The Henry Jackson Society: Project for Democratic Geopolitics is a cross-partisan, British-based think-tank. Our founders and supporters are united by a common interest in fostering a strong British and European commitment towards freedom, liberty, constitutional democracy, human rights, governmental and institutional reform and a robust foreign, security and defence policy and transatlantic alliance.
It’s great to be here today.
Henry Jackson would have been 100 years old this year and I am sure honoured by the work of the Society which took his name.
Thank you for the invitation to be on the Political Council – a group I hope can help to develop new ideas not just amongst like-minded people, but across the country, the Atlantic and around the world.
This is important because the values and principles the HJS seeks to promote are those which we all believe should shape our security policy. It is encouraging that there are so many who feel Liberal Democracies have a responsibility not just to self protection and determination, but also to help shape the fortunes of others less able to do so themselves around the world.
But this is event is meaningful for another reason.
It was Henry Jackson who said: 'In matters of national security, the best politics is no politics.'
While of course we have differences, as seen only last week on Army reform, this is a sentiment I hope will shape are approach to defence here in Britain.
On so many issues there is more that unites us than divides us.
Whether it is our long-standing commitment to Afghanistan combined with getting the withdrawal right; the need for active deployable Armed Forces that we do mobile as a force for good, as we did in Libya; the necessity of nuclear deterrence; correcting the balance within NATO so our European allies share more of the burden; our need to invest in new threats such as cyber security; or even tackling religious extremism overseas at home, we all want to work together to achieve common objectives.
Events in Syria underline the complexity of challenges we face, but the importance of resilience in finding solutions.
But it is not only today’s threats which should unite us. It should also be tomorrow’s challenges, because the security landscape is going through huge changes.
The Arab Spring is the tip of iceberg in terms of the change we are going to live through.
Globalisation is fuelling a major re-distribution of economic and political influence.
Demographic and climate change are increasing pressure on and possible conflict over the world’s natural resources.
Weak and failing states outnumber strong states by two to one.
Increasing availability of technology to all states and non-state actors poses means new types of weaponry are being developed.
We are going to need new policies, approaches and technologies – all in an era with huge budgetary pressures.
[I’m tempted to say to Michael I am glad it’s his government and not mine with all that on their plate!]
Added to this, the British public are weary and wary of military intervention after over a decade of conflict.
I have talked of an arc of instability ranging from West Africa to Central and Southeast Asia and many states are mentioned.
But there is a State missing from that analysis which is also a danger: the State of Ambivalence, in which we believe in the values of international justice and human right but may not be so readily stand up for them.
We must learn from Afghanistan and Iraq, but we must also avoid against one and a half unpopular wars leading to a permanently unpopular concept.
It is vital, therefore, that we continue to make the case publicly and effectively for our duty to act on the responsibilities which we have beyond our borders.
In making this case, though, I just want to make two points I think should guide our thinking.
The first is that we should focus more on conflict prevention. The best defence policy is not always a new bit of kit and equipment but can be a world class international development policy. Education, employment, the rule of law and available healthcare can all stem the flow of conflict in troubled areas. The careful prevention of development policy can be so much better than the painful cure of military action, and so we should look at better co-ordination of defence and development.
Second, a key lesson from recent conflicts is that the post conflict peace plan needs to be a core part of the pre-conflict battle plan. We know this was one of the flaws of the initial intervention in Iraq. In Afghanistan, there was better integration at the level of planning, but the execution was still flawed. Stabilisation and support for the most basic state functions will continue to be an essential part of successful conflict intervention, and this requires civilian and military to work better together – but both are essential.
Finally, one more thing about why Henry Jackson is important.
There is the view in some quarters that belief in a strong, proactive defence policy says something deeper about your politics – that delivering in intervention overseas leads to illiberalism at home.
Henry Jackson, however, was of a political breed that was a liberal on domestic issues such as civil rights and equality and robust on foreign affairs, with a firm belief that the United States and other democratic nations could be a force for good in the world.
I hope that the Society takes forward this part of his legacy, too.