04 February 2002
Text: Sen. Biden Says Sept. 11 Shifted U.S. Focus to Foreign Policy
(Limited resources force hard choices among defense needs, he
Terrorist attacks on the United States homeland have given the
American public "a fuller appreciation of why foreign policy matters,"
and even have served as "a wake-up call to the unilateralists in the
Bush administration," the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee says.
Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware praised President Bush for turning to
coalition-building in the wake of the September 11 attacks --
particularly with regard to the war in Afghanistan -- after coming
into office, in Biden's words, "disdainful of engagement with the
"I commend him for this. Epiphanies, I believe, are veto-proof. We can
only hope they're permanent as well," Biden said in a speech delivered
February 4 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Speaking on the day that the administration released its budget
proposal for the fiscal year that starts October 1, Biden stressed
that limited resources require the government to make tough choices
with respect to priority defense demands.
He made it clear that his own priorities lean toward taking steps to
prevent potential aggressors from acquiring massive weapons stocks
that exist in Russia, and away from development of the expensive
missile defense system being urged by the president.
"In my book, not to mention that of the (military) Joint Chiefs and
the National Intelligence Estimate, terrorism with weapons of mass
destruction -- but without ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles)
-- is the greatest threat we face," Biden said.
Again, he estimated that a multi-pronged strategy aimed at securing
Russia's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and technology --
including a write-off of some Soviet-era debt -- would cost some
$45,000 million. That is "still less than the price of that mid-course
intercept system to defend us against ICBMs," he said.
Biden gave his talk on the eve of a series of hearings his committee
will hold on the subject, "Securing America's Future." The hearings
are to open February 5, when Secretary of State Colin Powell will be
asked to provide a foreign policy overview and discuss the president's
foreign affairs budget request.
Following is the text of Biden's speech, as prepared for delivery:
Remarks By Joseph R. Biden. Jr.
United States Senator -- Delaware
Hard Choices for America's Future: Strategic Opportunities for a New
As prepared for delivery
Center for Strategic and International Studies
February 4, 2002
As the shock of 9-11 begins to wear off, one unanticipated consequence
now emerging is a fuller appreciation of why foreign policy matters.
Before 9-11, few Americans believed that what happens beyond our
borders affects their lives. We were a nation focused on ourselves,
constantly looking in the mirror, but rarely out the window.
But on September 11, our perspective abruptly changed. Suddenly
foreign policy became something that affected our economic security as
well as our personal security. Before September 11, only a few of us
were discussing the real threats we face, and how to defend against
them. Even fewer were discussing anything even remotely resembling a
multi-year, multi-billion dollar commitment to homeland defense. A few
weeks later, a half dozen letters made threats of biological or
chemical weapons, or a deadly vial in a backpack, much more real.
We were forced to come face to face with our worst fears. We saw the
kind of death and destruction that could be wielded by religious
fundamentalism, anti-Americanism and terrorists fueled by blind
And we learned that we should not leap forward with answers before
we're sure we've asked the right questions like whether or not to
invest in missile defense when a more imminent threat was
Now we are faced with the hard choices about what we need to do and
how to do it.
The good news is we are the world's only superpower. The bad news is
we're the world's only superpower. All too often nations expect us to
make their problems our highest priority.
So, while we can't be all things to all people, we should not shrink
back from our unavoidable responsibility to bear the burden of
international leadership. If 9-11 was a wake-up call to the American
people, it was also a wake-up call to the unilateralists in the Bush
George Bush came into office disdainful of engagement with the world.
He spoke of "nation-building" as an unacceptable option.
When he became President he pulled back from treaties on nuclear
testing, on germ warfare, on environmental protection, and announced
his intention to withdraw unilaterally from the ABM Treaty.
Less than a year after he was elected, when the first plane hit the
World Trade Center, the notion of unilateralism was put to the test.
To his credit, he realized it was time to reach out to allies and
embrace new partners.
I commend him for this. Epiphanies, I believe, are veto-proof. We can
only hope they're permanent as well.
The response has been positive. NATO soldiers flew surveillance
flights over the eastern seaboard of the United States.
Musharraf made the strategic decision to align Pakistan with the West.
Putin provided us with intelligence on Afghanistan. He helped secure
our presence in the Central Asian republics, and countries around the
world joined with common purpose in a common struggle.
Today we must ask if President Bush is going to maximize the strategic
opportunities we now have to shape the next 50 years as the Cold War
shaped the last 50, and make long-term engagement one of the strategic
weapons in his diplomatic arsenal.
U.S. foreign policy must recognize that many of the new threats we
face will require multilateral responses.
But no one, least of all the enemies of the United States, should have
any doubt that another attack on this nation would lead to our use of
overwhelming force, in concert with others or alone, and with the full
weight of American power and resolve.
But more and more, from law enforcement to intelligence, we have to
work closely with international partners. The reason is obvious: Al
Qaeda is neither limited nor deterred by national boundaries.
Isolation is not an option. Unilateralism is not an option.
We must be engaged -- the question is how.
Let me be clear. I don't believe engagement is simply supporting
treaties on biological weapons, or the environment, or even the ABM
Treaty, although these are important, if not critical, symbols of our
America's engagement around the world is a long-term investment in our
security, and should be at the core of our foreign policy.
The first real test of post-9-11 engagement is to stay the course in
After 23 years of almost constant war, the country is in total chaos.
Food and water are scarce. Kabul is a moonscape. Devastated.
Not, primarily, by American bombs but by years of war, failed regimes
and struggles among armed warlords.
Our military personnel call it: "the other end of ground zero...."
And yet after four days in Kabul, I was surprised at the deep pool of
goodwill from a nation so often portrayed as bitterly resentful of any
The Afghan people want us to stay. They need our help. They need
security. They know the difference between those who come as enemies
and those who come as liberators.
Let me share with you a story Hamid Karzai told me just a couple weeks
ago in Kabul.
Let me give you two more examples of what I mean. I met with the
Minister of Education and asked him what he needed most urgently. I
expected to hear about rebuilding shattered schoolhouses, or the need
for desks, books, pencils, and soon. But he looked me in the eye and
said, "Security. Without it, nothing can be built."
When we went to the old Soviet Embassy, we met with some of the 20,000
refugees from the Shomali Plain living in absolute squalor with little
water, little food, and no hope.
But even the prospect of escaping those conditions to return home
could not overcome their fear. The Shomali plain, a vast and fertile
agricultural area just north of Kabul, was the breadbasket of the
nation before the Taliban turned it into an arid sea of dust.
All they wanted was to go back to their farms, but the refugees told
us they couldn't because they had no assurance their families would be
safe if they tried to return.
Security is the basic issue in Afghanistan.
If Chairman Karzai is to govern effectively, the first things he needs
are a military, a police force, and an infusion of economic
assistance. And he needs them now.
Tokyo was a start, but more will have to be done, and the United
States will have to take the lead. If we don't, no one else will.
And like it or not, our leadership role must include soldiers on the
ground. If others step forward, fine, but whatever it takes, we should
do it. History will judge us harshly if we allow the hope of a
liberated Afghanistan to evaporate because we failed to stay the
A robust multi-national force helping the nascent Afghan government
extend authority to all its borders is a wise investment by the West
and our regional allies in Central Asia.
President Bush's aversion to even the rudimentary elements of
establishing order and stability -- because it might put him on the
road to "nation building" -- must be outweighed by our national
security need to prevent Afghanistan from backsliding into a lawless
safe haven for anti-American terrorists.
This means a continued engagement in Afghanistan until we can
transition from a multi-national to an Afghan force. But first things
Pockets of Al Qaeda and Taliban still need to be rooted out. Incidents
of firefights and even major battles continue throughout the country.
Just last week the Kabul government suffered a setback with the
reversal at Gardez.
At a Kandahar hospital there was a shootout where Taliban with
grenades strapped to their chests had been held up for six weeks.
Their leader, Mullah Omar, is still at large. No one knows where Osama
bin Laden is hiding, if he's alive. Their top lieutenants are still on
the run. Others have been killed or fled to other countries.
And we have to finish the job before we talk about what comes next.
But we can't seem to talk about what comes next without talking about
Iraq. It's obvious we must end the reign of Saddam Hussein. It would
be unrealistic, if not downright foolish to believe we can claim
victory in the war on terrorism if Saddam is still in power.
But rather than talking about it now, let me in the interest of time,
save my thoughts about Saddam for the Q&A at the end of my remarks.
Clearly, whatever strategic decision we make on what comes next -- it
will require hard choices.
Engagement in Afghanistan, engagement with allies and friends around
the world, waging war on terrorism, and homeland defense will take
more than our will and resolve. It will take a huge increase in the
level of spending. But most of all it will require us to prioritize,
something many in elected office find it hard to do. Our job in
Washington is to debate what comes first, to determine priorities.
Some people are calling the new budget a "guns and butter" budget,
while this morning's Post calls it a "War Budget". Either way, without
the squandered 400 billion dollar surplus we were projected to have by
2004, we've got more than a numbers problem. We've got a priorities
Let me focus for a few moments just on the guns side of the equation.
I agree with the President, and have argued for some time, that an
increase in conventional military spending is necessary to prepare the
nation for the next generation of challenges.
Let's look at the top six modernization programs. The cost estimates
today begin at a minimum of 350 billion dollars.
339 F-22s to replace an aging F-15 fleet will cost $62 billion. 2912
Joint Strike Fighters to replace aging F-16s, A-10s, and F-14s will
cost about $223 billion. 30 new C-17s will cost $6 billion.
A thousand Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicles to move Marines from
water to land at high speed will cost $14.9 billion. And one more
aircraft carrier will have a price tag of about $6.5 to $7.5 billion.
And let's not forget about national missile defense estimates by the
Congressional Budget Office that an effective mid-course intercept
system alone would cost more than $50 billion. And that estimate
leaves out the cost of defending our allies, which the President
insists he also wants to do.
With today's budget release calling for $7.8 billion for missile
defense for FY '03, the Administration is well on its way towards an
expenditure in the hundreds of billions.
We haven't even gotten into President Bush's promise of pay raises for
our men and women in uniform and other high ticket items to enhance
the quality of life for military families.
And we haven't gotten into what demands we'll encounter in combating
the so-called Axis of Evil, three very bad actors, for whom we must
devise very different approaches.
Today, with delivery of the President's little blue budget book, it's
not too soon to begin prioritizing the most pressing threats to our
security. In my book, not to mention that of the Joint Chiefs and the
National Intelligence Estimate, terrorism with weapons of mass
destruction -- but without ICBMs -- is the greatest threat we face.
There are many sources for these weapons, and it takes years to get or
build them. But there's a shortcut, a place that has it all. It's "the
candy store." Other people call it "Russia."
A year ago, Howard Baker and Lloyd Cutler issued a report on the state
of Russia's nuclear materials. Baker testified to the Foreign
Relations Committee regarding "the enormity of this danger." He said:
"And the fact that we have not blown ourselves up so far is no
guarantee that we could not still; or that some rogue nation or rogue
group has not yet successfully stolen a nuclear weapon does not mean
that they cannot still do it if all you have is a padlock out there."
How shall we meet that threat, along with the threat that chemical or
biological weapons might find their way from Russia to the rogues?
Senator Richard Lugar and I believe one way is to reduce Russia's
Soviet-era debt, in return for Russia investing the proceeds in
non-proliferation programs. We hold over $3 billion in such debt, and
our allies hold several times that. Debt reduction could help Russia
secure its sensitive materials and technology -- and avoid an expected
payment crunch next year.
Baker and Cutler proposed spending 30 billion dollars over 8-to-10
years to secure Russia's nuclear materials and technology.
I would add another $10 billion for our share of chemical weapons
destruction in Russia, a few billion dollars to keep their chemical
and biological weapons experts out of harm's way, and some more to
track down and secure their missing radioactive materials that could
be used to make a radiological "dirty bomb." That adds up to roughly
$45 billion -- which is still less than the price of that mid-course
intercept system to defend us against ICBM's. Does anyone doubt that
our first priority must be to close Russia's candy store?
By the way, we haven't begun talking about things the American people
believe ought to be very high priorities: Social Security, Medicare
and a real prescription drug program.
Ladies and gentlemen, I hope I'm not dating myself too much by
recalling former Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen's famous words: "A
billion here, a billion there ... before you know it, you're talking
about real money. I may not be a mathematician, folks, but this budget
doesn't add up. You just can't fit ten pounds into a five pound bag.
No one could have imagined the tragedy of September 11, or the
associated financial costs we're still incurring. But when our nation
is challenged, that's when we're at our best. And our best means we
must have the will to make the hard choices.
Now we need to prioritize, to determine how best to secure America's
future. In my capacity as Chairman, I want the Foreign Relations
Committee to reclaim its highest function and shine a bright light on
the issues of the day. To discuss with experts how our national
security concerns abroad are indivisible from the physical and
economic security of the American people here at home.
Starting tomorrow with Secretary of State Colin Powell we hope to lay
out for the American people the difficult but inevitable choices we
must make to ensure our continued well-being and prosperity.
We will be looking at a broad range of issues: How do we protect
ourselves from weapons of mass destruction? What about
nonproliferation? How do we take advantage of new opportunities to
enhance key bilateral relationships?
What's next in the war on terrorism? What do we do about infectious
disease, democratization, human rights?
Folks, in a twist of fate, we may be able to turn recent calamity into
good luck. History may have given us the best chance we've had since
the end of World War II to build a new framework for international
So far, the American people have been served well by the President and
his Administration in the prosecution of the war on international
terrorism, but the war is only five months old and the new patterns of
cooperation and support are young and fragile. We should nourish them
and help them flourish.
Today the doors to international cooperation and American leadership
have opened, but if we slam them shut too often we will lose our
chance to realign forces for decades to come -- and we will be
condemned to repeat our wars rather than move beyond them.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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