By Joe Ferrare
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany, July 26, 2006 – Scores of representatives from almost two dozen nations left the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies here with what could be new directions in the fight against terror after a week-long seminar. Representatives at the seminar, which ended July 21, included Marshall Center alumni from Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Ukraine, as well as speakers and observers.
The alumni seminar is an annual event during which the center invites a select group of alumni who have stayed engaged with the center, and who will continue to learn and use that education to lead, officials said. "The (purpose of the) Alumni Leadership Seminar is to bring back those that have been serving as partners for the Marshall Center in the region over the last year and educate them on a topic that is of importance, with the hope they will go back to their own countries and perhaps do something on this topic," explained Graduate Support Program Chief Alan Gorowitz.
The importance of what the alumni took away from the event was matched by what they brought to it, center Director John P. Rose said. "You represent the best and brightest from within your countries, and we need your help to better understand your thinking, your thoughts, your ideas on what the international community needs to do to address this issue."
The more than 40 participants came from within foreign affairs, defense and interior ministries in countries throughout Europe and Eurasia. The wealth of perspective and experience they brought was valuable to American participants. American officials are trying to work with the international community to defeat terrorism -- despite what keynote speaker retired U.S. Marine Gen. Carlton W. Fulford said is public perception to the contrary.
"The United States has garnered a reputation recently as being unilateralist in its actions. That's not intentional," he said. "If you read the documentation the U.S. has put out -- the National Security Strategy, the National Military Strategy, the recently completed Quadrennial Defense Review -- long words and lots of thought and policy go toward creating, maintaining and supporting partnerships and alliances around the world.
"That's why this conference is so important," he added. "You know the sentiment within your country. You know how your citizens react to U.S. words and actions. Conferences like this help us gain knowledge and understanding, which is greatly needed." Suspicion and misunderstanding take root without such knowledge and understanding, said Fulford, who is director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, in Washington, D.C. "I firmly believe that these two evils -- suspicion and misunderstanding -- are the foundation of the hatred that exists around the world today," he said
Seminar participants came to an understanding about the importance of the fight against terrorism, conference moderator and Marshall Center Professor Sharyl Cross said. "For all the participating countries, the conclusion was that this is, in fact, an important issue for their nations," she said. "It may not be the first priority for nations dealing with other political or economic reform issues, but I think across the board there was a consensus that it is important."
She said the issue would be important for decades, and officials would need to seek international and cultural input to devise the most constructive and effective solution. That kind of input was in evidence at this seminar, Cross said. "We tried to bring together different perspectives from different parts of the world, professional backgrounds and that sort of thing, and were looking at very complex issues from multiple points of view," she said.
Cross noted that the Marshall Center is an ideal venue for exploring such issues, because of the professional experience and internationally diversity of participants. "They can talk about what we can do --working together in the interests of promoting peace and security and addressing the issues."