Fulfilling the Promise of America: Meeting The Security Challenges of the New Century

Los Angeles, California, December 15, 2003

The following is the text as prepared of Governor Dean's major foreign policy address, delivered this morning in Los Angeles:

In the past year, our campaign has gathered strength by offering leadership and ideas – and also by listening to the American people. The American people have the power to make their voices heard and to change America’s course for the better.

What are the people telling us? That a domestic policy centered on increasing the wealth of the wealthiest Americans, and ceding power to favored corporate campaign contributors, is a recipe for fiscal and economic disaster. That the strength of our nation depends on electing a President who will fight for jobs, education, and real health care for all Americans.

But the growing concerns of the American people are not limited to matters at home: They also are increasingly concerned that our country is squandering the opportunity to lead in the world in a way that will advance our values and interests and makes us more secure.

When it comes to our national security, we cannot afford to fail. September 11 was neither the beginning of our showdown with violent extremists, nor its climax. It was a monumental wake-up call to the urgent challenges we face.

Today, I want to discuss these challenges. First I want to say a few words about events over the weekend. The capture of Saddam Hussein is good news for the Iraqi people and the world. Saddam was a brutal dictator who should be brought swiftly to justice for his crimes. His capture is a testament to the skill and courage of U.S. forces and intelligence personnel. They have risked their lives. Some of their comrades have given their lives.

All Americans should be grateful. I thank these outstanding men and women for their service and sacrifice.

I want to talk about Iraq in the context of all our security challenges ahead. Saddam’s capture offers the Iraqi people, the United States, and the international community an opportunity to move ahead. But it is only an opportunity, not a guarantee.

Let me be clear: My position on the war has not changed.

The difficulties and tragedies we have faced in Iraq show that the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help, and at unbelievable cost. An administration prepared to work with others in true partnership might have been able, if it found no alternative to Saddam’s ouster, to then rebuild Iraq with far less cost and risk.

As our military commanders said, and the President acknowledged yesterday, the capture of Saddam does not end the difficulties from the aftermath of the administration’s war to oust him. There is the continuing challenge of securing Iraq, protecting the safety of our personnel, and helping that country get on the path to stability. There is the need to repair our alliances and regain global support for American goals.

Nor, as the president also seemed to acknowledge yesterday, does Saddam’s capture move us toward defeating enemies who pose an even greater danger: al Qaeda and its terrorist allies. And, nor, it seems, does Saturday’s capture address the urgent need to halt the spread of weapons of mass destruction and the risk that terrorists will acquire them.

When I become president, addressing these critical and interlocking threats – terrorism and weapons of mass destruction -- will be America’s highest priority.

To meet these and other important security challenges, including Iraq, I will bring to bear all the instruments of power that will keep our citizens secure and our nation strong.

Empowered by the American people, I will work to restore:

The legitimacy that comes from the rule of law;

The credibility that comes from telling the truth;

The knowledge that comes from first-rate intelligence, undiluted by ideology;

The strength that comes from robust alliances and vigorous diplomacy;

And, of course, I will call on the most powerful armed forces the world has ever known to ensure the security of this nation.

I want to focus first on two ways we can strengthen the instruments of power so we can achieve all our national security goals. Then I want to lay out my plans for dealing with the central challenges I have identified: defeating global terrorism, curbing weapons of mass destruction.

First, we must strengthen our military and intelligence capabilities so we are best prepared to defend America and our interests.

When the cold war ended, Americans hoped our military’s job would become simpler and smaller, but it has not.

During the past dozen years, I have supported U.S. military action to roll back Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, to halt ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, to stop Milosevic’s campaign of terror in Kosovo, to oust the Taliban and al Qaeda from control in Afghanistan. As President, I will never hesitate to deploy our armed forces to defend our country and its allies, and to protect our national interests.

And, as President, I will renew America’s commitment to the men and women who proudly serve our nation – and to the critical missions they carry out.

That means ensuring that our troops have the best leadership, the best training, and the best equipment.

It means keeping promises about pay, living conditions, family benefits, and care for veterans – so we honor our commitments and recruit and retain the best people.

It means putting our troops in harm’s way only when the stakes warrant, when we plan soundly to cope with possible dangers, and when we level with the American people about the relevant facts.

It means exercising global leadership effectively to secure maximum support and cooperation from other nations, so that our troops do not bear unfair burdens in defeating the dangers to global peace.

It means ensuring that we have the right types of forces with the right capabilities to perform the missions that may lie ahead. I will expand our armed forces’ capacity to meet the toughest challenges – like defeating terrorism, countering weapons of mass destruction, and securing peace – with robust special forces, improved military intelligence, and forces that are as ready and able to strengthen the peace as they are to succeed in combat.

When he ran in 2000, this president expressed disdain for “nation building.” That disdain seemed to carry over into Iraq, where civilian officials did not adequately plan for and have not adequately supported the enormous challenge, much of it borne by our military, of stabilizing the country. Our men and women in uniform deserve better, and as President, I will shape our forces based not on wishful thinking but on the realities of our world.

I also will get America’s defense spending priorities straight – so our resources are focused more on fighting terrorism and weapons of mass destruction and honoring commitments to our troops – and less, for example, on developing unnecessary and counterproductive new generations of nuclear weapons.

Leadership also is critically needed to strengthen America’s intelligence capabilities. The failure of warning on 9-11 and the debacle regarding intelligence on Iraq show that we need the best information possible about efforts to organize, finance and operate terrorist groups; about plans to buy, steal, develop, or use weapons of mass destruction; about unrest overseas that could lead to violence and instability.

As President, I will make it a critical priority to improve our ability to gather and analyze intelligence. I will see to it that we have the expertise and resources to do the job.

Because some terrorist networks know no borders in their efforts to attack Americans, I will demand the effective coordination and integration of intelligence about such groups from domestic and international sources and across federal agencies. Such coordination is lacking today. It is a critical problem that the current administration has not addressed adequately. I will do so -- and I will meet all our security challenges -- in a way that fully protects our civil liberties. We will not undermine freedom in the name of freedom.

I also will restore honor and integrity by insisting that intelligence be evaluated to shape policy, instead of making it a policy to distort intelligence.

Second, we must rebuild our global alliances and partnerships, so critical to our nation and so badly damaged by the present administration.

Meeting the pressing security challenges of the 21st century will require new ideas, initiatives, and energy. But it also will require us to draw on our proudest traditions, including the strong global leadership demonstrated by American Presidents from Franklin Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, to renew key relationships with America’s friends and allies. Every President in that line, including Republicans – Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and the first President Bush – demonstrated that effective American leadership includes working with allies and partners, inspiring their support, advancing common interests.

Now, when America should be at the height of its influence, we find ourselves, too often, isolated and resented. America should never be afraid to act alone when necessary. But we must not choose unilateral action as our weapon of first resort. Leaders of the current administration seem to believe that nothing can be gained from working with nations that have stood by our side as allies for generations. They are wrong, and they are leading America in a radical and dangerous direction. We need to get back on the right path.

Our allies have been a fundamental source of strength for more than half a century. And yet the current administration has often acted as if our alliances are no longer important. Look at the record: Almost two years passed between September 11 and NATO assuming the leadership of a peacekeeping force in Afghanistan. More than six months have gone by between the fall of Baghdad and any serious consideration of a NATO role in Iraq.

It can, at times, be challenging, even frustrating, to obtain the cooperation of allies. But, as history shows, America is most successful in achieving our national aims when our allies are by our side.

Now, some say we shouldn’t worry about eroding alliances because, whenever a crisis comes up, we can always assemble a coalition of the willing. It’s nice when people are willing, because it means they will show up and do their best. It does not, however, guarantee that they will be able to accomplish all that needs to be done.

As President, I will be far more interested in allies that stand ready to act with us rather than just willing to be rounded up as part of a coalition. NATO and our Asian alliances are strong coalitions of the able, and we need to maximize their support and strength if we are to prevail.

Unlike the kind of pick-up team this administration prefers, alliances train together so they can function effectively with common equipment, communications, logistics, and planning. Our country will be safer with established alliances, adapted to confront 21st century dangers, than with makeshift coalitions that have to start from scratch every time the alarm bell sounds.

Rebuilding our alliances and partnerships is relevant not only in Europe and Asia. Closer to home, my Administration will rebuild cooperation with Mexico and others in Latin America. This President talked the talk of Western Hemisphere partnership in his first months, but at least since 9-11 he has failed to walk the walk. He has allowed crises and resentments to accumulate and squandered goodwill that had been built up over many years. We can do much better.

Third, I will bring to bear our strengthened resources, and our renewed commitment to alliances, on our nation’s most critical and urgent national security priority: defeating the terrorists who have attacked America, continue to attack our friends, and are working to acquire the most dangerous weapons to attack us again.

Essential to this effort will be strong US leadership in forging a new global alliance to defeat terror.

And a core objective of this alliance must be a dramatically intensified global effort to prevent the most deadly threat of all – the danger that terrorists will acquire weapons of mass destruction: nuclear, biological, and chemical arms.

A critical component of our defense against terror is homeland security. Here, the current administration has talked much, but done too little. It has devised the color coded threat charts we see on television, but it has not adequately addressed the conditions that make the colors change. Our administration will.

We will do more to protect our cities, ports, and aircraft; water and food supplies; bridges, chemical factories, and nuclear plants.

We will improve the coordination of intelligence information not only among federal agencies but also with state and local governments.

And we will enhance the emergency response capabilities of our police, firefighters and public health personnel. These local first responders are the ones on whom our security depends, and they deserve much stronger support from our federal government. A Department of Homeland Security isn’t doing its job if it doesn’t adequately support the hometown security that can prevent attacks and save lives.

As President, I will strengthen the National Guard’s role at the heart of homeland security. Members of the Guard have always stood ready to be deployed overseas for limited periods and in times of crisis and national emergency. But the Iraq war has torn tens of thousands of Guard members from their families for more than a year. It also deprived local communities of many of their best defenders.

The Guard is an integral part of American life, and its main mission should be here at home, preparing, planning, and acting to keep our citizens safe.

Closing the homeland security gap is just one element of what must be a comprehensive approach. We must take the fight to the terrorist leaders and their operatives around the world.

There will be times when urgent problems require swift American action. But defeating al Qaeda and other terrorist groups will require much more. It will require a long-term effort on the part of many nations.

Fundamental to our strategy will be restoration of strong US leadership in the creation of a new global alliance to defeat terror, a commitment among law-abiding nations to work together in law enforcement, intelligence, and military operations.

Such an alliance could have been established right after September 11, when nations stood shoulder to shoulder with America, prepared to meet the terrorist challenge together. But instead of forging an effective new partnership to fight a common foe, the administration soon downgraded the effort. The Iraq war diverted critical intelligence and military resources, undermined diplomatic support for our fight against terror, and created a new rallying cry for terrorist recruits.

Our administration will move swiftly to build a new anti-terrorist alliance, drawing on our traditional allies and involving other partners whose assistance can make a difference.

Our vigilance will extend to every conceivable means of attack. And our most important challenge will be to address the most dangerous threat of all: catastrophic terrorism using weapons of mass destruction. Here, where the stakes are highest, the current administration has, remarkably, done the least.

We have, rightly, paid much attention to finding and eliminating the worst people, but we need just as vigorous an effort to eliminate the worst weapons. Just as important as finding bin Laden is finding and eliminating sleeper cells of nuclear, chemical, and biological terror.

Our global alliance will place its strongest emphasis on this most lethal form of terror. We will advance a global effort to secure the weapons and technologies of mass destruction on a worldwide basis.

To do so, we will build on the efforts of former Senator Sam Nunn and Senator Richard Lugar, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And our effort will build on the extraordinary work and leadership, as Senator and as Vice President, of one of America’s great leaders, Al Gore.

The Nunn-Lugar program has been critical to securing the vast nuclear, chemical, and biological material inventory left over from the Soviet Union. Incredibly, despite the threat that the nexus of terrorism and technology of mass destruction poses, despite the heightened challenges posed by 9-11, the current administration has failed to increase funding for these efforts to secure dangerous weapons. I know that expanding and strengthening Nunn-Lugar is essential to defending America, and I will make that a priority from my first day as President.

Our new alliance will call upon all nations to work together to identify and control or eliminate unsafeguarded components -- or potential components -- of nuclear, chemical and biological arms around the world. These include the waste products and fuel of nuclear energy and research reactors, the pathogens developed for scientific purposes, and the chemical agents used for commercial ends. Such materials are present in dozens of countries -- and often stored with little if any security or oversight.

I will recruit every nation that can contribute and mobilize cooperation in every arena -- from compiling inventories to safeguarding transportation; from creating units specially-trained to handle terrorist situations involving lethal substances to ensuring global public health cooperation against biological terror.

A serious effort to deal with this threat will require far more than the $2 billion annual funding the U.S. and its key partners have committed. We need a global fund to combat weapons of mass destruction – not just in the former Soviet Union but around the world -- that is much larger than current expenditures.

Our administration will ask Congress to triple U.S. contributions over 10 years, to $30 billion, and we will challenge our friends and allies to match our contributions, for a total of $60 billion. For too long, we have been penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to addressing the weapons proliferation threat. We urgently need to strengthen these programs in order to defend America.

The next President will have to show leadership in other ways to mobilize the world into a global alliance to defeat terror.

We and our partners must commit ourselves to using every relevant capability, relationship, and organization to identify terrorist cells, seize terrorist funds, apprehend terrorist suspects, destroy terrorist camps, and prevent terrorist attacks. We must do even more to share intelligence, strengthen law enforcement cooperation, bolster efforts to squeeze terror financing, and enhance our capacity for joint military operations -- all so we can stop the terrorists before they strike at us.

The next President will also have to attack the roots of terror. He will have to lead and win the struggle of ideas.

Here we should have a decisive edge. Osama bin Laden and his allies have nothing to offer except deceit, destruction, and death. There is a global struggle underway between peace-loving Muslims and this radical minority that seeks to hijack Islam for selfish and violent aims, that exploits resentment to persuade that murder is martyrdom, and hatred is somehow God’s will. The tragedy is that, by its actions, its unilateralism, and its ill-considered war in Iraq, this Administration has empowered radicals, weakened moderates, and made it easier for the terrorists to add to their ranks.

The next President will have to work with our friends and partners, including in the Muslim world, to persuade people everywhere that terrorism is wholly unacceptable, just as they are persuaded that slavery and genocide are unacceptable.

He must convince Muslims that America neither threatens nor is threatened by Islam, to which millions of our own citizens adhere.

And he must show by words and deeds that America seeks security for itself through strengthening the rule of law, not to dominate others by becoming a law unto itself.

Finally, the struggle against terrorism, and the struggle for a better world, demand that we take even more steps. The strategic map of the world has never been more complicated. What America does, and how America is perceived, will have a direct bearing on how successful we are in mobilizing the world against the dangers that threaten us, and in promoting the values that sustain us.

Today, billions of people live on the knife’s edge of survival, trapped in a struggle against ignorance, poverty, and disease. Their misery is a breeding ground for the hatred peddled by bin Laden and other merchants of death.

As President, I will work to narrow the now-widening gap between rich and poor. Right now, the United States officially contributes a smaller percentage of its wealth to helping other nations develop than any other industrialized country.

That hurts America, because if we want the world’s help in confronting the challenges that most concern us, we need to help others defeat the perils that most concern them. Targeted and effective expansion of investment, assistance, trade, and debt relief in developing nations can improve the climate for peace and democracy and undermine the recruiters for terrorist plots.

So will expansion of assistance to fight deadly disease around the world. Today, HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death in many places.

We still are moving too slowly to address the crisis. As President, I will provide $30 billion in the fight against AIDS by 2008 -- to help the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria meet its needs and to help developing nations meet theirs.

Fighting poverty and disease and bringing opportunity and hope is the right thing to do.

It is also, absolutely, the smart thing to do if we want children around the world to grow up admiring entrepreneurs, educators, and artists – rather than growing up with pictures of terrorists tacked to their walls.

We can advance the battle against terrorism and strengthen our national security by reclaiming our rightful place as a leader in global institutions. The current administration has made it almost a point of pride to dismiss and ridicule these bodies. That’s a mistake.

Like our country’s “Greatest Generation,” I see international institutions like the United Nations as a way to leverage U.S. power, to summon warriors and peacekeepers, relief workers and democracy builders, to causes that advance America’s national interests. As President, I will work to make these institutions more accountable and more effective. That’s the only realistic approach. Throwing up our hands and assuming that nothing good can come from international cooperation is not leadership. It’s abdication. It’s foolish. It does not serve the American people.

Working more effectively with the UN, other institutions, and our friends and allies would have been a far better approach to the situation in Iraq.

As I said at the outset, our troops deserve our deepest gratitude for their work to capture Saddam. As I also said, Saddam’s apprehension does not end our security challenges in Iraq, let alone around the world. Violent factions in that country may continue to threaten stability and the safety of our personnel.

I hope the Administration will use Saddam’s capture as an opportunity to move U.S. policy in a more effective direction.

America’s interests will be best served by acting with dispatch to work as partners with free Iraqis to help them build a stable, self-governing nation, not by prolonging our term as Iraq’s ruler.

To succeed we also need urgently to remove the label “made in America” from the Iraqi transition. We need to make the reconstruction a truly international project, one that integrates NATO, the United Nations, and other members of the international community, and that reduces the burden on America and our troops.

We also must bring skill and determination to a task at which the current administration has utterly failed: We can and we must work for a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Our alliance with Israel is and must remain unshakeable, and so will be my commitment every day of our administration to work with the parties for a solution that ends decades of blood and tears.

I believe that, with new leadership, and strengthened partnerships, America can turn around the situation in the Middle East and in the Persian Gulf. I believe we can defeat terrorism and advance peace and progress. I believe these things because I believe in America’s promise. I believe in our capacity to come together as a people, and to act in the world with confidence, guided by our highest aspirations.

Again and again in America’s history, our citizens have faced crucial moments of decision. At these moments, it fell to our citizens to decide what kind of country America would be. And now, again, we face such a moment.

The American people can choose between a national security policy hobbled by fear, and a policy strengthened by shared hopes.

They must choose between a go-it-alone approach to every problem, and a truly global alliance to defeat terror and build peace.

They must choose between today’s new radical unilateralism and a renewal of respect for the best bipartisan traditions of American foreign policy. They must choose between a brash boastfulness and a considered confidence that speaks to the convictions of people everywhere.

I believe we will again hear the true voice of America.

It is the voice of Jefferson and our Declaration of Independence, forging a national community in which “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

It is the voice of Franklin Roosevelt rallying our people at a moment of maximum peril to fight for a world free from want and fear.

It is the voice of Harry Truman helping post war Europe resist communist aggression and emerge from devastation into prosperity.

It is the voice of Eleanor Roosevelt insisting that human rights are not the entitlement of some, but the birthright of all.

It is the voice of Martin Luther King proclaiming his dream of a future in which every man, woman and child is free at last.

It is the voice of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton bringing long-time foes to the table in pursuit of peace.

With these legacies to inspire us, no obstacle ahead is too great.

Our campaign is about strengthening the American community so we can fulfill the promise of our nation. We have the power, if we use it wisely, to advance American security and restore our country to its rightful place, as the engine of progress; the champion of liberty and democracy; a beacon of hope and a pillar of strength.

We have the power, as Thomas Paine said at America’s birth, “to begin the world anew.”

We have the power to put America back on the right path, toward a new era of greatness, fulfilling an American promise stemming not so much from what we possess, but from what we believe.

That is how America can best lead in the world. That is where I want to lead America. Thank you very much.

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