Mitchell's was the inaugural lecture of the George J. Mitchell Distinguished International Lecture Series, an initiative of Colby's Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement that promises to bring a prominent world leader to Waterville annually for a speech on international affairs.
The primary challenges we face, he said, are the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons; the increase in terrorist groups and their growing decentralization; and the increase in hostility toward the United States.
The solution, he said, is not in the military. "Although military force must be used when necessary and appropriate, by itself it is plainly insufficient because this is not a conventional war," he said. Instead, America should rely on analyzing the intelligence it collects. "We must do much better at timely, incisive analysis or the mountains of data we collect will be of as little value as they were before 9/11."
America also needs allies. "To win the peace [in the Middle East], to prevail, we need all the help we can get and we are much more likely to get that help if we can broaden, rather than narrow, the international coalition."
With both of these pieces in place, another thing must happen, he said: An end to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which is a major contributor of anti-American sentiments in the Muslim world. The solution, he said, is to give both sides what they want. "I believe that neither can obtain its objective by denying to the other its objective. The Palestinians are never going to achieve a state until the people of Israel have a reasonable degree of security, and Israel will not be able to achieve sustainable security over time until the Palestinians get a state," he said.
Finally, but not least important, is economic stability. "Despair is the fuel for instability and conflict everywhere. Hope is essential to peace and stability," he said. "There can be no hope without opportunity, and that requires economic growth and job creation. It is a universal truth that the best social program is a good job."
Mitchell expressed optimism at the possibility of a world without major war. "From my experience in Northern Ireland I formed the conviction that there's no such thing as a conflict that can't be ended. I saw it happen in Northern Ireland, and with strong leadership it can happen in the Middle East."