Here are the remarks by Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Permanent Representative, at the Commencement Address at the U.S. Army War College on “Succeeding on the Defining Issue of our Time”, June 9, 2007:
The attacks visited upon us shed in stark relief a defining challenge of our time – working in concert with allies and friends to bring about the positive transformation of the broader Middle East.
At the root of the attacks is the dysfunctional politics of the region – both … within the region and within specific countries. Rivalries among countries, a struggle between moderates willing to join the world as responsible participants and extremists bent on hostility and violence, and the closed nature of political systems has created opportunities for the politics of hatred. And the good people of these countries are powerless, relegated to the sidelines as the extremists take center stage.
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In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the dysfunctional politics of Europe was the principal source of the world’s security problems. Today, it is the Middle East. Europe took generations to solve its problems and required outside assistance from America. A successful transformation of the Middle East, too, will be the work of generations. It will require the empowerment of moderates in the region, international cooperation, and U.S. leadership. And it will require the same sort of endurance and dedication on our part as was required during the cold war.
However, even today, when we are in the early phases of this effort, there is real reason for hope – the defeat of the Taliban by a handful of Americans working with local allies, the turnout of 8 million Afghan voters to chart a democratic and moderate course, the millions of “purple ink-stained fingers” held up with such pride in Iraq, the success of the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon. These events did not end the struggle – they proved that our friends in these countries vastly outnumber our enemies.
In Afghanistan, I remember a quotation in the paper of a man who had voted in the October 2004 election and who had suffered through the quarter century of turmoil in his country. Reflecting on the election, he said, “Finally, we are humans again.”
In Iraq, we have seen the formation of a national unity government that includes representatives of all the major political forces, drawn from all ethnic and religious communities. They are engaged in the hard work of political compromise on fundamental questions of power sharing – something that Iraqis have never had the opportunity to do and something they are attempting to do under the most challenging of circumstances.
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And they are making progress…
…I remember a telling conversation I had with an Afghan delegate at the Constitutional Loya Jirga in December 2003. He, like all Afghans, knew chapter and verse of the history of the brutal actions of the foreign forces (such as the Mongols and the Soviets) who came to Afghanistan.
Yet, he was perplexed by us. He said, “I want to visit America someday. I want to understand these people – these Americans. Our country under the Taliban attacked America and killed many people. And the American armies came here. But they did not kill us. They did not make us give up our religion. Instead, they respect our faith. They let us choose our own government. They are helping us stand on our own feet. This America, it must be a very special place.”
I know that America is a special place. I have lived this in my own life. I have seen how America inspires even from afar. I have seen what you, as well as your civilian colleagues, are achieving in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are making progress, and with patience and perseverance we will succeed.
I thank you for your service, and may God bless America.