1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of Sir John Major’s speech at the Conservative Foreign and Commonwealth Council Dinner, held at Chelsea Manor Street in London, on Tuesday 13th July 2010.
SIR JOHN MAJOR:
“Policy challenges in a changing world” -
The inevitable challenge is change, which is brutally swift. Leaders of only a few years ago now seem distant history.
One was Boris Yeltsin. I once asked Boris to tell me -
Today, economically, we’re passing through in a “not good” phase.
And, politically, although the world is safer from serious war than for decades, we face some intractable problems.
The phrase “War on Terror” conjures up its own image: 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, suicide bombers. And yet -
We need to understand the Moslem world is very different to our society. It embraces nations in which references to the Prophet Mohammed, or the Old and New Testaments, are part of everyday conversation.
For some -
It is a cauldron. It is not a liberal democracy. And therein lies reality.
Let me turn to particular conflicts.
When Iraq attacked Kuwait in 1990 the case for war was clear-
The second Iraq War was very different.
Before it began, I made my reservations public but supported the war -
Today that war looks like folly. The defence of it has shrunk to the claim that Saddam Hussein was a bad man, who mistreated his nation, and the world is better off without him.
That is true. But others are bad, too -
But, I observe now -
We have now been at war in Afghanistan for eight years -
Afghanistan isn’t a war that can easily be “won”, but nor can it be ignored: we are bound to it by necessity.
And it is easy to see why.
The war has spread into Pakistan -
The Afghanistan campaign is now, arguably, not one, but several intertwined conflicts including a power struggle between Jihadists and the Pakistan Government.
As the conflict becomes more messy and intractable, it is understandable that some feel we should bring the troops home -
But not yet. Too much is at stake. We need patience and commitment for what could yet be a long military and civil campaign: the alternative is to lose the struggle, boost terror, undermine American and British prestige, and place Pakistan at risk. We did not seek this war, but we cannot -
The best exit strategy is victory. If that is unobtainable -
Churchill once referred to Russia as “A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”.
Much the same could be said of Iran today. In the year since the flawed re election of Ahmadinejad, there has been widespread internal dissent by hundreds of thousands of individual Iranians. There have been marches, coded speeches, intellectual dissent, as liberty has raised its voice. The regime has responded with repression but, like others before them, they will find that the demand for change, for something better, for a free and open society, is impossible to smother forever. You cannot arrest freedom and keep it in jail.
The fear of a nuclear Iran is real. If she obtains a weapon, the risk of proliferation is high.
Why is Iran doing this? The economy is in a mess. The currency is weak. Inflation, interest rates and unemployment are high. It’s a sad comedown for a nation that was a great Empire, when we lived in mud huts.
Nothing is explicable without understanding that Iran is a nationalist and hard-
What should we do? First, remember the regime is not the nation -
In any event, adding a third military conflict after Iraq and Afghanistan is very unattractive -
The Arab/Israeli dispute colours the view of the Middle East. It spills beyond its own borders and has scarred politics for decades. And is it not absurd that we know the two-
After several decades, a bilateral negotiated settlement is still far away: many wonder if it will ever be possible. Attempts at incremental agreements -
The present situation is close to stalemate. Palestinians are split. Secular Fatah control the West Bank. Islamic Hamas rule in Gaza. Hamas deny the right of Israel to even exist. They will not renounce violence nor accept previous agreements made by Palestinian negotiators.
Is there a solution? Yes, of course -
Can the international community allow this dispute to run on and on forever -
Understandably, the protagonists would hate this: but, if both sides take positions that impede progress, what alternative exists?
Will this be difficult? Of course it will. It is a gamble, a high risk toss of the coin, and one that requires great political courage, especially in Washington.
Let me turn to some unconventional challenges.
The first integrated circuit -
Without that circuit there would be no Silicon Valley; no Internet; no laptop; no Google; no iPods; no Blackberrys, no PlayStations -
As science changes how we live, medical science is changing the quality and length of our lives. A hundred years ago, no-
Technology and medicine are old partners. The first man to assert that blood circulates and is pumped from the heart was William Harvey. But not until the invention of the microscope in the 1650s was this verified by the discovery of the tiny connections between arteries and veins.
In a modern parallel, scientists are examining how to combine computer chip technology with pharmaceutical research so they can target drugs to treat specific parts of the body. Imagine -
Such science is leading a revolution in medical care: advances in engineering techniques have given us insulin pumps for diabetes; cochlea implants for deafness; and there are realistic prospects of repairing nerve cells for sufferers of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. It may soon be possible to replace heart muscle cells.
A few years ago, all this would have seemed like Black Magic. Soon, fantasy will become reality, with commercial challenges that are simply staggering.
Many challenges also offer opportunities. At the birth of Christ, world population was -
World population is projected to reach 8 or even 9 billion by 2050. This is like absorbing two more nations the size of China. It offers social threats and economic opportunities.
These are just a few of the challenges in our post recession world.
One certainty: many countries borrowing money -
Inevitably, there are many challenges I have not touched upon: the danger of nuclear or biological terrorism; the insecurities created by the arc of uncertainty from Syria to Pakistan; the enigma of Russian policy-
All are formidable -
Investment across nations minimises the risk of wars. Life expectancy is rising.
China and the US have developed a peaceful relationship. Japan and China are repairing old scars. Democracy is expanding. Poor, forgotten Africa is growing. Europe has moved the free market eastwards and southwards.
In a preface to some famous essays, an English philosopher flatteringly observed to his patron that “You have planted things that are likely to last”.
So have we -
It is a record of which to be proud.
But what remains to be achieved is greater yet, and the challenges will go on and on.