March 5, 2010 — Tuesday evening at the Atlantic Council’s fourth annual Christopher J. Makins Lecture, former NATO Secretary General Lord George Robertson delivered a clarion call for political courage and leadership on Afghanistan. “So long as alliance governments remain feeble, reactive, preoccupied and paralyzed in their commitment, then so long will we be in trouble,” he said. “We are on the edge of a precipice.” Echoing Secretary Clinton’s “crisis of leadership” message delivered last week before the Atlantic Council, Lord Robertson offered his strategy for Alliance success.

“Blunt talk” by Lord Robertson:

  • “So I believe now is the time to take the gloves off in connecting with our publics and with their political leaders. We are on the edge of a precipice looking down on a world of growing disorder and discontent and only blunt talk and some straight language will save us from falling over it.”
  • “Be assured, if the Taliban and their allies can defeat the most successful defense alliance in history, why would they stop at Afghanistan? And they won’t. And we all know all that. So why can’t we join the dots between going in and coming out? … We are going to be the next target set for the extremists.”
  • “Why is there such a wobbling of commitment among these European countries, many of whose own survival and freedom today depended on allied solidarity only a couple of generations ago? Well, I will tell you why I think it is. It is because governments do not explain with sufficient force and passionate conviction why being in Afghanistan and winning there matters to the peace and security and the safety of our people a continent-and-a-half away.”
  • “When we are talking about life and death on the real NATO battlefield it’s time for peacetime politeness to end; it’s a dangerous luxury. … So I think the time has come to be honest and brutal in saying what is needed for NATO missions and what is a pure waste of taxpayers’ money.”

For full coverage of the event, which was hosted by German Ambassador to the U.S. Klaus Scharioth, visit the Atlantic Council website.

The Christopher J. Makins annual lecture series honors the memory of the Atlantic Council’s former president, Christopher Makins, by bringing together top European and American minds and policymakers to discuss major challenges facing the Atlantic Community. The series focuses on the state of the Atlantic partnership and its future direction.

The Atlantic Council is a non-partisan organization that promotes constructive U.S. leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the central role of the Atlantic community in meeting today’s global challenges.