PAUL KIRK: Good afternoon and welcome to the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. I’m Paul Kirk, chair of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation Board of Directors. On behalf of John Shattuck, CEO of the Kennedy Library Foundation, and Deborah Leff, Director of the Library, I want to say how pleased and honored we are to present this extraordinary forum to you this afternoon.
I’d like to begin by acknowledging the friends and institutions that make these forums possible. We’re also grateful for the support of Fleet Boston, Boston Capital and The Lowell Institute, as well as our media sponsors WBUR, Boston.com, and our neighbor the Boston Globe. And those who help sustain our Distinguished Visitor Program, Boston Capital, Raytheon, Corcoran Jennison, and Nixon Peabody.
[Paul Kirk’s intro to Secretary Albright inaudible/technical difficulties]
We are honored then and we are honored now and are delighted to have Secretary Albright as the Chairperson of NDI.
In 1972 when I was working on Senator Kennedy’s staff, a young member of the Delaware’s Blue Castle County Council visited my office and we talked about his plan to run for the United States Senate. I take no credit for anything that happened in that election or for the five terms that he has served since except for my pride in our friendship.
Following Secretary Albright to the podium will be the leading Democrat on the United States Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware. Senator Biden is one of America’s most respected voices on national security. He co-chairs the Senate Nato Observance and the Senior National Security Working Group and is Vice Chair of the Senate Delegation to the North Atlantic Assembly. From his leadership position on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Biden is a major force against crime, drugs, domestic violence and a vigilant constitutional protector of civil liberties.
A candidate for the Presidency himself in 1988, Senator Biden’s intelligence, common sense and plain talk have and will help guide America as we seek to restore our respect and interdependence in the world community, and we are honored to have him with us this afternoon as well. [Applause]
Moderating this afternoon’s discussion will be the Boston Globe’s national political columnist Tom Oliphant. A gifted journalist with 30 years of experience covering local, national and international politics, Tom has covered every presidential campaign since 1968 and writes with absolute clarity about the most complex economic matters and political choices. A member of the Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning team in the mid-‘70s and a recipient of the coveted Writing Award of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Tom Oliphant is an analyst often seen on the “Jim Lehrer News Hour” and so many other informative television shows and we look forward to Tom’s provocative questions and conversation in just a few minutes.
As I invite Secretary Albright to the podium, I invite the audience to join me once again in the privilege we have of having this distinguished panel with us this afternoon. [Applause]
SECRETARY MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, Paul, and I have to say that we all owe a great debt of thanks to Paul Kirk for what he did when he was chairman of our party and when he was chairman of the National Democratic Institute. He is truly one of the great Democrats, and obviously responsible for Senator Biden’s career. [Laughter] Thank you. [Applause]
And I'm delighted to share the podium with Senator Biden, who is truly a remarkable leader of the Democratic Party and someone with whom I feel a great partnership -- I don’t know, Tom, how you’ll get any differences between us -- and who really has been an incredible voice for the strength of our party wherever he travels. So I'm very, very pleased to be able to share the podium with him. And, also, to be questioned by Tom Oliphant who’s been a very good friend and who has covered me, so to speak, many times. So thank you very much.
John Shattuck, thank you so very much for allowing us to come here. You have been a great friend, and it’s wonderful. Thank you very much.
Frank Fahrenkopf is here as the former Chairman of the Republican Party. So, Frank, it was always great to work with you. [Applause]
I see many, many friends in this audience, so many excellencies and distinguished leaders, it is truly a pleasure to be with all of you this afternoon and on behalf of the National Democratic Institute, I welcome you to this kick-off event for the International Leaders’ Forum, and I thank you very much for participating.
I'm pleased to say that this does mark the 20th anniversary of the National Democratic Institute and our sister organizations. From the beginning, we have operated on the assumption that democracy is not something anyone can put a fence around and say that it makes sense in one part of the world and not in the others. We believe that the human desire for freedom is universal and that the best and healthiest way to nurture it is for those who support democracy to work together to defend it where it exists, help it where it is in trouble, and encourage it everywhere else.
One of the best means for encouraging democratic cooperation is through events like this Forum for International Leaders. This event will give us a chance over several days to meet amidst the glorious chaos of a national political convention, to observe democracy at work, and to exchange ideas and to learn from one another.
As a lifelong student of world affairs, I'm excited about the coming week and in part because the 2004 Presidential election looks to be among the rare ones in which foreign policy will be a decisive issue. The economy always matters, but in the post-September 11th world with more than 130,000 American troops still bogged down in in Iraq, security issues may matter more.
If the balloting were held today, I think the election would essentially be a referendum on the leadership of President Bush, a subject about which most American voters already have firm views. People tend to either admire Mr. Bush very much or to criticize him a great deal. To his backers, he’s a courageous wartime leader who is determined to do whatever it takes to defend America from our enemies. To his political opponents, he’s an extremist who has squandered American credibility and made the world more dangerous. To all, he is a known quantity.
Between now and November, the electorate will focus and broaden to include a closer look at Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee. If foreign policy continues to dominate the campaign, Democrats will congratulate themselves for selecting a candidate who is able to speak knowledgeably about the world. A veteran and a war hero with 20 years of senate experience, Kerry is well positioned to earn a fair hearing from independent voters worried about America’s current direction.
As in any election campaign, there are many issues that some people care about, but this year there are only a couple of issues that nearly everybody cares about. The first is what we call, perhaps too generally, the war on terror. The second is the situation in Iraq. The President wants voters to believe that both of these issues are being handled well and that Americans are safer and more secure as a result. Democrats will try to convince the public that they can do a better job.
The President points to Afghanistan and says the Taliban have been defeated and elections scheduled. He points to Iraq and says Saddam Hussein is in jail. He points to Libya and says its government has ended its nuclear weapons program. He points to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and says both are allies of the United States in fighting terror. He tallies up all the nations that are supporting coalition efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq and says there’s a broad international backing for his policies. He says, in summary, that his Administration is, and I quote, “leading a steady, confident, systematic campaign against the dangers of our time.”
Democrats look at the same set of facts and come to a different set of conclusions. They point to Afghanistan and note that parliamentary elections have been delayed twice because the world community, including the United States, has failed to break the stranglehold that drug lords and warlords continue to exercise in that country. Democrats point to the ongoing violence in Iraq and fault the President for failing to send in enough troops initially, for refusing to internationalize reconstruction and for not anticipating the resentment that American occupation of an Arab country would cause. Democrats suggest that radical groups appear to be gaining, not losing, strength and that international terror attacks have increased, not decreased, since September 11th. Democrats argue that the shame of Abu Ghraib and the Bush Administration’s cavalier attitude toward the Geneva Conventions have damaged America’s international standing. They say the Administration has stood by and done nothing while North Korea has apparently begun nuclear bombs. And if Americans are really safer, Democrats ask, why aren’t US troops returning home in triumph instead of being pulled out of their homes and sent off to indefinite assignments in the Persian Gulf?
These are the basic arguments and questions we can expect to hear the two sides discussing, and I'm sure with great courtesy and politeness, virtually every day between now and November. In debating these issues, both campaigns will need to bear in mind two facts:
The first is that the election will be decided by a narrow band of undecided voters in key states. This means that each candidate will have to motivate his strongest supporters to turn out on Election Day, while at the same time appealing to the undecided voters who tend to be relatively non-political and moderate. And that’s a very hard balance to achieve.
The second fact is that three months is a long time. The candidates have to be prepared not only for what they know, but also for the unknown. Much can happen between now and Election Day to affect the outcome in unpredictable ways.
So I think it's going to be a very interesting campaign leading up to one of the most important US Presidential elections in our history. And, unlike some years, there are real differences between the parties and candidates, and those differences matter to Americans, and they're sure to affect the lives of millions of people across the globe.
The stakes are enormous, the interest is high and there are many unanswered questions. So I look forward to our discussion and to the remarks of my distinguished friend, Senator Biden. [Applause]
SENATOR JOSEPH BIDEN, JR.: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. I just want to set the record straight. I'm here to speak for George Bush. [Laughter] Frank, former Chairman, as we came in said, “Someone’s got to do it,” so I’ll do it. I have Bill Kristol’s notes and it won’t take long. [Laughter] [Applause]
There is one thing I do want to set straight. When I was a 28-year-old kid deciding to run for the United States Senate, and God only knows why I thought that was a good idea back then, I wanted to see one person. I didn’t want to see Teddy Kennedy, I wanted to see Paul Kirk. This is a true story. Because I thought and believed and found out it was true, that if I could convince Paul Kirk that I could get elected to the United States Senate before I was constitutionally eligible, which was literally true, that I had a chance.
And I’ll never forget walking into Senator Kennedy’s office, and he was then the Majority Whip of the United States Senate, and there was a large -- I guess it was what we would call from my neighborhood -- swordfish hanging on the wall, and I remember walking in and starting off -- I'm trying very much to remember now; literally, I was 28 years old, almost 29. I got elected on November the 3rd, I was still 29 years of age, not constitutionally eligible to take office, and this was a year before that.
And I walked in working up, practicing on the way down every way I could to figure out how I'm going to impress this guy that this kid from Claymont, Delaware, a little steel town in Delaware, was capable of being a United States Senator in 1972. And I walked in and said, “Hello, Mr. Kirk,” I said, “my God, that’s a big fish!” [Laughter] And as soon as I said it, I thought, what in the hell am I doing? And I've been that glib since then.
Paul, thank you for your friendship.
I don’t purport to speak for John Kerry, but I've worked with John for more than 20 years, and as I understood sort of the way this was going to go, and Bill Kristol and I really do see each other quite frequently, I thought it was going to be more of a little bit of a debate as I understood between Bill and me, and that I was supposed to lay out what I thought, based on 20-plus years of working with John on the Foreign Relations Committee, what I thought you could look forward, the kind of foreign policy that a Kerry administration would provide.
So I'm going to presume to do that, if I may, since that’s what I prepared for rather than tell you about how Senator Kennedy caught that fish.
For more than 20 years, John and I have worked together on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and I've known John for 32 years, but that doesn’t mean I am able to speak for him, although I think I have a pretty good idea of his basic views on American foreign policy and where a Kerry administration would take us.
I'm speaking to you today as the leader, in a technical sense, of the Democratic Party in the Congress. I'm the ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. For you foreigners that are here representing other countries, a ranking member is a euphemism for having no power. [Laughter] So I'm able to speak about everything with great authority.
I want to begin by saying, and I mean this sincerely, and it sometimes gets my more partisan Democratic friends angry, I have an inordinately high regard for the men and women in the Bush Administration. They're among the brightest, the most patriotic Americans that I have encountered in my almost 32 years as a United States Senator, and I do not question their motives. They truly believe the dominant wing of the party that’s prevailed with this President, those proposing what we all are characterizing as a neoconservative view of American foreign policy, truly believe it’s the way to make this country safer, and they believe it’s the way to make the world safer, and they truly believe that if the power is used well, it will in fact mean that in the future we’re less likely to have to use military power.
So I don’t for a moment question their motives, but I have serious and profound disagreements, as John does, with their judgments. It’s not just the mistakes that were made. If Al Gore were president, if I were president, if any one of us in here, we would have made a number of mistakes thus far, particularly in the face of what happened on 9/11.
What I think this Administration will be judged most harshly for is the opportunities it has squandered, especially after the events of 9/11, squandered the opportunity to unite this nation and the nations of the world in a common cause. Here at home, after 9/11, millions of Americans yearned to help, to do something, to do something for their country. Remember those blood lines at blood banks that went on, snaked around city blocks for close to a mile, even after there was no need for anymore blood to be given; people stood there to give blood, because they wanted to do something.
I remember the headline in Le Monde. Those of my friends from other countries that are represented here know it’s France’s largest newspaper. The headline said, “We are all Americans.” For the first time in the history of NATO, Article V was invoked without any prompting by us, which said that an attack on America was an attack on NATO, meaning we’re all at war.
In my judgment, this Administration could have rallied this country in ways that it failed to do. I believe it could have rallied it behind a new campaign for national service. Young people in this country are yearning, yearning to do more. I believe they are ready to do great things. Nothing has been asked of them.
I think it could have asked Americans to support a real energy policy, a conservation policy that would appeal to their patriotism, tell them to get out of their big cars and start to deal with the energy problems we face in terms of conservation beyond their automobiles.
I believe it could have focused our resources on critical needs in homeland security, which the Council on Foreign Relations estimates we are still, and I believe it to be true, $100 billion underfunding over the next five years. But instead, they chose a tax policy that in fact was an alternative because we could not afford both.
Beyond our borders, this Administration, I believe, squandered an historic opportunity to bring nations together against the forces of intolerance and destruction that had become a common cause of concern for every nation state.
This was a remarkable moment after 9/11, as I said, when everyone seemed poised to unite. The nations around the world look to us for leadership, the kind of leadership we provided after World War II; the kind of leadership that gave others a voice and to whom we listened; the kind of leadership that built the United Nations, NATO, the World Bank, the IMF, rebuilt Western Europe and Japan; the kind of leadership that set a foundation for security and prosperity that helped us prevail in the Cold War; the kind of leadership that understood that the secret to our success, from the time the first shot of the Revolution was fired in this state to the time that the Cold War ended and the Wall came down, was based not merely on our military might, but on our ideals and our ideas.
To those in this room who are hoping for a John Kerry victory in November: be careful what you wish for, because that’s exactly the kind of leadership I think you're going to get from John Kerry, one that demands a great deal of you and demands a great deal of the world.
As a result, a Kerry administration, I believe, would ask a great deal of our friends and our allies around the world just as it would ask of a lot of the American people. You won’t have this administration, I say to you from other countries, you won’t have this administration used as an excuse for your occasional inaction, an excuse not to engage in the fray, an excuse that some of you use now to do what you know you should be doing.
I believe the Kerry administration would seek to build a new consensus in three areas. First, the need for strong, effective alliances in international organizations; and second, the importance of not a preemption but a prevention strategy to defuse the threats to our security long before the only choice is for us to go to war or to ignore the problem; and thirdly, a commitment to bolster failing states and to promote democracy. This new consensus is going to require some important changes in American foreign policy, but it’s also going to require of our friends and our allies the need for them to reconsider their own reflexive approaches across the board. Let me say a few words about each of the pieces of this new compact I expect you're going to see.
This Administration has shown little interest in using international alliances and organizations. It has made little effort to reform them. That’s not a surprise when you consider how most of its dominant players understand US power and its purposes. These are very bright, patriotic Straussians; these people really, truly believe the way to secure our place in the world and secure the world’s security is not through those organizations.
To them, our military might is the most important tool in our foreign policy kit, if not our only tool, because that might is so much greater than anyone else’s in relative terms. We spend more on defense than all the rest of the world combined. Every other defense budget in the world added up does not meet the amount we spend yearly on the budget. I make no apologies for that; it’s just merely a fact. It is a fact.
And my friends in this Administration believe that simple fact that we have such great might means that allies and treaties are more of a burden than they are a benefit. In their view, international institutions and alliances are, as my friend -- and he is my friend -- Bill Kagan says, the Lilliputians that are tying down Gulliver.
In fact, some in the Administration believe the United States should go out of its way to reject the help of others. By demonstrating to the world that the United States can do what it wants, where it wants, without anyone’s assistance, the argument goes, we can leverage our already extraordinary physical strength.
The rationale is being offered with regard to Libya, which I hope someone asks me about in the question-and-answer period, because I met for two hours two months ago with Khaddafi in his tent about this very issue. The argument goes, because of our demonstrable power, the shock and awe that the world saw and witnessed – [lights went off in the auditorium] I made the lights go on and off; I tell you what, that must be either a Democrat or a Republican trying to blind me, one of the two, I don’t know which it is. [Laughter]
But all kidding aside, the argument goes, and you’ll hear it repeatedly in this Administration, that because of the force we showed in Iraq, immediately Khaddafi said, “My God, I'd better get it straight with these guys, I'd better get it straight now.” That’s what they mean by leveraging power.
I would add parenthetically that it might work had we had a 12-million-man army and a $600-billion-a-year surplus instead of deficit, and then I'd believe it would only work for a while. But the point of the matter is, that’s the rationale. It is not some harebrained scheme. These guys are not the Christian Coalition. These are very serious people, and I profoundly disagree with their view. And I suspect some of the Democrats in here share my view.
Think about the dangers we face: terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, rogue states that flout the rules, international crime and drug trafficking, ethnic conflict, infectious diseases of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, etc., economic instability, environmental decay. Not one of these international threats - not one -- has any respect for borders and not one can be met solely with a military response.
The friends and allies this Administration has disdained, the international organizations it has disparaged, the treaties it has decried do not hold America down, as they purport; they help us to spread the risks and share the burdens of leadership.
This Administration said that there would be no price for going it our own way or going it alone in Iraq. I respectfully suggest they were profoundly wrong. Because we waged war in Iraq virtually alone, we have been responsible for the peace virtually alone. And the price is all too easy to calculate. In Iraq, nearly 90% of the troops are American; nearly 90% of the casualties are American; nearly 90% of the deaths are American.
This has been the core of John Kerry’s message, but it’s not its entirety. John and I, and many others, believe as important as alliances, treaties and international organizations are to America’s success, their credibility depends on a willingness not only to live by the rules, but to enforce the rules. To enforce the rules.
That’s the principal reason I voted to authorize President Bush to be able to use force in Iraq. It wasn’t about preemption; as a matter of fact, the Biden-Lugar authorization for the war and the ultimate one we finally voted for expressly and explicitly said “this is not based upon a doctrine of prevention,” in my view a foolhardy notion, which I will speak to in a moment.
It’s about summoning the world to enforce the rules. Iraq had systematically violated those rules for 12 years. Had we taken Iraq out of Kuwait in 1919, Saddam would have sued for peace and signed a treaty at Versailles. Instead, it was the United Nations, and he violated every aspect of every agreement he made in every way. This was about enforcement.
Of course, other countries run afoul of UN resolutions, but few, if any, as clearly and consistently as Iraq and add to that Iraq’s past use of WMD, its failure to come clean about its arsenals, Saddam’s abuse of the Iraqi people, and the ongoing threat he posed to Iraq’s neighbors, and you had a perfect storm.
I believe, and believed then, that we could convince the world to speak with one voice to Saddam: Disarm or be disarmed. And in so doing, we could make war much less likely. Saddam failed to listen and forced us to act. We would have had the world with us, or least a significant part of the world with us, to build a peace, which in the hearings I held prior to going to war, every expert said would be a multibillion, multiyear and require multihundreds of thousands of troops in order to do.
That strategy produced UN Resolution 1441, but then this Administration and our European allies, each, in my view, terribly misplayed their hand. This is where you Democrats won’t like this part. I think our European allies misplayed their hand, too. The extremes in both sides of the Atlantic took over.
In Washington there’s a group for whom not going to war with Iraq was never an option no matter what Saddam did, and in Europe it was those for whom going to war with Iraq was never an option no matter what Saddam did or did not do.
Many of you remember that Kofi Annan was critical of the US and NATO for going to war in Kosovo without UN approval. That’s something Madeleine and I worked very closely on, and she led on. But he was just as critical of the Security Council for not acting when faced with “crimes against humanity betraying the very ideals that inspired the founding of the United Nations.” More recently, in the context of Iraq, Annan said, “It is not enough to denounce unilateralism unless we also face up squarely to the concerns being raised and show that these concerns can and will be effectively addressed with collective action.”
In short, we should strive for a rule-based international system with the UN playing a central role. But if we are not willing to enforce the rules and our interests are at stake, the system will collapse. And I hope that our friends and allies will take that truth to heart.
In my judgment, this Administration’s effort to turn military preemption from a longstanding option into a one-size-fit-all doctrine has created more problems than it has solved, and has literally left us less secure than we were before it was announced. Such a doctrine says to rogue states that their best insurance policy against regime change is to acquire WMD as quickly as possible. It gives a green light to India and Pakistan, Israel and the Arabs, Russia and Georgia, China and Taiwan, to use force and ask questions later. It sets the bar so low for the use of force that there’s no credible standard that can be applied that would allow one to acquire legitimacy in the international community if and when force is used.
I believe the Kerry administration would adopt a much more comprehensive prevention doctrine that gets to problems well before they're on the verge of exploding so that we are not left with a Hobson’s choice between acting at the last minute with force or doing nothing at all.
Prevention doctrine would include much more emphasis on threat reduction programs to secure and destroy WMD; new international laws to seize suspect cargo on the high seas; new alliances to enforce intelligence and financial obligations and to work with intelligence and financial officials to uproot terrorists to end the funding; new and tougher arms control and non-proliferation strategy, including no notice on-site inspections and a reformed non-proliferation treaty; better public diplomacy so we can explain our policies, to expose the lies and distortions; and a sustained commitment to the development of democratization to prove to people around the world that we offer hope, and our enemies offer nothing but hatred and despair.
In saying that, it’s also very important for our foreign friends to understand that, in my view, under John Kerry’s administration America’s military will remain second to none, and John will not -- John will not -- I emphasize John will not hesitate to use it, and, if need be, without asking permission when the circumstances require it and the world fails to react in the face of overwhelming flouting of the international rules and conventions.
And don’t misunderstand this fellow; this is the same guy that turned that Swift boat on a 90-degree angle to change the profile and hit it full throttle and went up on the shore and charged the machine gun nest. Not because he was so brave, but because he knew it was the only way to save the people on his ship. Don’t misunderstand who this man is.
And the fact is, trouble has become far more aggressive in coming to look for us. Together we face a nexus of new threats -- terrorism, rogue states, WMD. Demand for new responses are required, and containment and deterrence will in fact continue to be applicable tools that will work with nation states. And they make sense the vast majority of the time. But they're not enough when the enemy is stateless, has no population or no territory to defend, and it requires some articulation of a doctrine somewhere between this rogue preemption notion and the Treaty of Westphalia of 1638.
Europeans will see, I hope, that in fact they're going to be required to in fact go back to where they had been in terms of considering that we have to come up with intermediate responses.
On the use of force itself, we also need a new consensus. As I said, the Treaty of Westphalia of 1638, the debate since then has been about the limits on the right of intervention. I think we need to change the terms of the debate and focus on the responsibility we share to protect our citizens against aggression from tyrants and terrorists alike.
We got part of the way in 1990 under the leadership of Madeleine and President Clinton, and with great difficulty we got there. We basically, without using the term-- I used the term; she was smart enough not to use the term. And I got the devil beat out of me for about four years from the internationalists and my own party. I said when in fact a nation harbors terrorists and we can prove it and they are using that as a base to strike us, unless they cooperate with us getting them, they forfeit their sovereignty. They forfeit their sovereignty. And remember, many of my party said, “Oh, my God how can you say they forfeit their sovereignty?” Well, the fact of the matter is the same is applied when a nation state in Europe, or anywhere else, decides under its leadership that it is going to engage in genocide that’s clear to the whole world. They forfeit their sovereignty.
There are new rules of the game. If you notice, I say to the international audience in here, even Kofi Annan is articulating them as basic elements of international policy now. So the question is, are we going to in this fundamentally changed world we find ourselves in, actually engage Europe and the United States in an open debate and discussion and in hardnosed sessions among us, as friends and allies, as to what the new rules of the road should be, what is the changed circumstance and how we deal with it.
I respectfully suggest that I think you’ll see John Kerry aggressively trying to work out a consensus and demand a consensus, if you will, by hardnosed discussion with our friends in private as to what are the responsibilities we share in this profoundly different world we find ourselves.
Finally, I believe we need a new commitment to bolstering failing states, to expand democracy. In the interest of time -- and by the way, I apologize, my staff told me you wanted me to speak 25 minutes and I know I wasn’t supposed to speak that long. My staff is fired, by the way. [Laughter]
But let me just say this, let me give you one example. Fundamental difference between John Kerry and this administration -- and many really fine people in this administration, like Paul Wolfowitz and others; he’s a fine, decent, honorable guy -- is John Kerry does not believe you can impose democracy on any part of the world, particularly one that has never had any indices of democracy. It takes time.
We think you should start by withholding support for those countries that in fact are impediments to democracy. That’s a nice place to start. We should send a little clear message -- this is Joe Biden speaking -- to our friends in Saudi Arabia and to our friends in other places: You have become our problem. We are being held accountable. We are being held accountable for your failure to begin the process.
Governor Morris of Pennsylvania in writing our Constitution, when debating a particular clause which I will not bore you with, turned to one of his colleagues from Virginia and said, “It squints toward monarchy.” All we’re asking is that Saudi Arabia and many of the others start to squint toward democracy. The process has to begin to change.
Ladies and gentlemen, there’s much more to say. I've said too much already. But let me just suggest to you that anyone who thinks electing John Kerry President of the United States, which I suspect -- and he got criticized for this -- a significant number of people around the world would like to see, rightly or wrongly, anybody who thinks that means the rest of the world’s going to all of a sudden beat a path to our door to cooperate is mistaken. You will continue to attempt to take advantage of us.
Understand: John Kerry will be no one’s patsy. John Kerry will ask a great deal of the rest of the world. But John Kerry will be prepared to listen. John Kerry will be prepared to negotiate the new rules of the road. John Kerry will treat with respect and honor those great allies we have always had.
Ladies and gentlemen, we all have a whole hell of a lot of work to do, and the next President of the United States, whether it’s George Bush or whether it’s John Kerry, is going to inherit a world that is in bad and sad need of significant repair.
Thank you very much. [Applause]
TOM OLIPHANT: The first thing I'm trying to find out is if my microphone works and if you can hear me. You’ve obviously just sat through two deeply antagonistic views of the world [laughter], offered by two people who can’t stand each other. I thought while I was listening, how can I play the role of muscular, militarist, unilateralist questioner. And gave up, of course.
We have with us this afternoon one of the Republican Party’s most distinguished former Chairmen in Frank Fahrenkopf, and perhaps I can at least be probing enough so that Frank can tell me later at the reception that I tried to do my job.
It seems to me that when serious Bush administration people hear remarks like this, one of the things we hear is the criticism that what is being offered is a critique, not a new agenda, that in some ways it reflects the difficulties and frustrations of the kinds of actions that the United States has had to take in the past three years, and perhaps seeks to benefit from those frustrations without offering a different way.
So if I may, out of the blue, Madam Secretary, I immediately wrote down the phrase, when you uttered it, that 146,000 American troops are bogged down in Iraq, and normally one would think if military forces are bogged down somewhere, we must free them, get them home. How can this mission not be like Richard Nixon taking over in 1969 and keeping the Vietnam War going for another four years?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that we have to understand that the war, at least the way I saw it, and the way it was carried out, was a war of choice at the time, not of necessity, but that it was necessary now to bring some kind of order out of the chaos; that is not a choice. And having created, I think, a chaotic situation when I believe it would have been possible with the authority given by Congress to seek a solution that would have had Iraq comply without using all these forces, that we now have a responsibility.
So I personally would not advocate pulling forces out, but I do think, and this is what Senator Biden has said, is that other countries have some responsibility here, and what I think is important is to, first of all, try to get additional support. As a result, I think a new president could, by sharing some of the contracts, by sharing some of the responsibility and opportunities there, to get more support.
But, also, I think what would be important here is to create a group of the neighboring states that would act, to some extent, the way that the contact group acted in the Balkans to try to get others to help in terms of the longer-term projections.
I personally think it would be a mistake to pull Americans out precipitously, because it is a chaotic situation, and I think some of the moderate Arab states and some of the Muslim states need to come in and help. We cannot do this by ourselves. And while there may be major disagreements about how we got there, we are where we are and we have to work on this internationally.
MR. OLIPHANT: If I could briefly follow that up, doesn’t that require, in a new administration, if you mention the neighboring countries, doesn’t it require a complete change in our attitude toward the Middle East peace process as one of the ways to get countries in the region to really help?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think absolutely, and I think that what has happened is this Administration got it backwards. They thought that the road to the Middle East peace process, to Jerusalem, led through Baghdad. And it’s the other way around. There’s been very little attention really paid to the Middle East peace process. The famous road map is in the glove compartment, and there really has not been a lot of work done, either by the President or the Secretary of State or a special kind of envoy.
A lot of people actually think that President Clinton worked too hard on the Middle East peace process. Given what we’ve seen, it’s impossible to have worked too hard. So it would require, I think, very, very strong leadership in trying to help on the Middle East peace process, using now something that I think has happened that is interesting, the role of the Egyptians and others in the region to help us.
MR. OLIPHANT: When you were speaking, the phrase I immediately wrote down, Senator, was when you addressed our friends from aboard and said “be careful what you wish for.” It's a phrase that some of us have heard you utter in the past, and many of us have stolen it on more than one occasion.
I wanted to draw you out on that a little bit, if I could, in a way following on what Secretary Albright just said. It’s a year from now, and there has been a change of government in the United States. How will we know?
SENATOR BIDEN: We won’t. Look, we’re not going to have any idea what John Kerry’s going to have to do if and when he takes office on January 20, 2005. The truth of the matter is he doesn’t know what we’re going to be seeing. We may find by that time that Iraq has become a Lebanon. We may find by that time Iraq has begun to stabilize; we've actually had a successful election in January, and there’s a prospect that with enhanced security and the notion of the Iraqi people deciding that they are no longer going to be victimized, that they’ve gotten more engaged.
So we don’t know what we’re going to inherit. But we do know one thing: that it’s going to require, and this has been a constant criticism of mine in this administration, and I have given specific prescriptions as to what we should be doing simultaneously with us doing it. There’s been no Monday morning quarterbacking here, at least on my part. What I believe is we need more troops there now. It’s an incredibly unpopular thing to say. And if I say that, which I will, in the Democratic groups I’ll speak to, half of them are going to run me out of the convention.
But this is security, security, security. You need security in order to be able to hold free elections in Iraq. We don’t have enough security. I just got back from Baghdad several weeks ago, met with every flag officer there; there are seven of them. They all acknowledge we need a surge of at least another 30,000 troops between now and the elections. We’re going to have to do more.
We have to level with the American people that it’s going to cost at least $100 billion more to get this right. At least $100 billion more. There is no possibility of it costing us any less than that before we go.
And the last point I want to make, I ran because of Vietnam. I ran because I thought Vietnam, the rationale for Vietnam was a flawed notion to begin with. I never believed in a notion of a monolithic communism. I never believed that policy containment could be applied to the Far East. I never believed that there was any possibility that we were at risk in terms of Russian being in Cameron Bay. As a matter of fact, I said in the last debate as a 29-year-old candidate in the United States Senate, if in fact the Russian fleet ever docks in Cameron Bay, I will resign my seat in the United States Senate; I made that pledge. I was so certain the rationale was flawed.
I am equally as certain that if we fail to secure the peace in Iraq, if we fail to secure the peace in Iraq, we will inherit for a generation the end of any prospect of modernity, the end of any prospect of democratization, and we will be in serious trouble.
Therefore, John Kerry is going to have to ask a great deal of the American people and of our allies.
And the last point that I’ll make, the reason our allies will respond is because they have more to lose than we do. I believe they’ve checked their guns and hats at the bar hoping not to do anything to encourage the prospect of Bush winning. I think it’s a fatal mistake they're making, and I've said it to heads of state privately. I've even gone so far when I've been abroad to say I think that Bush is going to win, to try to encourage them to be engaged.
But I want to tell you, I'm not joking, it’s too late now, but come January, if there’s a new administration, they'd better be ready to step up, because they are going to suffer more, starting with France, than even we would at a failure in Iraq. That’s why they’ll help, out of raw, naked self-interest, and making it clear on the part of this new president that he’s not going to continue to let them hold his coat. He expects them in the deal.
MR. OLIPHANT: Madam Secretary, you have been through national politics, just as the great man here has, and you know what the process is like. And I think you understand this hunger to understand what the components of a different future would be in terms of international policy. And can you help with the idea of, if there is a change in government, how will the people of the world and of this country really know that the government has changed hands a year from now?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that, first of all, we have to tell the truth. [Applause] I think the hardest part here is that we are all being fed what I call infomercials, and as far as I'm concerned, that new broom does not work, the stain is still in the carpet, and the knife does not cut. So our leaders have to tell us the truth. It may not be pleasant. And I think what Senator Biden has just done is a sign of what has to happen here -- that it may take more troops, and it’s going to cost a lot of money, and to tell other leaders that they are going to have to also help.
And we have to realize that the American people actually have a lot of common sense, but you have to explain it. This is where you come in, Tom. I think that the media has a responsibility here also to allow those people that want to talk about these issues openly a little bit more time than just sound bites or screaming at each other on a program in order to be able to explain that things are not going to change overnight, and that the American people are a part of this, and that they have to support the fact that this is going to happen. And that is also true in the media in the democratic countries throughout the world.
SENATOR BIDEN: Let me give you four quick concrete examples. You didn’t want me to do this. Number one, you will not have a national missile defense squandering hundreds of billions of dollars. [Applause] You will not be building a new nuclear weapon. You will be, in fact, promoting the reduction of nuclear weapons. Nunn-Lugar will have a lot more money spent on it. We will be out, as the single most significant thing that this administration will do, we’ll be out seeking out, destroying and helping pay to destroy those stockpiles. You will see probably another $50 to 60 billion spent on homeland defense, so the nearest nuclear power plant here actually has the ability to shoot down incoming people … I mean missiles …or maybe people. You will see Amtrak -- you will see the tunnels that now at this moment, as we speak, you have more people sitting in a tunnel under New York City, the most recent one built in 1917, than in seven full 747s. Not a penny being spent to do anything about it. And you will probably see that money come from, where we’re going to get that money, is taking the top tier of the tax cut and investing it back in this country to make America safer.
There are a couple of things you’ll see right away. [Applause] Thank you.
MR. OLIPHANT: In a second, you are all encouraged to please come up to the microphone when you feel moved to begin harassing or asking us whatever’s on your mind. But if I could follow up with one more quasi-political question, Senator Biden. You're used to the difficulties and the politics of foreign policy, which is sometimes asking for public support or understanding without specifics, without a specific grant of authority or power. And I've noticed over the course of this campaign year, beginning with the President’s first request for 87 billion supplemental dollars last fall, that I couldn’t find a clear majority in this country anywhere close to agreeing that that money should be spent in Iraq.
Secondly, if you talk to people around the country in the course of this campaign about the length of stay of American forces abroad, it is very hard to get anywhere near a majority for anything longer than a few months. How can foreign policy, with American lives at stake, continue down this road without some more explicit contract with the American people?
SENATOR BIDEN: I couldn’t agree with you more. A phrase that my colleagues literally kid me about saying in the United States Senate, it’s a little bit like every time Pat Leahy gets up he says “when I was a prosecutor,” – you know how he starts that -- every time I speak I've said, to the point my colleagues don’t want to hear it anymore, I say the one thing the Vietnam generation learned about American foreign policy is that no matter how well conceived a foreign policy, it cannot be sustained without the informed consent of the American people. What the American people are angry about now is they did not give informed consent because they were not told the truth about what the cost would be. I don’t have a doubt in my mind, had they been told the cost and the rationale explained why, they would have stepped up to it. And the fact is, John Kerry is going to have a very difficult job, because he’s going to have to tell the American people -- as Madeleine and I participate with five or six other people on a relatively regular basis with Senator Kerry in giving him advice -- by the way, for a guy who didn’t make it through Iowa, I know exactly how to get elected president. I've got all the answers. [Laughter] Paul Kirk, if I ever pay anyone at all to ever give me advice, they should pay me for the honor of being able to give the advice. It is so much fun to do this!
But we among us -- it’s an important point for you all to understand -- there’s disagreement in the Democratic Party. There’s disagreement in the Democratic Party on the margins about what we should do. I, for one, am one of those who are saying John Kerry should tell people now what he thinks he’s going to have to ask, so that when he’s elected he has a consensus to do what he asked the people to elect him for. John Kerry, in my view, should make the speech, “I'm here today to tell you what’s on my mind, not to seek your approval. I'm here to tell you what I'm going to do. I respect you if you do not agree with me, but this is too important.” I believe the American people will follow, and I believe John Kerry will send that message.
MR. OLIPHANT: There is a brave person at that microphone, and I wish there were more at this microphone, and while someone is coming down that aisle, I would like to ask an additional question of Secretary Albright.
To take Senator Biden’s comment one step further, do you think it might be a good idea early next year for the next president to ask Congress for a fresh authorization for whatever it is that is going on in the war against terrorism or the occupation of Iraq? Is there enough political authority, in your opinion, for what the United States is doing?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, you’ve asked a really hard question, I think, because a lot depends on what the new Congress looks like. If it is as divided as the current one, which seems to be paralyzed, with all due respect, the fact that there’s only one appropriations bill and here it is the end of July is ridiculous.
But I do think that if a President Kerry does what Senator Biden has just said, that there is in fact a sense that the people know, then an authorization would probably come pretty easily. But to have, to be frank, some horrible fight that undermines the troops that are there already, I think, would be very difficult. What you need is to have a Chairman Biden and a number of other Democratic chairs to pull it together. But there has to be an explanation here. We’ve had nothing but happy talk while the bodies come home, and so we have to figure out how to tell the truth to the American people and develop a new authorization which would frankly come, to a great extent, by the election itself. That is the mandate that the President would have.
MR. OLIPHANT: Thank you for being patient, and please proceed, as briefly as you can.
Q: Ms. Albright and Senator Biden, welcome to Boston. And you're not the only Delawarean in the room, Senator Biden. I'm from Delaware. I bought my first house not too far from Claymont in Edgemoor Gardens.
SENATOR BIDEN: Come home, I need your vote. [Laughter]
MR. OLIPHANT: No, he doesn’t!
Q: But that’s the point of my question, about the vote. Ms. Albright, you spoke about this narrow margin of people who are going to decide the election in swing states. What can we do to get out that vote and support our democracy and motivate people to vote in this?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that we have to keep saying something that is said regularly in elections; it just happens to be totally true this time. That this election is determinative of the way that we will exist as a society for the foreseeable future. And then, I think everybody needs to go out and actually bring people to the voting booths.
I have seen that, according to the polling, one group that for some reason does not seem to be turned on are young women between the ages of 19 and 25, who for some reason, according to the polls, are more interested in The Bachelor than in trying to get a new president elected. And I think that that is something that all women should take on now, to go out and get that younger group of women convinced that they have to go and vote. Then, I think, if I may say so, Ralph Nader has to get out of this race. [Applause]
MR. OLIPHANT: It's fun to ask Secretary Albright a question, isn't it?
[Laughter] Thank you.
Q: Hi there. I think there’s been some glibness on the Kerry side about the war in Iraq and the questions leading up to it and the foreign affairs. It seems as though the Bush team went out there, they tried to get allies to help with the war, and the allies said no, and the Bush team says, “Well, I guess they just don’t believe in freedom.”
On the Kerry side, if Kerry had been president, or would have done something differently, he would have gone out there and talked to the allies, and somehow if Kerry had been president, it would have all gone differently.
So my question is, didn’t the Bush team try, and what would have Kerry have done differently to really rally them around?
MR. OLIPHANT: And who would you like to answer that excellent question?
Q: Senator Biden.
SENATOR BIDEN: The answer is they didn’t try. Half of them tried and half didn’t try. I’ll just give you one example. While I was receiving a phone call from the Secretary of State at the United Nations telling me the progress he was about to make, I could almost hear an audible groan when he was told that the Vice President of the United States was speaking to the Veterans of Foreign War and announcing that we really didn’t need anybody else, in effect. It was constantly every time we began to make progress … This is the single-most divided administration in the seven presidents with whom I've served; that’s just a factual statement. So that’s number one.
Number two, it’s a legitimate question to ask what Kerry would have done. The truth of the matter is had Kerry been president, he could have done everything in his power and he never would have gotten the French to go to war, and he never would have gotten a single German troop, in my view, to participate in moving on Iraq. But what he would have been able to do is isolate the French, expose the paucity of their arguments, and get a consensus from the Germans that it was okay to go and bring along the rest of the world so that we would have had some real legitimacy.
And what we didn’t do was, for example, the biggest difference between what Kerry would have done and what Bush did was Bush created -- because he was fearful we’d lose the consensus -- a false sense of urgency that there was an imminent danger to us. There was no imminent danger to us. We said it at the time. Dick Lugar and I said it at the time. This is not Monday morning quarterbacking; it was laid out at the time. The reason they did that was so that we would be able to move quickly and because they were worried that the public would change its mind. I believed, Lugar believed, other Republicans and Democrats believed that all we had to do was play out the string with the French. We’d just go to the French and say, “Okay, you want three more months of inspection, fine. What will you sign on to after three more months of inspection? You want five more months of inspection, you got five more months of inspection. What will you do at the end of the day?” We were in fact very bad bargainers. We were very, very, very -- we played the other guy’s hand so that when we did go to war, we went to war with the rest of the world believing our actions were basically illegitimate. And then we went to war, we went to war in a way that Kerry would’ve never gone to war. He would have never gone to war without having enough flak jackets, enough vests, enough tanks, enough material, enough armored personnel, I promise you that. That would’ve never happened. And since there was no urgency, the buildup would’ve begun; we talked about that.
The last thing Kerry would have done -- there are many things that would have been very different -- you would have never heard the name Ahmed Chalabi part his lips. Never. That’s a big deal. [Applause] And lest you think I'm exaggerating, you may remember because I got the livin’ devil kicked out of me, I said on national television Ahmed Chalabi is a danger to the United States of America. I said that a year and a half ago. Kerry shared my view. He would have invested in the people in Iraq that may have been able to bring about some consensus much quicker.
They're marginal things, but they're consequential things, and it would have been a very different place. But we probably would still have ended up at war down the line.
MR. OLIPHANT: Could I please do the moderator’s prerogative just for a second and ask a brief follow-up of Secretary Albright? We heard some commentary about the French and the Germans. Few people in the world understand Russians better than Secretary Albright. What is going on there with them, and to what extent can Russia be a more perhaps active or useful participant in international affairs?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I actually am very worried about what is going on in Russia, because President Putin is recentralizing his government and trying to figure out, really, how to give Russia back its identity. Those two things are not necessarily bad, but in the process of it, the democratic freedoms are being cut down, and journalists are being murdered. And I believe that in some ways our government now, because our major interest is only in fighting terrorism, has given President Putin a carte blanche, a free hand to do what he wants to in Chechnya and a few other places.
I also am worried about the new kind of influence that the Russians are having in their former republics. They are playing what some of us have called pipeline pressure, pipeline diplomacy, controlling the flow of oil into Ukraine and into the Baltics and trying to put the squeeze on them. So I'm very worried about them.
I think that nobody wants to return to a hostile relationship with Russia. I think it is possible to draw them in in a more positive way, but at the moment they are benefiting from the unidimensional approach that this Administration has taken to foreign policy.
MR. OLIPHANT: Because it’s so important, could I ask if there were one action by a new president early next year that would change the direction of this situation vis-à-vis Russia, what would you say it should be?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that it’s something that never can be one action, coupling things together. I do think that the Nunn-Lugar Program needs to continue and to get Russia more into helping us control the fissile material, some of the great dangers here of nuclear proliferation. They need to be partners in it instead of beneficiaries in some way by being a part of the arms bazaar. And, at the same time, putting some pressure on them about democracy. I think that we can’t turn a blind eye to what President Putin has been doing.
Also what’s interesting, you go back and you look at always the party out of power. The Bush people criticized us for having too personal a relationship with the leadership of Russia. Nothing is more personal than the eye-to-eye contact that President Bush has been having with President Putin, and we need to understand there is more to what is going on in Russia than just that relationship.
So I'm sorry I can’t give you just one answer; I'm a professor.
MR. OLIPHANT: When he looked into his soul … Thank you for your patience.
Q: I'm Mike Fonti (?), I'm honored to be part of the Democratic Progressive Party delegation from Taiwan, so I'd like us to turn a bit to that area of the world and maybe if, Senator Biden, you sat for a long time on the Foreign Relations Committee with Senator Kerry. If you could help us understand how you think Senator Kerry would flesh out his policy towards China. I presume an effective engagement policy with China, which would also, in the same breath, I presume, protect democratic Taiwan.
SENATOR BIDEN: Again, that is a whole seminar, but let me say this: I do not think you would see President Kerry straying from this policy of studied ambiguity, that the idea of Taiwan declaring independence and/or mainland China … the Republic of Chin deciding it had the right to forcibly change the government on Taiwan, they are both non-starters for a Kerry administration.
One of the things that’s happening, as you know if you're in Taiwan, there are about 300,000 Taiwanese businessmen on mainland China doing very well, and mainland China very much enjoys the benefit that flows from that, not unlike what occurred with regard to Hong Kong. They are smart enough not to kill the goose that’s laying the golden eggs.
So I think what you're going to have to see with this Administration, with a Kerry administration, is a much more serious engagement with China, particularly as it relates to the most urgent need, and that is ensuring that there’s a non-nuclear Korean peninsula, and that in turn impacting upon what China does with their own nuclear future.
So there are so many places though, there are so many things. We’ve essentially left the rest of the world in the backwater, because of this incredible preoccupation we've had as a consequence of the unilateral action, basically unilateral action, we took. One of the reasons I believe, Madeleine, that the President is not being more firm with Putin is he doesn’t want to rock any boats at all anywhere now.
I’ll conclude by saying one of the things that we could have done -- that last man young who asked the question that ties into Putin -- I will not name the Senator, because he might be embarrassed, a significant Republican Senator, the last time Putin was here and met with me and several others and then met with a large group of people, I approached him with this particular Republican Senator. This was a time when the French were talking about whether or not we should lift the sanctions. We were talking about going to war.
And so I went to see him, and I asked to meet with him. He came to us, actually, he was there. We made it clear that as leading Senators – leading, old Senators -- from both parties we could not guarantee anything, but I asked the following questions: What if, in fact, President Bush would agree that the first proceeds coming from Iraqi oil would pay off the roughly $12 billion owed by direct hard currency that the Russians needed? And what about the contracts that we had if in fact we would agree to work in consortium with the Russians? He said, “Oh, that’s now how I base my policy, but let’s talk about that.” [Laughter]
Then we went into some detail. I picked up the phone and called the Administration. He was on his way to Crawford. I said, “You have a way here.” This is a little bit of creative diplomacy. “You have a way. I can tell you,” and we relayed in detail Putin’s responses to our inquiries. I later learned not a single word was mentioned. I suspect because we thought this was going to go so easily and so well, this was going to be a -- we didn’t go to war because of oil -- but this was going to be a bonanza for American oil companies.
Imagine, just imagine, had in fact we worked out a little deal with the Russians, that the proceeds that would win foreign debt was being paid down, that we would agree that the Russians would be first among equals, because they're so starved. Their entire budget is $30 billion a year. Pennsylvania’s is bigger. Their entire defense budget is less than $9 billion a year. Having $12 billion in hard currency and $32 billion in prospective contracts is a big deal to lose. No thinking about it.
Just imagine what we might have been able to do.
MR. OLIPHANT: If you could indulge me for one second. Secretary Albright, would you make the same point about American relations with China, that things are not being addressed because of this preoccupation elsewhere?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Absolutely, because I think that there’s this general, as I said, unidimensional view. We don’t want to upset things, and we are losing opportunities. I think we are not being clear about what the problems are because we’re lying to ourselves, and we are missing opportunities with other countries, and engagement is something that allows you to say positive things, and demand some things that are important to you. And we have not been doing that.
MR. OLIPHANT: Thanks for your patience.
Q: Shea Sahandy (?) from the Kennedy School. I guess I have a question about the relationship with Iran right now. As you are well aware, there’s been a growing democracy movement there that’s being suppressed with a pretty heavy hand by the government, and what I'm wondering is what you think would be the Administration’s position with Iran, and how it would be different from the current Administration, assuming there’s regime change in the US in November.
SENATOR BIDEN: I don’t know how to answer that question in 30 or 60 seconds. I'm not being facetious. It is a gigantic issue, gigantic issue. First of all, we would be talking, not negotiating, just figuring out. It’s important, and the Secretary knows this better than I do, it’s important that your friends and adversaries know privately what your red lines are, where you are, what you care about, and you figure out what they need to make any kind of a deal.
But I would offer Iran as an example, a stark example of the abject failure of the policy of the neoconservatives in leveraging power. Here you had for five years, the council -- that is, all of the clerics who control the security apparatus, fearful of crushing the democracy movement for what the world may do. They wait until there’s 170,000 troops in the area when we have all the muscle we’ve ever had there, troops on both sides of them, and then they say, “Yeah, I'm really afraid of you. By the way, watch me squash this movement.” The Majlis is gone, the democratic movement has been absolutely suffocated, and to the extent this notion of leveraging power makes any sense, how does that square?
So there’s a lot to do. If I may, I'm not being facetious, I made an entire speech on this about eight, ten days ago; I'd be happy to send you a copy of it. It lays out in some considerable detail -- I may be wrong -- what I think we should be doing in terms of engaging the Iranians.
MR. OLIPHANT: Madam Secretary, just briefly, how is the leveraging idea working with North Korea these days?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, at the moment it isn't. But I think that, again, the same issue comes up. You cannot get what you want in foreign policy … after all, foreign policy is a simple thing; it’s trying to get some other country to do what you want, that’s all it’s about. [Laughter] The bottom line is you cannot have that happen if you don’t talk to them, if you don’t engage, and if you decide that the country you're dealing with shouldn’t even be involved in any kind of negotiations.
North Koreans want to talk to us. That is what they want; it’s not bad to have this six-party talks, but basically they have to want to talk to us and we have to want to talk to them. We left a very good hand of cards on the table that was not picked up. Many people were confused by the election of November 2000; among them was Kim Jong Il.
So I think that the leverage that we have is to think about normalizing relations with North Korea after they do a whole host of issues. But you can’t have that happen if you don’t engage, and engagement, for me -- ask any of these questions, Iran -- you have to engage with these questions; we cannot be afraid to do that, and that’s how you get what you want.
SENATOR BIDEN: Secretary Powell is confused by the policies.
MR. OLIPHANT: Yes, doesn’t like to travel as much as Secretary Albright.
SENATOR BIDEN: But he also announced he was going to continue the policy on the very day that Kim Jong was in with the President.
MR. OLIPHANT: Thank you for your patience.
Q: My name is Summer Koish (?), I'm from Boston University. We’ve spoken a lot or heard a lot today about security and the need to increase troops in Iraq in order to bring peaceful and stable elections and hopefully fair and open elections, but unfortunately we haven't heard much about Afghanistan, and we have elections coming up there as well. I'm a bit surprised not to hear this region mentioned. I think it’s very important to speak a bit about this.
And also, Madam Secretary, you mentioned the need for regional cooperation in the Middle East, and I'd be interested to hear what your thoughts are on regional cooperation among the Central Asian countries with bringing free and open elections in Afghanistan. Thank you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me just say that one of the reasons that I have spoken about Iraq being a war of choice, not of necessity, is because in fact we took our eye off the ball which is Afghanistan. The terrorists who hit us did not come from Iraq, and Afghanistan is a half-finished job. Those of us who’ve met President Karzai think very highly of him, but he basically, poor man, is the mayor of Kabul. He is not able to truly run his whole country. And that is where the international community and the United States, I think, have let Afghanistan down, and we need to make clear that that is a priority for us.
I believe, also, that there is a possibility of more cooperation among Central Asian nations. They are themselves trying to get together at various times, and it is a part of the world that basically could be very friendly to us if we paid more attention to it.
SENATOR BIDEN: We also didn’t mention South America, Africa, we didn’t mention a lot of things, so don’t read too much into that. I have spent literally 35 or 40 hours with President Karzai in Kabul and out of Kabul. Let me tell you what the breakpoint was. Just about four weeks after the Taliban fell, I got on a plane. This administration would not let me go into Kabul, so I hitchhiked a ride from Islamabad into Kabul and stayed there six days on Bagram Air Force Base with our troops living in an underground bunker, and spending a lot of time, two full days, with President Karzai with no lights flickering on and off and not knowing where his government was.
I came back with a recommendation that the Secretary of State fully embraced, that we had to increase the international security force. We had to increase it beyond Kabul. I got the Brits, the one-star that was there, to sign on. I didn’t get … he was signed … I mean, I didn’t get anything. But I came back with that message.
We went to war. Dick Lugar, me, Chuck Hagel -- we came up with $2 million from the administration for Afghanistan. We in fact went down and spent hours with the President and with the National Security Advisor. Mr. Rumsfeld and the Vice President of the United States believe that nation building in that part of the world wasn't something we should be doing.
I’ll fast forward now five months. Once a week I met with Condi Rice because that was the thing we worked out, for House and Senate, that somebody was going to meet with her once a week so the President can keep everybody informed. Walked into a meeting with her and I said at one point, in January, “We’re losing, Condi. Look what Ishmael Khan is doing over in Iraq,” and I went through the warlord situation. She said, “What? What do you mean? There’s no Taliban there and al Qaeda is not there.” That’s how it has always been -- a fundamental debate that took place within the Administration -- and that is, do you in fact attempt to have Afghanistan a centralized government with some power in Kabul, or you decide to bequeath it to the warlords. The flat decision was made to bequeath it to the warlords, not expand international security force, not provide any more Americans, because we were waiting and needing to have more troops available for Iraq. And this is before we went into Iraq.
There was a sound judgment made that I think was fundamentally mistaken, but it was fought out, it was real, it was fundamental, and that’s why we’re in trouble right now. [Applause]
MR. OLIPHANT: Thank you.
Q: My name is Joan Krimlisk (?), and to ask again about Iraq, to say that our presence actually increases the deaths of the American soldiers, because the insurgents want us out so strongly. And now that they do have a new administration, doesn’t it make sense that their own military will be their defense, their own ethnic groups, for fighting?
SENATOR BIDEN: It does make sense if we were going to be honest with you and them. One of the things I have a lot of experience with, because of the Secretary, because she sent me for days and days, and I probably made more trips into Bosnia and Kosovo than anybody except second-level administration officials, meaning undersecretaries.
One of the things we learned is it takes you at least a year and a half to train a police force, at least. There’s no possibility of doing it any quicker. And it takes you a better part of two years to train a military.
So we came back from Iraq, Dick Lugar, myself, last August, wrote a report saying that every one of our brilliant people -- and these kids and these men and women we have on the ground are amazing, they have amazing talent. You’d be so proud of them. And you know what they told us, we were standing in a police station in Baghdad? They told us it would take, if they had all the money in the world, three years to put together a prison system. If they had all the money in the world, it would take them three years to have an Iraqi police force that numbered 78,000. And it would take them three to five years to get a 50,000 military force. That is our exit strategy.
So we came back and said invest the money, invest in the time, do it now. And it’s not been done. It’s not been done. And that’s what we must do now. And that’s why our international friends out there should be chipping in right now. If you won’t send troops, you should be training an Iraqi division. You should be providing the trainers. You should be providing the money to do it. You should be coordinating with us. You don’t have to come into Iraq for us to be able to prevail in Iraq, but you have to begin to forgive Iraqi debt, you have to begin to train Iraqi forces. You have to begin to participate in the solution. And you cannot continue to carp. You’ve got to get over it.
MR. OLIPHANT: Madam Secretary, isn't part of the political problem that behind that eloquent statement, and specific statement, is the message that if they don’t, the United States will still do it alone and still do it for as long as “it takes”?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I don’t think so, but I do think that we have a special responsibility: One, because of the way this war started. And two, because we are the United States. And that is what comes with the difficulty of being America.
But I think that what has to happen is the United Nations has to be used in some way. What this Administration has done in terms of neutralizing the United Nations is something that is dreadful, so that the UN doesn’t even want to go in unless it has proper security, as Senator Biden had said earlier.
What we have to change is the attitude towards the UN. There are people in the country who are afraid of the UN, and then there are people in this country who don’t like the UN because it’s full of foreigners, which frankly can’t be helped. [Laughter] So the issue here is how to figure out how to get help through the international system so that you don’t have the automatic aspect that you're talking about.
Q: My name is Janita Freedy (?) and I'm overwhelmed with the intensity, and I have a mundane comment and question/request. I tried to get your book, Madam Secretary -- granted, at the last minute, but I didn’t expect it to be a problem, and could not find it. My request is how do I get an autographed copy of your book?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We’ll get to you. Thank you for asking.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Secretary Albright, I'm a law student from Spain and we all know you have been the US Ambassador to the United Nations before. I wanted to ask if you think there should be a change in the structure and the role in the United Nations in the next years, and if there should be a change in the US attitude towards the UN in the future?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I do think there needs to be a change in the structure, starting with the Security Council. But it is very difficult to have that happen, because it’s a little bit like a Rubik’s Cube. And let me just give you a couple of examples.
Out of 15 countries in the UN, five are Europeans either that were, when I was there, wanted to be part of the EU or in the EU. And part of the problem always was that when I wanted a vote from the Europeans, I'd go to one and I'd say, “I need your help” and he’d say, “I'm so sorry, I can’t help you, the EU does not yet have a common position.” Then I'd go to him a couple days later and I'd say, “I need your help,” and he’d say, “I'm so sorry, I can’t help you, the EU has a common position.” [Laughter]
So if the EU does have in fact a common foreign policy, it should have one seat. But can you visualize the British or French giving up their veto? That’s the first problem. And then the issue is, which of the other countries should be on there in terms of permanent membership. And then, how do you solve the issue of how new countries from the non-permanent members need to come on.
So that has to be restructured. The Economic and Social Council needs to be restructured. There is some thought, actually, that the kind of Sleeping Beauty status of the Trusteeship Council could be changed in order to have them have a more direct role with the failed states. So there are many aspects, but partially what has to happen is the US needs to change its attitude towards the United Nations.
MR. OLIPHANT: This really hurts. It’s the hardest part of duty at the Kennedy Library. There are things that still need to go on this evening, and that requires me to do that which I hate and that is to call for two more questions. I'm sorry, but please go ahead.
Q: My name is (inaudible), and I'm from Angola. This is truly a learning experience. Both Madam Secretary and the Senator talked about ideals and democracy, and now that the Senator has mentioned Africa, I would like to see if there has been any thinking in terms of what a Kerry administration would do to help promote those ideals in Africa, help fight poverty, as well as the issue of stability. I know this Administration has been talking about the GPAOI. If there has been any ideas along those lines. And let me just finish the question by saying that some people are concerned with the energy crisis in the US. Oil may overshadow some of these issues in the US policy vis-à-vis Africa.
SENATOR BIDEN: It’s a legitimate concern and I’ll just say two things: One, you would have a real AIDS program, a serious one that was much more robust than what we’re doing now. And, number two, you would see us in, for example, Darfur. What’s going on right now, you would see us in fact be willing to do a lot more than is being done now. Even if everything works well, we’re probably going to lose 320,000 people.
Those are two things that come to mind immediately.
Q: My name is Michael Jovanovich (?), and I'm Serbian.
SENATOR BIDEN: I just met with your new president.
Q: I was very impressed by Senator Biden who has been my idol for many years - thank you, sir -- when he said the United States spends more money than the rest of the world combined. When I was at Columbia University, Eisenhower said something differently. He said that the United States of America is stronger than the rest of the world combined.
I am a Kennedy Democrat, but I could not vote for a Democrat after the experience with Serbia. I voted for Bush, and I'm as unhappy with what America did to Iraq as what America did to Serbia.
My question is this: during the Cold War, the Communists had atom bomb. We promoted cooperation and co-existence. Nowadays, atom bomb is, according to ... (inaudible) 50 states have atom bombs. There is a possibility that Osama bin Laden can get atom bomb. Wouldn’t it be reasonable and politically good to have co-existence with Osama bin Laden and, yes, with Saddam Hussein who was our friend for 30 years. He worked for America for 30 years and ended up in a jail, and his two sons were executed. Thank you, gentlemen.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I don’t quite understand all you said, but I would like to make the following comment to set the record straight. I know a great deal about Yugoslavia. I spent part of my childhood there. My father was the Czechoslovak Ambassador to Yugoslavia, and often he said, “If I were not Czech, I would be happy to be a Serb.”
But the Serbs that I grew up with and that my father admired are not the Serbs that were capable of ethnic cleansing in other parts of Yugoslavia. And I have the highest respect for ordinary Serb people, but the Serbian nation has to understand that what it perpetrated on the rest of Yugoslavia was criminal. And when the Serbs recognize that, there will be reconciliation and the Balkans will be able to exist properly as part of the Europe where they belong. [Applause]
[Previous Q is told repeatedly he only gets one question]
MR. OLIPHANT: I need to say that the NDI people who are here should go to my left, to that door there, where the private reception is. For everybody else, if this is your first time here, you know why this is such a special place, and thank you all for coming and participating. [Applause]