“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962
“I am directing a comprehensive and intensive effort to define a long-term research and development program to begin to achieve our ultimate goal of eliminating the threat posed by strategic nuclear missiles.” President Ronald Reagan, March 23, 1983
Two decades apart, two U.S. Presidents, one Democrat and one Republican, affirmed similar American resolve in reaching for the stars. Neither JFK nor Ronald Reagan voiced concern over the views of others when it came to our legitimate ambitions. The thrust of the Apollo program and “Star Wars” was: This is U.S. policy. This is what will happen. As a consequence, we landed first on the Moon and won the Cold War. As a consequence, our words had credibility.
Scroll forward to today and we see much of U.S. transatlantic policy expressed in assertions of the limits of U.S. influence or interest and temporary, reactive engagement. At a time of dramatic challenges to European security and international law by the Kremlin, we puzzle over what Mr. Putin wants and how far he will go, rather than implementing U.S. strategic policy, regardless of what Mr. Putin wants or does.
The time has come to pronounce U.S. policy in and with Europe in JFK and Ronald Reagan terms. Here are some suggestions:
- To open a new era of transatlantic prosperity, we will greatly intensify and resource a comprehensive and long-term effort to achieve the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Failure or a partial deal is not an option. We can and will do big things with our European partners.
- We will enlarge NATO to all European countries that wish to join and that meet Alliance requirements, starting immediately with those that are ready now. No exceptions; no NATO member vetoes unrelated to a country’s qualifications. No non-NATO vetoes at all. We will openly encourage our European allies to take a similarly ambitious enlargement approach to new European Union memberships.
- We choose to stop U.S. military reductions in Europe and will add a new permanent U.S. presence to the territories of all Alliance member nations unable to meet challenges to their security without our support. It shall be our nation’s policy to provide lethal defense weapons to any non-NATO country in Europe whose democratic ambitions are threatened by outside force and intervention.
- We will engage in a comprehensive and intensive effort to pursue the competition for hearts and minds in favor of free societies, open markets, and human rights, reclaiming the public pulpit for democratic values.
- We choose to take the fight to all those who threaten the safety and security of our society and that of our friends, together with allies and partners, or alone if we must. In that effort, we will bring the full diplomatic, economic, and military arsenal of the United States to bear, excluding no option available to us.
We do this, not because it is easy, but because it is hard.
Propelled, or rather held back by our overwhelming national rejection of acting in Syria or elsewhere outside the United States, we Americans are taking another step toward a new world order of our own making. In this new order, Russia and China set the standards for international behavior and the Syrias, North Koreas, and Irans are empowered by Russian and Chinese rules. The United States meanwhile voices the occasional world opinion and even sets some redlines when it comes to unacceptable behavior, but accepts that our full national power will not be used unless our homeland itself is once again directly under attack. This new reality is not the result of comments by our Secretary of State or by the decisions of the President of the United States, but a direct consequence of the vast majority opinion of the American people. Historians will of course remind us that we have been exhausted by foreign entanglements before before, since our very founding in fact, and since both after WWI and WWII, and at many other junctures of history. They will also acknowledge that the times we have gone to war and lost precious blood and treasure, have made us justifiably weary of the next hostile engagement.
I am among the apparent minority of Americans who do do not wish to accept such a new world order. I am proud that we engaged in and won both WWII and the Cold War. I am proud that we fought Communist totalitarianism and global terror. I am delighted that we threw Saddam Hussain out of Kuwait and that we dislodged Slobodan Milosevic and brought him to Justice for his crimes against humanity. Our country paid a price for its victories as well as its failures. Clearly not every one of our engagements was wise. But our intentions and our principles were. There used to be a time when the U.S. set international parameters for acceptable behavior, and both our friend and foes paid very close attention. The 20th century was the American Century and I firmly believe that the world will be a better place if the 21st is so as well.
On Syria we are now reduced to being lectured by an autocratic Russian leader on peace, democracy and international law! And rather than standing forcefully against a regime that has taken to kill its own people, we are breathing a sigh of relief that Russia has offered us a way out of acting on our convictions by engaging in Russian/Syrian “diplomacy” instead. In the end, the most serious consequences of this sad state of affairs are not the loss of credibility of the United States or our President or even the message our inaction conveys to repressive regimes around the globe. The real tragedy is that we seem to have lost something that we Americans have long stood for: the conviction that the whole world is entitled to certain inalienable rights and that we are the champions of these rights.
Today, our leaders are delivering to us, step by step, the America we are asking for: a nation that looks inward, that is less confident, that feels economically pressured, and just no longer sees itself as that exceptional, indispensable nation. We will not like the world we are allowing to be built by others who don’t share our values.
There has never been a better time than right now to set in motion Smart Power as the new pardigm of American foreign policy than during current belt tightening by governments on both sides of the Atlantic. I have always disliked what I would call the predecessor of Smart Power: “Do more with less!” Unless we are talking about nuclear breeder reactors, there really is no “more with less.” In an organizational context that term has always suggested to me that people should work more hours, achieve all the same goals with little or no prioritization, and with fewer resources and even less compensation for their efforts. You can do this for a brief period to bridge a temporary crisis, but in the long term, any organization that demands more with less ends up only achieving less with less and demoralizing its workforce, robbing it of its creative energies.
In contrast, Smart Power proposes to to do more and to do it better by combining the energies of more contributors to a common goal, even as program and human resources of individual organizational units are being reduced. Take as an example Secretary of State Clinton’s “3 D’s ” of U.S. foreign policy: diplomacy, defense, and development. Through the combined efforts of the Department of State, the Pentagon and USAID, along with those of other U.S. government entities in support of the 3 D’s, U.S. foreign policy becomes smarter and more effective, even as the budget knife cuts into U.S. government outlays.
Such constructive interagency cooperation is far from routine in an environment famous for interagency disagreements and outright bureaucratic battles. And while the leadership of President Obama and his relevant cabinet officers is a decisive factor in making Smart Power work, necessity also plays a key role. The common enemy of deficits and economic downturn is no small motivating factor in turn bureaucratic warriors into Smart Power players. In Washington and around the world, we have already made a strong start down the Smart Power road and the coming years will show whether we can sustain this new foreign policy paradigm even as our fiscal situation improves.
Our friends here in Estonia are also Smart Power players. Estonia, since regaining its independence 20 years ago has been a Smart Power nation. The rewards for the country and its people have been remarkable, making Estonia today one of the most economically and politically stable and future-oriented places in the world. And here too, sustainability of Smart Power policies will be tested as things get better, as prosperity and popular demand for public services grows, and as government’s ability to do more with more becomes possible.
In the United States and in Estonia, we should look forward to that happy dilemma, but remain unalterably committed to Smart Power.
Tomorrow, November 17, the flags of the United States and Poland will be raised during a formal ceremony at the NATO Cyber Center of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia. Our Estonian allies established the Center in 2004. It’s mission is to “enhance the capability, cooperation, and information sharing among NATO, NATO nations, and partners in cyber defense.” The U.S. has had staff at the Center since 2007 and we are very active at home, in the Alliance, and internationally on cyber security. Now we are finally saying count us in officially as full members!
President Obama’s International Strategy for Cyberspace declares that we will seek to ensure as many stakeholders as possible are included in our vision of cyberspace. That vision calls for an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable information and communications infrastructure that supports international trade and commerce, strengthens international security, and fosters free expression and innovation. That is why we are joining the NATO Cyber Center in Tallinn.
I was introduced to Estonia’s NATO Cyber Center shortly after my arrival in Tallinn as U.S. Ambassador in 2009 and I have ever since admired the Center’s work, including it’s impressive annual conferences on cyber conflict. Estonia’s standing as a cyber-savvy nation is firmly established internationally and the NATO Cyber Center contributes to that reputation. The cyber world is a rapidly evolving environment and threats to our cyber -based infrastructure, both public and private, as multiplying with equal of not greater speed. With our new membership in the Tallinn Center we look forward to working with all the current and also future members, in fact with all NATO member countries, to increase cyber awareness and to create the secure cyber environment outlined in the U.S. cyberspace strategy. We expect to join our Estonian allies in leading the Center and to enhancing the public profile of the Center’s work and the collaboration between private sector and Alliance efforts.
When the Polish and U.S. flags are raised on November 17, look also for the curtain to rise on the next chapter of an important collective asset of the NATO Alliance.
A senior Estonian official told me recently that when the newly re-independent country set out to modernize in the early 1990’s after years of occupation, Estonian leaders chose to leap toward the 21st century rather than “upgrading” to aging western technology. Estonian schools received state of the art computers. Internet networks went wireless, fiber optic and broadband. Banking became electronic and Estonian e-government today is a model for the rest of Europe and beyond.
Now the Estonian Ministry of the Interior is testing the world’s most advanced travel security management system. U.S. electronics giant Raytheon is running a year-long pilot program of its Portera Traveler Management System in Tallinn. Tonight, Raytheon representatives will introduce the joint program together with Estonia’s Interior Minister to a group of guests at my home. Portera is not only the most innovative system available today, its use also provides for strict data privacy protections standard in Europe and the United States. Not surprisingly, Estonia will be the first country outside the United States to test and, if found acceptable, institute this system.
Another leap ahead for Estonia and a huge jump in safety for the rapidly expanding number of travellers coming to and passing through this country.
Tallinn experienced a security scare last week as an explosives carrying gunman threatened the staff of the Estonian Ministry of Defense. With characteristic resolute competence, Estonian security forces ended the threat by shooting the gunman while ensuring that no innocent life was lost. Other than the press, few people outside the capital of this peaceful and law abiding country were even aware of the dramatic and deadly event in the Ministry. That’s both good, but also something to think about. My family, my colleagues in our Embassy, and I are certainly enjoying the hospitality, the beauty, and the relative safety of this country. I can’t imagine that Estonians loose a lot of sleep over the safety of their cities, towns and villages, or their homes and their families. They have little reason to. But as last week’s incident demonstrated, there is no such thing as “it can’t happen here.”
In America and for Americans, as well as for many others, tragically, it has happened. Not all that long ago, we would never have contemplated taking of our shoes off in an airport or walking through metal detectors to visit a museum. Visiting an American Embassy was relatively easy not that long ago and and streets around our diplomatic missions were not closed off. Tragic experience has changed all that. We have allowed our lives to become far more complicated in exchange for greater security, not because we want to, but because we have to. Over the years we have learned to make security precautions less intrusive and more rational. We have also become more security conscious without being security obsessed. In the end, we are more secure in a more dangerous world.
The debate over how much security is enough and how much is excessive will never end in free and freedom-loving societies. Especially when we are confronted with threats from within, rather than with outside agression, we are loath to relinguish yet another slice of physical and psychological freedom in exchange for greater protection. We resent being shaken in the belief that our best protection are the just and democratic societies we have built. However unsettling, the threats we face only reaffirm our most basic principles of personal liberty. Gritting our teeth, we accept that total security is illusory and we adopt responsible management of risks to our safety. Depending on individual national experiences, democracies pass through these resentment and realization phases at their own pace — but inevitably arrive at similar conclusions.
Since my arrival in Estonia nearly a year ago, I have made support for innovation in collaboration between my country and Estonia a signature theme. I have visited long-established, as well as new, entrepreneurs to learn of their ideas and projects, their successes and their challenges. From mobile law enforcement drug testing devices to new e-governance tools; from business management software to high-tech fabrics sewn into safety clothing articles; Estonia is an obvious partner for equally inventive Americans seeking to build better “mouse traps.” Technology, by itself, tends to be neutral. New things will be invented as long as humans walk the earth. But what use we put technology to is anything but neutral. We can use it well, or we can use it to devastating effect.
In Estonia and in the United States information and communications technology and the use of cyber space are among the hottest fields of research and development. A few weeks ago I spoke to an audience at Tallinn’s IT College about cyber security, including the cyber attack Estonia has had to suffer several years ago. Today I wrote an op-ed about the recent highly dangerous and irresponsible breach of communications security of purported U.S. diplomatic reporting. Unfortunately, modern technology has aided in this dispicable act. Those responsible claim they seek to inform, but instead are causing serious harm to individuals and to a good nation, whose representatives are working hard around the world to keep its citizens and its friends — sometimes even its adversaries — safe. Bottom line: technology puts amazing new tools into our hands that can make our lives better, longer, more exciting, and to protect us from harm. But in those same hands, technology can also be misused to hurt. Harnessing innovations and technology only for doing good and defending ourselves effectively from their misuse still often illudes us.