A line of motorcycles, black SUVs, and police cars arrived at Kresge Auditorium on Wednesday to escort British foreign secretary David W. Miliband SM ’90, who became the youngest speaker to ever deliver the Compton lecture at MIT. In his lecture, “The War in Afghanistan: How to End it,” Miliband stressed that military operations were not enough to end the war; the Afghans must build their own political system.
“Afghanistan will never achieve a sustainable peace unless many more Afghans are inside the political system, and neighbors are onside with the political settlement,” Miliband said.
Miliband believes that former Afghan insurgents must also be involved with the political process and that there needs to be a program of reintegration for them. Miliband said that the new Afghan government needs to first address the grievances that fueled insurgency in the first place. In order to have a sustainable government, it will be important to ensure that all tribal, ethnic, and other excluded groups be given a real stake in the political process of Afghanistan. The new government needs to have accountability and transparency, he said.
In an interview, Miliband said that he believes increased Afghan capacity in security and governance at the provincial and district levels will be key in making sure the newly secured Afghan district of Marjah remains safe from Taliban attacks. The empowerment of provincial and district governors is crucial in encouraging people to settle their grievances from within the political system rather than outside it.
While the people of Afghanistan play a crucial role inside of the political settlement process, its neighboring countries will need to support it in order for Afghanistan to be successful. Miliband noted the importance of Pakistan, which holds great influence inside Afghanistan. Afghanistan cannot be the site of neighboring power struggles; and other countries need be aware that instability as a result of the Taliban will spill outside Afghan borders.
At the end of the lecture, Miliband was presented with a brass rat by Graduate Student Council president, Alex H. Chan G.
Coming Back to MIT
Miliband was educated at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and received an SM in Political Science from MIT as a Kennedy Scholar in 1990. The invitation to speak at MIT came at an opportune time, he said — he had been looking for a chance to speak in the United States and to tell Americans that they have an ally in the war.
In an interview with The Tech, Miliband said the thing he missed most about MIT, was time. However busy MIT students believe themselves to be, they can be certain that the foreign secretary is busier. “When you are a student you’ve got lots to do, but the time to read, to think, to go to lectures: That may not seem like joy to you, but it is the most precious commodity of all,” he said.
Miliband has other fond memories of MIT. “MIT taught me to ask hard questions, it taught me to read source material, and not just read reports of what people think. It taught me the virtues of respect for scholarship, which I think is important,” he said. “I mean I was only here for 12 months, I was stupid; I should have stayed longer.”
He praised MIT for its global perspective and dedication to public service. “It is important that [MIT] is an institution not only of science, but of society as well. It is the fusion of science and society that holds the potential for progress.”
As Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Miliband is the UK’s equivalent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The last British cabinet minister to speak at MIT was Winston Churchill, who spoke in 1949 about the importance of rebuilding a society with science after war.