|New American Strategies
for Security and Peace
Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
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MR. LAWRENCE KORB: It’s a great pleasure to be
here. About two years ago, I was on a program with Ted
Sorenson in which we talked about the 40th anniversary
of Eisenhower's farewell address in which he used a
term that's become famous, the military industrial complex.
And I was introduced that night as the last living Eisenhower
So, it's my pleasure tonight to introduce the senior
Senator from the State of Delaware, Senator Biden. We
all know him as the ranking member of the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee. But I think a lot of us also should
be aware that he's been a leader, not only in foreign
policy, but of anti-crime and drug policy.
He's responsible for the bill that created the drug
czar. He's also the author of the Violence Against Women
Act. So he has a broad perspective. And as we were talking
earlier, Dr. Brzezinski was talking about bipartisanship.
And I think if you take a look, I came up with a quotation
from his colleague on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,
Senator Lugar, who said, and I quote, "Senator
Biden has a strong commitment to a bipartisan foreign
policy and serves as a good example for everyone in
Congress." He has a very broad and comprehensive
view of the world. He's a good listener, but is also
a strong and effective advocate of his position. And
we're here tonight to hear his position. Senator Biden.
SENATOR BIDEN: Thank you, very much. I might note
at the outset that that commitment to bipartisanship
is becoming more and more difficult to keep.
Dr. Brzezinski as I sat down -- I was a few moments
late because the Senate was still voting -- said, Joe,
I'm the main course and you're the dessert. I would
say based on that brilliant presentation by Dr. Brzezinski
he is the steak and I'm the chopped liver here.
But after such a insightful and thorough tour de force
on the part of Dr. Brzezinski, I'm embarrassed to subject
you to another speech that will take I suspect about
20-25 minutes. And for that, I apologize.
And let me begin by acknowledging The Century Foundation,
The American Prospect, the Center for American Progress,
and say it's about time. It's about time.
One last editorial comment. I was saying to Zbig earlier
as we were sitting here eating, I said, you know, I
did for the first time something I probably should have
done in all honesty, five, six, eight, ten years ago,
the last 24 months or 20 months or so, I think I have
... I've asked my staff to gather up every major work
that has been put in print by he leading neo-conservative
voices in and out of this administration. And I actually
took the time to read them all. Not figuratively, literally.
And I think one of the problems the Democrats suffer
from is we're used to saying things we don't mean. They
mean what they say. Some of it sounded so outrageous,
that we literally ... think about this. I realize I’m
being somewhat humorous. But think about it. Some of
the assertions made by Kagan and Lewis, all these folks
over the last six to eight years, you would read them.
You would listen to them and say, well, they really
don't mean that. They are doing that to generate a debate.
Or to be provocative. Well, I'm not being ... this is
no attempt at humor. I'm being deadly earnest. I think
we make a serious mistake, a serious mistake, if we
don't understand they mean every word that they've written.
And that I have been here for seven presidents now.
Only five members of the United States Senate have been
here longer than me. The good news is 56 are still older
than me. But I believe that in my professional career
as a Senator, this is by far and away the most ideological
And I would argue the single most ideological administration
in American history. In that the dominant voices and
the architects of the primary policy initiatives have
been the neo-conservative voices in and out of government.
The second observation before I get into the text
of my speech is that I've been here for four governors
who've become president. They varied in their backgrounds,
their intelligence quotient, their nimbleness politically
and in many other ways. But they all came. They all
came, no matter how bright or informed they were, not
as sure footed in American foreign policy as they were
in domestic policy.
They all tend to do the same thing. They tend to go
out and within from their side of the political equation
pick two voices that are not in harmony and bring them
into an administration. Because they believe that if
they're given the best of the options on their side
of the political agenda, they will be able to discern
what is the best course of action to follow.
But I have never seen an administration as fundamentally
-- and I've been saying this, and John has heard me
repeatedly, for over two years -- as fundamentally divided
on what America's place in the world should be, what
our priorities should be, and how we should react to
international events at this administration.
There is a fault line that is as wide and as profound
as the San Andreas fault that runs through this administration.
On one axis is Mr. Cheney, Rumsfeld and many others
including Wolfowitz and others and the politicos in
the White House.
And the other axis is Powell and basically the uniformed
military who have really incredibly different views
of the world. And the President has vacillated, been
unclear, but on the tough decisions has usually chosen
to be on the wrong axis.
But further complicating life is that there is a discordant
note that is sent out around the world as to who's in
charge. I would note that after ... this is a digression.
I would note that after an appearance with Dick Lugar
on "Meet the Press" two weeks ago, when I
was asked by Tim Russert if I had an opportunity in
the near term to give the President advice, what advice
would I give him? And I said I would ask him to take
charge, to be decisive, to pick a side, decide what
his policy is.
And he turned to Dick Lugar and asked did he agree
with that? He said, yes. The President must be President.
Not let the Vice President to be President. Prompting
the President of the United States a day later to say,
in the echoes of Al Haig, "I am in charge".
Literally. I'm not exaggerating. Think about this now.
Think about that.
And having the President say that he is now going
to ask Condoleeza Rice to do that job that's Zbieg did
and every other National Security Adviser did which
is to rationalize the policy and "put her in charge".
What has she been doing up to now? I'm not being facetious.
I know it sounds like I'm being facetious. I'll tell
you what she's been doing. She's essentially been a
translator. She's essentially been a translator. The
vehicle through, the filter through which George Bush
could be informed, educated and made aware of what recommendations
he was getting without any, to the best of my knowledge,
intervention on her part beyond that.
Let me start by saying that I listened to the President's
press conference today. Based on his comments, I continued
to be hopeful. Although, I will not risk my career on
it. I continue to be hopeful that the administration's
recent U-turn in Iraq, its commitment to make the world's
responsibility and not just our own, is more than rhetorical.
I think it is propelled by the President's understanding
of his political reality that he faces and the political
necessity that is at hand. But I must say that the administration's
recent epiphany, if that in fact is what it is, welcome
as it is, still leaves our foreign policy headed in
the wrong direction.
And that's what I'd like to talk with you about tonight.
Let me be clear at the outset. I do not question the
motives of either the neo-conservatives of this administration
who discount the value of alliances and international
institutions that we've built, the United States has
Nor do I question the patriotism or the motives, the
motivation, of the pure multilaterals of my own party
who believe that we can only exercise power if we get
the world's approval first.
In my view, we cannot conduct foreign policy in either
of these extremes. The stakes are too high. This is
not a time for political rhetoric. This is a time for
hard facts, sober analysis and decisive action needed
to make us more secure.
I believe it's a time for an enlightened nationalism
that supports the use of force without apology or hesitation
when we must, an enlightened nationalism that is not
so blinded by our overwhelming military power that we
fail to see the genuine benefit and obvious need to
work with others in the international community.
You know, the American people understand very clearly
what matters most. They get it. They understand it.
It is quite simple. The questions they ask themselves
in various forms is are our priorities and our policies
and our actions, are they likely to make us more or
less secure? It's fundamental. It's basic. They get
I believe the administration's priorities, policies
and actions demonstrate ... to echo a theme of Zbieg's
discussion and much of his writing of late ... that
demonstrates a much too narrow definition of national
As a result, we've missed significant opportunities
to make America more secure. The devastating punch we
took on September 11th still reverberates throughout
American society. I like many of you have spoken many
times about the pervasive sense of vulnerability and
insecurity we feel, a sense of vulnerability and security
that exceeds the degree to which we are actually vulnerable
Not only collectively as a nation, but in our personal
lives. And it's not gotten much better. We think twice
about our travel plans. We continue to think twice about
riding elevators in tall buildings. We even think twice
about letting our kids go on field trips to Washington,
Yesterday's soccer moms, as I've said in the past,
have truly become today's security moms. In the days
after 9/11, these moms and Americans everywhere looked
for a way that they could do something to help. It was
a time that called for rallying the nation, tapping
into the desire that all of us had to do something for
And I believe history will judge George Bush most
harshly for squandering this great opportunity that
was available to him to unite America and to unite the
world. These squandered opportunities persist to this
day here at home and beyond our borders.
Here at homes when Americans were standing in long
lines to give blood after an attack on the World Trade
Tower and the Pentagon, we squandered an obvious opportunity
to make service a noble cause again, to rekindle a spirit
We squandered the opportunity to rally Americans to
produce a rational policy to achieve energy security.
Imagine if the President had said in the aftermath of
that, I know it's expensive but I ask all Americans
building new homes to invest the additional two percent
that is required to build their home in using solar
energy within those homes.
What do you think the response of America would have
been at that moment? Imagine had he said speaking before
the wealthiest Americans, after this speech I ask each
of you to leave this room, go back to your office, call
your accountant and make an absolute commitment to me.
You will pick out two children, two students, in your
community and pay their entire college education for
as long as they go to school. Imagine had he said, the
tax cut that I have laid out requires us now to have
And the wealthiest one percent of you who happen to
have a net income of $400,000, whose average income
is $980,000, I ask you to forego one or two years of
the ten years of that tax cut. Do any of you truly believe
that Americans would have said, no, not me? I'm not
in on that deal.
We squandered that opportunity. We squandered an opportunity
to rally Americans to build an effective homeland defense,
to make our borders safer, to transport systems more
secure, our nuclear power plants more vulnerable ...
And finally, beyond our borders, we squandered the
opportunity to build an effective national security
strategy to meet new threats without alienating the
rest of the world. I love that story that I've heard
before ... and I understand to be true ... about DeGaulle
saying I need not see the evidence.
As Zbig said, the answer ... he said ponder the question
... don't ponder it. No nation would say that if presented
evidence by this administration of a similar magnitude.
We squandered an opportunity to build an effective national
And as you all know, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld likes
to send internal memos dubbed snowflakes. Last week,
one of them failed to melt before it floated into the
public domain. Or possibly the clever Secretary of Defense
never intended that snowflake to melt. In any case,
most of the media focused on the parts of the memo that
talked about the mixed results with al-Qaida and "long,
hard slog" still ahead in Afghanistan and Iraq,
pointing out the absolute inconsistency between all
that they said up to that point and the self-questioning
These are important points to make. But to me, the
most astounding part of the memo was Secretary Rumsfeld's
admission that we still lack a long-term strategy for
winning the war against terrorism. He asked and I quote
are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading
more terrorists everyday than the madrassas and radical
clerics who are recruiting, training and deploying against
Continuing to quote. "Does the U.S. need to fashion
a broad integrated plan to stop the next generation
of terrorists?" These are exactly the right questions.
Only they're being asked two years too late.
And the short answer to that question of do we need
to fashion a broad integrated plan, is obviously a resounding
yes. Fifty to a hundred years from how, historians will
write many books about whether this generation rose
to the occasion to combat the problems that we face.
In the end, we'll be judged by how well we marshal
the forces of civilization to combat international terrorism.
We will be judged by how well we worked with others
to eliminate the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
We'll be judged by how well we inspired the world to
deal with the epidemics and pandemics that are killing
and can kill millions of more around the world.
And we will be judged by how well we led those who
side with us as modernity and globalization are assaulted
by fundamentalism and intolerance. We will be judged
by how well we helped spread economic advancement around
the globe and how wisely we managed our economic and
finite natural resources.
To begin moving this nation in the right direction,
I believe we need to embrace a foreign policy of enlightened
nationalism. Let me explain what I mean by that. And
what I think we have to do to get there.
First, we need to correct the imbalance between projecting
power and staying power. America's military is obviously
second to none, second to none that ever existed in
the history of the world. And my guess is it will and
must remain that way for a long time to come.
But staying power is just as important as projecting
power. And on that account, the administration is running
an incredibly dangerous deficit. In Afghanistan, we
refused until last month to support the extension of
ICEF beyond the capital. The result is that President
Karzai is the Mayor of Kabul and not the President of
the country. Much of the country is in the hands of
The Taliban is regrouping. Reconstruction is way off
track. And Afghanistan is the world's number one producer
of opium, the proceeds of which will fund millions of
dollars of new terrorist efforts.
Our failure to win the peace in Afghanistan risked
being repeated in Iraq. I might note parenthetically
for about eight months, I had a weekly meeting with
Dr. Rice. Ironically, the question ... at the suggestion
of Henry Hyde of the House International Relations Committee
after meeting with the President and telling the President
of the United States that he was upset that the President
never informed the Congress as to what his intentions
The President said, well, we ought to have you meet.
And they said, no. Joe will meet with Condi. And I met
with her for ... either on the telephone or in person
in her office ... for roughly six to seven months every
week. She's a delightful woman. She's a bright woman.
On one occasion, I walked in last December and suggested
that things weren't going well in Afghanistan, that
the warlords were back in control. And she stated, she
said, well, there is stability in Afghanistan. The warlords
are in control.
I said, I thought part of our policy was being concerned
that the five surrounding nations not repeat the historical
intervention to promote their own interest against the
interests that we are trying to promote which is the
democratization of that country and the stabilization.
And Ishmal Kahn being in control in Iraq is not my
idea of that policy coming to fruition. And the comment
made was it's always been that way. It's always been
that way. I believe from the outset in Afghanistan that
this administration has viewed ... has been split ...
and has viewed the commitment required to nation build
as being beyond its patience, its tolerance or necessity.
Have you ever taken your kids on a rainy day at the
beach to the boardwalk? They have that game that's there
called Mole in the Hole. You get this big old hammer.
And there are these holes that are on an angle. And
the mole pops up and you bang the mole.
Well, I think that part of this administration's --
and I'm not being facetious -- attitude about how to
deal with Iraq going badly ... I mean, Afghanistan going
badly again, was just to repeat what we did. Like Mole
in the Hole. Smack the Taliban again. Because that was
cheaper. And that was not as timely nor as difficult
as dealing with actually being involved in the thing
they spent a whole campaign criticizing the last President
for, nation building.
And our failure to win the peace in Afghanistan I
fear is being repeated in Iraq. And such a failure,
I think, would condemn both countries to a future of
failed states. And we know from experience, bitter experience,
that failed states are breeding grounds for terrorists
and have the potential to become transshipment hubs
for weapons of mass destructions and international traffic
Our failure also would undermine America’s strategic
interest. By enhancing the power and influence of extremists
in Iran, endangering moderates and modernizers from
Jordan to Turkey, risking the collapse of Pakistan and
making even bleaker the prospects for any settlement
between Israelis and Palestinians.
We have to show the staying power to write a different
future for Iraq and for the region. The place to start
is by securing the informed consent of the American
people for finishing what we have started in Afghanistan.
And Iraq and thus far, we have not gotten the informed
consent because we have not informed fully the American
people what is at stake and what will be needed.
The President should have leveled the American people
from the start -- which he obviously did not -- about
the hard road ahead for both countries and the need
for tens of billions of American dollars no matter what
kind of support we got from the international community
and the need for tens of thousands well in excess of
a hundred thousand American forces even with international
support which we don't have for the next three to five
Because that was the reality from the outset. And
as the President failed to level about the hard choices
and led the American people to believe that Johnny and
Jane would come marching home again by Christmas just
as they'd done in the first Gulf War. And we wonder
why they're angry. We wonder why they feel deceived.
We wonder why even the military, particularly the reservists
and the National Guard, feel so put upon.
And these means of informing the American people should
not just be in private memos, not just from Secretary
Rumsfeld, but public statements by the President of
the United States of America. He should have explained
why success is critical and made clear that it will
take years and billions and tens of thousands of troops.
If the President leveled with the American people
from the start, if the Administration's policies and
planning weren't so far off the mark, there wouldn't
be so much doubt about the President's leadership now.
The debate in the United States Senate was not about
$87 billion. The debate in the United States Senate,
the United States House of Representatives, was about
a total loss of confidence in the President of the United
If, for example, things were going well in Iraq, if
the American people believed that we had an informed
policy, if we had the international community involved
with us, we'd still need $87 billion this year. And
it would have gone through the Senate and the House
like a hot knife through butter.
This was a debate about a lot of money. But even more
fundamentally, it was a debate about what is perceived
by Republicans as well as Democrats a policy that thus
far is a failed policy. A failure to integrate the international
community into the process. And a gut understanding
that this $87 billion is not the end of the deal. It's
far from it.
Instead of laying out the strategic stakes in Iran
... in Iraq, the President, who continues not to level,
argues that Iraq is the front line in the war against
terrorism. And to use his ... paraphrase him, we're
better off fighting the terrorists in Baghdad than in
That, as you all understand, but the American people
intuitively understand, is a false choice designed to
appeal to the most basic fears of the American people
and to steal a theme from what Zbig had to say today,
this is a policy based on fear and engendering fear.
And the only ability this administration has in their
view to maintain the support of the American people
is appeal to their fear.
The plain truth is that even if we succeed perfectly
in Iraq, terrorists will be fighting on dozens of other
fronts. And if we fail in Iraq, they will continue to
fight us there as well as those other fronts.
Besides getting the consent of the American people,
how do we build the staying power that I think most
of us in this room believe we need. It seems to me we
should adopt a more enlightened approach informed by
the lessons of the '90s and the Balkans and beyond.
A more enlightened approach would empower experts in
our government to plan for post-war security and reconstruction
ahead of time, not on the fly as this administration
was warned repeatedly by former CINCOM commanders by
as it turns out even the State Department and even their
internal studies and memoranda out of the National Security
Council as well as the Defense Department.
A more enlightened approach would build up an international
police force to handle security after we topple a tyrant.
A more enlightened approach would create training programs
to rapidly stand up indigenous armies and police forces.
And a more enlightened approach in short would recognize
that whether we like it or not, nation building is going
to be as central to our foreign policy for years to
come and we should organize for it.
This administration came to office disdaining the
idea only to be confronted with the two biggest tests
of nation building since World War II. And to date,
they're failing both those tests. If we're not prepared
to do the post-conflict, we should think twice about
doing the conflict.
And so not withstanding the position they put us in,
we have to get better prepared. Let me add a few more
words about Iraq. I voted to give the President the
authority to use force in Iraq which I'm sure some of
you are disappointed with. For me, the question was
never whether we had to deal with Saddam Hussein, but
when and how and by what rationale.
It is precisely the when, the how and the rationale
this administration has gotten dangerously wrong. And
we're paying a terrible price for those mistakes they
made. We went too soon to war. There was no imminent
threat. At the time, some of you recall several of us
at every instance, beginning last July, pointed out
that we did not believe that the intelligence analysis
that was being presented, did not believe there was
any reasonable prospect that the nuclear weapons program
had been reconstituted.
The administration hyped part of the intelligence
to create a false sense of urgency. Instead, it created
a crisis in credibility, at both home and abroad. And
as a result, it will be much harder to rally others
against more dangerous weapons programs in Iran in the
future and North Korea now.
We went to war without the world. As a result, the
occupation of Iraq has an American face. And we're providing
all the troops and treasure to try to get it right.
We went to war based on the dangerous doctrine of
preemption. And as a result, the world believes that
the preemptive use of force is the sum and substance
of our national security policy with terribly destabilizing
consequences I'll discuss in a few minutes. We went
to war without a plan and with the wrong assumptions
about the day after.
I held extensive hearings in July of last year. And
the title of the hearing was the decade after. Not the
day after. The administration very cavalierly and arrogantly
posited exactly what they knew would happen, that we'd
be greeted as liberators, that we were going to be able
to place immediately the Iraqi National Congress and
Mr. Shalabi, in place.
That we would in fact be able to stand up the Iraqi
Army quite quickly to defend the borders, that the Iraqi
police force would be available, and that there would
be a very well informed civil service that would be
able to stand up the organs of government and function
very quickly and most interestingly not withstanding
the evidence that the Iraqi oil could pay for all, could
pay for all that was needed.
We made winning the peace even harder than it should
have been. And as a result, we risk ... we list ...
we risk losing the support of not only the Iraqi people
as the Hamre Report suggested several months ago, but
the American people.
I predict to you that before Christmas, unless there's
a radical change in policy beyond what's already started,
the American people by two-thirds will be arguing to
bring American troops home. And I predict to you that
will be a disaster in terms of our security.
And so, we're left with three options. We can bring
the troops home now and suffer the strategic consequences.
We can stay virtually alone, spend another $100 billion
in additional money than we've already spent and keep
well over 100,000 forces there for sometime to come
over the next two or three years.
Or we can do everything in our power to make Iraq
the world's problem, not just our own by ceding more
authority to the United Nations and our allies and building
up an Iraqi army and police force as fast as possible
and seeking as Zbieg said to give legitimacy to, to
confer legitimacy through that press upon the Iraqis
who in fact are making up this transitional government
and as quickly as possible cede sovereignty to that
I'm glad the President seems to have begun to understand
this and now seems to be heading in that third direction.
The second step towards enlightened nationalism in my
view is to move away from the administration's fixation
on military preemption and focus on a true prevention
I agree with those in the administration who argue
that the nexus of new threats, terror, WMD, and failed
states, requires an additional response. Deterrence
got us through the Cold War and its logic still holds
in most cases. But it may not work against enemies armed
to the hilt with no territory or people to defend.
That's why the right to act preemptively against imminent
threats remains and should remain part of American foreign
policy tool kit. But this administration has turned
preemption from a necessary option into a one-size fits-all
doctrine that does away with any notion of imminence.
And that too will make us less secure.
It tells our enemies that their only possible insurance
policy against regime change is to acquire weapons of
mass destruction and do it as quickly as they possibly
can. It sends a message to fault line states like India
and Pakistan, China and Taiwan, Israel and its Arab
neighbors, North and South Korea, that it's legitimate
to use force first and ask questions later.
And it so lowers the bar on showing a clear and present
danger, that such a concept becomes almost meaningless.
One senior administration official as you'll recall
even said that the mere presence of nuclear scientists
in Iraq would have been sufficient justification to
go to war.
We should jettison this military pre-emption doctrine
and begin to fashion a prevention doctrine, to diffuse
problems long before they're on the vexing edge of explosion.
The question is what would that require? It seems to
me, it would require broader and better funded programs
like Nunn/Lugar, to help secure and destroy those loose
weapons most likely to wind up in the wrong hands, starting
with the stockpiles in the former Soviet Union and expanding
the program to include Pakistan and others.
It would require new international laws that allow
us to stop lethal cargoes anywhere in the high seas
or in the skies, not just bilateral agreements limited
to territorial waters and airspace of participating
countries. It would require new alliances of intelligence
agencies, law enforcement officials and financial experts
to uproot terrorists and end their funding.
Just as we built NATO to contend with the primary
threat of U.S. security of this day, the Soviet Union,
we should be talking about building international anti-terrorist
organizations to deal with the leading security challenges
of this day that effect every nation state. That require
fully funded development programs to demonstrate those
most likely to offer support and sanctuary to terrorists
that we can offer them a better future.
We spend a pittance on global education, about $200
million a year. Meanwhile, the madrassas fill the heads
of students with hate, but also fill their stomachs
with food and put clothing on their backs.
It would require long-term public diplomacy strategy
to debunk the myths, the lies, our enemies spin about
American intentions. A new initiative, Radio Sawa, already
reaches an average of more than 30 percent of the potential
listeners in Kuwait, Quatar, Egypt, Jordan and the UAE.
It was the most listened to radio station in the region.
We should put these same energies into television
broadcasting to make public diplomacy a career enhancing
pursuit, not a bureaucratic backwater for anyone choosing
the foreign service. And it would require a sustained
policy of democratization in friendly countries with
aggressive ... with regressive regimes. Not by imposing
democracy from outside with force, but by helping build
its democratic institutions from within and by promoting
good governments and the rule of law, transparency,
political parties, independent media, secular education,
private enterprise and civil society and use every power
in our diplomatic tool kit to promote that.
And finally, a policy of enlightened nationalism would
put much more energy into working with the world than
walking alone. Ask yourself fifty years from now when
your great grandchildren are writing their theses at
the great universities about what were the challenges
of the world faced at the beginning of the 21st century.
What will they say? What will historians look back
on and say were those challenges? Well, I suspect we
all agree that one would be international terrorism,
the spread of weapons of mass destruction, outlaw state,
ethnic conflict, international crime and drug trafficking,
infectious disease and the spread thereof, economic
dislocation, environmental degradation.
And not one of these threats has any respect for borders
or nation building. Not one is susceptible solely to
a military response. To meet each of these challenges,
we need the help of other countries, the extensive help
and cooperation of other countries. And we need to reform
old institutions and alliances and build new ones to
make common cause of the world's common concerns.
That's the approach a previous generation took after
World War II. And it's an approach that we should be
taking now. Unfortunately, this Administration's gratuitous
acts of unilateralism have alienated the partners we
need to meet the most serious challenges we face and
the need to build new institutions.
We ignored NATO when in the hours after the events
of 9/11, it invoked Article V for the first time in
its history which said that an attack on one was an
attack on all. We ignored Germany's offer of troops
for Afghanistan even after the Chancellor risked and
almost lost a no confidence vote to provide them.
We summarily rejected a long litany of treaties that
meant a lot to other countries, even if they meant little
to this administration without any effort to find a
compromise or to propose an alternative where we had
legitimate problems with those treaties.
Why has this administration shown such disdain for
potential partners around the world and international
institutions uniformly? I've concluded it's because
this is the most ideological administration in history,
led by neo-conservatives who believe the only asset
that counts is our military might.
Because our military powered dwarfs that of other
countries. I'd note parenthetically we spend more on
defense than the rest of the entire world combined.
This administration believes that alliances and international
institutions are more of a burden than a benefit. They
allow the Lilliputians to tie down Gulliver.
In this view, we have nothing to lose from acting
unilaterally. Indeed, we have everything to gain. By
demonstrating that we're prepared to act without the
world and even against its collective will, we can silence
American critics and create a bandwagon effect among
reluctant allies which is exactly what was predicted
by our neo conservative friends if you remember by going
into Iraq alone.
I would note parenthetically I believed two things
proved not to be true. One, that the President's political
instincts would tell him that it was a mistake for him
to go to war last spring. For no matter how well it
was instituted, it was conducted, there would be difficulty
going into the next election.
I fully believed that he would conclude that the time
to do that would be this coming spring. And that as
a consequence of that, he was prepared to at least humor
the Secretary of State and let him see what he could
do about building an international consensus for any
action that was to be taken.
And secondly, I did not count on the Secretary of
Defense to be able to so keenly outsmart the Secretary
of State. The President last September signed onto two
conflicting policies, one of which was obviously going
The first was authorizing Powell to go to the United
Nations and seek a consensus to impose the world's will
on a country that violated the international agreements
that they had made.
And the other was to simultaneously sign onto Rumsfeld's
request to begin to buildup our forces in the Gulf.
Rumsfeld was confident, and I believe certainly correct,
in knowing that the buildup would outrun the negotiations.
I'm not sure -- I don't mean to be dismissive of the
President -- but I'm not sure he understood what he
was signing onto in either instance. But, of course,
there was never any doubt from the outset that we had
the military power to topple the Taliban or defeat Saddam
without the help of a single foreign soldier.
I got in a lot of trouble with some Democrats for
saying I believed the war would not take a month and
it could take as little as two weeks -- for I never
doubted that capacity. My plea for international cooperation
at the front end was not that we needed a single force
to meet the initial military objective, but that we
were going to need tens of thousands of those forces
to meet the objective of securing the space in Iraq
the day after.
It was the day after victory and the many days, months
and years after that, that the price of our unilateral
approach would get more expensive. And it's clear it's
getting steeper and steeper and steeper. Now in Iraq
because we decided to wage war unilaterally, we're responsible
for the peace unilaterally. And the price tag is not
hard to calculate. Ninety percent of the troops, ninety
percent of the financial resources, and ninety percent
of the casualties are going to be Americans.
There's another critical point here. More than any
country in the world, the United States benefits and
has benefited from an international system with clear,
predictable rules and relationships. This administration's
approach played by the rules we like, ignore the ones
we don't, is well on its way to destroying that system.
And in its place, we'll end up with the law of the
jungle in which we are clearly the most powerful animal,
but much less secure not withstanding that. At the same
time, those of us who preach the value and utility of
international institutions and international rules must
also understand when they're flouted, they must be enforced.
Something that's difficult to convince all of my democratic
Let me say in conclusion, the foreign policy agenda
pushed most forcefully by the neo-conservatives in this
administration has run head on into reality in Afghanistan
Iraq and beyond. And as a result for now, we are less
secure. We have fewer friends and we're running out
of time and resources to get it right.
So it's long past time for the President to understand
that the advice he has received thus far has been dead
wrong, that none of the assumptions of the neo-conservatives
have proven to be true. And that the best way to change
course across the board is to elect a Democratic president
who will act wisely. Who will not react harshly and
will embrace a foreign policy of enlightened nationalism.
But in the meantime, to the chagrin of some of you,
I believe it's my role in the United States Senate to
try my best to side with those factions in the administration
which are pushing most decidedly to get this President
at least in the right direction.
And that is a debate that we have internally. And
a debate that is reasonable men and women can differ
on. But I say unabashedly, I view my role between now
and the time we elect the next Democratic President
to side with those forces in the administration which
tend to be the uniformed military and the Secretary
of State to do everything I can along with my colleagues
Senator Lugar and, a gentleman you're going to hear
speak here tomorrow I'm told, Senator Hagel and others
who feel equally as strongly this administration has
got it wrong.
The foreign policy based on a comprehensive strategy
that includes military might, but does not include our
... exclude our diplomatic, economic and political power
of the so-called soft power. A foreign policy that reflects
our values and our history as a strong nation founded
on unshakable principles, a foreign policy that thinks
bigger and does better, motivated not by fear, but by
Because for all the difficult challenges that we face,
I still believe the opportunities before us are limitless
and they're still within our grasp not withstanding
... not withstanding ... the damage this administration
has done the last two years.
President Clinton and I have one thing in common.
We share a favorite Irish poet Seamus Heaney. I was
quoting Heaney when I was up at his home not too many
months ago in Chappaqua. In classic Clinton, he said,
yeah, I like him. He said, come here. And he walked
into another room. And the very poem I was quoting to
the President, Seamus Heaney had handwritten for him
and signed and was hanging on his wall.
So in a nod to the good taste of our former President
and the brilliance of my fellow Irishmen, I'd like to
quote a stanza from "The Cure of Troy" which
I think should be and could be our anthem as the Democratic
Party going into this next election. Because I think
it's still possible.
He wrote in his Nobel Prize piece of poetry in '97,
"History says don't hope on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime, that longed for tidal
wave of justice can rise up and hope and history rhyme."
If we get it right, if we elect a Democratic president,
I know and I believe we have the best chance that this
country has ever had in making hope and history rhyme.
For the fact of the matter is the nation's states and
the world are no longer in a position of a zero sum
The threats are all the same. The solutions to the
problems I enumerated earlier are of interest to all.
One is not a winner and the other a loser. I happened
to be with the leaders of China, France, Germany and
Great Britain within weeks after separately 9/11. And
each one of those leaders and heads of states recited
to me how as they watched that film of those aircraft
going into the World Trade Towers, in the case of the
Chinese leadership saying they picture it going into
the 79th story of the largest building in Shanghai.
The French talked about they could picture it going
into the Eiffel Tower. And the Brits, the House of Commons.
The fact of the matter is we have a shared need. It
takes leadership to unite this world. And for the first
time in my lifetime, there is a reasonable possibility
of not only reuniting with our traditional friends in
Europe, but our former hostile nations. Because the
interests are similar if not precisely the same.
So I urge you all through this joint effort out here
to elect Democratic President so that we have a shot,
this generation, a shot at making hope and history right.
Thank you very much.