Restoring American Leadership: A New Direction for American Foreign Policy

Speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Washington DC, June 25, 2003

Text Prepared for Presentation by
Governor Howard Dean

Two days ago, I formally launched my campaign for President with a call for a Great American Restoration.

I spoke of the need to restore the American people's faith in their political system and government.  To restore our government's commitment to the values of community, equality, opportunity and justice for all. To restore our role as a world leader by setting a positive example and working together to meet the challenges facing the global community in this new century. 

I believe that the United States has a special role to play in world affairs.  We have long been an inspiration to all those around the world seeking democracy, freedom and opportunity.   

We have shaped our own destiny and set an example for the world that through hard work every obstacle can be overcome.

Every candidate who seeks to lead America must keep this inspiration alive. 

In recent months, I have traveled across the country and found a nation deeply troubled about the direction of U.S. national security policy today.

Americans do not understand how we could have squandered the precious opportunity we had after September 11 to unite the world in opposition to the likes of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda.

They are concerned that international support for the war against terror is waning and, along with it, admiration and support for the United States.

They are confused that elections in countries long allied to us such as Germany and South Korea are now being decided on the basis of which candidate is more willing to stand up to oppose American policies.

They are astounded that increasing numbers of people in Europe, Asia and in our own hemisphere cite America not as the strongest pillar of freedom and democracy but as a threat to peace.

They are disturbed that brave men and women in our armed forces are being targeted systematically nearly two months after a war we were told had ended in a country where we were assured that our troops would be welcomed as liberators.

There is a dawning realization across the land that despite winning a military battle in Iraq, the United States may be losing a larger war.  That we may well be less secure today than we were two and a half years ago when this administration took office.  And we have yet to see the report that details the events that lead up to September 11th, so that we can improve our ability to respond in the future.

Americans are ready, I believe, to restore the best traditions of American leadership.  Leadership in which our power is multiplied by the appeal of democratic ideals and by the knowledge that our country is a force for law around the world not a law unto itself.

America became America by rebelling against imperial power.

America emerged from isolation to greatness by beating fascist power.

America became synonymous with justice by supporting independence for colonies from an imperial world. 

America's ideals triumphed when it confronted communism to the point of extinction.

America is not Rome.  We do not dream of empire. We dream of liberty for all.

In November 2004, the American people will seek a President who is prepared to use our brave and remarkable armed forces as I would to defend against any actual or imminent threat to ourselves or our friends and allies and, in concert with others to deal with grave humanitarian crises. 

They will seek a President skilled at garnering the support of allies, but willing to act  as I would when it is necessary to protect and defend our country.

They will seek a President focused as I would be on the dismantling of terrorist organizations, the disruption of terrorist operations, the apprehension of terrorist planners and the prevention of terrorist efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction.

But they will also seek a President who would strive as I would not to divide the world into us versus them, but rather to rally the world around fundamental principles of decency, responsibility, freedom and mutual respect.  Our foreign and military policy must be about the notion of America leading the world not America against the world. 

Presidents such as Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy built and strengthened international institutions, rather than dismissing and disparaging the concerns of allies.  They inspired and mobilized other countries because they believed there was no more powerful force on earth than that of free people working together.

They helped build global platforms such as the UN, NATO, and the World Bank on which free people everywhere could stand.  Our greatest leaders built America's reputation as the world's leading democracy by never resting until they had given life to American ideals. 

That is why I do not accept that a candidate's national security credentials should be considered suspect for opposing the war in Iraq at the time it was initiated with the limited level of international support we had, the lack of postwar planning that had been undertaken, and the failure to make the case that the threat was imminent enough to justify preventive action.

Some in the Democratic party claim that a candidate who questioned the war cannot lead the party in the great national debate that lies ahead. 

I would remind them that during the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy took on the hawks among the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as the "me-too'ers" in Congress.  The President and his advisors used toughness, patience, and diplomacy.  The missiles came out of Cuba and war was averted.

Last October, four of the major contenders for the Democratic nomination supported the President's preemptive strike resolution 5 months before we went to war without, as we now realize, knowing the facts.

I stood up against this administration and even when 70% of the American people supported the war, I believed that the evidence was not there and I refused to change my view.  As it turned out, I was right.  No Democrat can beat George Bush without the same willingness that John F. Kennedy showed in 1962.  A President must be tough, patient, and willing to take a course of action based on evidence, and not ideology. 

I question the judgment of those who led us into this conflict that has made us, on balance, not more secure, but less.  Although we may have won the war, we are failing to win the peace.

I believed then and I believe now that removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq was a just cause.  But not every just cause requires that we go to war, especially with inadequate planning and without maximum support.

The Bush administration led us into war without convincing evidence that an imminent threat existed, without a strategy for securing nuclear, chemical and biological materials, without a plan for financing reconstruction, and without a clue how to consolidate the peace or unite the Iraqi people in support of democracy. 

Today we face three critical problems, all connected with the manner in which we prosecuted the war: the first is accounting for the weapons of mass destruction, vital because of the implications for our own security as well as for the integrity and credibility of the United States and its leaders in the eyes of the world. 

There are three possibilities.  As the search continues, substantial stocks of these weapons may be found.  In that case, we will still need to know why our intelligence failed and did not lead us to them more rapidly.

The other possibilities are that they will never be found because they no longer exist; or that they will never be found because they have already been stolen or transferred to others.

In any case, we need to know the truth. 

Serious doubts about our integrity have been raised; not only in the streets of nations that do not know us well, but also in the parliaments and press rooms of countries that know us best.  The checks and balances in the national security process in our Executive Branch have clearly broken down.

That's why it is imperative to have an independent, bipartisan, comprehensive and transparent investigation of how our intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was developed and selectively used to used justify war in Iraq.  In other words, what did the President know and when did he know it?

The second major challenge results from a failure to plan for peace as fully as we planned for war. General Shinseki's professional military advice that 200,000 troops would be needed was rejected.  I would add at least 50,000 foreign troops to the force in Iraq.

It is imperative that we bring the international community in to help stabilize Iraq.  If I were President, I would reach out to NATO, to Arab and Islamic countries, to other friends to share the burden and the risks.

We need to consider the impact on our guard and reserve troops operating in Iraq.  And we should ask that the forces of foreign friends and allies increasingly assume police and security missions.  Our active duty military forces are the best trained and best equipped of any military force in the world.  We must continue to be able to train them and prepare for other potential war-fighting missions that arise in this dangerous world. 

This leads me to the third problem resulting from the single-minded focus on getting rid of Saddam. For nearly a year, we have been too distracted to focus on a number of other serious problems that have emerged.  

While we focused on Iraq, we neglected the very real nuclear threats emerging in North Korea and Iran.  For months we refused to see North Korea's nuclear challenge as a crisis--and now it is a declared nuclear power.

The Bush administration has not had talks with the North in over two months.  It is foolish to refuse to have bilateral discussions with the North Koreans, we are after all the most powerful nation on the face of the earth and losing face should not be an issue. 

The goal of our policy with North Korea must be to prevent continued nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula and to prevent the transfer of weapons or materials to third parties or terrorists.
In Iran, we again must use the full range of economic and diplomatic tools at our disposal.  We must work with the Europeans and the Russians to stop Iranian development of nuclear weapons and their support of terror.  And we must do what we can to strengthen and encourage the voices among Iranian youth who are striving for true change and freedom.

Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden used our loss of focus to rebuild their terrorist networks, as recent deadly attacks on in Saudi Arabia and Morocco demonstrate.

While we focused on Iraq, The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was neglected.  The President, despite knowing how critical his personal involvement was, refused to engage for over two full years squandering the momentum he inherited from the Clinton administration. 

I am truly optimistic about the chances for peace in the Middle East. Our strongest asset is that majorities of both peoples in this conflict actually accept a two-state solution guaranteeing both sides security, sovereignty and dignity.

Most Israelis recognize that they will have to give back occupied land and give up settlements.  Most Palestinians understand that there will never be a Palestinian state as long as terrorist attacks continue.  Yet the Palestinians have assets that are often misunderstood.  They have a high level of education.  Palestinian women play a more significant role in government than in almost any other Arab society.  And a large number of Palestinians have a significant experience with democracy having lived in Europe, the United States, and of course in Israel.  Yassir Arafat is not the answer, but Abu Mazzen and Salim Fayed, who I met with in Jerusalem, may well be the answer.

Finally, the United States must reduce its dependence on Middle Eastern oil and we must have a President who is willing to confront the Iranians, the Syrians, the Saudis, and others who send money to Hamas, and finance a worldwide network of fundamentalist schools which teach small children to hate Americans, Christians, and Jews.

Let us turn our attention to postwar Afghanistan.  I supported the President's invasion of Afghanistan.  Al Qaeda was and continues to be an imminent threat to the United States.

However, insufficient security assistance and economic investment are opening the door to civil strife and tribal warfare again the very conditions that bred the Taliban in the first place. Our repeated assurances of aid and reconstruction have resulted in lost hope and empty promises for the people of Afghanistan once again. 

The U.S. must redouble its effort to garner aid from the donor community and to increase to 30-40,000 the number of military troops our friends and allies commit to help us rebuild Afghanistan.  For the United States to rely on warlords to keep peace in Afghanistan nearly two years after a successful military operation demonstrates an extraordinary lack of thoughtful vision.

Not only has the focus of this Administration's foreign policy been wrong.  So is the manner in which it has been conducted. 

Instead of the humility we were promised, this administration has acted with unparalleled arrogance and disregard for the concerns of others. 

It has rejected a long list of multilaterally negotiated agreements the comprehensive test ban, the Kyoto treaty, the Law of the Sea Treaty, the Biological Warfare Convention Protocol, the International Criminal Court, the Landmine convention: the list goes on and on.   These treaties are not without flaws, but surely some could be ratified and others renegotiated.  The answer is to work to rewrite them, and not to walk away from them.

The bedrock of our strength and security is provided by our economy, our military and our values.  We cannot deny, however, that our strength derives in large measure as well from the extent to which others emulate and respect us abroad--and not by the extent to which they fear and loathe us.

America must not shy away from its role as the remaining superpower in the world.  We are, as Madeleine Albright once put it, the "indispensable power" for so many challenges around the world.  Inevitably, some will resent us for what we have, and some will hate us for what we believe.  

But there is much in the world that we cannot achieve on our own.  So, we must lead toward clearly articulated and shared goals and with the cooperation and respect of friends and allies. 
As President, I would set four goals for American leadership:

First, defeat the threat posed by terrorists, tyrants, and technologies of mass destruction. 

Second, strengthen our alliances and ensure Russia and China are fully integrated into a stable international order.

Third, enlarge the circle of beneficiaries of the growing world economy.

And fourth, ensure that life on our fragile planet is sustainable.

Preemptive war against tyrannical dictators is not a comprehensive strategy for addressing the threat of terrorists, tyrants, and technologies of mass destruction pose in the 21st century. 

In fact, misuse of the doctrine may have the opposite effect.

In the profession of medicine, the first rule is to do no harm.  To deal with the long-term terrorist threat we must root out and destroy the terrorists, their networks and their support systems.  But in doing so, we must not provide them with a rationale for new recruits.

In this fight, it is essential that America lead by example and exercise power responsibly.  Only in that way can we hope to eliminate support for the next generation of extremists who regard our culture and our actions not simply with envy or jealousy but with a deep-seated hatred over the manner in which we conduct our affairs.

The Clinton administration was committed to military engagement with friends and allies around the world helping to train and equip these countries so that they were better prepared to work with the U.S. in shouldering this burden.  As President, my administration would redouble these efforts. 

Here at home, we need a real commitment to homeland security.  As President, I would immediately devote significant new resources to preventing, managing and responding to potential and actual terrorist threats here at home.  If we can spend $400 billion to defend our nation from threats abroad as we must should we not spend more to defend our nation at home? 

We need to devote more resources to fully fund, equip and train first responders across the nation the policemen, firemen, emergency room personnel, and hundreds of thousands of other Americans that form the first line of defense against terrorism.  We simply must provide significant new resources to state and local governments, specifically earmarked for these purposes.

With only 4 percent of 5.7 million containers arriving at our 361 seaports annually inspected, this is one of the greatest points of vulnerability that must be addressed, not tomorrow, but today.  

We need to allocate the funds necessary to address the threat of weapons of mass destruction or weapons-grade material ending up in the hands of terrorists.  The Cooperative Threat Reduction program with Russia and other former Soviet states is working, it just requires much more money to get the job done right.

Homeland security does not stop at our borders.  Success in confronting these threats hinges on the willingness of our friends and allies to work with us.  We need the benefit of their intelligence, the assistance of their security and transportation agencies, and the collaboration of their Customs offices.  

We must strengthen nonproliferation treaties, limit access to nuclear and other dangerous materials, apply coercive diplomacy, and, as a last resort, take military action to remove weapons programs and facilities.  All of these steps are best taken in concert with other countries, not alone.

Our second priority should be strengthening our bonds with other countries, especially our historical allies in a world growing ever more interdependent.  Conducting foreign policy by posse may be expedient, but it is short-sighted and far less stable than a world order built on enduring relationships and viable international institutions.

I would lead this country back to a strong commitment to international alliances and institutions that are the backbone of a stable international order.  In an increasingly complex and dangerous world, the more that our destinies are intertwined, the greater the shared sense of purpose, the more likely it is that we will work together successfully to address the difficult challenges ahead. 

And we must do this not only with our traditional friends and allies in Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa, but with such critical powers as Russia and China, both of whom must be fully integrated into the international community as our partners.

Third, we must recognize the importance of spreading the benefits of economic growth as widely as possible.  The growth of multinational corporations and the globalization of the economy have helped create wealth and economic growth.  But we must make certain that people in the developing world are full and equal beneficiaries in this growth and are not marginalized by it. 

As long as half the world's population subsists on less than $2 a day, the U.S. will not be secure.  Poor states and failed states provide breeding grounds for disease as well as recruits and safe havens for terrorists.  A world populated by "hostile have-nots" is not one in which U.S. leadership can be sustained without coercion.

We want a trade and development policy that does not enrich the minority but will empower the majority. 

In addition to supporting the growth of fair global trade we must use our foreign assistance monies strategically to support the rule of law, combat corruption, help the most needy and assist governments in creating democracies and developing infrastructure and human resources in their countries.  We must bring still more energy to the cooperative battle against HIV/AIDS, which in too many countries is undermining security and tearing the heart out of economies, communities, and entire generations.

Finally, the United States must step to the forefront and promote sustainable development.  We cannot ignore climate change, population growth, famine, or the many other global problems that we face.  To address them, we must break free of the special interests that constrain our ability to tackle these serious problems.

How can we effectively address burgeoning population growth when this President has revived the "Mexico City policy" imposing a gag order on international family planning providers?

How can we combat AIDS when right-wing ideology is allowed to stand in the way of the promotion of practices most effective at prevention in different societies? 

How can we fight global climate change when our energy and environmental policies are created at the behest of contributors from the oil and gas industry who prefer no meaningful action?  When critical information on global warming is edited out of EPA reports by White House staff?

I believe that a failure to lead on an issue of this magnitude is immoral.  As the world's biggest polluter, we have a special responsibility to take action and to lead the world in combating this gathering crisis. 

Fifty-five years ago, President Harry Truman delivered what was known as the Four Point speech.  In it, he challenged Democrats and Republicans alike to come together to build strong and effective international organizations; to support arrangements that would spur global economic recovery; to join with free people everywhere in the defense of human liberty; and to draw upon the genius of our people to help societies who needed help in the battle against hunger and illness, ignorance and despair.

This was at the very beginning of the cold war.

America was threatened by a powerful and hostile empire, that was backed by a massive military, bolstered by satellite states, and in the process of developing the hydrogen bomb.

At that moment of maximum peril, President Truman went before the world to spell out not only what America was against, but much more importantly, what America was for.

He did so because he had faith that if America were true to her own principles and values, we could in the long run defeat any foe, no matter how deadly.

He believed that if America reached out to others in friendship and with respect, our strength would be multiplied and that more and more countries would support our policies not because we told them to, but because they wanted to.

Harry Truman believed that a world in which even the poorest and most desperate had grounds for hope would be a world in which our own children could grow up in security and peace not because evil would then be absent from the globe, but because the forces of right would be united and strong.

Harry Truman had faith as I have faith, and as I believe the American people have faith, that if we are wise enough and determined enough in our opposition to hate and our promotion of tolerance; in our opposition to aggression and our fidelity to law; we will have allies not only among governments but among people everywhere.

Such an alliance can never be beaten.

And the creation of such an alliance will be my goal if I am entrusted with the presidency of the United States.  Because, this is what will keep America strong. This is what reflects the best in the American people.  And this is the core of the national security message that I will be carrying to all of America throughout this campaign that I am committed to working constructively with friends and allies around the globe to help people in every corner of every continent to live in freedom, prosperity and peace.

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