrow night will explain the reasoning behind the decision that he will announce. He will demonstrate the resolve and the commitment that he feels and that we all support in taking on the continuing threat of those who not only are fighting to destabilize Afghanistan, but beyond that, Pakistan, the larger region, and continue to assault and threaten our own country, our interests, and our values.
We have seen in recent weeks that the stability of countries far away like Afghanistan and Pakistan is directly connected to our own national security. As long as countries like that struggle to control their borders, extend their sovereignty, the door is open to the bad actors who today are more empowered because of the tools of globalization, the instant communication, the weapons of such greater force and magnitude than what came before.
It’s imperative to look at the syndicate of terrorism that operates out of the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. If al-Qaida, which I view as being the head of the table of this syndicate of terrorism, succeeds in maintaining its safe haven in this region, and if the Taliban succeeds in controlling parts of these countries, then terrorists will continue to use that territory to plan future attacks on us, just as they did when they plotted their horrific attacks of September the 11th. We cannot let that happen. But preventing it requires a multipronged approach.
And although I will not go into the specifics of what the President will say tomorrow, let me just mention an area that is particularly applicable to those of you who are part of BENS, namely the civilian component of our mission. Our goals in Afghanistan include providing the government with the support that it needs to take full responsibility for its own country. That makes civilian efforts as vital as military operations and of longer duration. We have begun to elevate diplomacy and development alongside defense in our national security strategy, and we are certainly engaged in doing so in Afghanistan.
Development experts are working side by side with Afghan officials, with the private sector, and with our military personnel. When I was in Kabul last week, I was struck by the meeting that I had with the young men and women who are part of our integrated civilian military approach, sitting around the table at our Embassy and listening to a colonel talk about how critical it’s been to have a USDA agriculture expert embedded in their brigade, and how the rule of law expert, who was working on behalf of extending a system of justice so that the Taliban would not offer the only form of justice in Afghanistan, was helped by the JAG lawyers. And as I sat there listening, I realized how difficult it is to accomplish what we are pursuing, but how we have the very best that we could possibly put on the field, both in the military and civilian forces that we are sending in.
So when President Obama makes his speech tomorrow, he will, like all presidents before him, do what he can to explain to a country tired of eight years of conflict in Afghanistan, why it is imperative that we do all we can to succeed. This is the challenge that this Administration is willing to assume. But it’s not only in Afghanistan that we are attempting to confront and defeat the terrorist enemy. It is also in Pakistan where, after all, they have found safe haven and where we have a nuclear-armed country facing increasing challenges to its writ of authority.
We have made a commitment to provide more assistance to Pakistan that is going to be accountable and transparent, but which we hope sends a message to the people of Pakistan that there is a better future, and which holds the Government of Pakistan to a different standard than the one that it has met in the past, to try to provide for the energy needs, the education needs, the healthcare needs, economic development needs of that country.
In the State Department, we are engaged in the midst of the first ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review modeled after the QDR, the Quadrennial Defense Review, conducted by the Pentagon, where we are looking hard and testing every assumption about what works and what doesn’t work here in the 21st century. And it’s been quite an experience to really dig very deep into what diplomacy and development can and should mean in today’s world.
But one of the lessons that we have incorporated, which I believe very strongly, is that national security cannot be just the purview of our government. You understand that. National security is everyone’s business. So as we put together the tools that we want to use for smart power, we are looking at groups like BENS, we’re looking at nonprofits, universities, religious and cultural institutions, individual citizens, the full range of American talent, ingenuity, and commitment.
So BENS really is a cutting-edge example as to what can be done when the business community becomes involved in supporting our diplomatic and development efforts alongside our defense. As we work to create a world with more partners and fewer adversaries, we need you. We need your assistance in helping to build these global partnerships. We need your innovative ideas to create new jobs and industries to pursue the technologies, services, and opportunities that people around the world are yearning for, and which we believe can enhance and promote our security interests.
I want to thank you for the service that you have already offered. BENS members have helped coordinate the private sector response to natural disasters here at home. I would invite you to assist us in working to help mitigate natural disasters around the world. You’ve supported our efforts to secure and destroy nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. You’ve strengthened our cyber security efforts, sharpened our ability to track terrorist financing, and helped to enhance our analysis of intelligence. Your work is critically important and it needs to be expanded.
Now, tonight, I’ve come to accept an award, but in months to come, I hope that we can find new ways of working closely together. We’ve already begun that work. U.S. shipping companies are taking steps to defend themselves and to defeat piracy off the coast of Somalia. U.S. tech companies are working with the Mexican Government, telecom companies, and NGOs to reduce narco-violence in Mexico. We’re sending a delegation of mobile banking experts to the Congo in the next few months. We’ve brought three tech delegations to Iraq, including a visit by Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, last week where he announced that Google would be digitizing the entire content of the Iraqi National Museum and launching an Iraqi Government YouTube channel to promote transparency and fight corruption. To meet the 21st century challenges, we have to use the 21st century tools. So we’re seeking to leverage your expertise and, to find in partnership with you, more creative and effective answers.
We have started a Global Partnership Initiative which convenes people and businesses. We are looking to not only showcase America at the Shanghai Expo, something that I think is very important, but also to ask every one of our regional bureaus for ways that we can look to business to engage more creatively.
In about 10 days, we will be hosting the first-ever Pakistani American diaspora community effort to create a nonprofit known as the American Pakistan Foundation, to collaborate on people-to-people exchanges, cultural diplomacy, and other advocacy to build a stronger partnership with the people of Pakistan.
So we have a lot of work to do, and we are looking to you for ideas and for help in order to meet the extraordinary range of demand that we face. President Eisenhower once said that “People, in the long run, are going to do more to promote peace than our governments.” And so I would ask you to think of the ways, even beyond what you’ve already done in BENS, to see how we can make that statement a reality.
I hope that after the President addresses the nation tomorrow, that regardless of party, regardless of ideology, we come together as a nation in support of our President, we give him the guidance and belief and conviction that every president needs from the people he leads. It is a difficult time, but it is not the only difficult time we have ever had. And despite the fact that maybe it feels more difficult because every single second is covered in the media, every piece of information can be conveyed instantaneously across the internet – so everything is known in a way that it wasn’t in President Eisenhower’s time.
But the fact is that it is still about our liberty, it is still about our freedom, it is still about our democracy, it is about who we are as a nation. And for 25 years, you have shown people who want to help keep our nation safe how they can contribute. And on behalf of this Administration, I want to say thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America. (Applause.)
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