Saturday, March 19, 2005

More on "Democracy and Terrorism" Conference (2)

Continued from Part 1 on the recent International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security in Madrid, the plenary session on 03/10/05 on The Way Ahead.

Other presenters: Bondevik, Solano, Iglesias, Soros

Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik talked about the general problems of integrating Muslim minorities in European democracies.  He stressed the importance of "fostering a feeling of community and solidarity" among pupils in schools.   In general, he heavily emphasized the importance of schools in this role of integrating Muslim minorities with the larger society, including teaching respect for religions.

The United States has a relatively small number of Muslim immigrants.  The western European democracies have large numbers of them.  And if there is going to be a new level of understanding and cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslims, the experience of the EU countries in successfully integrating the Muslim minorities - or failing to do so - will be an important factor in that regard.  Because this is such an important domestic issue for France, Germany, Spain and other EU countries, their leaders are more wary than American politicians of talking in terms of a "clash of civilizations" or the evils of Islām as a religion.  Bondevic addressed this latter point:

Unfortunately, some religious leaders give such hate legitimacy. Yet nothing is further from true faith than hatred – and I say this myself, because I’m also an ordained Lutheran pastor. All the major world religions teach the virtue of peace and together we political leaders, religious leaders and ordinary citizens must stop the extremists from misusing religion to legitimise terror and persecution.

Javier Solano, the EU foreign minister, is one of my favorite European politicians.  He was the Spanish foreign minister under the last Social Democratic government.  During the Kosovo War, he was the secretary of NATO, i.e., NATO's top political official.  A reporter at that time reminded him that he had once actively demonstrated against Spain's entry into NATO, and asked him if it felt strange to now be leading NATO in a war, given his past stance.

Solano's reply: "Only idiots never change their opinion."

At the Madrid conference, he stressed that the most important element in fighting terrorism is international cooperation, from arms control to intelligence sharing.  And he said this cooperation must also take place through international organization.  He held up the EU as an example of international cooperation, including in the fight against terrorism.

Solano also emphasized that we must respect human rights in the fight against terrorism (la lucha contra terrorismo; he did not use the term "war" in this context.). AAd he stressed the great importance of successful integration of Muslim minorities into European society.

The English summary of his presentation at the Web site says:

Javier Solano, high representative of the foreign policy of the European Union, expressed his support of Karzai, stating that the most efficient manner to fight terrorism is international cooperation. We should generate confidence between the countries because without it there will be no exchange of information, without which we can not triumph over violence. The Spanish politician suggested two levels of cooperation: international and regional, which should employ mechanisms to find concrete solutions to concrete problems.

The other idea that Solana threw out was the effort to eliminate conflicts that last many years With out specifically mentioning it, he was referring to, among others, the Isreali/Palestine conflict. Democratic countries should get involved in the resolution of these conflicts. In this manner tension will be reduced and the poison will disappear from the minds of these terrorists. He reminded the audience of the strength of law, the state of law, and human rights, and concluded with the idea saying that although they are not direct causes, the large economic and social differences that exist between rich and poor countries feed terrorists. We live in a terribly unjust world. Are there not more problems besides terrorism?

Neither Solano nor any of the other panelists directly challenged Karzai's rosy picture of democratic Afghanistan victorious over terrorism.  Although it's understandable, it's also a cotemporary example of how the political needs of the moment can override the need for long-term clarity and understanding.  Karzai is generally regarded as the Western democracies best hope for improving the situation in Afghanistan.  American troops and NATO peacekeepers are currently present in Afghanistan, supporting his government with military force.  And Karzai is the kind of leader Westerns politicians and their publics would like to see in Muslim countries: urbane, fluent in English, pro-Western, glib in speaking about the values of democracy, seemingly secular in his politics.

So it would have been surprising if Solano especially had directly criticized Karzai in that way.

Enrique Iglesias, president of the Inter-American Development Bank talked about the need to promote economic development in poor countries.  As the Web site's English summary said, Iglesias "reminded us that although poverty does not cause terrorism it is still a base that cultivates those causes."

George Soros emphasized that that we have to avoid violating human rights and creating more innocent victims in the process of fighting Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups.  He was explicit that Bush had violated this guideline, and violated international law in the process "by using torture and so on."  More specifically, he said:

And let’s be frank about it, the way the United States has waged war on terror under President Bush violates [this] point [about not creating innocent victims], because war, by nature, creates innocent victims and, in addition, the war on terror is different to normal wars and we have been violating international law as well by using torture and so on. We have a different and more constructive way of looking at the threat of terror.

He also argued - consistent at a general level with Bush's second inaugural address theme - that democracy "can help undermine popular support for terrorists."

Soros referred to the Warsaw Declaration of 2000 about promoting democracy in other countries. He mentioned that a related organization to meet in Chile at the end of the month. And he expressed his support for the Democracy Caucus in the UN, which some American conservatives see as a promising development, as well.

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