Toward Enlightened Nationalism
Center for American Progress-Washington, DC
Let me start by saying that I listened to the President's press conference today, where he talked about the violation of UN Security Council resolutions constituting the casus belli for action against Iraq. And the President went on to say that the UN is an important institution, and to maintain its credibility there must be a price paid for violating its resolutions.
I am greatly encouraged if, by these comments, he means to say that he is abandoning the doctrine of preemption that many in his administration have counseled him to adopt.
Based on his comments, I continue to be hopeful that the Administration's recent U-turn on Iraq, its commitment to make Iraq the world's responsibility, and not just our own - is more than rhetorical.
But, I must say, the Administration's recent epiphany, welcome as it is still leaves our foreign policy headed in the wrong direction and that is what I want to talk about tonight.
Let me be clear at the outset.
I do not question the motives of either the neo-conservatives in this Administration who discount the value of alliances and the international institutions we've built or the pure multilateralists in my own Party who believe that we can only exercise power if we get the world's approval first.
It is my view that we cannot conduct foreign policy at the extremes.
The stakes are much too high.
This is not a time for political rhetoric.
This is a time for hard facts, sober analysis, and decisive action that will make us more secure.
It is a time for a more 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.
The American people understand very clearly what matters most. They "get it." It's pretty simple:
Do our priorities, our policies, our actions make us MORE SECURE OR LESS SECURE?
I believe this Administration's priorities, policies, and actions demonstrate much too narrow a definition of national security.
As a result, we have missed significant opportunities to make America more secure.
The devastating punch we took on September 11th still reverberates throughout American society.
I've spoken many times recently about the pervasive sense of vulnerability and insecurity we feel, not only collectively as a nation, but in our personal lives, and it has not gotten any better.
We think twice about our travel plans.
We think twice about riding elevators in tall buildings.
We even think twice about letting our kids go on field trips.
Yesterday's soccer moms truly are today's security moms.
In the days after 9-11, those moms - and Americans everywhere - looked for a way they could do something to help.
It was a time that called for rallying the nation and tapping into the desire all of us had to do something for our country.
And I believe history will judge President Bush most harshly for squandering that opportunity.
These squandered opportunities persist to this day here at home, and beyond our borders.
Here at home, when Americans were standing in long lines to give blood after the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we squandered an obvious opportunity to make service a noble cause again, and rekindle an American spirit of community.
We squandered the opportunity to rally Americans to produce a rational policy to achieve energy security. We squandered the opportunity to rally Americans to build an effective homeland defense, to make our borders and ports safer, our transportation systems more secure, and our nuclear power plants less vulnerable.
And finally, beyond our borders, we squandered the opportunity to build an effective national security strategy to meet these new threats without alienating the world.
As you all know, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld likes to send internal memos that have been dubbed "snowflakes." Last week, one of them failed to melt before it floated into the public domain.
Or, perhaps, the Secretary of Defense never intended for this particular "snowflake" to melt at all.
In any case, most of the media focused on the parts of the memo that talked about our "mixed results" with Al Qaeda and the "long hard slog" still ahead in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Those are important points. 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:
"Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?"
"Does the U.S. need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists?"
Those are exactly the right questions-only they're being asked two years too late.
And the short answer to that last question - "do we need to fashion a broad, integrated plan" - is a resounding yes.
Fifty or 100 years from now, historians will write many books about whether this generation rose to the occasion.
In the end, we will be judged by how well we marshal the forces of civilization to combat international terrorism.
We will be judged by how well we work with others to eliminate the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
We will be judged by how well we inspire the world to deal with epidemics and pandemics that can kill millions around the world.
We will be judged by how well we lead those who side with us as modernity and globalization are assaulted by fundamentalism and intolerance.
We will be judged by how well we help spread economic advancement around the globe and how wisely we manage 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 we must do to get there. First, we need to correct the imbalance between projecting power and staying power. America's military is second to none.
It must and will remain second to none.
But staying power is just as important as projecting power and, on that account, the Administration is running a dangerous
In Afghanistan, we refused, until last month, to support the extension of ISAF beyond the capital.
The result is that President Karzai is the mayor of Kabul. 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 will fund new tyrants and terrorists. Our failure to win the peace in Afghanistan risks being repeated in Iraq.
That failure would condemn both countries to a future as failed states and we know from bitter experience that failed states are breeding grounds for terrorists and become transhipment hubs for WMD and drugs.
Our failure also would undermine America's strategic interests 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 peace between Israelis and Palestinians. We have to show the staying power to write a different future.
The place to start is by securing the informed consent of the American people for finishing what we started in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The President should have leveled with the American people from the start about the hard road ahead in both countries, not just in private memos, not just from Secretary Rumsfeld, but in public statements, by the President.
He should have explained why success is critical and made clear it will take years, require billions of dollars and tens of thousands of troops.
If the President had leveled with the American people from the start and if the Administration's policies and planning weren't so off the mark, there wouldn't be so much doubt about the President's leadership now.
The President is still not leveling with the American people.
Instead of laying out the strategic stakes in Iraq, he argues that Iraq is the front line in the war against terrorism, and that we're better off fighting the terrorists in Baghdad than in Boston.
That's a false choice designed to appeal to the most basic fears of the American people.
The plain truth is that even if we succeed perfectly in Iraq, the terrorists will be fighting on dozens of other fronts. If we fail in Iraq, they will continue to fight us there as well.
Besides getting the consent of the American people. how do we build staying power?
We should adopt a more enlightened approach, informed by the lessons of the 1990s in the Balkans and beyond.
A more enlightened approach would empower experts in our own government to plan for post-conflict security and reconstruction ahead of time, not on the fly.
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.
A more enlightened approach, in short, would recognize that, whether we like it or not, nation building is going to be central to our foreign policy for years to come.
This Administration came to office disdaining that idea, only to be confronted with the two biggest tests in nation building since World War II. To date, it is failing both of those tests.
If we're not prepared to do the post-conflict, we should think twice about doing the conflict. And so we've got to be better prepared.
Let me add a few more words about Iraq.
I voted to give the President the authority to use force in Iraq.
For me, the question was never WHETHER we had to deal with Saddam Hussein, but WHEN and HOW and by what RATIONALE.
And it's precisely the WHEN, the HOW and the RATIONALE this Administration has gotten dangerously wrong. And we're paying a terrible price for those mistakes. We went to war too soon. There was no imminent threat.
The administration hyped parts of the intelligence to create a false sense of urgency. Instead, it created a crisis of credibility at home and abroad. As a result, it will be that much harder to rally others against more dangerous weapons programs in Iran and North Korea.
We went to war without the world.
As a result, the occupation of Iraq has an American face, and we're providing almost all of the troops and treasure.
We went to war based on the dangerous doctrine of preemption.
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 moments.
And we went to war without a plan and with the wrong assumptions for the Day After.
We've made winning the peace even harder than it should have been. As a result, we risk losing the support not only of the Iraqi people, but of the American people. I predict to you, before Christmas, two thirds of the American people will say bring the troops home.
And I predict to you, that it will be a disaster in terms of our security.
And so, we are 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 addition to the money we have already spent and keep over 100,000 forces in Iraq for at least another two to 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 U.N. and our allies and building up an Iraqi army and police as fast and effectively as possible.
I'm glad the President has made a dramatic U-turn and now seems to be heading in the right direction.
The second step toward enlightened nationalism 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 requires an additional response.
Deterrence got us through the Cold War, and it's 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 an imminent threat must remain, as it has been, a part of our 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 as quickly as they can.
It sends a message to fault line states - like India and Pakistan, China and Taiwan, Israel and its Arab neighbors and Russia vis a vis Chechyna or Georgia - that it is 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 even said that the mere presence of nuclear scientists in Iraq would have justified the war.
We should jettison this military preemption doctrine and fashion a prevention doctrine to defuse problems long before they are on the verge of exploding.
What would that require?
It would require broader and better funded programs like Nunn-Lugar to help secure and destroy the loose weapons most likely to wind up in the wrong hands - starting with the stockpiles in the former Soviet Union. It would require new international laws that allow us to stop lethal cargoes anywhere on the high seas or in the skies, not just bilateral agreements limited to the territorial waters and air space of the 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 to U.S. security of its day - the Soviet Union - we should look at creating IATO (the International Anti-Terrorism Organization) to deal with the leading security challenge of this day.
It would require fully funded development programs that demonstrate to those most likely to offer support and sanctuary to terrorists that we 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 clothes on their backs.
It would require a long term public diplomacy strategy to debunk the myths and lies our enemies spin about America's intentions.
A new initiative, Radio Sawa, already reaches an average of more than 30 percent of potential listeners in Kuwait, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan and the UAE.
We should put the same energy into television broadcasting and make public diplomacy a career-enhancing pursuit, not a bureaucratic backwater.
And it would require a sustained policy of democratization in friendly countries with regressive regimes. Not by imposing democracy from the outside with force, but by helping to build its institutions from within by promoting good governance, the rule of law and transparency, political parties, independent media, secular education, private enterprise, and civil society.
Finally, a policy of enlightened nationalism would put much more energy into working with the world instead of walking alone.
Ask yourself: one hundred years from now, what will historians say were the greatest challenges the United States and other nation states faced at the start of this new century?
International terrorism. The spread of WMD. Outlaw states. Ethnic conflicts. International crime and drug trafficking. Infectious diseases like HIV-AIDS. Economic dislocation and environmental degradation.
Not one of these threats has any respect for borders. Not one is susceptible solely to a military response. To meet each of these challenges, we need the help 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. It's the approach we should take now.
Unfortunately, this Administration's gratuitous acts of unilateralism have alienated the partners we need to meet most of
the challenges we face... and to build the new institutions we need.
We ignored NATO when, in the hours after the events of 9/11, it invoked Article V for the first time in its history, saying an attack on one was an attack on all.
We rejected Germany's offer of troops for Afghanistan, even after its 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.
Why has this Administration shown such disdain for potential partners around the world?
I've concluded it's because this is the most ideological administration in U.S. history, led by neo-conservatives who believe the only asset that counts is our military might.
Because our military power dwarfs that of other countries - we spend more on defense than the rest of the 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 we're prepared to act without the world and even against its collective will we can silence America's critics and create a bandwagon effect among reluctant allies.
But of course, there was never any doubt that we could topple the Taliban and defeat Saddam without the help of a single foreign soldier.
It's the day after victory and the many days, months and years after that that the price for our unilateral approach gets 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: 90 percent of the troops, 90 percent of the financial resources and 90 percent of the casualties are American.
There's another critical point here.
More than any country in the world, the United States benefits from an international system with clear, predictable rules and relationships.
This administration's approach - play by rules we like, ignore those we don't - will destroy that system.
In its place, we'll end up with a law of the jungle in which we will be the most powerful animal, but much less secure.
At the same time, those of us who preach the value and utility of international institutions and international rules must also understand that when they are flouted, they must be enforced.
Enlightened nationalism recognizes that there is a strong link between power and legitimacy. You can't have one without the other.
When we use force, we should go the extra mile to ground it in law and legitimacy.
But we must recognize that laws will prove meaningless if we do not summon the will to enforce them.
Let me say in conclusion, the foreign policy agenda pushed most forcefully by the neo-conservatives has run head-on into reality in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond.
As a result, for now, we're less secure. We have fewer friends. And we're running out of time and resources to get it right. It is long past time for the President to understand that the advice he has received has been wrong advice, that none of the assumptions on the neo-conservative side have proven to be true.
The best way to change course across the board is to elect a Democratic president who will act wisely, not react rashly, and embrace a foreign policy of enlightened nationalism.
A foreign policy based on a comprehensive strategy - including military might - but not excluding our diplomatic, economic and political power. A foreign policy that reflects our values and our history as a strong nation founded on unshakeable principles.
A foreign policy that thinks bigger and does better, motivated not by fear, but by opportunity. Because for all the difficult challenges we face, the opportunities before us are limitless and within our grasp. Ladies and gentlemen, Bill Clinton and I have one thing in common.
We share a favorite Irish poet: Seamus Heaney, who said, in a poem called The Cure at Troy:
"History says, don't hope On this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime The longed-for tidal wave Of justice can rise up, And hope and history rhyme."
If we get it right, and I know we will, we can make hope and history rhyme.