When a presidential candidate today gives an important speech, his actual words are usually heard by a live audience of no more than a few thousand. The rest of us 300 million Americans are lucky to pick up even a sentence or twothe soundbites selected by the news media. Coverage didnt use to be so scant. For the first hundred-plus years of the Republic, local newspapers routinely printed long excerpts from or entire speeches by prominent politicians. As recently as 1968, the average soundbite on television newscasts was forty seconds. Today, it is under six. No doubt, many Americans are thankful to be so insulated from the words of politicians. But the truth is that this trend is unhealthy for deliberative democracy. Only by encountering ample passages of prepared oratory can a voter sense the fullness of the candidates visionsor lack thereof. Therefore, to do our bit to elevate the democratic process, weve culled from the speeches of all eight Democratic candidates extended selections that address the most important issue now facing the nation: the role America and American
The most powerful military in the world cannot invade, kill, or capture a network or destroy every loose weapon on the planet. The best response to this network of terror is to build a network of our owna network of like-minded countries and organizations that pools resources, information, ideas, and power. Taking on the radical fundamentalists alone isnt necessary, it isnt smart, and it wont succeed.
But building alliances and organizations is not enough. They have to be effective. As we live by the rules, we must also enforce them. Enforcing the rules that Saddam systematically violated could have been the basis for a common approach with our allies to Iraq. It was not, and both the U.S. and Europe are worse off for that failure.
It can still be the basis for a common approach to the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea. To its credit, the administration is trying to reverse four years of policy paralysis to put us on the same page with our partners, and to isolate our enemies, not America. I just hope were not several years and many nuclear weapons too late.
The prevention strategy Ive described, and the strong alliances we need to make it effective, would better protect America than the policies this administration is pursuing. But ensuring Americas security also requires winning a struggle for hearts and minds. We have to prove to millions of disenfranchised people around the world, especially in the Muslim world, that we offer hope while the radical fundamentalists offer only hatred.
In this struggle, the administration is right: democracy is our most powerful weapon. But this administration has given democracy promotion a bad name. Heres why: First, it seems to believe democracy can be imposed by force from the outside. It cant. Instead we should work with moderates from the inside, over the long haul. Second, the administration seems to think democracy and elections are synonymous. Theyre not. Elections are necessary, but not sufficient, to build liberal democracies.
We must put much more emphasis on building the institutions of democracy: political parties, effective government, independent media and judicial systems, nongovernmental organizations, and civil society. That means building schools and training teachers, opening and modernizing closed economies, empowering women, and relieving more debt. If we dont, the net effect of our democracy efforts will be to help organized extremist groups replace autocrats.
The flip side of promoting liberal democracy is bolstering failing states. As we know from 9/11, and as Tom Friedman has written, if we dont visit them, they will visit us.
After 9/11, this administration should have refocused our attention, reallocated our resources, and reformed our institutions to help prevent states from failing and to help stabilize them in the wake of a conflict.
And, instead of talking about a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan, it should have produced one. Yet in the four years since we toppled the Taliban, weve invested about $6 billion in that countrycompared to $100 billion in todays dollars that we spent over four years on the Marshall Plan. Now, Afghanistan may be slipping from freedoms grasp and back toward failure.
Today, for the first time since the emergence of the nation-state more than 400 years ago, the most fundamental common interests of countries around the world outweigh their differences. Today, every civilized nation has an existential interest in stopping radical fundamentalism and controlling weapons of mass destruction.
If we lead through the power of our example as well as the example of our power, and if we recapture the totality of Americas strength, I am convinced we can prevent the darkest chapters of the twentieth century from repeating themselves in this new century.
The lost opportunities of the years since September 11 are the stuff of tragedy. Remember the people rallying in sympathy on the streets of Teheran, the famous headlineWe are all Americans now. Five years later much of the world wonders what America is now.
As we face this landscape of failure and disorder, nothing is more urgent than for us to begin again to rebuild a bipartisan consensus to ensure our interests, increase our security, and advance our values.
It could well start with what our founders had in mind when they pledged a decent respect for the opinions of mankind in the Declaration of Independence. I think its fair to say we are now all internationalists and we are all realists.
This administrations choices were false choices. Internationalism versus unilateralism. Realism versus idealism. Is there really any argument that America must remain a preeminent leader for peace and freedom, and yet we must be more willing to work in concert with other nations and international institutions to reach common goals?
I want to suggest three principles I believe should underlie a bipartisan consensus on national security, and consider how they apply to some of the most difficult challenges we face.
First, and most obviously, we must by word and deed renew internationalism for a new century. We did not face World War II alone. We did not face the cold war alone. And we cannot face the global terrorist threat or other profound challenges alone either. A terrorist cell may recruit in Southeast Asia, train in central Asia, find funds in the Middle East, and plan attacks in the U.S. or Europe. We can stop a deadly disease anywhere along the line as it hopscotches from continent to continentor we can wait until it arrives at our own doors. We can deal with climate change together now or excuse its calamitous consequences later. We can turn our back on international institutions, or we can modernize and revitalize them, and when needed get about the hard work of creating new ones.
Second, we must value diplomacy as well as a strong military. We should not hesitate to engage in the worlds most difficult conflicts on the diplomatic front. We cannot leave the Middle East to solve itself or avoid direct talks with North Korea. When faced with an existential challenge to the life of our nation, President Kennedy said, Let us never negotiate from fear, but let us never fear to negotiate. Direct negotiations are not a sign of weakness. Theyre a sign of leadership.
Third, our foreign policy must blend both idealism and realism in the service of American interests. If there is one idea that has been floated about over the last six years that I would like to see debunked, with all due respect to some of the political scientists in the room, it is this false choice between realism and idealism.
Strategies with respect to all of the problems we face require a mix of both, and each requires building that consensus approach that we then have to do the hard work of bringing others to our side. We cannot achieve any of the solutions that we need to be pursuing without American leadership, and we cannot achieve any of them alone.
American foreign policy exists to maintain our security and serve our national interests. In an increasingly interdependent world, it is in our interest to stand for the human rights to promote religious freedom, democracy, womens rights, social justice, and economic empowerment. But reality informs us we cannot force others, nations and people, to accept those valueswe have to support those who embrace them and lead by example.
Nuremberg has a deeply personal meaning for me. My father was the executive trial counsel under Chief Prosecutor and Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson. The Nuremberg trial was by no means the obvious choice of the collective world community.
It was said, why not just shoot the Nazi leaders, as Churchill wanted, create show trials, as Stalin wanted, or give in to legal scholars, who said there was no court or precedent under which to try them?
Such principles led Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman to create international institutions that would serve the common good and security of all nations for decades to come.
Institutions such as NATO and the United Nations, which together fostered the cardinal tenet that the use of force should be reserved for self-defense and collective security.
For sixty years, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank stood for a cooperative, connected, and disciplined world economy based on law and economic liberty.
With each institution, America helped draw nations away from dictatorship toward democracy and security. Away from vengeance toward justice.
Our leaders created systems and structures for the postwar world because the worlds problems could not have been addressed without international cooperation and American leadership. This international architecture strengthened Americas global leadership and enhanced Americas security.
But in case after case, this administration has not ledand as a consequence, the world has not followed us, leaving us less respected, less secure, and more isolated.
Instead of uniting the world against global terrorism, the Bush administration divided our allies, preemptively taking America to war with Iraq.
Instead of strengthening the alliances and institutions of the last century for the often harsh realities of the new one, the Bush administration rejected some and ignored others.
From the UN and NATO to the Geneva Conventions and the Kyoto Protocol, no agreement, no framework was too significant to belittle, to weaken, to discreditregardless of how important they were to Americas security …
We can return to our values, so that when the history of this century is written, historians will note that America preserved freedom with the example a free people sets for the world. That America asserted its moral strength along with its military might.
We must be clear about when it is appropriate for a commander in chief to use force. As president, I will only use offensive force after all other options, including diplomacy, have been exhausted, and after we have made efforts to bring as many countries as possible to our side. However, there are times when force is justified: to protect our vital national interests, to respond to acts of aggression by other nations and nonstate actors, to protect treaty allies and alliance commitments, to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons, and to prevent or stop genocide.
Yet we must remember the complementary relationship between military force and diplomacy. Too often during the past six years, this administrations diplomatic efforts have left the U.S. with two unacceptable options: do nothing or use force. We must do better than that. We should always seek to solve problems peacefully, preferably working with others. Yet one of the oldest rules of statecraft is that diplomacy is most effective when backed by a strong military. That does not mean, however, that every problem needs a military answer; far from it.
Our military has three important missions: deterring and responding to aggressors; making sure that weak and failing states do not threaten our interests; and maintaining our strategic advantage against major competitors.
The first mission is deterring or responding to those who wish to do us harm. I want to make one thing absolutely clear: any American president must be able to act with swiftness and strength against anyone who will do us harm. But by elevating this right to a doctrine of preventive war, this administration has only isolated us further. Our goal must be to defeat Islamic extremists and limit their reach, not help them recruit and become stronger.
A second mission is to ensure that the problems of weak and failing states do not create dangers for the United States. We face substantial security threats from states that fall apart. These situations are not only dangerous for these countries civilian populations; they create regional instability and can strengthen terrorist groups that, in turn, directly threaten the United States.
A third mission is maintaining our strategic advantage against major competitor states that could do us harm and otherwise threaten our interests.
In all of these missions, we must continue to strengthen our great partnershipswhether bilateral relationships with friends from Great Britain to Israel to Japan, or through institutions like NATO, which have done so much good for America and the world. While the U.S. does not need permission to protect its interests, we must realize that our strength lies in standing together with the world, not apart.
I filibustered alone and with others to end the appropriations for the Vietnam War. Those are my credentials. Ive been there and know how hard it is to oppose the majority of your peers.
I ask that you hold other presidential candidates to the same standard. Political leaders who had the opportunity and the power to stop the Iraq War before it could get started and did nothingallowed it to happen.
Americas current political leadership must not continue to avoid the obvious: Our presence in Iraq exacerbates the problem. Eighty percent of Iraqis want American troops to leave their country, and 70 percent of Iraqis think its okay to kill American soldiers.
We made a grave mistake. We should have the courage to admit it. We must bring our troops home nownot six months from now, not a year from nownow! One more American death for our vital interest is not worth it. We all know vital interest is code for oil.
If we dont bring our soldiers home now, what do we tell the families of those killed and maimed between now and some future arbitrary date? The sooner we get our military out of Iraq, the sooner we can turn to the international community to help with a diplomatic solution to bring an end to the sectarian civil war we caused.
The Democrats in control of Congress need to act resolutelyand Im not talking about some mealy-mouthed, nonbinding resolutions. They need to precipitate a constitutional confrontation with George Bush.
Under the Constitution, the Congress is the only body that can declare war. Implicit in that power is the ability to end a war and make peace. Even a commander in chief executing a war is subservient to the Congresss war powers. The Founding Fathers specifically created this constitutional check on executive authority, and it was reaffirmed by the War Powers Act of 1973. Congress is the only hope we have, between now and January 20, 2009, to halt our continued involvement in the carnage and death George Bush has unleashed …
President Eisenhower, upon leaving office, warned of the dangers to democracy posed by a military-industrial complex. Since his warning, we have seen a rise in the culture of militarism. His concern that our foreign policy might be dictated by the financial interests of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry has been fully realized.
We should remember a lesson of the First World War: the presence of excessive weaponry in the hands of nation-states by itself is sufficient to induce war.
The decision to wage preemptive war in Iraq raises the specter of a much deeper problem facing the global community: nuclear proliferation. On this issue, we should first look at ourselves. The U.S. has more deliverable nuclear devices than the rest of the world combined. Justone Trident nuclear submarine can hold the entire world hostage. Yet we continue to build more nuclear devices. Who in the world are we prepared to nuke?
We started an arms race in space a decade ago, without provocation. Now the Bush administration is pressuring Eastern European countries to let us station antiballistic missiles on their soil. Most Americans are unaware that the Bush administration, under the cover of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been aggressively initiating a new arms race with Russia and China, whose defense budgets are a small fraction of our own. Our political leadership, controlled by military industrialists, insists on pursuing a cold war strategy in a postcold war era.
American political leaders often boast of American exceptionalism, as you head from this dais. We are indeed a great nation, one that has made significant contributions to humanity. But our leaders are promoting delusional thinking when boasting that the United States and Americans are superior to the rest of the human race. We are no better and no worse …
The Democratic Party has the opportunity to undertake a change in the paradigm of human governance and to champion the lost vision of our Founders, and help make We, the People lawmakers. The statements of our Founders cannot be clearer about their vision. They had faith in the American people.
Of all the decisions a president must make, the most far reaching is whether to commit the lives of our young men and women to combat. I believe that I have demonstrated the clarity and foresight people have a right to expect of a president. This war would have never occurred in the first place if I had been president. But we do not have to wait for 2009 and my inauguration as president to end it.
Right now, the Democratic Congress has the ability and the power to end the war and bring our troops home. This past November, Democrats received a mandate from the American people to end the war. Democrats have an obligation to reclaim Congresss constitutional power to end the war. If we support the troops, we should bring them home. Money is there now to bring our troops safely home. Supporting my twelve-point plan, Congress can require the administration to end the occupation, close the bases, and bring the troops home and stabilize Iraq.
I want to stress, the Democratic Congress must deny the president the money he wants to keep the war going through the end of his term, money which he can also use to attack Iran. If we give the president the money, the Democratic Party will have bought the war.
This past summer I implored our government to intervene to stop a bloodbath between the Israelis and Lebanon. As it turned out, our government encouraged the destruction. My wife and I traveled to South Lebanon immediately after the war. Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw in South Lebanon: Bridges, water systems, sewer systems, schools, social clubs, recreation areas, stadiums, cemeteries, fruit groves, factories, small businesses, mosques, and churches, all bombed. Countless cluster bombs were strewn about, and landmines lined roads and adjacent fields, making on-foot travel perilous. The smell of death was everywhere. Over 30,000 homes were destroyed. We traveled through village after village, with names like Aita, Maroun Raas, and Bent Jabil, stopping to assess the damage, talking with people through interpreters, moving cautiously through the rubble of childrens toys, household appliances, televisions, computers, clothing with popular American insignias. Because the bombs were widely assumed to have come from America, big bold signs declared This is your Democracy, America.
The word spread that an American congressman was present; a crowd quickly gathered. We had no bodyguards. We were surrounded by people who had suffered great loss, who had every right to express anger or even rage, yet instead they expressed a remarkable depth of forgiveness, compassion, and a desire for peace and reconciliation, speaking calmly from the crowd through interpreters.
The people of the village retrieved a fragment of the bomb which destroyed so many lives, and they gave it to me. And here it is. I want to show it to you because it is time that we took a stand to stop the destruction of the lives of innocents, whether they live in Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, India, Sudan, or America. We must make it our priority to work for peace in the Middle East and throughout the world.
We have lost so much since 9/11. It is time to bind up our nations wounds from 9/11. It is time, in the words of Lincoln, to move forward with malice toward none and charity for all.
We all know that these are not the best of times for Americas reputation in the world. We know what the war in Iraq has cost us in lives and treasure, in influence and respect. We have seen the consequences of a foreign policy based on a flawed ideology, and a belief that tough talk can replace real strength and vision.
Many around the world are disappointed with our actions. And many in our own country have come to doubt either our wisdom or our capacity to shape events beyond our borders. Some have even suggested that Americas time has passed.
But while we know what we have lost as a consequence of this tragic war, I also know what I have found in my travels over the past two years.
In an old building in Ukraine, I saw test tubes filled with anthrax and the plague lying virtually unlocked and unguardeddangers we were told could only be secured with Americas help.
On a trip to the Middle East, I met Israelis and Palestinians who told me that peace remains a distant hope without the promise of American leadership.
At a camp along the border of Chad and Darfur, refugees begged for America to step in and help stop the genocide that has taken their mothers and fathers, sons and daughters.
And along the crowded streets of Kenya, I met throngs of children who asked if theyd ever get the chance to visit that magical place called America.
So I reject the notion that the American moment has passed. I dismiss the cynics who say that this new century cannot be another when, in the words of President Franklin Roosevelt, we lead the world in battling immediate evils and promoting the ultimate good …
In todays globalized world, the security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people. When narco-trafficking and corruption threaten democracy in Latin America, its Americas problem too. When poor villagers in Indonesia have no choice but to send chickens to market infected with avian flu, it cannot be seen as a distant concern. When religious schools in Pakistan teach hatred to young children, our children are threatened as well.
Whether its global terrorism or pandemic disease, dramatic climate change or the proliferation of weapons of mass annihilation, the threats we face at the dawn of the twenty-first century can no longer be contained by borders and boundaries.
The horrific attacks on that clear September day awakened us to this new reality. And after 9/11, millions around the world were ready to stand with us. They were willing to rally to our cause because it was their cause toobecause they knew that if America led the world toward a new era of global cooperation, it would advance the security of people in our nation and all nations.
We now know how badly this administration squandered that opportunity. In 2002, I stated my opposition to the war in Iraq, not only because it was an unnecessary diversion from the struggle against the terrorists who attacked us on September 11th, but also because it was based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the threats that 9/11 brought to light. I believed then, and believe now, that it was based on old ideologies and outdated strategiesa determination to fight a twenty-first-century struggle with a twentieth-century mindset.
There is no doubt that the mistakes of the past six years have made our current task more difficult. World opinion has turned against us. Andafter all the lives lost and the billions of dollars spent, many Americans may find it tempting to turn inward, and cede our claim of leadership in world affairs.
I insist, however, that such an abandonment of our leadership is a mistake we must not make. America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America. We must neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submissionwe must lead the world, by deed and example.
We must lead by building a twenty-first-century military to ensure the security of our people and advance the security of all people. We must lead by marshalling a global effort to stop the spread of the worlds most dangerous weapons. We must lead by building and strengthening the partnerships and alliances necessary to meet our common challenges and defeat our common threats.
And America must lead by reaching out to all those living disconnected lives of despair in the worlds forgotten cornersbecause while there will always be those who succumb to hate and strap bombs to their bodies, there are millions more who want to take another pathwho want our beacon of hope to shine its light their way.
This election offers us the chance to turn the page and open a new chapter in American leadership. The disappointment that so many around the world feel toward America right now is only a testament to the high expectations they hold for us. We must meet those expectations again, not because being respected is an end in itself, but because the security of America and the wider world demands it.
Over the past fifteen years, I … have led many diplomatic missions where I have stood toe-to-toe with some of the worlds toughest customers, including Saddam, Castro, the North Koreans, and, most recently, the Sudanese leader Bashir. I have gotten all these tough guys to do what I wanted them to do because I put my disdain for them aside, and talked to them. You need to know your enemy if you want him to cooperate. I know that even bad guys will listen to you when you hold a big stick in one hand and a carrot in the otherand you show them a face-saving way out of the dilemma you have just created for them. Talking topeople is no guarantee of success, but refusing to talk to them is usually a precursor to failure. As JFK said, we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate.
I also have worked closely with some extraordinary leaders, such as Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, and Nelson Mandela. I know that great leaders are guided by shining idealsbut that they are never blinded by ideology. They know that to pursue a vision to make the world a better place, you first must see the world as it really is.
To restore American leadership, we need to reject dogma, and to embrace a New Realism in our foreign policy. An enlightened and ethical realism for the twenty-first century. A realism that looks at the world through cool eyes, but that is also inspired by ardent principles.
America is a great nation that knows how to defend itself. We are also a nation that has been willing to pay in blood as well as in coin for what we believe is the right thing to do, and we have a sense that in order to do right by ourselves we must be ready to do right by others. We defend ourselves most effectively when we lead others. And it has been our willingness to seek and find common ground, to blend our interests with those of others, which has been the key to our long history of effective leadership. Realists like Truman and Eisenhower understood that defending Europe and ourselves from the Soviets required a strong military. But they also understood that we could not lead our allies if they did not wish to follow.
These and subsequent American presidents knew the importance of moral leadership. Our remarkable military and our prosperous economy gave us the power to lead. But our commitment to human dignityincluding our willingness to struggle against our own prejudicesinspired others to follow.
If America is to lead again, we need to remember this history, and to rebuild our overextended military, increase the size of our army, revive our alliances, and restore our reputation as a nation which respects international law, human rights, and civil liberties.