Tag Archives: terrorism

Keeping Transatlantic Relations Real

U.S.- EUImagine the headline:  “Breaking news:  The sun came up this morning!  Some European leaders suspect U.S. involvement and demand an explanation; others decry the lack of U.S. leadership in letting the sun set every evening.  In other news, it has been alleged that government intelligence agencies actually collect information.  The weather today: cloudy.”

It is not my intent to make light of the recent outcry among our European friends over alleged U.S. intelligence information gathering.  The accusation in all this outrage is not only  a privacy violation, but also government overreach reminiscent of authoritarian regimes, both past and current.  Frankly, the privacy argument falls a bit flat in the share-all facebook and twitter age.  And when did U.S. information gathering last injure one of our friends and allies?  And who can throw the first stone when it comes to collection of intelligence?

Even if only meant for public consumption, all this outrage is unnecessary.  The sun comes up every day.  Intelligence agencies collect information.  We want to know about our enemies’ communication patterns.  At times those communication paths cross your territory.  So give us a break and help us out.  The same groups that mean to harm us have the same in mind for you, after all.   What little we may have come to  know about you incidental to our anti-terror efforts (and no doubt discarded) is still far less than what many of you share readily with a wide audience on facebook or twitter.

As a U.S. diplomat in Europe, I routinely experienced the sense of ownership of our leaders among many of our European friends.  An American presidential election was also a European political event.  Somehow, even if unstated,  you expected your views of our presidents to be given the weight of those of our own citizens.  Following the irrational European dislike of our last president followed  first adulation and then European disappointment in our current one.  To a degree such attitudes were understandable and had in the past even been precipitated by us.  We Americans, for a long time, lived the role of leader and protector of the free world, its territory and its values.  But enough is really enough.

There was a time in the aftermath of a devastating hot and then a cold war when your focus on our leaders was logical, since to a great degree we influenced your fate even more fundamentally than did your own leaders.  But in the 21st century your dream and ours has been realized.  Nearly all of Europe is whole, free, and at peace….. and you own it!  Our friendship and alliance have never been stronger, more important, or  more equal.  Because and not despite of this, we both try to figure out what the other side thinks.  We both gather information on each other and our common enemies.  Other than the rough and tumble of free market competition and occasional policy differences, America and Europe have a critical stake in each others success and well-being.  As the co-architects of today’s Europe, we are proud of the powerful union you have become.  You in turn have every reason to trust in our paramount commitment to our relationship.  The U.S. does not act to the detriment of its European  or other allies.

So, my dear European friends, let it rest.   A man I used to work for and respect most highly, General Colin Powell, once made the definitive statement about American military engagement that applies equally to our ventures into cyberspace:  “We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years … and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to live our own lives in peace.”

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Filed under American Values, diplomacy, good governance, Peace and Security, U.S. Foreign Relations

American Staying Power is Staying

The last 10 years have been hard on the United States.  From the tragendy of 9/11 forward, good news has sometimes been in short supply.  Instead, we have seen an abundance of conflict, an economy stumbling, and often bitter political debates over the future of our society and our country as a whole.  At the same time, we have also rediscovered who our true friends are around the world, along with reminding ourselves of our innate strength and determination to help others in need, from Haiti to Japan and the African continent, as well as our fellow citizens from the Gulf oil spill to nature’s devastation in the South.

The elimination of a major threat to the lives and safety of peoples in all corners of the globe by removing Osama Bin Laden was more than a brilliant military operation by the bravest of Americans.  It was an affirmation of our nation’s persistent vision and enduring reality that we are an exceptional people, not without our faults, but ultimately good, compassionate, and fearless in standing up for our values, not matter how often we fall or are pushed down. 

Pundits at home and abroad have long speculated that the end of the American age has arrived; that the American dream has faded and that new world powers and a new world order are on the rise.  Many have predicted dire consequences for our nation’s future in the face of exploding budget deficits and a staggering debt burden.  Critics have asserted that we lack the discipline, the peseverance, and the maturity to overcome our most serious challenges.  And yet ……for ten years and longer we have pursued global terrorists, together with our allies and friends.  We never tired.  We never gave up. We just scored a major success.

I have never been prepared to write the United States off.  Since our 18th century fight for independence in the face of overwhelming odds, and through countless struggles since, including a bloody civil war, we have always prevaled.  “When the going gets tough, the tough get going,” is after all an American saying.  Our country continues to carry the hopes and dreams of the world, not because Americans are a special people, but because special people are Americans.  From every corner of the globe, the American melting pot has created the most diverse nation on earth, united by the pride of making ourselves and calling ourselves Americans.  So as long as there is a place called earth there will be a special and important place on this planet called the United States of America.

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Filed under American Values, good governance, U.S. Foreign Relations, Uncategorized

Estonia in Afghanistan Not About Loyalty To The U.S.

A recent editorial in the Estonian newspaper Õhtuleht questioned Estonia’s — and indirectly all of NATO’s  — engagement in Afghanistan.  The piece argued that Estonia was not contributing to world stability, but was instead inviting “Muslims to attack Estonia.”  Finally, Õhtuleht  cited a source stating that Estonia had already proven its loyalty to the U.S. and NATO and should stop “wasting money and bring Estonian troops home.”  This editorial got it wrong on some many levels that it is hard to know exactly where to start.

NATO’s engagement, with important Estonian contributions as an Alliance member, is making a major contribution to world stability.  This stability was shattered by the deadly attack on a NATO country, namely the United States, abetted by Taliban emanating from Afghan soil.  The Alliance is commited to seeking out and destroying radical extremists and to denying them future refuge among the long-suffering Afghan people.  Neither Estonia nor its other NATO allies are fighting “Muslims,” quite the contrary.  We are fighting together with Muslims and with more than 40 other nations and our Afghan friends to defeat terrorists who are perverting a proud faith to wage war on innocent people around the world.  

And finally, Estonia’s engagement in Afghanistan has nothing to do with loyalty toward the United States, NATO or anyone else other than one’s conscience.  This is a fight against indiscriminate murder of both Muslims and non-Muslims and a responsibility that a determined world community has taken up to prevent future bloodshed.  To disrespect the sacrifices of so many Estonians, some of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice, by discribing their bravery as a self-serving mission that has run its course is just wrong — on ALL levels.

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Finishing What Al-Qaeda Started

Putting Al-Qaeda permanently out of business is one of the top anti-terrorist goals of the civilized world.  Returning control of the country of Afghanistan back to the Afghan people is part of meeting  that goal.  NATO allies and non-NATO partners continue to work tirelessly, often at great peril, on completing our mission in Afghanistan with an eye to a conditions-based process of withdrawal of international military forces.  Of course our respective publics are anxious to see that happen.  President Obama has made U.S. policy on Afghanistan very clear.  The leadership of our Estonian allies has been equally steadfast and categorical in its commitment to our common goal.  America’s solemn commemoration of the 9/11 this past weekend, and the twin tragedies of Estonian war-related deaths over a week ago, again highlighted the importance of a determined international community finishing what Al-Qaeda started … and finishing Al-Qaeda.

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Filed under Peace and Security, U.S. -Estonian Relations

Terrorists Always Fail

The July 11 terrorist murders in Kampala have been condemned by every decent human being on this planet.  The international community has again closed ranks in its revulsion over such barbaric acts and tightened its resolve to combat terrorist organizations wherever they apppear, wherever they hide.  The government and the brave people of Uganda have our full support in bringing those responsible to justice, as our hearts go out to the families and loved ones affected by this tragedy in Uganda, in the United States, and elsewhere.  The murderers responsible for these killings and all others like them continue to achieve the opposite of their twisted aims — a civilized world standing in unison against them.  Terrorists always fail.  The good guys will always win.

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Filed under American Values, Civil Society, Peace and Security