Senator John Kerry Remarks
Georgetown University -For January 23, 2003
Thursday, January 23, 2003
As our government conducts one war and prepares for another, I come here today to make clear that we can do a better job of making our country safer and stronger. We need a new approach to national security - a bold, progressive internationalism that stands in stark contrast to the too often belligerent and myopic unilateralism of the Bush Administration. I offer this new course at a critical moment for the country that we love, and the world in which we live and lead. Thanks to the work and sacrifice of generations who opposed aggression and defended freedom, for others as well as ourselves, America now stands as the world's foremost power. We should be proud: Not since the age of the Romans have one people achieved such preeminence. But we are not Romans; we do not seek an empire. We are Americans, trustees of a vision and a heritage that commit us to the values of democracy and the universal cause of human rights. So while we can be proud, we must be purposeful and mindful of our principles: And we must be patient - aware that there is no such thing as the end of history. With great power, comes grave responsibility.
We are all of us too aware, since September 11th, of the gravity of the times and the greatness of the stakes. Having won the Cold War, a brief season of content has been succeeded by a new war against terrorism which is an assault on the very progress we have made.
Throughout our history, in peaceful exertion and in armed struggle, we were steadfast - we were right on the central issue of freedom, and we prevailed. And because we prevailed the world is a far better place than it was or would otherwise have been. The world today has a strong democratic core shaped by American ingenuity, sacrifice, and spirit. But on the periphery are many unstable and dangerous places, where terrorists seek to impose a medieval dark age. As we learned so brutally and so personally, we do face a new threat. But we also face a renewed choice - between isolation in a perilous world, which I believe is impossible in any event, and engagement to shape a safer world which is the urgent imperative of our time. A choice between those who think you can build walls to keep the world out, and those who want to tear down the barriers that separate "us" from "them." Between those who want America to go it alone, and those who want America to lead the world toward freedom. The debate over how the United States should conduct itself in the world is not new. After all, what is today's unilateralism but the right's old isolationist impulse in modern guise? At its core is a familiar and beguiling illusion: that America can escape an entangling world...that we can wield our enormous power without incurring obligations to others...and that we can pursue our national interests in arrogant ways that make a mockery of our nation's ideals. I am here today to reject the narrow vision of those who would build walls to keep the world out, or who would prefer to strike out on our own instead of forging coalitions and step by step creating a new world of law and mutual security. I believe the Bush Administration's blustering unilateralism is wrong, and even dangerous, for our country. In practice, it has meant alienating our long-time friends and allies, alarming potential foes and spreading anti-Americanism around the world. Too often they've forgotten that energetic global leadership is a strategic imperative for America, not a favor we do for other countries. Leading the world's most advanced democracies isn't mushy multilateralism -- it amplifies America's voice and extends our reach. Working through global institutions doesn't tie our hands -- it invests US aims with greater legitimacy and dampens the fear and resentment that our preponderant power sometimes inspires in others. In a world growing more, not less interdependent, unilateralism is a formula for isolation and shrinking influence. As much as some in the White House may desire it, America can't opt out of a networked world. We can do better than we are doing today. And those who seek to lead have a duty to offer a clear vision of how we make Americans safer and make America more trusted and respected in the world.
That vision is defined by looking to our best traditions -- to the tough-minded strategy of international engagement and leadership forged by Wilson and Roosevelt in two world wars and championed by Truman and Kennedy in the Cold War. These leaders recognized that America's safety depends on energetic leadership to rally the forces of freedom And they understood that to make the world safe for democracy and individual liberty, we needed to build international institutions dedicated to establishing the rule of law over the law of the jungle. That's why Roosevelt pushed hard for the United Nations and the World Bank and IMF. It's why Truman insisted not only on creating NATO, but also on a Marshall Plan to speed Europe's recovery. It's why Kennedy not only faced down the Soviets during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but also signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and launched the Peace Corps to put American idealism to work in developing countries. He spoke out for an America strong because of its ideals as well as its weapons.
For us today, the past truly is prologue. The same principles and strength of purpose must guide our way. Our task now is to update that tradition, to forge a bold progressive internationalism for the global age. As I said last summer in New York, for Democrats to win America's confidence we must first convince Americans we will keep them safe. You can't do that by avoiding the subjects of national security, foreign policy and military preparedness. Nor can we let our national security agenda be defined by those who reflexively oppose any U.S. military intervention anywhere...who see U.S. power as mostly a malignant force in world politics...who place a higher value on achieving multilateral consensus than necessarily protecting our vital interests. Americans deserve better than a false choice between force without diplomacy and diplomacy without force. I believe they deserve a principled diplomacy...backed by undoubted military might...based on enlightened self-interest, not the zero-sum logic of power politics...a diplomacy that commits America to lead the world toward liberty and prosperity. A bold, progressive internationalism that focuses not just on the immediate and the imminent but insidious dangers that can mount over the next years and decades, dangers that span the spectrum from the denial of democracy, to destructive weapons, endemic poverty and epidemic disease. These are, in the truest sense, not just issues of international order and security, but vital issues of our own national security. So how would this approach, this bold progressive internationalism, differ from the Bush Administration's erratic unilateralism and reluctant engagement? The answer starts by understanding the nature and source of the threat we face.
While we must remain determined to defeat terrorism, it isn't only terrorism we are fighting. It's the beliefs that motivate terrorists. A new ideology of hatred and intolerance has arisen to challenge America and liberal democracy. It seeks a war of Islam - as defined by extremists - against the rest of the world and we must be clear its epicenter is the Greater Middle East.
It's critical that we recognize the conditions that are breeding this virulent new form of anti-American terrorism. If you look at countries stretching from Morocco through the Middle East and beyond...broadly speaking the western Muslim world...what you see is a civilization under extraordinary stress. The region's political and economic crisis is vividly captured in a recent report written by Arab scholars for the United Nations Development Program and the Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development. Let me quote:
"The wave of democracy that transformed governance in most of the world has barely reached the Arab states...The freedom deficit undermines human development and is one of the most painful manifestations of lagging political development."
According to Freedom House, there are no full-fledged democracies among the 16 Arab states of the Middle East and North Africa. The Middle East is not monolithic; there are governments making progress and struggling effectively with change in Jordan, Morocco and Qatar. But Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria are among the 10 least free nations in the world. Political and economic participation among Arab women is the lowest in the world and more than half of Arab women are still illiterate. And these countries are among the most economically isolated in the world, with very little trade apart from the oil royalties which flow to those at the very top. Since 1980, the share of world trade held by the 57 member countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference has fallen from 15 percent to just four percent. The same countries attracted only $13.6 billion worth of foreign direct investment in 2001. That is just $600 million - only about 5 % - more than Sweden, which has only 9 million people compared to 1.3 billion people. In 1969, the GDP of South Korea and Egypt were almost identical. Today, South Korea boasts one of the 20 largest economies in the world while Egypt's remains economically frozen almost exactly where it was thirty years before.
A combination of harsh political repression, economic stagnation, lack of education and opportunity, and rapid population growth has proven simply explosive. The streets are full of young people who have no jobs... no prospects... no voice. State-controlled media encourage a culture of self-pity, victimhood and blame-shifting. This is the breeding ground for present and future hostility to the West and our values. From this perspective, it's clear that we need more than a one-dimensional war on terror. Of course we need to hunt down and destroy those who are plotting mass murder against Americans and innocent people from Africa to Asia to Europe. We must drain the swamps of terrorists; but you don't have a prayer of doing so if you leave the poisoned sources to gather and flow again. That means we must help the vast majority people of the greater Middle East build a better future. We need to illuminate an alternative path to a futile Jihad against the world...a path that leads to deeper integration of the greater Middle East into the modern world order.
The Bush Administration has a plan for waging war but no plan for winning the peace. It has invested mightily in the tools of destruction but meagerly in the tools of peaceful construction. It offers the peoples in the greater Middle East retribution and war but little hope for liberty and prosperity.
What America needs today is a smarter, more comprehensive and far-sighted strategy for modernizing the greater Middle East. It should draw on all of our nation's strengths: military might, the world's largest economy, the immense moral prestige of freedom and democracy - and our powerful alliances.
Let me emphasize that last asset in this mission: our alliances. This isn't a task that we should or need to shoulder alone. If anything, our transatlantic partners have a greater interest than we do in an economic and political transformation in the greater Middle East. They are closer to the front lines. More heavily dependent on oil imports. Prime magnets for immigrants seeking jobs. Easier to reach with missiles and just as vulnerable to terrorism. Meanwhile, NATO is searching for a new mission. What better way to revitalize the most successful and enduring alliance in history, then to reorient it around a common threat to the global system that we have built over more than a half-century of struggle and sacrifice? The Administration has tried to focus NATO on the Middle East, but it's high-handed treatment of our European allies, on everything from Iraq to the Kyoto climate change treaty, has strained relations nearly to the breaking point. We can do better. With creative leadership, the U.S. can enlist our allies in a sustained multilateral campaign to build bridges between the community of democracies and the greater Middle East - not just for them, but for us. Here, in my view, is what this strategy should look like.
First, destroying al Qaeda and other anti-American terror groups must remain our top priority. While the Administration has largely prosecuted this war with vigor, it also has made costly mistakes. The biggest, in my view, was their reluctance to translate their robust rhetoric into American military engagement in Afghanistan. They relied too much on local warlords to carry the fight against our enemies and this permitted many al Qaeda members, and according to evidence, including Osama bin Laden himself, to slip through our fingers. Now the Administration must redouble its efforts to track them down. And we need to pressure Pakistan to get control of its territories along the Afghanistan border, which have become a haven for terrorists.
Second, without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime. We all know the litany of his offenses. He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation. He miscalculated an eight-year war with Iran. He miscalculated the invasion of Kuwait. He miscalculated America's response to that act of naked aggression. He miscalculated the result of setting oil rigs on fire. He miscalculated the impact of sending scuds into Israel and trying to assassinate an American President. He miscalculated his own military strength. He miscalculated the Arab world's response to his misconduct. And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction. That is why the world, through the United Nations Security Council, has spoken with one voice, demanding that Iraq disclose its weapons programs and disarm.
So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real, but it is not new. It has been with us since the end of the Persian Gulf War. Regrettably the current Administration failed to take the opportunity to bring this issue to the United Nations two years ago or immediately after September 11th, when we had such unity of spirit with our allies. When it finally did speak, it was with hasty war talk instead of a coherent call for Iraqi disarmament. And that made it possible for other Arab regimes to shift their focus to the perils of war for themselves rather than keeping the focus on the perils posed by Saddam's deadly arsenal. Indeed, for a time, the Administration's unilateralism, in effect, elevated Saddam in the eyes of his neighbors to a level he never would have achieved on his own, undermining America's standing with most of the coalition partners which had joined us in repelling the invasion of Kuwait a decade ago.
In U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, the United Nations has now affirmed that Saddam Hussein must disarm or face the most serious consequences. Let me make it clear that the burden is resoundingly on Saddam Hussein to live up to the ceasefire agreement he signed and make clear to the world how he disposed of weapons he previously admitted to possessing. But the burden is also clearly on the Bush Administration to do the hard work of building a broad coalition at the U.N. and the necessary work of educating America about the rationale for war. As I have said frequently and repeat here today, the United States should never go to war because it wants to, the United States should go to war because we have to. And we don't have to until we have exhausted the remedies available, built legitimacy and earned the consent of the American people, absent, of course, an imminent threat requiring urgent action.
The Administration must pass this test. I believe they must take the time to do the hard work of diplomacy. They must do a better job of making their case to the American people and to the world.
I have no doubt of the outcome of war itself should it be necessary. We will win. But what matters is not just what we win but what we lose. We need to make certain that we have not unnecessarily twisted so many arms, created so many reluctant partners, abused the trust of Congress, or strained so many relations, that the longer term and more immediate vital war on terror is made more difficult. And we should be particularly concerned that we do not go alone or essentially alone if we can avoid it, because the complications and costs of post-war Iraq would be far better managed and shared with United Nation's participation. And, while American security must never be ceded to any institution or to another institution's decision, I say to the President, show respect for the process of international diplomacy because it is not only right, it can make America stronger - and show the world some appropriate patience in building a genuine coalition. Mr. President, do not rush to war.
And I say to the United Nations, show respect for your own mandates. Do not find refuge in excuses and equivocation. Stand up for the rule of law, not just in words but in deeds. Not just in theory but in reality. Stand up for our common goal: either bringing about Iraq's peaceful disarmament or the decisive military victory of a multilateral coalition.
Third, as we continue our focus on the greater Middle East, the U.S. must look beyond stability alone as the linchpin of our relationships. We must place increased focus on the development of democratic values and human rights as the keys to long-term security. If we learned anything from our failure in Vietnam it is that regimes removed from the people cannot permanently endure. They must reform or they will finally crumble, despite the efforts of the United States. We must side with and strengthen the aspirations of those seeking positive change. America needs to be on the side of the people, not the regimes that keep them down.
In the 1950s, as the sun was setting on European colonialism, a young Senator named John Kennedy went to the Senate floor and urged the Eisenhower Administration not to back France against a rebellious Algeria. He recognized that the United States could only win the Cold War by staying true to our values, by championing the independence of those aspiring to be free. What's at issue today is not U.S. support for colonial powers out of touch with history, but for autocratic regimes out of touch with their own people.
We as Americans must be agents of hope as well as enemies of terrorism. We must help bring modernity to the greater Middle East. We must make significant investments in the education and human infrastructure in developing countries. The globalization of the last decade taught us that simple measures like buying books and family planning can expose, rebut, isolate and defeat the apostles of hate so that children are no longer brainwashed into becoming suicide bombers and terrorists are deprived the ideological breeding grounds. I believe we must reform and increase our global aid to strengthen our focus on the missions of education and health --of freedom for women -- and economic development for all.
The U.S. should take a page from our Cold War playbook. No one expected communism to fall as suddenly as it did. But that didn't prevent us from expanding society-to-society aid to support human rights groups, independent media and labor unions and other groups dedicated to building a democratic culture from the ground up. Democracy won't come to the greater Middle East overnight, but the U.S. should start by supporting the region's democrats in their struggles against repressive regimes or by working with those which take genuine steps towards change.
We must embark on a major initiative of public diplomacy to bridge the divide between Islam and the rest of the world. We must make avoidance of the clash of civilizations the work of our generation: Engaging in a new effort to bring to the table a new face of the Arab world -- Muslim clerics, mullahs, imams and secular leaders -- demonstrating for the entire world a peaceful religion which can play an enormous role in isolating and rebutting those practitioners who would pervert Islam's true message. Fourth, The Middle East isn't on the Bush Administration's trade agenda. We need to put it there.
The United States and its transatlantic partners should launch a high-profile Middle East trade initiative designed to stop the economic regression in the Middle East and spark investment, trade and growth in the region. It should aim at dismantling trade barriers that are among the highest in the world, encouraging participation in world trade policy and ending the deep economic isolation of many of the region's countries.
I propose the following policy goals: We should build on the success of Clinton Administration's Jordan Free Trade Agreement. Since the United States reduced tariffs on goods made in "qualifying industrial zones," Jordan's exports to the US jumped from $16 to $400 million, creating about 40,000 jobs. Let's provide similar incentives to other countries that agree to join the WTO, stop boycotting Israel and supporting Palestinian violence against Israel, and open up their economies. We should also create a general duty-free program for the region, just as we've done in the Caribbean Basin Initiative and the Andean Trade Preference Act. Again, we should set some conditions: full cooperation in the war on terror, anti-corruption measures, non-compliance with the Israel boycott, respect for core labor standards and progress toward human rights. Let's be clear: Our goal is not to impose some western free market ideology on the greater Middle East. It's to open up a region that is now closed to opportunity, an outpost of economic exclusion and stagnation in a fast-globalizing world.
These countries suffer from too little globalization, not too much. Without greater investment, without greater trade within the region and with the outside world, without the transparency and legal protections that modern economies need to thrive, how will these countries ever be able to grow fast enough to provide jobs and better living standards for their people? But as we extend the benefits of globalization to people in the greater Middle East and the developing world in general, we also need to confront globalization's dark side. We should use the leverage of capital flows and trade to lift, not lower, international labor and environmental standards. We should strengthen the IMF's ability to prevent financial panics from turning into full-scale economic meltdowns such as we've seen in Argentina. And in the Middle East especially, we need to be sensitive to fears that globalization will corrupt or completely submerge traditional cultures and mores. We can do these things.
Fifth, and finally, we must have a new vision and a renewed engagement to reinvigorate the Mideast peace process. This Administration made a grave error when it disregarded almost seventy years of American friendship and leadership in the Middle East and the efforts of every President of the last 30 years. A great nation like ours should not be dragged kicking and resisting - should not have to be pressured to the task of making peace. A great nation like ours should be leading the effort to make peace or we risk encouraging through our inaction the worst instincts of an already troubled region.
Israel is our ally, the only true democracy in this troubled region, and we know that Israel as a partner is fundamental to our security. From Truman through Clinton, America has always been committed to Israel's independence and survival - we will never waver.
Israel's security will be best assured over the long term if real and lasting peace can be brought to the Middle East. I know from my own trips to Israel that the majority of the Israeli people understand and expect that one day there will be a Palestinian state. Their frustration is that they do not see a committed partner in peace on the Palestinian side. Palestinians must stop the violence - this is the fundamental building block of the peace process. The Palestinian leadership must be reformed, not only for the future of the Palestinian people but also for the sake of peace. I believe Israel would respond to this new partner after all, Israel has already indicated its willingness to freeze settlements and to move toward the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of a comprehensive peace process.
Without demanding unilateral concessions, the United States must mediate a series of confidence building steps which start down the road to peace. Both parties must walk this path together - simultaneously. And the world can help them do it. While maintaining our long term commitment to Israel's existence and security, the United States must work to keep both sides focused on the end game of peace. Extremists must not be allowed to control this process. American engagement and successful mediation are not only essential to peace in this war-torn area but also critical to the success of our own efforts in the war against terrorism. When I visited the region last year, in meetings with King Abdullah of Jordan, President Mubarak of Egypt, and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, it became clear that September 11th had changed the imperatives of these countries. The Bush Administration has missed an opportunity to enlist much greater support in the peace process and needs to focus on this urgent priority- now.
The transformation of the Middle East which can come from these efforts will determine much of our future - but we must also look to the challenges on the rest of the planet. We must build a new and more effective role for the United States in the rest of this complex world. The central challenge for the United States is to undertake and lead the most global, comprehensive effort in history to deal with proliferation generally and nuclear weapons lost or loose in a dangerous world specifically. It is no secret that there are those lurking in the shadows eager to capitalize on a deadly market for nuclear materials held in insecure facilities around the world.
Five years ago, authorities seized a nuclear fuel rod that had been stolen from the Congo. The security guard entrusted with protecting it had simply lent out his keys to the storage facility. Two years later, even after near disaster, the facility was guarded only by a few underpaid guards, rusty gates, and a simple padlock.
The potential consequences are fearful and undeniable. In October 2001, we picked up warnings that terrorists had acquired a 10-kiloton nuclear bomb. If detonated in New York City, hundreds of thousands of Americans would have died, and most of Manhattan would have been destroyed. Sam Nunn had an important warning, "This intelligence report was judged to be false. But it was never judged to be implausible or impossible."
This Administration's approach to the menace of loose nuclear materials is strong on rhetoric, but short on execution. It relies primarily and unwisely on the threat of military preemption against terrorist organizations, which can be defeated if they are found, but will not be deterred by our military might.
It is time instead for the most determined, all-out effort ever initiated to secure the world's nuclear materials and weapons of mass des. We must offer our own blueprint for the mission of threat reduction. Comprehensively securing materials and keeping them from falling into the wrong hands demands a global perspective and international action. The only answer - the clear imperative - is a multilateral framework implementing a global consensus that weapons of mass destruction under the control of terrorists represent the most serious threat to international security today, and warrants an urgent and global response. We must marshal a great international effort to inventory and secure these materials wherever they may be and in whatever quantity. We must create mechanisms to help those that would be responsible stewards but lack the financial and technical means to succeed We must establish worldwide standards for the security and safekeeping of nuclear material and define a new standard of international legitimacy, linking the stewardship of nuclear materials under universally accepted protocols to acceptance in the community of nations. Nowhere is the need more clear or urgent than in North Korea.
There the Bush Administration has offered only a merry go-round policy. They got up on their high horse, whooped and hollered, rode around in circles, and ended right back where they'd started. By suspending talks initiated by the Clinton Administration, then asking for talks but with new conditions, then refusing to talk under the threat of nuclear blackmail, and then reversing that refusal as North Korea's master of brinkmanship upped the ante, the Administration created confusion and put the despot Kim Jong Il in the driver's seat. By publicly taking military force, negotiations, and sanctions all off the table, the Administration tied its own hands behind its back. Now, finally, the Administration is rightly working with allies in the region - acting multilaterally -- to put pressure on Pyongyang. They've gotten off the merry go round - the question is why you'd ever want to be so committed to unilateralist dogma that you'd get on it in the first place.
So too has the Administration missed major opportunities to address the downside of globalization by creating its upside - relief for nations around the globe struggling against environmental degradation, global health crises, debt relief in exchange for better development policies and improved trade relationships. We need to show the face of enlightened-not robber barren capitalism-something I will expand on in the months ahead.
One of the clearest opportunities missed is the environment. America has not led but fled on the issue of global warming. President Bush's declaration that the Kyoto Protocol was simply Dead on Arrival spoke for itself - and it spoke in dozens of languages as his words whipped instantly around the globe. But what the Administration failed to see was that Kyoto was not just an agreement - it was a product of 160 nations working together over 10 years. It was a good faith effort - and the United States just dismissed it. We didn't aim to mend it. We didn't aim to sit down with our allies and find a compromise. We didn't aim for a new dialogue. The Administration was simply ready to aim and fire, and the target they hit was our international reputation. This country can and should aim higher than preserving its place as the world's largest unfettered polluter. And we should assert, not abandon our leadership in addressing global economic degradation and the warming of the atmosphere we share with the other 90% of humanity.
We should be the world's leader in sustainable developmental policies. We should be the world's leader in technology transfer and technical assistance to meet a host of environmental and health challenges. We should rejoin our allies at the negotiating table - and recognize that friends in the fight for environmental clean-up are also the friends we rely on to help clean out the stables of terrorism. And this is a matter of our national security, too. Let me offer one last example: The threat of disintegration and chaos rises steadily in Africa as the continent is increasingly devastated by HIV/AIDS. More than 29 million people there are afflicted with that disease. Africa has 11% of the world's population but 70% of all the people in the world living with HIV/AIDS. Responding is not only morally right, but deeply practical and fundamentally important to the cause of global stability and ultimately our own safety. How can countries -- or whole continents -- torn apart by an untreated epidemic successfully resist the call to violence, terror, and the trade of weapons of mass destruction? There is much that we can do. We have learned that we can change behavior through prevention and education programs, and if we make treatment available for those already sick. We can stop the transmission from mother to child. And we can reduce the growing number of AIDS "orphans" if we start adding voluntary counseling, testing and treatment of parents and care givers to children. Yet the Bush Administration, intent on appeasing its right wing, assails population control while it neglects AIDS control even as that disease threatens to destroy whole populations. We must put our national interests in the claims of compassion ahead of political calculation and conservative dogma. The United States must be a leader in assembling an international coalition with other governments and private sector partners -- a coalition with the will and resources to confront the pandemic of HIV/AIDS with the same determination that we bring to the war on terrorism. I challenge the Bush Administration to develop and implement a comprehensive strategy to help the countries in Africa win the war against AIDS in their own backyard -- backed up by substantial increases in resources, beginning with $2.5 billion for the upcoming fiscal year.
Taken together, I believe these proposals, that I have put forward today, present a far better vision for how we deal with the rest of the world - a better vision for how we build relationships - and how doing so will make America safer. But there are other things we must do as well. I also believe there is a better vision for military transformation; a better vision for intelligence gathering; and a far more effective way of achieving homeland security and domestic preparedness. I intend to lay out detailed proposals on each of these areas in the coming months.
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