1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of Sir John Major’s speech on Terrorism, given at Yale University, Connecticut, on Wednesday 7th December 2005.
SIR JOHN MAJOR:
Great pleasure to be at Yale -
Long time ago: when I was born my father was 65. My mother ..... was surprised.
[Indistinct, but about being very pro-
300 years of a male dominated Club -
As a new Member of Parliament, she was speaking on Agriculture, when -
Nancy Astor never faltered: "How many toes has a pig? .... Take off your boots and count".
Great friend of Winston Churchill. One of those enduring friendships: they would defend each other against all foes -
[Indistinct, but quotes from Winston Churchill].
Of course, Churchill's world has gone forever.
Twenty years ago, until the collapse of the Soviet Union, we lived in a world of two super-
Nor, if it had not collapsed, would the free market be so dominant or such a target for terrorist groups.
Today, we live in a world that is economically liberal -
For many reasons, but two predominate: the mal-
History is instructive here. When Britain had an Empire, we were cordially detested. Hundreds of millions resented our power and envied our wealth. Even as they paid lip service to our face, the rejoiced if we were embarrassed or discomforted.
Today, terrorists direct these same emotions against secure nations -
Sometimes, there is a tendency to think of terrorism as if it were a global conspiracy. Certainly, some groups have widespread and growing tentacles. It is true that sometimes there is co-
And those in Southern Thailand seem to have sympathisers in Malaysia. Some terrorists are mercenaries for hire, unconcerned by any particular cause, and motivated only by hatreds and greed.
Certainly, they are fanatics without conscience: “I have no regrets. I acted alone and on orders from God”. Thus, the extremist who murdered Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel.
Sadly there are many like him.
But there is no worldwide conspiracy. Mostly, terrorist groups are close-
Their causes may overlap -
But, since the rise of Al Qaeda, there is a layer of peripheral groups who share the same ideology, seek the same ends and use similar tactics.
The Al Qaeda philosophy is out of kilter with mainstream Islam, especially the moderate Islam that is the basic character of the religion.
Al Qaeda's objective is the unification of the Islamic community around the world; its purification and the imposition of the most literal translation of strict Sharia Law.
They wish to see the world divided between Islam -
Their tactics we know: distortion of the Koran, indiscriminate terror; and the call for a Holy War -
For millions of people around the world, terror now looms as a widespread threat: the fear of global war has gone but it has been superseded by the fear of global terror.
When Kipling wrote these famous lines:
"East is East and West is West,
And never the twain will meet",
he had not realised we would live in a global market, or face the common threat of terror.
None of this is new. Terrorism is not new: it has been with us since ancient times; but now, like the economy, terror is globalising. Terrorism is not a Nation. Terrorism is Al Qaeda; Hezbollah, ETA, IRA, Hamas, Tamil Tigers, Kashmiri and Punjabi Separatists; Pattani United Liberation Organisation; GIA … the list goes on.
Groups that are secretive, diverse, that hide their money, men and weapons hidden as effectively as they close their minds to any message but their own.
Today, terrorism is a threat to much of the world. It is not targeted only against the Governments of the West. Think of the bombs in Bali. Or Jerusalem. Or the school siege in Moscow. Or Sarin gas in Tokyo. Or atrocities in Kashmir. The signature of mass-
Most people find violence abhorrent and yet, terrorism has never been short of apologists. Over many years, it has grown bolder and more deadly. Many nations have suffered.
But terrorism has not been effective in the post-
When Spain, Portugal and Greece dumped Fascism -
When Communism collapsed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe -
When Apartheid ended -
Terrorism can claim none of these victories -
What is the purpose of terror? It varies. For many Terrorist Groups the predominant aim is to radicalise Islam; to set Muslim against non-
In Northern Ireland, the intent was to absorb the North into a united Ireland. In Thailand it was to create a Separatist Buttani State in the Name of Islam. Always, the effect is to create chaos.
And it does. The economic impact of terror is to de-
So, whatever reservations there may be about how this War on Terror is being fought -
Terrorism and democracy are fundamentally opposed. They cannot co-
The characteristics of modern terror are becoming more apparent each day. Terrorism has developed a particular flavour: it has become a tool of religious fanatics and a vehicle to destroy the free market system.
One new phenomenon is the willingness of terrorists to sacrifice their own lives for their cause. We saw this in the 9/11 attacks in New York and have seen it since in Iraq and Palestine and London. A pattern is forming.
The oxygen for terrorism is hatred: hatred of specific countries and their values or -
As democracy and terrorism confront one another, one question must be asked at the outset: can a war against terror be won at all? Is it possible that such a shadowy concept as terrorism can be identified, isolated and defeated?
With one caveat, my answer is -
The caveat is that history tells us terrorist groups are rarely entirely destroyed: they split and smaller groups, sometimes made up of the hardest of hardliners, replace them. It is not, therefore, a short conflict. But, over time, they can be beaten and the potency of their threat removed.
So, if democracy can win, how can it do so?
The answer to that question is complex. It involves action against existing terror groups now, and political measures to prevent such groups obtaining support today that will help them spread their contagion tomorrow.
To win, all those nations threatened by terrorism need to co-
And, to defeat the ideological threat they pose, we must understand the motives that drive them and re-
We must accept we cannot win by military power alone, but concede that we cannot win without it. Terrorism has been growing for many years -
Now, many Nations are engaged in what will be a complex and protracted battle -
But these measures are simply policing action against existing terror groups. Vital -
The answers to these questions are not always palatable.
In much of the world ideological radicalisation has fed the perception that the religion of Islam is under attack. Al Qaeda assert this every day. Radicals use this belief as a recruiting sergeant to fuel their cause. Events such as the Afghanistan and Iraq wars have fed this perception as has the failure to bring the Middle East Peace Process -
The Radicals case is crude propaganda, and wrong, but it is effective. To rebut it, democracy must lessen the chance of demagogues exploiting hardship to promote terrorism. They must fight for the hearts and minds of those into whose ears radical poison is poured. Words alone will not do: they must accept obligations that illustrate the morality of democracy.
One example stands out. Our world has six billion souls. Of these six billion, one-
To put that into context: we spend seven times as much subsidising cheap food for those already well-
I believe that common humanity suggests that -
And it is in our interests to remove grievances, to cut away the resentment of the "have-
As we combat terrorism, we must realise that specific events or conflicts will always be used to promote the cause: a moment ago I cited the Middle East Peace Process as one such illustration of this.
Palestine has become the issue that is, above all, the poison in the well of relations between Islam and the rest of the world.
The strong support that many countries have given to Israel over many years is based on admiration for a talented nation whose whole history is one of persecution. In my experience, support for Israel does not imply an anti-
And yet, it is not seen that way: in the eyes of many in the Muslim world, pre-
A solution would transform relationships. And it is vital for both sides. Israel will never be truly safe without security and recognition and acceptance by the Arab States: and Palestine needs a future. An active peace process is vital -
We have seen too much of that in recent years as a low grade war has simmered always at risk of becoming a full scale war. In Gaza, wicked men have encouraged foolish young men and women to become human bombs in Israel -
Often, this has provoked retaliation and counter retaliation. It has been a playground for the terrorist. Hope has been dashed for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Over the years, terror has so unsettled the political climate that trust has gone and a lasting solution is elusive. This plays entirely into the hands of the terrorist for it gives this dispute a much wider fuse: it is used to justify terrorism elsewhere.
Sometimes, it has been difficult to see how this could ever be brought to a peaceful solution. It is depressing beyond belief -
I want to say something here about politics and terror. It is based on my own experience in dealing with the Provisional IRA.
For years, the IRA had bombed and murdered in Northern Ireland -
It took a long time -
The lesson is clear: to paraphrase Kennedy in another context, never negotiate from fear, but never fear to negotiate. It is tempting just to denounce terrorism. But if you wish to save lives, you must sometimes engage with them as well.
Let me return to Palestine -
We can learn that no-
And so is the fact that the leaders of democracies must never despair and -
What else can Governments do? A great deal. Islamic Governments can speak out about the true nature of Islam, in order to counter the message of the Radicals.
All Governments can work together to encourage inter-
They can address marginalisation in their societies.
All these actions are part of the anti-
I spoke earlier of how our world -
We have a global economy. The political map is fluid. Each day, there are ground-
The speed of medical advance is bewildering. The demand for medical services infinite. Yet it will grow: the mapping of the human genome system will lead to an explosion of demand for preventative care and, where this is provided, to an increase in life expectancy.
There is a pattern here in all aspects of our life. Science and technology is accelerating change which already takes place at break-
Are we to let all this be put at risk by terrorism?
I think not. We all have too much to lose.
Consider what has been achieved.
At the beginning of the 20th century, no-
There would have been amazement -
The US is now the most powerful nation in the world -
The impact of all this is not simply on economics and politics.
Children born today will see the conquest of the stars.
They will live longer, see more, do more, know more than any earlier generation. They will see deserts bloom. See a genetic rebuilding of failing bodies.
Live with technical innovations beyond our present imagination.
It will be a world unrecognisable to their forebears.
Are we to let this be undermined by radical terrorism, whose ideas are rooted in attitudes from many centuries ago?
Against the enormous changes that are taking place, we need what I call “grown-
Three and a half years on, we can see that the events of September 11th, 2001 are giving us a masterclass in consequences. We need politics that confronts the uncomfortable. Politics that rises above the short-
[Indistinct, but about when Yeltsin was asked to describe the political situation in the former Soviet Union in one word he said “good”, and when asked to describe it in two words, he said “not good”].
Our task in this generation is to look critically at our world and see it how it is -
We certainly have the ability to do so. Only time will tell whether we have the wisdom -
Upon that outcome, lies our future -