Remarks at the Trilateral Security Cooperation Conference
GENERAL J. H. BINFORD PEAY, III
12 March 2010
Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, DC
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s with great pleasure that I welcome you this morning to this Trilateral Security Conference on Cooperation in North America. Today’s sessions will give us an opportunity to discuss and review issues critical to the security of our community of North American nations. Before we begin the program, however, I want to thank our hosts and the staff here at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
Mr. Lee H. Hamilton, President and Director of the Center, is someone I have admired for many years for the wisdom and leadership he displayed during his 34 years as a Congressman from Indiana and from my experience working with him as a director on the BAE Inc. Board. His wisdom from a legislature perspective…and from a corporative perspective has been historic, and we all have enormous admiration for this remarkable American. Thanks Lee. I also want to thank most warmly Mr. David Biette, Executive Director of the Canada Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center, and Mr. Andrew Selee, Director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute. These informed and experienced gentlemen have promoted dialogue and policy research that have contributed significantly to promoting understanding and cooperation among our three countries.
The Woodrow Wilson Center, as you know is a living, national memorial to President Wilson, established by Congress in 1968. It is supported by public and private funds and is engaged in the study of national and world affairs. More specifically, the Center fosters research, study, discussion, and collaboration among individuals concerned with policy and scholarship in national and world affairs. By doing so, it provides an essential link between the world of ideas and the world of policy. Its special strength is that it offers a “nonpartisan meeting” ground where vital current issues and their historical background may be explored through research and dialogue
I also want to thank the directors of the North American Research Linkages Program of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade for their generous support of this conference. Their Program is designed to facilitate North American collaboration on public policy issues within the academic community by fostering the development of permanent exchange networks. Through its grants program, it provides assistance to teams of researchers from Canada, the United States, and Mexico in order to organize seminars, workshops, or other forms of research linkages. Among the topics that the Program classifies as highly relevant to Canada, the United States, and Mexico relations is security and public safety, the exact topic of today’s conference.
In today’s complex world, and especially in the international arena, the importance of collaboration -- the importance of listening to, learning from, and working with counterparts -- is essential. Today’s conference provides a splendid setting in which to exchange ideas, discuss substantive issues, and seek solutions to challenges facing our three countries. It is splendid because of its small size, the academic environment provided by the Wilson Center, and the emphasis on nonpartisanship. It is an environment in which each participant can feel free to speak candidly about the issues being discussed. And the only rule of engagement is that if you disagree with any of our presenters’ comments, you should feel free to attack the message…but not the messenger.
The United States, Canada, and Mexico -- the North American community of nations -- have a natural interest in seeking common solutions to security challenges. The term “perimeter defense” has come back into vogue recently with regard to security strategies for North America. At first the emphasis was on defense against terrorism, but the term is being expanded to include natural disasters and efforts against organized crime as components of a broader trilateral agenda or convergence of security interests. The concept of perimeter defense which focuses on trilateral security cooperation among our three nations is a means by which we can explore areas of shared interests and concerns with regard to national security, public security, and public health issues. Today, terrorist attacks, missile defense, drug cartels, pandemic flu, natural disasters, all call for common defense of our community of nations.
Cooperation, however, requires dialog, mutual understanding, and an appreciation of each nation’s particular security culture. Cooperation and collaboration must be built on mutual respect and understanding of each nation’s unique domestic politics and international commitments. Trilateral security cooperation perhaps should be based on a shared concept of a security perimeter, one which seeks to enhance each nation’s legitimate security concerns and is not limited to questions of borders or fences.
This short conference, therefore, is a means by which we can explore opportunities to enhance the trilateral security relationships and discuss areas of state interaction on the federal level, where military, police, and health and safety cooperation can focus on specific threats that demand specific actions that do not threaten national sovereignty or identity. The conference provides a lens through which to focus our collective efforts to deal with new challenges that we face collectively.
Before turning the program back over to Dave Biette, I want to thank our speakers and all participants in this conference, especially at a time that has seen unusually heavy snowfalls – especially in the Washington DC area. I also want to invite all of you to visit – in the warmer months -- the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. At the Institute, we have opened a new $23 million Marshall Center for Leadership and Ethics and are hosting a number of conferences dealing with national, international, and leadership issues. For example, in March 2011, the Institute will sponsor a conference titled “East meets West” to discuss cross-cultural Middle Eastern and Westerns connections. Later in November 2011, our Department of International Studies will sponsor a conference on the United States and China as related to Africa. You can check our website later this year for more information on these conferences if you are interested in attending.
I look forward to today’s sessions and to listening to your presentations, discussion, and questions from our audience. You contribute to the security of our country and the international education of so many.
Thank you, again, for attending today.