Emerging Challenges in a Network World

Nov 10, 2009

In an increasingly interconnected world, soft power and engagement with all the world's players will become increasingly important--and that includes talking to Hamas and the Taliban, says Ancram.


JOANNE MYERS: Good morning. I'm Joanne Myers, Director of Public Affairs Programs. On behalf of the Carnegie Council, I would like to thank you all for joining us.

Today our speaker is Michael Ancram, Conservative Member of Parliament and founder and chairman of Global Strategy Forum in Britain, which is dedicated to the notion of fresh thinking and active debate on foreign affairs, defense, and international security issues.

I believe you received a copy of Mr. Ancram's bio, which I encourage you to take a moment to look over, if you haven't by now. Upon reading it, you'll note that our guest has enjoyed a very interesting career, and I expect we will hear more about him in the coming months.

Since the events of 9/11, the world has changed dramatically. In foreign policy circles some like to say that the United States, once omnipotent, no longer reigns supreme. They say that our aura of invincibility has been tarnished by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They argue that there are now other powers, such as China, India, Brazil, and Russia, which are emerging forces to contend with.

Among those who have put forth this view is our speaker, the Right Honourable Michael Ancram. Not surprisingly, he, as others, has argued that a new narrative, a new process must be initiated to address the changing dynamics in world affairs. He advocates that the use of hard power, or military might, as a tool of foreign power needs to be replaced with dialogue and diplomacy, persuasion or engagement, or what has become known as soft power.

It is realistic to acknowledge that we can no longer afford to be confrontational, but that flexibility in dealing with our allies and fluidity in dealing with alliances should become the norm. Speaking as an American, I am encouraged that there are those across the pond who recognize the need to be proactive in our approach to challenging international issues and want to transform the way we look at ourselves and the world we live in.

For that reason, I take pleasure in presenting to you Michael Ancram.

Thank you for joining us.


MICHAEL ANCRAM: Thank you very much indeed, and thank you for the honor of inviting me to address this august body, the Carnegie Council here in New York, particularly at this early hour of the morning. It's quite a challenge to try and see if you can get the gray matter working flat-out at 8:00 in the morning, so if I appear to not be doing so, I'm sure you'll forgive me.

I'm delighted to come and speak. I should perhaps say that I speak only for myself. I was the shadow foreign secretary for a time in the Conservative Party. I stopped being in that position in 2005. I founded Global Strategy Forum because I thought that the time had come to try and look outside the box at how the world was developing, and it was easier to do that from outside the confines of what you might call the line-to-take philosophy which binds you both in government and on the front bench in opposition. So the views I will be discussing this morning are not solely my own, but they don't represent any particular party view.

I've chosen as my theme "Emerging Challenges in a Network World." I'll come to explain what I understand by the meaning of "the network world" a little later. But it's the nature of the world, if I can use this platitude, that it's always changing and that there are new challenges always emerging. The real test is whether those changes are significant and what the challenges are as a result of those changes. I want to give you my perception of the changes and what they mean, or what I think they mean or should mean to us in the years ahead. In doing so, I do deliberately want to think outside the box, hopefully to engender some reaction from you who are here today.

For those of us in the West who either practice or follow international affairs, in my view, these last few years have been marked by what I call a sense of drift. We either seem to be reacting to events without any sustainable strategy or we appear to be engaging in a series of damage-limitation exercises. I will explore this in greater detail a little later. But it does, if I'm right, seem to demand a new approach, and that is what my talk today is going to seek to examine.

I need to start by looking back. It seems almost a lifetime ago that in 1989 the Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended. It is only a quarter of a century, but it's almost now part of history. It's strange to think at that time there were starry-eyed politicians—I have to say, myself included—who proclaimed that this event and the ending of the Cold War was the dawning of a new age of peace. You'll remember those phrases being bandied at the time right across the Western world.

Since then, ironically, the world has become a more unstable and, in my view, a more dangerous place than it was previously. In the Cold War, there was an uneasy equilibrium between the two great blocs, rather like sumo wrestlers, clutching each other, not daring to let go lest one took an advantage of the other.

But now, since then, we have seen a series of events that have really undermined even that uneasy equilibrium: wars in the Balkans, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, continuing flashpoints in the Middle East—and that is still a major problem that has yet to even begin to be resolved, in my view—and indeed flashpoints in various parts of Africa, and, not least, the challenge of the development and growth of Islamists—and I use the word "Islamists," and not "Islamic," deliberately—fundamentalist terrorism.

The West's response to these events in those years was, in the short term, effective. We came together under the umbrella of a unipolar and supremely powerful United States to deal with these crises as they arose. This was the generation of what I call America's unipolarism, where there was really no other great power or great bloc able to challenge it in the world.

Because of that, we were able to try out certain new doctrines. The Balkans were to be the proving ground of what was then the new doctrine of hard power in response to regional conflict and threat. We went on after our Balkan experience to export that doctrine to other areas as well.

Yet, looking back, in my view, there was only the most rudimentary strategic basis to its exercise—if I can put it simply, bombing Belgrade, toppling the Taliban government in Afghanistan, overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq, rooting out al-Qaeda wherever we could get close to them.

And over the top of this use of hard power, we sought to install a patina of democracy, of replacing tyranny with the popular will expressed in an election, from which we hoped and said would stem justice, peace, and stability. To begin with, hard power seemed to bring about these improvements. American might, backed by the rest of the Western world, was achieving desirable results. To an extent, the doctrine seemed to be coherent.

Then we got bogged down. In the Balkans, while the bloodshed is reduced, we are still unable to leave, 15 years after we first went in, for fear of a resurgence of sectarian and ethnic violence. After six years, we're trying to get out of Iraq, against a new and large-scale backdrop of terrorist bombings, which, in any event, is going to make the exit both of the United States and others involved more difficult than we even thought it was going to be.

We're stuck in Afghanistan, torn between increasing our military presence or reducing it, an argument which I know is very much the flavor of the month here in the United States. It is also the flavor of the month in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.

What is worrying is that the NATO alliance, which is supposed to be delivering our policy in Afghanistan, is itself split, with some countries saying they are going to leave by Christmas, other countries saying they are going to leave over the next few months, others, like ourselves, still arguing for more troops to be put in.

And we're in danger of chasing the shadows of al-Qaeda wherever they may flit. We're not now just talking about the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, those mountain fastnesses where we have been unable, really, to lay a hand on al-Qaeda effectively in these last years. But we're now also talking about Somalia, we're talking about the Maghreb, and we're talking about areas of the Gulf, such as Yemen.

So we have become bogged down. Those problems we set out to solve are still there and we don't seem to be getting any nearer to a resolution. An unfortunate corollary to this bogging-down some years ago was the development of the doctrine of what I loosely call confrontation and isolation, the doctrine that you're either on our side or you are against us, and there is effectively nothing in between.

The effect of this doctrine was most clearly seen in the Middle East and the wider region around it: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, the Gulf states with us; Syria and Iran and the Shia Lebanese against. To compound this polarization, which we now know, looking back, achieved very little of lasting value, we succeeded in driving those against us closer together and into a common cause.

The failure of this doctrine can perhaps best be seen in how the West's attitude to Iran over these last years has not only so far achieved the constraining objective which we set ourselves, but has, more alarmingly, handed to Iran within the region the mantle of leadership of growing anti-Westernism.

This doctrine, even so, might have had some purchase had the world not changed at the same time. As was said in the introduction, the change, in my view, is most clearly seen in the emergence of new powerful centers and associated groupings. China, India, Japan, the Chinese diaspora of Southeast Asia, which covers a very large number of countries indeed, are now gradually emerging, along with the sleeping giants of Latin America, not least Brazil.

Our own Western initial reaction to this change was to seek to develop power centers of our own, not least the further integration of the European Union as a countervailing bloc, alongside the United States, to balance the renaissance of Russia and the emergence of China and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The theory behind this was the increasingly outmoded one that only strength can talk to strength.

It is also ironic that this later stage in the integration of Europe is based on the Lisbon Treaty—very much an issue in Europe today—that first saw light in another form, which was then known as the constitution, some seven years ago, when there was, at that time, a powerful argument that blocs still had a substantial role to play in ordering world affairs.

But that time has now passed, and the irony of what is happening in Europe is that we are engaged in a process which, in my view, is already out of date. I have to say, in any event, there is very little evidence that the integration of European foreign policy could be effective, because I can see very few areas where the European countries are going to come to a common view in order to allow a foreign policy to be taken forward.

But my basic argument is that we live in a world which is no longer governed by blocs. The United States, of course, remains a great and powerful nation, with an enormous contribution to make to the world. But the days of going it alone are over. The day of the top dog is gone. Even team leadership is now beginning to give way to team cooperation. We have had to reach outside our blocs and our comfort zones to engage with others who previously we would have held at arm's length.

Our Western ally Turkey was the first, in my view, to realize this. While remaining a longstanding ally of Israel in the Middle East, earlier this year Turkey broke ranks with the rest of the West and reached across the Middle East divide, which confrontation and isolation have compounded, to hold dialogue, not just with Syria, but with Iran and even some of the terrorist movements in the Middle East, such as Hamas. What Turkey saw was that the isolation and confrontation practiced by the West were not only running out of steam, but were also achieving very little and that the time had come to engage.

In this increasingly network world, the rules had changed, and those who wish to remain influential had to change with it. The first objective, therefore, had to be engagement. I for one very much welcomed President Obama's Cairo speech in June, which indicated that the message of this changed world was also beginning to influence American foreign policy, in a way which it really has not done in recent years. But the Cairo speech was, by definition, words rather than actions.

There have been some changes. Confrontation is no longer the first option. There are tentative signs—and I don't use a stronger word than that—of moves towards engagement. Yet if this genuinely is to take root, the underlying philosophy of the West in place of confrontation has to change to one of respect, of encouragement, and of working together. For the moment, the extent of Western engagement, in my view, is more that of previously hostile neighbors talking nervously to each other over the garden fence rather than an effort to achieve, if not a full-hearted sense of purpose, at least the beginnings of a meeting of minds.

There does not within Western foreign policy yet appear to be that clear sense of purpose. Yet a successful and dynamic foreign policy requires clarity and it requires definition. That is why, when I started, I said we are at the moment coming from a period of drift. What I hope to see now is a move away from that drift into a foreign policy on an international basis, where we have a clear objective which we are going to pursue.

But how do we move from drift to positive vision of what our foreign policy can achieve in this network world?

First, we need to understand the meaning of that phrase better. What is meant by "a network world"? I here have to acknowledge the work done by my United Kingdom colleague and friend, David Howell, Lord Howell of Guildford, who was for ten years the chairman of our parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee and has been studying the world and its movements over many years, who has been seeking to explain this concept, both in recent articles and in recent talks.

The network world is one born of the technological developments in communication, which have meant that the so-called global village has become ever smaller, that knowledge of events is now almost instantaneous across the whole world, that communication between nations is so immediate now that it leaves little time for strategic subtleties, and, perhaps most importantly, where the ordinary citizens of the world no longer wait to be told by their leaders what to think, but can instantly tell those same leaders, through Skype and YouTube and Facebook or twittering and blogging, what they actually do think themselves.

In the network world, leadership is no longer vertical from top to bottom, but increasingly lateral, based on cooperation rather than conscription and on encouragement rather than direction.

What, then, are the immediate impacts of this network world? I've already mentioned the ending of the hegemonic strategies, the world of blocs and of unipolarism. It's now indeed possible to identify how power has shifted from the Atlantic axis towards the power centers to which I referred earlier, not so much in terms of hard power—although I think we would be unwise to underestimate the implications of the development of defense structures by the Chinese at the moment—but in economic and social terms.

The JACIK countries—Japan, ASEAN, China, India, and Korea—together now have a GNP equivalent to the European Union and, if measured on purchasing-power parity terms, much larger than either the EU or NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement]. The combined official reserves of these countries are much larger than those of the United States and the EU combined. In blunt terms, the greatest source of cash and influence in the world is now from them.

What is more, Chinese investment in Africa or, indeed, in Pakistan seems somehow more palatable locally than our own equivalent Western investment in Iraq or Afghanistan, to take but two examples.

China, in particular, is showing signs that she understands the challenges of the network world, in the development of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which is drawing in membership on a wide basis. This strategic response to this new challenge is in danger of leaving us in the West in its wake. We are only just beginning to wake up to the fact that Chinese technology and advanced scientific research, especially in nanotechnology, are racing ahead. Their standards in business and scientific education are now so competitive with ours that, at least in the United Kingdom, we are beginning to see the East-to-West flow of business students, starting to move in the opposite direction.

In short, we are seeing cultures in the East proving more suited to the information age than ours, which is propelling not just Japan, China, India, and Korea to the center of global events, but also smaller nations such as Malaysia and Singapore. And if we are seriously to address global issues in the years ahead, we will need to recruit their cooperation to be able to do so. I get no feeling that this reality has yet begun to percolate foreign policy in the West.

The network world is also one in which power has slipped from nation-states and their governments. The structure of power, as I said earlier, is no longer vertical or top-down. More than 1.5 million people now use the web to register their opinions and to make their own mark on events. This is a world of electronic networks, of soft power, of sub-governmental and non-governmental linkages between states and societies, requiring new diplomatic machinery at the state level.

What is more, the development of people power generated by these advances in communication technology is still in its early days. Yet there are few signs that in the West we have seriously begun to examine the implications of what I see as a quasi-revolution.

We still seem to think that foreign policy is about intergovernmental relations, about treaties, about higher authority and rules, apparently ignoring the reality that under the influence of globalized communication, the whole fabric of international relations is imperceptibly changing.

Increasingly, international standards and rules of conformity are not being set through government-to-government negotiations, but by common agreements freely entered into by regulatory authorities and professionals across both national and international boundaries. Nor should we underestimate the growing influence of multinational companies in the development of this trend.

Then there is the effect of the world's changing energy mix, which is requiring new approaches within our overall international strategies. There are signs of the downgrading of the importance of oil in the medium term. There are also the downstream effects of international policy to combat global warming and climate change. In the European context, which obviously I know best, there is an increasing reliance on imported gas, which in turn has changed the shape of European relations with Middle Eastern suppliers, but also with Russia and the Central Asian producers and with the transit countries such as Turkey.

At the same time, the global pattern of energy consumption is also changing. A BP statistical survey last year showed that, for the first time in history, the energy consumption of the OECD countries fell below that of the rest of the world. The significance of that, too, should not be underestimated.

These are factors which together demand a far greater emphasis on engagement and cooperation in addressing global energy requirements than has hitherto been the case. This was brought graphically to my attention this morning when I was looking online to see what the latest news was, the announcement out of Germany on this consortium on a project known as Desertec.

Desertec is a project which has been close to the heart of Prince Hassan of Jordan for many years now, but has always, in my mind, seemed a pipe dream. But today there has been an announcement of a $400 billion investment, involving serious companies, to produce 15 percent of Europe's energy supplies from solar power in the Arabian Peninsula and in the Sahara Desert through an enormous grid, which will also tie in wind power and biomass power and hydropower, and effectively change the nature of energy supply within the European context.

The reason I raise this, though, this morning is that, the moment you look at the map of where this is going to be achieved, you see how many national boundaries are going to have to be crossed, how many erstwhile relationships are going to have to be changed in order to achieve it. This is not about our friends and our enemies. This is now about how we get together to make something work because we need to do so in the face of the challenges ahead.

All of these raise questions:

  • Are our diplomatic dispositions best set up to meet the emerging challenges I've outlined?
  • Is the diplomatic stance and tone of the West still too dogmatic and hard power-orientated to take maximum advantage of the international changing patterns?
  • Are our military and security dispositions best suited to deal with an increasingly asymmetric threat of international terrorism and low-intensity warfare?
  • Are the international institutions of the 20th century, with which many of us were brought up—NATO, the United Nations Security Council, the World Trade Organization—are these still fit for purpose in today's world as the vehicles for delivering our aims and our security?
  • Have we adjusted our foreign policy priorities to these emerging global challenges, not only of energy, but actually also of food and water, from which none of us, in the end, are going to be immune?

When you look at these questions, all of them require a "yes" answer. But I can't put my hand on my heart—and I wonder how many in this room can—to say that the answer we would each give to those questions at the moment would be "yes." Yet my view is that they need to be "yes."

Most of what I've said so far has inevitably been something theoretical, setting out the challenges rather than how we should address them. I took real encouragement from President Obama's Cairo speech, the rhetorical move from confrontation to engagement, from ostracization to dialogue. The area I know best myself is that about which he was talking, the Middle East and the wider region, including Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

I believe that it is now generally accepted that the strategy of containment by threat of sanction or force of arms has a limited shelf-life, one which is fast approaching. It needs to be replaced by a strategy of dialogue, but it needs to be more than just scratching the surface. The West needs, quite simply, to open dialogue with its foes, whether these are the distinct sects of the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are the not the same organization, however much we are told they are, or Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank.

Military intervention may continue to be required, but there has to be a realization that there can be no comprehensive outcomes in any of these particular theaters which will not, in the end, have to include those elements of whom I spoke just now, but to whom, at the moment, we will not speak.

You can't stabilize Afghanistan in the long term without involving in some way the Taliban. And the Taliban are not a monolithic structure. There are different types of Taliban within them. You have to accept that they are part of the political DNA of Afghanistan, and if you are to find a political settlement, they have to be part of it.

You can't create a viable and autonomous Palestinian state living alongside Israel without involving Hamas, who represent, on any view, a very large proportion of the people of whatever that Palestinian state is going to be.

I came to this realization when, many years ago, I was the political minister in Northern Ireland, who was asked by our then-prime minister John Major to go and engage with the IRA—something, I may say, ironically, the United States administration had been pressing us to do for some time, although they're not quite as keen now on talking to perceived terrorists as they were then.

I did so, and it was only when I began to do so that I realized how true it was that there was no solution in that troubled area of the world unless you somehow involved all those elements, who, at the end of the day, were going to have to be part of that solution. I believe that same argument is also true in those other areas I have mentioned.

The opening of dialogue with Syria after the years of ostracization is already beginning to pay regional dividends, just as the engagement policies of Turkey are beginning to bring other hitherto hostile elements in from the cold. What is key, as I know personally, is the fact that these elements themselves wish to be engaged by the West. They wish to be talked to and, perhaps more importantly, they wish to be listened to. I can say that because certainly in the case of one lot of them, I have been talking to them myself over the last three years.

That's what networking means. It means talking; it means listening. What is really true—and, in my view, frightening—is that if we don't do it in the West, someone else will go and do it instead.

Then there is the question of how we create or belong to the networking organizations that can serve our interests in this fluid international environment. I use the following example not so much as the answer, but as something which can give us a pattern which I think is worth exploring further.

I have recently been thinking very seriously about the Commonwealth. I use the word "Commonwealth" very advisedly, because I think there are many faults with it at the moment, not least its provenance and, to an extent, the perception of it as somehow being a remnant of a British empire. Leaving aside that, however, here is an organization which, at least on paper, seems to fit the bill. I think it is worth looking at closely.

If I can just take your time to remind you what the Commonwealth involves, it's a voluntary association of 53 countries that support each other and work together towards shared goals. It is made up of the world's largest and smallest, richest and poorest countries. It is home to two billion citizens of all faiths and ethnicities, over half of whom are 25 years old or under. It involves every continent in the world. Member countries span six continents and oceans, from Africa to Asia, the Americas, the Caribbean, Europe, and the South Pacific.

It believes that the best democracies are achieved through partnership of governments, businesses, civil society, and itself is based on the principle that all member countries are freely and equally associated—and that is part of its charter—united by the shared values of democracy, freedom, peace, the rule of law, and opportunity for all.

Apple pie and motherhood, yes, but a common factor which is there underwriting what the Commonwealth seeks to be about.

But more importantly, among its members are major countries, such as India, from where the current secretary-general is drawn, Australia, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. It is essentially by its nature a networking organization within which hard power and hegemony have no role to play. It crosses all the boundaries of the old blocs. It's tailor-made, in my view, for the network world.

The trouble is that currently it is weak and ineffective, and also heavily underfunded, and itself, it would need to reform in order to be able to achieve what I'm talking about.

But if it was to take up the role of a credible networking organization, it would have to change. It would have to assert the wide-ranging strength of its members more effectively. It would need to throw off, as I say, the vestiges of Britishness which still attach to it. In my view, it could be based in India, to make sure that it was no longer seen as some vestige of a colonial past. It should accept members from a far wider catchment than it does at present. The only non-ex-British colonial member is Mozambique, who came in recently at their own request. But I have talked to, and my friend David Howell has talked to people in Japan who see the value of this organization.

One of them the other day rather jokingly said, "Well, of course, we can do a joint venture on it if you can't find any other way of pulling it together." Only the Japanese would see that as the best way forward. It would need to be far better funded.

I only use this example of the Commonwealth because it's there. It doesn't have to be the Commonwealth. It doesn't even have to be called the Commonwealth. But in response to, say, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a structure similar to and based on the same principles could provide a vehicle of the type we should be looking for.

None of this precludes or undermines the principle of our pursuing our own national foreign policies in pursuit of our own national goals. It could, however, be the means for better delivering these policies and achieving these goals.

NATO, as we see at the moment, can do less and less in this regard. The EU can't and will never be able to do so, owing to the disparate interests of its membership, any more than the WTO [World Trade Organization] or the United Nations Security Council. Therefore, I do think that this concept is something which, across the Western world, we should be studying very carefully indeed.

In conclusion and in summary, I would argue that the days of dealing with global crises by top-down initiatives are largely gone. To quote my friend David Howell—and he wrote this—"The new order will be shaped more by agreement between networks than by crowd-pleasing governmental initiatives and media-soaked international summits. We are now looking at the new microbiology of international relations, whose handling requires very different techniques and methods from the ponderous world of the foreign ministries of the past."

That, to me, is the challenge of the emerging network world. The question it poses is as to whether we and our generation in the West have the vision and the courage to tear up so much of the past and to meet that challenge.

Thank you very much indeed.

Questions and Answers

QUESTION:You speak about the need for negotiation and dialogue. President Obama, of course, has been speaking of that as well, and the United States has changed its policies, particularly with regard to Iran. The United States, for the first time in many years, is negotiating directly with Iran.

But the question, then, is—to negotiate and to dialogue requires both sides. There are obviously some real questions about whether the Iranians are prepared to do anything other than perhaps talk for the sake of getting some time. What do you do if the people you want to engage with don't really want to engage with you in a meaningful way?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: That is a central question. I could say that the dialogue with Iran is what I described as two formerly hostile neighbors talking to each other over the garden fence. There's a certain nervousness about it.

But I think the thesis I'm putting forward is that if we only think that dialogue can be between government and government, we misunderstand the nature of the network world. I know many Iranians who talk to me, for instance, about the misunderstanding of the West about Iranian philosophy, pointing out that Iranian philosophy is largely based on Western philosophers in its inception rather than on Eastern philosophers, and saying, why can't we understand that there are common bonds and common ideas behind that which we can build on?

In a sense, when I talk about networking, I'm talking about networking through this new means of communication, where we do begin to involve not just those who understand negotiating, but also those who have wider interests and with whom we can make common agreement. I mentioned earlier the agreements that are now being made between professionals across boundaries, between regulatory bodies across boundaries. I think these are the things that we should be working on, as well as trying to open dialogue of the sort that you're talking about.

I think, at the moment, we're only firing with one barrel of a two-barrel gun.

QUESTION: What is the relationship of the network world when it comes to nuclear proliferation issues, as opposed to the top-down political world?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I think what's happening in terms of nuclear proliferation, in my view, is very interesting, because it's got two sides to it. We're looking at the threat of proliferation at the moment. Iran is obviously part of that, but also the instability of Pakistan gives rise to certain concerns as to whether even that constraint around their nuclear weapons in the long term is going to prove to be sustainable.

So on the one side, you have got this threat of nuclear proliferation—the view that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon, Saudi Arabia will purchase one, Turkey will develop one, and you'll begin to see the Middle East becoming nuclearized. But against that you have new movements which are moving in the opposite direction. You've got the Sam Nunn/Henry Kissinger/William Perry initiative here, talking about multinational nuclear disarmament, where the aim is common, but the speed at which each may go is slightly different.

That is now being reflected in Europe. We had a meeting on Wednesday this week in which we launched something called the Top Level Group in Britain, which is composed of two ex-foreign secretaries, three ex-defense secretaries—I'm a member of it and a number of senior generals are members of it—where we're trying to replicate that and saying we need to show that, above partisan politics, above national politics, there is a movement now to try and move the world in the opposite direction from nuclear proliferation. We're not just telling others not to do it. We're beginning to say we have to be part of that ourselves.

So you have those two countervailing forces. One is not, I would say, part of the network world. The second one, the one that started with the Sam Nunn initiative here, is very much something which can only be taken forward through the types of mechanisms that the network world makes available.

QUESTION: Thank you for being so young in your thoughts and looking forward.

Could you expand on and be more explicit about the role of private enterprise in this networking world? You gave the very exciting example of a German consortium working on alternative energy sources, which will be very significant. I was just thinking of how the British Empire grew and the Dutch empire grew and so forth through trade. Very often it's the businesspeople who have the vision of expansion and communication. Maybe we're going back to this and it can be a determining force.

Also please speak more about the role of NGOs—this whole climate change environment. There are so many areas where the people networking through NGOs have had an impact.

MICHAEL ANCRAM: If I can just deal with NGOs first, I think NGOs play a very important part in the network world, because they do cross boundaries. I have one concern about NGOs. They are unaccountable, in the end. Most other bodies answer to someone, whether it's their shareholders or their electorate or whatever it might be. But NGOs generally are not accountable. And I think we have to be careful that we don't create a world of NGOs which suddenly is not accountable to anybody. That's something which I just put in balance against what I think is a very real contribution that they can make in the world as it's changing.

I think you're absolutely right about trade. The interesting thing about China at the moment, if you travel, like I do, around certain parts of the world, is to see not Chinese troops on the ground, but to see Chinese workers on the ground, to see Chinese businesses on the ground. I

f you go to Africa at the moment, most of the infrastructural work being done in some of the most difficult countries there is being carried out by the Chinese. Because the Chinese are doing that, they're not only looking after their own interests—because most of these countries have some natural resource which the Chinese are quite keen to make sure doesn't go elsewhere—but at the same time, they are selling themselves as being people who go out into the world and help. Again, as I said earlier, using this sort of concept of the network world, they are able, through trade, to begin to pursue that.

I, three or four years ago, was very nervous about this organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which I saw as a power threat to the West. The more I look at it, it's actually a commercial threat and a social threat to the West, and one that we have no means of combating at the moment because we haven't addressed the need for it ourselves.

But as you say, trade is going to be one of the greatest ways in which this can be achieved.

QUESTION: In Obama's America, few people need persuading on the virtues of soft power. But I wonder if you're not throwing the baby out with the bath water on hard power. In particular, I was quite surprised by your comments on the Balkans. Most people think it was the exercise of hard power, in the form of air strikes ordered by Bill Clinton, that led to an end in the Bosnian war and the genocidal consequences, as well as the air strikes on Belgrade, which ended the reign of terror in Kosovo, as well as leading eventually to the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic, who had been discredited by his fatal misadventures.

This would seem actually to vindicate the notion that hard power and soft power are both required in order to try to achieve the outcomes that we want in the world today. Serbia would not be knocking at the gates of the EU, the great exemplar of soft power, Croatia would not be in it today had these steps not been taken, while a couple of hundred thousand Kosovars might be festering in refugee camps on the Albanian border.

Do you really think we'd be better off if hard power hadn't been used in these cases?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: No. And to be fair, I don't think I said that. I said there was a moment when hard power was the way forward, and it worked at the time. I mentioned the Balkans as one example of that.

But I think what concerns me about the Balkans—we achieved what we set out to achieve, and in some cases we achieved it, you might argue, without the benefit of legality. On the action we took in Kosovo, we did not have the support of the United Nations. That was, if you like, hard power at its rawest, when you actually say, "We're going to do this, whether we're allowed to or not, because we think that the end justifies the means."

I tell you what troubles me is, if you go to the Balkans at the moment, we're still there. When I say to our people there on the ground, "When do you think you are coming home?" they say, "We're not coming home at the moment, because if we go, we're going to see trouble breaking out again." That's what I meant. I said it worked for a time, and then we got bogged down.

I'm asking how long you are going to stay in one particular part of the world in order to make sure that it doesn't become a failure. It's that whole question of, the more you rely on hard power, the more you are unable to get out.

I don't for a moment think that you don't have to have hard power sometimes. I've actually made the case when I've been arguing about the need to talk to some of these rather less salubrious organizations, like Hamas and Hezbollah, that you don't have to stop exercising hard power to indulge in dialogue. When I was in Northern Ireland, we were fighting the IRA [Irish Republican Army] on the ground at the same time as I was talking to them privately. They were bombing us on the mainland at the same time as I was talking to them privately.

The two can go hand in hand. What I'm really arguing as something that worries me is where we are essentially becoming bogged down because of the way that we have operated, albeit in the short term, successfully in the past.

Those who are on, if you like, the other side of the argument—the Chinese and everybody else—are able to move forward precisely because they have not become bogged down. Somehow, we have to move from the bogged-down areas into being able to be more flexible and to move outside that as well.

QUESTION: When you mention the British role in dealing with the IRA and the like in Northern Ireland, you're dealing with people of a similar background—Christian of one kind or another, they all live in the British Isles. It's a little bit different than when you're dealing with people from a lot of the parts of the world, which leads me to my question.

All of the developments that you're talking about make a lot of sense in terms of the ongoing trend, but there is one factor that is not addressed. Throughout history, something, someone has always gummed up the works whenever we have talked intellectually of coming up with all kinds of international negotiations on free trade and all that stuff. Right now we have an axis that is developing with Putin of Russia, Chávez of Venezuela, the Tehran folks, and so on. They mean business of a different kind. They are not necessarily committed to a nice, logical networking situation.

What you described, to me, is somewhat of a power vacuum which is now existing. How do you fill that vacuum that you are describing? If the United States and Britain and Australia are not going to take the lead, someone else will, there will be some sort of void that needs to be filled somehow. How do you fill that void? What do you see as the role of the West?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: As I said earlier, I don't think what I'm arguing is mutually exclusive of having to use hard power where you need to use it.

You mentioned Russia. What began to develop my thoughts was, last year, when the Russians moved into South Ossetia and, in fact, into Georgia. I thought to myself, if we had accepted what Georgia asked us two years ago—that they should be part of NATO—what would we be doing? Would we be saying, "A NATO country has been invaded, and we're going to deploy the forces of NATO against Russia"? I think the answer is almost undoubtedly no.

That again began to raise in my mind the question as to whether this old vision of having a NATO which can stand up against the threats from other countries, such as Russia—or the Soviet Union, as it was then—is actually viable anymore. I began to doubt.

Again, we talk about Ukraine becoming part of NATO. Something like 50 percent of the Ukrainian population are Russian. What happens if there's a conflict? How do we resolve that through the NATO mechanisms, if you like, of defense and mutual assurance? I don't think you can.

That's why my mind keeps on saying there must be another and a better way forward. I think there will be moments when you will get threats from Russia and from Chávez in Venezuela.

I am astounded—and I'm not sure what the situation is here in the United States—how little we in Europe have actually been looking at Brazil, who are actually holding out their hands to us to say, "Come and be involved." They are going to have the Olympic Games there. Yet we somehow say that's another part of the world, nothing to do with us.

In the network world, it's the other end of an internet line, and very close.

Those are the areas we should be developing if we are going to try and combat the threat of Chávez in Venezuela, rather than trying to set up hard-power structures in order to do so.

On the IRA, I would just say this. Everybody says to me, "Well, they were Christian." I don't think the argument to do with the IRA was ever anything to do with religion.

For four years I was in Northern Ireland and people used to say to me, "Oh, it's a sectarian conflict. It's all about religion."

I'd say, "Do remind me what the religious question was that set this argument going in the first place."

They used to look at me in absolute horror and say, "We don't know what you mean."

It wasn't religious. It was tribal. There were two different tribes. Most of the conflicts in the world are tribal in the same way.

And I can assure you that the bombs that were planted by the IRA were equally painful in blowing people up as those that are planted by terrorists in the Middle East.

QUESTION: Given that we live in a network world, I'm having a hard time getting my hands around this thesis of yours. It sounds as though you wish to harness this whole network world. But I don't understand how you plan to do that. Do you want to unify it somehow? Do you want to have an international czar looking at this?

In the end, it's driven by political leadership. Right now we have a terrible division in this country, as you know. Probably half of Americans believe in soft power and the other half believe in hard power. That's what our current administration has to cope with.

It sounds to me a little bit as though we are calling on major world leaders to listen to this new cacophony of the network world and try to sort out what makes sense and what doesn't.

How do you harness this whole beast that you have been talking about and make it work?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I think that is, if you like, the real challenge. I'm not going to duck that. I'm not an expert in modern technology, but I watch my children, who talk to people all over the world about all sorts of issues using all the modern technology. And they have their opinions.

This wasn't the case when I was their age. We now live in a community where—Twitter is a very good example of this, where something that happened in Australia recently became a major talking point in Britain within 12 hours because of the use of that technology. We don't live in a world, as I said, where we look to our leaders to say what we should be thinking about what's happening in another part of the world.

I don't know how you control what I called a quasi-revolution. What I do think is, it's happening, and it's incumbent on those of us who may or may not be in positions of responsibility to work out how we do control it, how we do use it, how we do make sure we accept that leadership is becoming more lateral rather than vertical, and how we make sure that we don't lose leadership altogether because of that.

That may be a very general answer. But it's the accepting that the problem is there and the reality is there that's going to lead us to a solution. At the moment, my concern is that we go on as if it isn't there. That is something which I think the East has now realized is there, and the longer we take to realize it, the more disadvantageous our position is going to be.

QUESTION: Just an opening comment. One of the Commonwealth citizens that probably has an interest and point of view on the world is a Canadian novelist called Margaret Atwood. I suggest that it's dystopia rather than utopia.

This leads me to the question. You have a religious education, in part. I see that there were some Benedictine monks in your past. I'm curious. Your ethical and philosophical views on the real world—the experts say that by 2050 or so, there will be nine billion people in this world, not six billion.

Whether you're a dictator or an urban gang member or a terrorist or a freedom fighter, to twist an old beyond-the-fringe remark, it's very difficult to tell the difference when you're being disemboweled by one. I see the world. I don't see much difference between Africa and Chechnya and the Shining Path in Peru. They've all got guns, and they will either shoot you or decapitate you or chop off your arms.

Now, how do we deal with this world, really?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: I do think, in my experience, the first thing you need to do is to understand why they are intent upon chopping off your arms or shooting you or decapitating you.

I said earlier that I have been talking to Hamas and Hezbollah now for three years, on a private basis, because I made a speech saying that we were going to have to talk to them sometime and they invited me to come and talk to them. The one thing I have learned, like I learned with the IRA—I may disagree with their methods. I may disagree with a lot of their political objectives. But they are not the same threat as al-Qaeda is. al-Qaeda is an international threat. It has a fundamentalist vision of a world that is controlled in one particular direction. Most of these others you talked about are what I call localized or nationalist terrorist threats, where I do think there is more ability through dialogue to begin to come to terms with them and to find a way through.

In my lifetime—I started off when I was young watching two British wars going on. One was in Cyprus and the other was in Kenya. In both cases, I remember being told that EOKA in Cyprus was a terrible terrorist organization that murdered people in their beds, that the Mau Mau in Kenya ate children alive—all the stories you tell about terrorists. Within six years of both of those wars, the leaders of those organizations were dining at Buckingham Palace with the queen because they had become the governments of their countries.

The lesson from that is that being a terrorist, on a nationalist terrorist basis, is not a permanent condition, and that often it's prolonged because we don't actually take the trouble to go and find out what the reality is behind what they are doing.

I ask the question now—I look at what we did in Northern Ireland—if we hadn't actually taken the advice of then-American administration and began to engage with the IRA, I suggest we would still be in the course of the Troubles as we were when I first went there; nothing would have been achieved. Terrorism would still be rampant.

I go back to what I was saying. In the end, it's trying to understand people. It's trying to break out of preconceptions. By networking with them—that doesn't mean agreeing with them—by networking with them, we can begin to make approaches where approaches before were not possible.

And I may say my Benedictine education has little to do with that. I'm a great adherent of St. Francis of Assisi, who had rather a different view of life.

QUESTION: This question is quite different from the very interesting subject that you have been dealing with. But I do want to ask, if the Conservatives were to win the elections next year, do you think they might rejoin the European People's Party on the side with Angela Merkel's party and Nicolas Sarkozy's party?

MICHAEL ANCRAM: Not as they presently are speaking.

I need to be careful what I say here, because I, as shadow foreign secretary, negotiated with the European People's Party an agreement which I thought was very satisfactory, where we and our friends in the European Parliament were able to say, "We don't agree with your vision of an integrated Europe and we are entitled to say so."

Unfortunately, that pact is no longer in place. Therefore, the split that took place has taken place.

One of the difficulties—and it's going to be a difficulty in the years ahead—is, now that it looks as if Lisbon is going to go through, we are now going to find ourselves philosophically in a Europe with which we fundamentally are in disagreement, which we think is actually unacceptable.

There is a difference of opinion. It's not one of prejudice. It's one of a vision of how Europe should be looking forward: "There is the integrated Europe. There is the Europe that speaks with one voice." Although I don't think you will ever find Europe speaking with one voice, that is the vision. That is the vision of the European People's Party. They talk quite openly about an integrated Europe.

Also the president of the European Commission said the other day, on his reelection, "My aim now is to complete the unification of Europe."

The Conservative Party in Britain and other parties, I have to say, within Europe as well, see a Europe of nations as being something which we should be fighting for, a confederation, if you like, a looser binding together, where some countries, if they want to be more integrated, can be more integrated; others that don't want to be needn't be more integrated.

I would go further, myself. I would say that I don't think Turkey will ever become a fully integrated member of an integrated Europe, because I don't think it will want to, in the end, when it sees what an integrated Europe is actually doing. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't become a member at all. I think there is a vision of a Europe in which Turkey could be an associate member, able to take part in the trading sites without having to take part in some of the more restrictive covenanted sites of Europe. I think that would be a healthy Europe.

So there are two views, and undoubtedly over the next few years, there are going to be big debates about this, particularly as I expect to get a Conservative government in the United Kingdom. We will be arguing for the latter. I just hope that we can do it politely with our European colleagues and we can say to them, "If you want to have your very close club, do so. There are those of us in Europe who would like to be part of a slightly different Europe. We can live together at the same time."

JOANNE MYERS: On that note, I thank you very much for coming here to New York and sharing your views. I thank you all for joining us.

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