Nouvelle page 1
"Order Out of Chaos: The Future of Afghanistan"
Speech by British Foreign Secretary,
Jack Straw, to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, London,
Monday 22 October 2001.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are still too close to the events of 11 September to begin
to form a proper historical view of them. But already it is clear that the
terrorist atrocities in the United States marked a transition in world affairs.
Few events in global history can have galvanised the
international system to action so completely in so short a time.
The fall of the Berlin Wall may have been one such event. And
if the main challenge before the collapse of the Soviet empire and throughout
the 20th century consisted of states with too much power, the problem of the 21st
century may be states with too little power.
After the murder of thousands of people in the heart of
Manhattan, no one can doubt that the primary threat to our security is now posed
by groups acting formally outside states, or from places where no state
It used to be possible to ignore distant and misgoverned
parts of the world. That is no longer so. In the world without borders, chaos is
now our neighbour whether it is in Africa, in Asia or in Afghanistan.
This morning I want to suggest four principles which should
guide the international community’s approach to rebuilding Afghanistan as soon
as the immediate crisis is at an end:
- First, that the future should, above all, be placed in the hands of the
people of Afghanistan themselves;
- Second, that we need a global coalition to help rebuild Afghanistan;
- Third, that the United Nations should take the lead in the political
- Fourth, that we have to devote the resources and the political will needed
to finish the job.
Nation States and Global Order
Terrorists are strongest where states are weakest. Usama Bin
Laden and the Al Qaida network find safe havens in places not just Afghanistan
where conflict, poverty, ethnic and racial tensions, exploitation, corruption,
poor governance, malign interference from outside or just plain neglect have
brought about the collapse of responsible government and civil society.
But the global order, as conceived in the wake of the Second
World War, was not designed to deal with failed states. The United Nations is
made up of states. International law has traditionally focussed on relations
Now for many parts of the world certainly for most of Europe,
but also other regions this system has worked remarkably well. Many of us have
enjoyed the longest period of sustained peace in our history over the last half-century.
Sir Michael Howard, the distinguished military historian,
provides in his essay The Invention of Peace a convincing account of the rise of
the nation state as the key building block of the global order.
As Sir Michael points out, ‘The state not only makes war
possible: it also makes peace possible’. In the first half of the 20th century,
aggression by states was the chief cause of wars. In the second half, we have
built up a framework for managing state sovereignty in Europe, through NATO and
through the EU, which has made this sort of aggression relatively rare.
Sometimes, states do still go to war with states. But in the
1990s, out of roughly 120 wars, only 10 were purely interstate wars. More often
nowadays, conflicts arise where no functioning state exists.
If there is one common denominator which links Cambodia in
the 70s to Mozambique and Angola in the 80s to Yugoslavia, Rwanda, the
Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone in the 90s to Afghanistan
today, it is this: that when we allow governments to fail, warlords, criminals,
drugs barons or terrorists will fill the vacuum.
There was nothing inevitable about the failure of these
states. I would not want to imply that Nicolo Machiavelli was part of our
contemporary pantheon. But he was right when he said, ‘The chief foundations of
all states… are good laws and good armies’. Provided both are present, a state
may flourish. It is true that, as a form of government, the nation state
developed historically in Europe and a few other regions only. But there are now
functioning, indeed thriving, nation states in regions and countries where this
is not the historical form of polity.
According to Max Weber, the state is ‘a human community that
claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given
territory’. When states fail, it is often because the monopoly on force is
disputed, and because legitimacy has broken down.
Civil wars are rarely if ever just internal affairs. The Cold
War superpowers and their proxies, and the imperial powers before them, were
often more concerned with securing power than legitimacy over the territories
But whatever the historical reasons, where the basis of the
state, its laws or its armies, are fatally weakened, chaos is the result.
In the contemporary world, there is one addition to make to
Machiavelli’s prescription. No state can succeed without active support from and
co-operation with other states. And indeed the global system of states cannot
function properly where parts of the system have broken down.
Failed states make life miserable or much worse for those
unfortunate enough to live there. But in a globalised world, this misery is
exported to every corner of the world. 90% of the heroin on British streets
originates in Afghanistan.
Chaos not only brings drugs to our streets, but also human
trafficking to our ports and borders. And on 11 September it brought mass murder
to the very heart and symbol of the success of the Western world.
Building on the past
The challenge posed by failed states is not new. For years we
have been devising strategies for dealing with them, with some success. So it is
important to underline my belief that what I propose today can be done, by
reminding ourselves of what has been done in the recent past.
Criticisms can be made of what has been achieved in Sierra
Leone, Bosnia, East Timor, Cambodia and Mozambique. But what is undeniable is
that the international community has given those countries a chance to turn
their back on conflict.
- The people of Sierra Leone are rebuilding their shattered economy and
- No one has been killed in conflict in Bosnia since 1995.
- East Timor will shortly become independent.
- Cambodia has a civil society where previously it had the Khmer Rouge.
- Against the odds, Mozambique is taking its place as a respected and
We have created mandates for peacekeeping, strategies for
development assistance and responses to avert humanitarian catastrophes, and
when we can, we act.
We have always had a moral responsibility to deal with human
catastrophes. Now we know that it is also a profound national interest not to
let them happen.
An active and engaged global foreign policy is not just a
salve to liberal consciences. It is a survival mechanism for our societies.
In his speech last month to the Labour Party Conference, our
Prime Minister, Tony Blair, outlined a vision of what we might achieve now that
we have all been shocked out of our complacency. He said: ‘This is a moment to
seize. The kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will
settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us’.
Afghanistan and Al Qa'ida
It is in this context that we have to view the activities of
the international coalitions against terrorism military, humanitarian and
political. Efforts on each of these fronts reinforces efforts on each of the
others just as, in post-war Europe, the United States’ strategy included
humanitarian aid, economic reconstruction and, above all, security through NATO.
The current military action in Afghanistan is not in itself
the long-term answer to the threat of terrorism. But it is an essential first
Usama Bin Laden and Al Qaida pose a clear and present danger
to our way of life, and we have to defend ourselves against it. I wish there
were another way.
But there is not: we face a stark choice, between appeasing
these terrorists and confronting them.
It should be obvious to all that there can be no appeasing of
people whose values are so alien that they regard the taking of innocent life on
a massive scale not as an unfortunate side-effect, but as one objective of their
Long before the terrorists hijacked the airliners which flew
into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, they hijacked Afghanistan. And the
people of Afghanistan have been the biggest victims of the nexus formed by Al
Qaida and the Taliban regime in the denial of their human rights, the complete
absence of any strategy for economic development, and the obstruction of
We have made clear that the humanitarian coalition is just as
important as the military one. And like other donors, Britain is pouring
resources into the humanitarian effort. But the humanitarian crisis in
Afghanistan did not begin on 11 September. Millions were displaced from their
homes long before that by years of war, by misgovernment and by oppression.
For years the international community has been trying to deal
with the vast scale of the crisis. Some parts of the Taliban regime have
obstructed this. For example, they are trying now to tax food convoys which get
into the country.
The Taliban regime’s policies have led to the starvation of
the Afghan people; we are trying to feed them. They have been destroying
Afghanistan; we want to rebuild it.
There are those who say that we should halt the bombing to
allow more food convoys in. I understand the concerns that lie behind these
calls. But a pause in the bombing would only prolong the suffering of the Afghan
people. The only things that can help the Afghan people are an end to the civil
war, an end to this kind of regime and the start of reconstruction.
If we are to feed and shelter them, and later to help them to
build a nation for themselves, we first have to get rid of the main obstacle to
Removing the Taliban regime is not an aim of the military
action. But, to quote from the campaign objectives, ‘Assuming that Mullah Omar
will not comply with the US ultimatum, we require sufficient change in the
leadership to ensure that Afghanistan’s links with international terrorism are
Our message to the people of Afghanistan is this: ‘In the
past, we have let you down. But we will not turn our backs on you again. We will
work with you, to build a better future for you and your children’.
We believe we share an objective with the Afghan people: a
stable, durable, representative government, committed to eradicating terrorism,
enjoying mature relations with its neighbours, and with which we can work on the
humanitarian crisis, drugs, human rights and longer-term development.
Achieving peace and dealing with terrorism are two sides of
the same coin. Only if we can help the Afghan people create something like a
normal nation again will we be able to safeguard the security of our own nation.
We cannot achieve this overnight. Once there was a reasonably
successful state in Afghanistan for forty years prior to 1973. But the country
has not known peace since then. For the last five years it has not even existed
as a functioning state. It has few serviceable institutions left. We know we are
in for a long-term, expensive commitment.
And equally, we know that we might need to move very quickly.
The military campaign is likely to go on for some time, as we have made clear
from the very beginning.
We have to be prepared to accept that fact. We must not let
impatience become our enemy. The 24 hour news media industry is a fact of life,
a fundamental climate change in the environment in which we have to operate, and
it has brought many obvious benefits for our citizens. But satisfying the
demands of the 24 hour news media for instant results cannot become a war aim.
When the end of the current regime comes, it could come
gradually, area by area, or very suddenly.
Principles for the Future of Afghanistan
We therefore have to have a robust plan, and we are working
with the United Nations, international partners in the coalition, and with
representatives of the Afghan people, to formulate it. Today I want to suggest
four principles on which I believe all partners can agree.
My first principle is that the future must be placed in the
hands of the Afghan people. If we have learned anything from the last 150 years
of Afghan history, it is surely that solutions imposed on the country from
outside will not work.
Yes, the international community should provide every
possible assistance to help the Afghan people create the conditions for an
Yes, any government there must respect the internationally
agreed norms of behaviour towards other states and towards its own citizens
which every other state is expected to observe.
And yes, the future Afghan government must be broad-based and
representative of the great diversity of the country’s ethnic groupings. The
domination of Mullah Omar and his faction cannot simply be replaced by another
narrow faction, because no regime will be sustainable unless it commands broad
consent among those whom it governs, and moves from being a regime to become a
But the form of that government, and the process which leads
to its establishment, should, within this essential framework, be up to the
Afghan people themselves. The international community has to engage with the
widest possible range of community leaders within Afghanistan. We have to
facilitate, to create the environment for a political reconstruction, but it is
the Afghans themselves who must decide.
Despite the fractiousness of the last three decades, the
sense of being Afghan remains remarkably strong, as those who know the country
so strikingly testify. It is for the Afghan people to decide whether a Loya
Jirga, the traditional form of constituent assembly, is the best way forward, or
rather some other localised form of decision-making. And it is for them to
decide whether the King, who has said he is willing to return, is the best
person to act as a figurehead.
My second principle is that we need an international
coalition for Afghanistan’s future.
The main condition for Afghanistan’s stability is that any
new government should have not only the assent of its own people but the support
of its neighbours and the global community, and an understanding that they are
not going to compete with each other in Afghanistan.
Competition among the powers has always been Afghanistan’s
curse. Britain has no right to point the finger of blame for this at anyone. In
the 19th century, we intrigued and fought over influence in Afghanistan, and
called it the ‘Great Game’. The intervention of different powers in Afghanistan,
including Russia and the West during the Cold War, did no good to either side
and was a tragedy for the Afghan people. Sometimes Afghan leaders have intrigued
with outsiders. The victims of this game were always the Afghan people.
What they need now is a consensus among their neighbours and
the world about the way forward. Britain has helped to build this consensus. In
July, at the UN’s request, we hosted a conference at Weston Park to bring
together 20 countries with an interest in a stable Afghanistan.
And we have now appointed a senior Foreign Office official,
Robert Cooper, who is well-known to many of you as an author and thinker on
post-modern states, to develop our thinking and to work with the UN and other
international partners on a consensus.
These efforts are bearing fruit. Now, for the first time in
three decades, there is broad agreement among the five permanent members of the
UN Security Council and among Afghanistan’s neighbours that a broad-based, self-sustaining
government is the right solution. We shall all be working to reduce tensions and
mutual suspicions between Afghanistan’s neighbours.
Afghanistan should come to know the outside world as a benign,
not threatening, influence.
My third principle is that the United Nations should play the
leading role in any transition. As I have said, there are no state institutions
worth speaking of in Kabul: no executive, no judiciary, no legislature, no civil
service. Any interim government arriving there would have to bring much of its
own administration with it.
There is only one body which can properly facilitate this the
United Nations. I was delighted when the Nobel Committee decided to award this
year’s Peace Prize to Kofi Annan and the UN. In Afghanistan, they will have yet
another chance to show the world how much they are needed.
Very few organisations have stood by the Afghan people
throughout the impossible conditions of the last few years. The Red Cross is
one. The UN is another. Through its humanitarian aid and other programmes in
Afghanistan, the UN has more experience of the country than any other body. It
has been running many services throughout the country. It also has behind it the
relevant experience of helping to rebuild a shattered nation in Cambodia, East
Timor and Kosovo.
I especially welcome the appointment of Lakhdar Brahimi, the
distinguished Algerian diplomat and statesman, no stranger to this audience, who
will not only oversee the life-saving efforts of the humanitarian coalition, but
also the later political process as Afghanistan moves towards a fully
representative, multi-ethnic broad-based government.
Ambassador Brahimi will provide a central focus at the UN,
and as the global community devises a unified policy, we should take our lead
This will involve identifying tasks and allocating them to
particular organisations and countries.
Only the UN has the global reach, the instruments and the
expertise to provide effective relief and reconstruction in Afghanistan. It will
need to do this in an active partnership with committed states, with those which
share borders with Afghanistan or are very close to it, like India, with the
Permanent Members of the Security Council, and with others who have a close
regional interest. The EU will, I am sure, have an important role too.
My fourth principle is that we must be prepared to devote the
resources and the political will needed to complete the task.
The early phase of a transition will be crucial. We should
identify a number of projects which can have an immediate impact to alleviate
suffering within the first 100 days to give credibility and legitimacy to an
As well as humanitarian aid, these might include
reconstruction of housing and some first repair work on water and irrigation. We
will need teams of people ready to go in and make these work straight away.
But we should also be prepared for the long haul. The
international community has to meet Afghanistan’s needs, as identified by
Ambassador Brahimi. He may need planning facilities to help him. Civilian
policing assistance has, again and again, proved essential in post-conflict
And troops, whether in UN blue helmets or as a multinational
force, could be required to protect civilians and to provide a security
environment in which the UN could work. Nor do we rule out non-Taliban Afghan
forces perhaps playing a role in this.
Afghanistan’s development needs will be huge. The cost of
rebuilding Bosnia was $5 billion. Afghanistan has four times Bosnia’s
population. Reconstructing Afghanistan could take five to ten years to complete.
But we have to be ready to bear the cost, because if we do
not, the price we pay will be far greater. We will pay it in more terrorist
atrocities, more lives lost and more economies disrupted.
Only a real, sustained commitment stands any chance of
providing the people of Afghanistan with a country free from domination by
terrorists and criminals.
If it is needed, we should be prepared to contribute to an
International Fund for Afghanistan, perhaps administered by the UN. But this
should not be to the detriment of our development efforts elsewhere, nor of the
UN’s vital efforts in other parts of the world.
What this crisis has proved, more than ever, is that we need
the UN and all countries should be ready to devote the resources the UN needs to
carry out the broad range of its duties throughout the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have a duty to the people of Afghanistan, just as we have
a duty to our own citizens at home.
Today, it is clear that these duties coincide. Bringing order
out of chaos is one of the great tasks of foreign policy for the 21st
During the Cold War, there were those in the West who drew
inspiration from the so-called domino theory: that if Communism were not stopped
from taking over Korea, or Vietnam, or Nicaragua, or Angola, it would infect
neighbouring countries until we found ourselves encircled.
Historians will argue for decades to come about whether the
domino theory really applied to Communism.
But I have no doubt that the domino theory does apply to the
chaos of failed states. The collapse of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
into conflict in the 1990s sucked in countries throughout the Great Lakes region
of Africa. One of the biggest obstacles to peace in Sierra Leone was continuing
violence in neighbouring Liberia.
The reason we remain committed to stability in the former
Yugoslavia is that any slide back into ethnic conflict there could suck in the
whole region, which already includes our NATO allies and will soon include EU
The chaos which Afghanistan has suffered is a threat to the
stability of its neighbours in Pakistan, Iran and Central Asia. The drugs trade
and the refugee crisis have already seriously undermined them. And we now know
all too graphically the chaos and fear it brought out of a clear blue sky one
autumn morning in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
The Cold War pitted two ideologies against one another in a
battle for supremacy. The war against terrorism is different. It is a war in
which all legitimate governments and all sovereign states are on the same side.
One day, not far in the future, we should be able to welcome
the people of Afghanistan back into the family of sovereign nation states, as a
fully fledged member of the international community. We want to see a sovereign,
independent Afghanistan which sustains its own statehood, in which no one
interferes and which functions as a part of the legitimate global economy,
generating wealth and welfare for all of its people.
Rebuilding Afghanistan will be the next vital step towards a
victory in which we all can share victory over terrorism, victory over poverty
and victory over chaos.