Partnership for the Ages

By Gordon Brown, prime minister of the United Kingdom (THE WASHINGTON POST, 30/07/07):

Within a few weeks of becoming prime minister of Great Britain, I have come to the United States to affirm the historic partnership of shared purpose that unites our two countries.

Outside observers may think of even great alliances only in narrow, 19th-century terms: treaties of convenience driven forward by nothing more than mutual needs and current interests.

Yet I believe our Atlantic partnership is rooted in something far more fundamental and lasting than common interests or even common history: It is anchored in shared ideals that have for two centuries linked the destinies of our two countries. Winston Churchill spoke of what he called “the joint inheritance” of Britain and America. But he was thinking of more than just the dates, places and institutions of our shared historical experience. The joint inheritance he wrote of was a shared belief in what he called “the great principles of ‘freedom and the rights of man.’ ” Values that started with the British idea of liberty — from our bill of rights to English common law — found their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence. It led President Ronald Reagan to say that for someone going from Britain to America or from America to Britain it is like “a moment of kinship and homecoming.”

It is because ours is a partnership of purpose founded on values that it has lasted.

And when today, at my meeting with President Bush, I speak of a joint inheritance not just of shared history but shared values founded on a shared destiny, I mean the idea that everyone is created equal, that all faiths should be free to express their beliefs, that arts and culture should celebrate diversity, that government should be open and accountable, that there should be opportunity for all men and all women.

It is these ideas that bind us and give us strength to work together to face down every challenge ahead — from the danger of nuclear proliferation, global poverty and climate change to, today, the biggest single and immediate challenge the world has to defeat: global terrorism that is hostile and hateful to all the values we share.

This partnership of purpose matters now more than ever. For if in the last century we fought together to save the very idea of freedom from the totalitarian threat, in this generation we defend together the ideal of freedom against the terrorist threat.

In this century, it has fallen to America to take center stage. And let me acknowledge the debt the world owes to the United States for its leadership in this struggle.

America has shown by the resilience and bravery of its people from Sept. 11, 2001, to this day that while buildings can be destroyed, values are indestructible; that while lives may be ended, the belief in liberty never dies; and that while hearts may be broken, the faith in a better future is unbreakable.

Since Sept. 11, al-Qaeda has killed thousands of people in 19 countries, irrespective of faith. In Britain there have been 15 attempts at terrorist outrages. Last week, I reported to Parliament that our security services are tracking around 30 potential plots, including potential suicide bombers, involving up to 2,000 people.

It is our shared task to expose terrorism for what it is — not a cause but a crime. A crime against humanity.

All of us must be vigilant in our determination to prevent attacks and defeat the forces of terrorism. And it is the values we share that make us best placed to succeed. For to achieve this we must mobilize all methods of diplomacy, all means of intelligence, all tools of law and policing, and all the bravery of our security and military forces as we isolate terrorist extremists from the peaceful majority.

So today the struggles of the 21st century are the battles that engage military might which we have been fighting together in Iraq and Afghanistan and through NATO — and they are also the battles of ideas.

We should remember that during the Cold War, the united front against Soviet communism involved deterrence through large arsenals of weapons and a cultural effort also on an unprecedented scale, deploying what Roosevelt called the “arsenal of democracy.”

Foundations, trusts, civil society and civic organizations — links and exchanges between schools, universities, museums, institutes, churches, trade unions, sports clubs, societies — were all engaged. Those in newspapers, journals, cultural institutions, the arts and literature sought to expose the difference between moderation and violent extremism.

So now, as then, the way ahead is to support all communities in developing a strong identity resistant to violent extremists trying to recruit vulnerable young people. We must undercut the terrorists’ so-called “single narrative” and defeat their ideas. At home and abroad we must back mainstream and moderate voices and reformers, emphasizing the shared values that exist across faiths and communities. We must expose the contrast between great objectives to tackle global poverty and honor human dignity, and the evils of terrorists who would bomb and maim people irrespective of faith, indifferent to the very existence of human life.

And just as we are united in tackling global terrorism, so we are united in our belief that globalization should be seen as an opportunity and not simply a threat. This is why I know that by working together we can restart the Doha round of world trade talks to the benefit of the whole world economy. And our shared outrage at injustice means we cannot stand by and watch the humanitarian crisis in Darfur without taking action to speed up the deployment of U.N.-African Union troops, call for an immediate cease-fire and, following America’s lead, impose sanctions if necessary.

Separated — yes — by an ocean, we are still united by the streams of history and the strengths of our ideals. Standing together on this foundation we will prevail in the greatest struggles of our times.