New American Strategies for Security and Peace

Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

You can now watch this speech in streaming video:

Download this speech in MS Word format.
Download this speech in Acrobat (pdf) format.

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 Republican.

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 administration.

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 built.

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 it.

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 security.

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 and insecure.

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, D.C.

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 our country.

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 of community.

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 some forbearance.

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 ... less 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 security strategy.

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 memo.

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 us?"

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 warlords.

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 were.

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 union drugs.

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 years.

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 States.

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 Boston.

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 body.

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 strategy.

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 to win.

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 colleagues.

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 opportunity.

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 game.

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.


#RightText {
font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
font-size: 11px;
color: #FFFFFF;
The American Prospect Magazine The Century Foundation The Center for American Progress
Home Page Conference Agenda Conference Information Press Area Resources