|New American Strategies
for Security and Peace
Final Remarks - Robert Kuttner
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I think it’s no exaggeration to say that we have
been part of a genuinely historic event this past twenty-four
hours. We have heard not only a coherent critique of
the Bush Administration foreign policy. But more importantly
we’ve heard a coherent, plausible alternative
that will make us safer as a people and as a nation.
We’ve heard it from distinguished experts who
represent the bipartisan mainstream in foreign policy
going all the way back to the Kennedy Administration.
If you start with the period that began after World
War II there have always been people on the fringe of
foreign policy, people who to start World War III in
the 1940’s while the United States still had a
nuclear monopoly. But of course instead we got Truman
and Cannon and containment. There were people who wanted
to extend the Korean War to China. But instead Eisenhower
went to Korea and ended the war.
There were people who wanted to play nuclear roulette
in the Cuban Missile Crisis. There were people who wanted
to use nuclear weapons to bomb Hanoi into the Stone
Age. But in every case the foreign policy extremists
were marginalized until this administration. The stakes
are extremely high. It is not only our adversaries who
are in peril in the United States of America. But is
some of the people with their hands on the levers of
In a recent column I quoted the old saying that “God
watches out for fools, drunkards and the United States.”
Being a good journalist and having Google at my disposal
I decided to look it up and I was startled to learn
that the author of that quote was one Otto Von Bismarck.
Of course Bismarck in the 1880’s was looking back
on the first century of this republic’s existence.
It’s fortunate habit of fighting its way out
of sticky situations. But that saying was a retrospective
assessment and not a future guarantee. Unless the people
who are in charge of this country know what they’re
doing we are in a very precarious situation. I think
this conference represents a coming together of distinguished
experts who have a better foreign policy, one that combines
prudence with toughness, and we are not going away.
The American Prospect, The Century Foundation, and the
Center for American Progress as our next venture will
be challenging the neo-conservatives to a series of
debates because I think their ideology can withstand
neither logic nor scrutiny when measured against actual
events. We will continue a website that will display
papers including articles from the Prospect and papers
produced by the other two organizations and the extraordinary
remarks of Zbigniew Brzezinski.
I invite all of you and your institutions to continue
to be part of this. We’re going to give the right-wing
think tanks a run for their money, and they have a lot
more money than we do. That reminds me to thank the
benefactors who made this event possible. I want to
leave you with one final thought. I heard a reporter
say aren’t you papering over some of the fault
lines? Aren’t you papering over some of the disagreements?
Aren’t there people on your side who are still
suffering from the Vietnam syndrome? Who are still a
little bit isolationist or a little bit uncomfortable
with the use of force?
I think if you look back on the 1990’s it was
a decade when force was combined with prudence. It’s
not the use of force. It’s the reckless use of
force that trouble most of us. Even though this is a
bi-partisan event, I think it’s instructive to
compare what we’ve heard over the past twenty-four
hours with what we’ve seen in the Democratic candidates’
There’s something about the debate format that
impels candidates to product differentiate, to exaggerate
differences among themselves. I would venture to say
that if any of the first tier Democratic candidates
had been at this event going from Joe Lieberman to Howard
Dean, the policy that you heard espoused here would
be the policy that they would embrace, and the people
who you heard representing the bi-partisan consensus
would be the people to whom they would turn.
I would add that that also describes probably half the
Republicans in Congress who when they welcomed George
Bush to the White House did not really bargain for the
kind of extremist neo-con policy that ensured. So I
thank you for coming. I think this has been a genuinely
historic event if not a kind of a tipping point in which
our side gained confidence and courage and coherence,
and there will be more.
Finally, let me thank my two partners. We will continue
this effort with your help. Thank you so much. (Applause)
* Prepared remarks only, speech transcript available