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Chuck Hagel, U.S. Senator
Landon Lecture
February 20, 2003

 

America's Purpose in the World

 

I would like to thank President Wefald and the students, faculty and alumni of Kansas State University for this invitation to speak to you today as part of the Alfred M. Landon Lecture Series. Gov. Landon understood the complexity of America's role in a dynamic world, evidenced by his 1966 inaugural speech in this lecture series, "New Challenges in International Relations." He represents the finest tradition of American public service that we have come to expect from Kansas and its elected representatives. Former Kansas Senators Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker and Bob Dole are friends whom I greatly admire and look to as role models in the U.S. Senate. I am proud to serve with my friends and colleagues Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback, two of the most effective members of the Senate. Except for the Kansas State Wildcats football team, I remain an unabashed fan of all good things from Manhattan!

Allow me to begin my lecture by recalling a speech at a mid-western college at another critical time in our history. Almost 57 years ago, on March 5, 1946, at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, not far from here, Winston Churchill, with President Harry Truman at his side, gave one of the greatest speeches of our time. The speech's power and majesty are not limited to time and place, although Churchill's warning of a Soviet "Iron Curtain" in Europe vividly captured the Communist threat of that era. That day in Fulton, Churchill also conveyed something unique and special about America's role in the world. He said:

"... The United States stands at this time at the pinnacle of world power. It is a solemn moment for the American democracy. For with this primacy in power is also joined an awe-inspiring accountability to the future. As you look around you, you must feel not only the sense of duty done, but also you must feel anxiety lest you fall below the level of achievement. Opportunity is here now, clear and shining, for both our countries. To reject it or ignore it or fritter it away will bring upon us all the long reproaches of the aftertime."

With new eras come new challenges, and today America again stands at a pinnacle of power and again bears a heavy burden for securing a better tomorrow, for our citizens and for all the peoples of the world. At this critical juncture, the success of our actions will be determined not by the extent of our power, but by an appreciation of its limits. America must approach the world with a sense of purpose in world affairs that is anchored by our ideals, a principled realism that seeks not to re-make the world in our image, but to help make a better world.

We must avoid the traps of hubris and imperial temptation that comes with great power. Our foreign policy should reflect the hope and promise of America tempered with a mature wisdom that is the mark of our national character. In this new era of possibilities and responsibilities, America will require a wider lens view of how the world sees us, so that we can better understand the world, and our role in it.

Just as Churchill pointed out in 1946, when historic opportunities for leadership are before us, they cannot be rejected, ignored, or frittered away. There would have been grave consequences for the world if America had shrunk from her responsibilities in 1946, as there will be grave consequences if America shrinks from today's challenges. We stand today on the verge of military conflict in Iraq and a long-term engagement with the Middle East that offers as much peril as promise. We also face an urgent threat from North Korea, and the potential for nuclear war between India and Pakistan. The AIDS epidemic in Africa, Russia and Asia poses one of the most deadly and urgent threats to all humanity. And we cannot overlook our own hemisphere, where Colombia and Venezuela face continued violence and instability.

The complexities of an interconnected world give us little margin for error in dealing with these great international challenges. The first priority for America and all sovereign nations is to protect its citizens. But to do so we must build and sustain global institutions and alliances that share our interests and values. Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior under President Franklin Roosevelt, put it powerfully in a speech on May 18, 1941, when he said, in response to those who urged America to stay out of World War II, that American support for Britain was, "the sort of enlightened selfishness that makes the wheels of history go around. It is the sort of enlightened selfishness that wins victories. Do you know why? Because we cannot live in the world alone, without friends and without allies."

Then as now, the serious obligations of world leadership come with a price. Bearing the burdens and costs of leadership in defeating global terrorism, countering proliferation by nations and terrorist networks, and ending poverty and hunger in the world are investments in our own security, as well as in the stability and security of the world. Security at home cannot be separated from dangers abroad.

The war against international terrorism and its sponsors is a war unlike any we have ever known. There is no battlefield, no clash of armies. It is a war fought in the shadows and recesses of the world. Terrorism breeds among the hopeless and the alienated, in societies where democracy and economic opportunity are out of reach for most people. Military power alone will not end this scourge of mankind. Victory will require extensive international cooperation in the intelligence, economic, diplomatic, law enforcement and humanitarian fields. It will require a seamless network of cooperation between America and her allies.

Terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction are the enemies of all peoples -- not just Americans. We must build relationships upon this common denominator of common interests. America cannot defeat terrorism alone.

America's ability to build lasting and flexible coalitions will be the measure of our success, the only assured means of long-term security for future generations. As we consider our next steps in Iraq, we cannot lose sight of the wider lens view of what is before us, that this is about much more than Iraq. We are setting the tone for Americas's role in the world for the next decade and beyond. At this critical time, our policies and our rhetoric should not create distance between America and her allies. If that is the price of waging war in Iraq, then victory, in the long run, in the war on terrorism, in the Middle East, on the Korean peninsula, and against weapons of mass destruction, will not be ours. And as Churchill reminded us, the "aftertime," the long run, is what measures victory.

America must remain on a steady course and turn the Saddam Hussein threat into an opportunity to empower alliances and institutions committed to disarmament in Iraq, North Korea, Iran and elsewhere. Today, America stands nearly alone in proclaiming the urgency of the use of force to disarm Saddam Hussein. In Europe and in many corners of the globe, America is perceived as determined to use force in Iraq to the exclusion of world opinion or the interests of our allies, even those allies who share our concerns about Saddam Hussein's weapons programs. America must balance its determination with patience and not be seen as in a rush to war. As David Ignatius wrote in a recent Washington Post column, "A nation heading into war needs prudence and good judgment. America's best generals, people such as Grant and Marshall and Eisenhower, were at once cautious and decisive. Their greatness lay in the fact that they never lost sight of the long-term interests of the United States."

America must steer away from actions that could produce the unintended results of fracturing those very institutions that have helped keep peace since World War II. Allowing a rush to war in Iraq to create divisions in those institutions and alliances that will help sustain American security and world stability is a short-sighted and dangerous course of action.

In order for America to address the differences between ourselves and our allies, we must understand those differences. We don't enhance our relationships and bridge differences by impugning the motives of our friends. Let us not forget, they too are democracies. They too are accountable to their people and respond to the judgment of their citizens. Isn't that the essence of our noble purpose as democratic governments? We must listen and learn, then forge a coalition based upon our common interests.

The diplomatic challenges before us should not weaken our resolve to obtain a second UN resolution that threatens serious consequences for Iraq's continued defiance of UN resolutions. While time may be short, the diplomatic option has not yet played out. it will take more hard work, and the military option should remain on the table. The world has additional time, and we should not short-circuit what has begun through legitimate United Nations channels. This responsible course will maximize the force of world opinion and bring it to our side.

American purpose requires more than the application of American power to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, although that will be our first priority. War, if it is necessary, should be a means, and not an end, to achieve a plan of action to encourage conflict resolution and peaceful change in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.

Iraq cannot be considered in a vacuum, detached from the politics and culture of both its region and the Muslim world. Using military force to disarm Saddam Hussein will bring change to Iraq and to the region, but we cannot foresee the nature of that change. What comes after Saddam Hussein? The uncertainties of a post-Saddam, post-conflict Middle East should give us pause, encourage prudence, and force us to recognize the necessity of coalitions in seeing it through.

America will need to remain in Iraq and the Middle East to help lead this post-Saddam transition. This will require adroit diplomacy, long-term commitment and dynamic coalition building. There is no other way. Regime change in Iraq will not alone be the endgame for a region devoid of democratic institutions, economic development, and effective regional organizations. It must be seen as only the beginning of a long transitional period toward stability, development and individual freedom for millions who have never known the hope and promise of an open and free society.

How do we meet these opportunities and challenges now before us? Allow me to suggest five priorities for U.S. policy toward Iraq which will be critical to helping support and sustain stability and prosperity in the Middle East in the years ahead,

First, a post-Saddam transition in Iraq must focus on security, economic stability and creating the conditions for democratic change. We should put aside the mistaken delusion that democracy is just around the corner. Or that by force of arms we can remove Saddam and simultaneously place Iraq on the path to democracy by overlaying a blueprint for democracy on the region ... a so-called "Democratic Domino Effect." The spade work of building a free Iraq will take time. General Anthony Zinni, special adviser to the Secretary of State and former Commanding General, U.S. Central Command, reminded the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that, with regard to Iraq, "there will not be a spontaneous democracy so the reconstruction of the country will be a long, hard course regardless of whether a modest vision of the end state is sought or a more ambitious one is chosen." The end of Saddam Hussein's regime will be all to the good, but building nations and democracy in the Middle East or anywhere is complicated and difficult, and success is never assured. We can try to help create the conditions for democratic change. But we must assume that it will not come quickly or easily.

Second, the United States should place its operations in a post-Saddam Iraq under a United Nations umbrella as soon as possible. A conspicuous American occupation force in Iraq or in any Arab or Muslim country would only fuel anti-Americanism, nationalism and resentment. By working through the United Nations, America will neutralize the accusations that a war in Iraq is anti-Muslim or driven by oil or American imperialism.

Third, America should encourage the convening of a regional conference to deal with outstanding Iraqi and regional security issues. The Middle East has a lack of regional political institutions to deal with conflict prevention and resolution. The end of Saddam Hussein's regime will not necessarily mean the end of long-standing border disputes between Iraq and its neighbors -- Turkey, Iran and Kuwait -- disputes that predate Saddam Hussein. Stability in northern Iraq is not assured, given the potential for conflict between Turkey and Iraq's Kurdish parties. A regional conference, arranged under United Nations auspices, would play an important role in building confidence among the states of the region so that future conflicts can be prevented.

Fourth, America must act immediately to re-start the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. There will be no lasting peace between Israel and her Arab neighbors without America taking the lead to broker a settlement. As President George H.W. Bush did after the first Gulf War, any military action in Iraq should be accompanied by a renewed American initiative to help settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The road to peace in the Middle East does not end in Baghdad. Long-term stability in the Middle East depends on progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace. There is no other way. We must work with our Quartet partners -- Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- as well as Israel, the Palestinians and our Arab allies, to put the peace effort back on track. Every day that passes without active American mediation contributes to the radicalization of Palestinian and Arab politics, and the likelihood of greater terrorism visited on Israel.

Fifth, America should create partnerships with the governments and peoples of the Arab world to take the necessary steps to help them open up their political systems and economies, such as the Middle East Partnership Initiative proposed by President Bush to encourage democratic, educational and economic reforms. Sen. Joseph Lieberman and I will soon introduce legislation to promote private sector development and educational reform in the Middle East. For too long the governments of this region have deferred or opposed governmental and societal reform.

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, paraphrasing Bismark, once said that, "Modern politics too often produces an orgy of self-righteousness amidst a cacophony of sounds." If we do not complement our disarmament efforts in Iraq with a program of peaceful change in the Middle East, our policies may encourage the perception of a hard-edged American security doctrine that offers little more than self-righteous ideology. That would result in many in the Arab and Muslim worlds seeing their interests as being compromised to American power. Instead of contributing to stabilization and democratization in the Middle East, just the opposite could occur. A war in Iraq could intensify the radicalization of the region's politics.

Americas purpose in the world requires a commitment to a kind of principled realism that promotes our values, strengthens international institutions, builds coalitions and recognizes what is possible. The opportunities for helping create a better world are as real today as any time in our history, just as they were when Churchill spoke at Westminster College 57 years ago.

Opportunities for moments of reflection during times of great decisions are fleeting, but they are crucial, in order to place the events of today in an important perspective. Churchill, Truman, Marshall and other world leaders understood the magnitude of challenges the world would face in the second half of the 2Oth century. We face comparable challenges today, and we can learn from history.

It was America's investment in international institutions such as the United Nations, The World Bank, The International Monetary Fund, NATO and other institutions which helped maintain world stability and prevent world wars. These and other multinational institutions have given structure and force to global consensus and commitment to face the challenges of our time. America has helped build and reinforce these institutions with a judicious use of its power. All nations and institutions are imperfect, but the world today is more hopeful and more just because America and our friends took this responsible and far-sighted course of coalitions of common interest and multilateral institutions.

What distinguishes America is not our power, for the world has known great power. It is America's purpose and our commitment to making a better life for all people. That is the America the world needs to see. A wise, thoughtful and steady nation, worthy of its power, generous of spirit, and humble in its purpose.