Hillary Clinton photo

Remarks at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC

June 27, 2007

"Toward a New American Security" is exactly the right title for this forum. We are in a moment of profound change and challenge that requires new thinking and a new direction. As Americans we bear much responsibility for the global economic, technological, and democratic revolution we are experiencing.

Every day the world grows smaller and history moves faster. Decisions by a factory owner in China impact the health and safety of children in Chicago. American researchers use the web to share best practices – but so do Islamist extremists. And pandemics do not know where evil nations end and good nations begin, a fact that I'm sure greatly disturbs the Vice President.

Amidst the global transformation to an interdependent world our nation confronts possibilities of promise and peril. We know the current security policy with its excessive reliance on unilateral force, its rejection of international agreements of all kinds, and its preference for policy making based on ideology, not evidence, has to change.

But let's begin with some basic assumptions rooted in reality. In this interdependent world, the United Stated cannot unilaterally kill, jail, occupy or isolate all of our actual or potential adversaries. Therefore, while a strong military remains essential to our security, it is not sufficient.

Moreover, there are few security challenges we can meet entirely on our own. So in the words of Secretary Albright, "We should cooperate with others whenever we can and act alone only when we have to. Not the other way around."

When I was First Lady, I was honored to visit 82 countries representing our nation. I witnessed the promise of America in the eyes of men, women and children. America represented hope, opportunity, freedom. As a United States Senator I continue to meet with leaders from around the globe and as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, travel to places where our military has been engaged and performing heroically.

And what we have seen here and around the world is that the administration has systematically broken down and thrown aside our hard-won partnerships and alliances and undermined our greatest asset, America's moral authority - not just destroying the work of the previous decade but the difficult work of more than a half century of internationalism practiced by Democratic and Republican administrations alike. All too often the administration has favored ideology over reality, promoted tough talk over tough decisions, and sown alienation instead of cooperation.

The next president will take office at a time when the United States faces the greatest confluence of challenges in our country's recent history. We must regain our place in the world with a new security policy that serves our national interest, recaptures our moral authority, works with our allies, modernizes our military, and confidently projects our values. In short, we must rebuild our strength and widen and deepen its scope.

We have to be both internationalists and realists. We have to renew those alliances around the world, around a common set of goals including combating genocide, expanding human rights, promoting reconciliation through diplomacy, stopping nuclear proliferation, and addressing global warming. We have to realize that we are in the middle of a sectarian civil war in Iraq and that it is well past time to start withdrawing our troops in the middle of that war. And we must also realize that the global threat of terror demands that we secure our home front, take on the terrorist networks abroad, and combat a false doctrine of hate, death and destruction.

America must be the world's leader and yet we cannot lead unless we restore the greatness and goodness of America in the eyes of the world. That's why we must stand for freedom and fairness, justice and progress, peace and security.

Let me say a few words about Iraq. I know that CNAS has released a new report on Iraq with a set of proposals for the way forward. I have some differences with the specifics of the proposal, but I believe it is time to end the war and bring our troops home as soon as possible.

The failed ideology and flawed decision making that led us into Iraq has had a devastating impact on us here at home and around the world. Iraq continues to steal young American lives and to consume $8.6 billion a month, sapping our military readiness and standing. I traveled to Iraq three times to meet with soldiers and commanders as well as the Iraqi political leaders. There is no doubt that our military has performed heroically and has done what they were asked to do according to the authorization that was passed nearly five years ago.

Not a day goes by that I don't think of our men and women who are over there right now, patrolling the streets of Baghdad, Mosul, and other places, trapped by a failed strategy and sectarian civil war and I never stop thinking about the lives that have been lost and the lives that have been so drastically affected by profound injuries.

The president claims he listens to our military commanders - but he apparently doesn't hear what I have heard for several years now. General Petraeus, General Casey, General Pace, General Abizaid, Admiral Fallon and others have told him and us: there is no military solution to the Iraq conflict, only a political one.

Without concerted U.S.-led international political and diplomatic efforts, as the Iraq Study Group supported but the Bush Administration disregards, any Iraqi government is condemned to failure. In the absence of credible and strong incentives backed by U.S. pressure, the Iraqi government has degenerated into protecting ethnic and sectarian interests. In the absence of sustained diplomatic efforts involving the parties affected and the nations in the region, we risk the expansion of the conflict beyond the borders of Iraq.

The coalition building efforts during the first Gulf War and affecting the former Yugoslavia demonstrate that sustained political and diplomatic efforts are critical to establishing and maintaining U.S. national security interests. What worked for the first Bush administration and the Clinton administration has been abandoned or executed poorly. It is not a matter of partisanship; it is a matter of learning from lessons of successful American statesmanship of both Democratic and Republican presidents.

The catalog of misjudgments offends common sense and shocks the conscience: the unilateral decision to rush to war without allowing inspectors to finish their work or diplomacy to run its course; the failure to send enough troops and the disgraceful lack of equipment for those we sent; the draining of manpower, resources and intelligence capabilities from Afghanistan; the inability to stop rioting or to secure weapons caches; dismantling Iraq's security and governmental capacity; the ignorance of a rising insurgency; and the adherence, which continues to the present day, to a broken policy more than four years after the invasion began.

Since 2005, I've called for the strategic redeployment of U.S. Forces out of Iraq. I've introduced the Iraq Troops Protection and Reduction Act to begin withdrawing our troops. And I continue to press for a basic three step approach that would end the war while preserving our security interests. First, start bringing the troops home now. Second, demand, and back up those demands, that the Iraqis take responsibility for their country or lose the aid we are providing them. And third, begin intensive regional and international diplomacy on a sustained basis.

We need to force the administration to change its failed policies in Iraq. That's why I've gone further and with Senator Robert Byrd proposed de-authorizing the war by October 11, 2007, the five year anniversary of the original use of force resolution. Senator Byrd and I plan to offer an amendment de-authorizing the war when the Senate considers the Defense Authorization bill after the July 4th recess. It's a civil war in Iraq and we must extricate ourselves from it.

I've also called on both the Secretary of Defense, Secretary Gates, and General Pace, to brief Congress on the existing plans for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq or to explain why no such detailed plans exist. The seeds of many problems that continue to plague our troops and mission in Iraq were planted in a failure to adequately plan for the conflict that the administration was so anxious to begin. We cannot allow our failures in deploying into Iraq to be repeated when we redeploy out of Iraq.

Among the most important reasons for extricating ourselves from Iraq are the looming challenges in the region and around the world to our national security. There is a global threat of terrorism and we have to confront it. Here, too, the policies of the Bush Administration have set us back.

America must rely on the intelligence of our allies along with our own, yet the Bush Administration's policies have alienated our friends and emboldened our enemies. New threats require us to modernize and reform our intelligence services. And we find ourselves often trapped in very short-sighted, unproductive debates triggered by the President's and Vice President's desire to expand executive authority beyond any previously imagined limit. It is dangerous for us to be caught up in debates about wiretapping schemes and it is dangerous for the administration to refuse to disavow torture.

We are in a long term struggle in which our values must be more than rhetoric. But we are weakened by Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and by this administration's policies on detainees and torture.

I voted against the Military Commissions Act because I believe we have to stand for the rule of law before the world, especially when we are under threat. Democrats and Republicans alike believe that terrorists have to be caught, captured, sentenced, punished, killed. I believe there should be no mercy for those who perpetrated 9-11 and other crimes against humanity. But in the process of accomplishing what is essential for our security we must hold onto our values and set an example we can point to with pride and not shame.

The bill allowed the admission into evidence of statements derived from cruel, inhumane, and degrading interrogations. Will our enemies be less likely to surrender? Will informants be less likely to come forward? Will our soldiers be more likely face torture themselves if captured? Will the information we obtain be less reliable? As Lieutenant [General] John F. Kimmons, the Army's Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence has said, "No good intelligence is going to come from abusive interrogation practices." Allowing coercive treatment and torturous actions toward prisoners violates the rule of law, fails in intelligence gathering, and promotes radicalization.

Al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden's second-in-command, the architect of many of the attacks on our country, throughout Europe and the world has said over and over again if we would only pay attention – it is on their websites – that torture helps the cause of extremism, watering the seeds of jihad. I've called for the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay because it represents in the eyes of the world abuse, secrecy, and contempt for the rule of law. Rather than keeping us more secure, Guantanamo is harming our national security. It compromises our long-term military and strategic interests and impairs our standing overseas.

We also cannot allow the failures taking place in Iraq to cause us to lose focus on the war in Afghanistan. The first time I visited Afghanistan in 2003, a young soldier said to me, "Welcome to the forgotten front line of the war against terror." This administration is not only failing in Iraq, its inattention risks failure in Afghanistan.

During my visit to Afghanistan last January, I heard disturbing reports about continued cross border infiltration from Pakistan into Afghanistan by Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters. The tensions between the Afghan and Pakistani governments were palpable.

During my meetings with President Karzai and President Musharraf, I asked if they thought that a special presidential envoy from the United States would help them resolve their disputes and they both expressed the belief that such an envoy could be very useful. When I returned to the United States, I called the White House to suggest a special envoy and to convey the reactions of Presidents Karzai and Musharraf. The White House, however, did not follow up on this idea and the tensions between those two critical countries continue unabated.

We must widen the scope of our strength by leading strong alliances which can apply military force when required and promote our values. In the 1990's people were looking toward America for leadership. When ethnic cleansing was taking place in the Balkans, the United States led our European allies in putting together a coalition to stop it. There is no better way to combat anti-Americanism than to do our best to demonstrate that America is invested in lifting up people around the world.

Some of you have heard this before, but it was striking to me that after President Bush asked his father and my husband to represent our country with respect to the relief following the Tsunami -- they traveled together, they were there when our military was evacuating people and bringing in supplies -- and the public opinion about the United States increased dramatically in a positive direction based on that very visible show of American concern, most notably in Indonesia where there had been tracking of public attitudes toward us before and after.

Instability and extremism fester in places where infrastructure, education, and opportunity are also lacking. I've introduced the Education for All Act to provide $10 billion over five years toward the goal of basic education for every boy and girl around the world. From Pakistan to Sudan, parents want their children to have an education, but too often governments fail in delivering that basic service or find themselves without the resources to do so even if they are willing. Education is a tool to combat HIV/AIDS, empower women, and certainly for economic development. And I believe all of that plays to our strengths.

For six years, the threat of terror at home has not been met successfully with a lot of bluster and intimidation; that only isolates us. It's not right and it's not smart. The attacks which have been prevented are a result of cooperation with other nations in intelligence, law enforcement and money tracking efforts. And those kinds of cooperative relationships have to be deepened and strengthened.

Alliances are also essential in safeguarding against other security threats like pandemics, be they acts of terrorism or acts of God. And there needs to be better cooperation globally for us to be prepared to deal with these kinds of threats.

I think it's important that we also focus on the most significant threat of all: nuclear proliferation. The 9-11 Public Discourse Project, an outgrowth of the 9-11 Commission, argued that "preventing terrorists from gaining weapons of mass destruction must be elevated above all others problems of national security because it represents the greatest threat to the American people." We wouldn't know it by the discussion and dialogue in this city.

The Bush Administration has joined the chorus saying that, yes, that is our biggest threat. Unfortunately, their response has foundered at a nexus of ideology and intransigence. They have followed a policy that permitted North Korea, whose plutonium production was frozen by the last administration, to reprocess enough material in the last four years to make half a dozen nuclear bombs and test a nuclear weapon. In the past few months we've seen signs of reversal, but the damage is already done.

Iran, meanwhile, has been given six years of the silent treatment. In this vacuum, Iran continues its progress toward developing nuclear weapons and increasing its influence in the region. After initial talks with Iran and Syria on Iraq, the administration says it isn't sure that we need any more discussions with either of them. I think we should keep talking. Rather than engaging those who seek to develop nuclear weapons and working more urgently with allies to secure the nuclear material that al Qaeda and others covet, the administration has abandoned the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and neglected non-proliferation and even promoted two new small nuclear weapons, including the robust nuclear earth penetrator, the so-called bunker buster.

I'm introducing the Nuclear Terrorism Prevention Act, a bill based on the report published by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, headed by Senator Sam Nunn. He clearly sees this threat "outrunning our response." And my bill seeks to reinvigorate and accelerate our efforts to ensure that the nature and urgency of our response is commensurate with the threat.

My legislation would first devote real resources to combating the threat by increasing funding for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative to convert research reactors around the world from highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium and to remove the highly enriched uranium from such facilities.

I was with Warren Buffett last night who has pledged $50 million of his own money to this effort and believes that he could amass an even greater amount of money from the private sector if our government would lead us with some urgency toward taking on this challenge.

We need to expand the Materials Protection, Control and Accounting program to lock down nuclear material and invest in forensic measures which advance our ability to discover the origins of a nuclear weapon in the horrific event of an attack.

This legislation would also require the president to work to create specific international guidelines to raise the security standards at foreign nuclear sites. To paraphrase Harvard's Graham Allison, "no access to nuclear materials means no nuclear terrorism."

Third, to coordinate these efforts, my legislation would create a senior advisor to the president for the prevention of nuclear terrorism, responsible for an annual report to Congress listing all sites worldwide with nuclear weapons and weapons-usable fissile material and for developing and coordinating the implementation of a plan to eliminate, remove and secure all such material.

Here, too, we will never be served by policies that isolate us from those who can be our allies in stopping proliferation. And I hope that we will turn to this with greater urgency now. We cannot wait 18 months for the next administration. We should be focused on doing as much as possible as quickly as we can.

There are so many other challenges across the board from obviously the Middle East to Latin America, from the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the ongoing violence in Darfur.

The next president will face a rising China with growing economic, diplomatic and military power. China is using its power throughout the world in new ways that challenge our current thinking and policies. We should neither fear a stronger China nor ignore it. That means engagement and understanding, but also frank dialogue on issues ranging from trade to currency manipulation to human rights abuses and the environment.

I remember traveling to China in 1995 to represent the United States at the Fourth World Conference on Women. Shortly before the conference was to start, the Chinese government imprisoned a dissident – as some of you might remember – and many felt that we shouldn't go in order to send a strong message of disapproval.

But I thought we should send another message. That's why I did go and spoke out about the importance of human rights and particularly emphasizing the importance of women's rights. I don't think we lose by speaking out and engaging with those with whom we disagree, even in profound ways.

Latin America presents another challenge, and, again, I think we have ignored developments in Latin America at our peril. The president came into office with great promise but unfortunately it has not been realized. And we must redouble our efforts to create better ties and look for specific projects of development that can perhaps make a difference.

The Clinton Foundation just announced a $200 million fund to do just that in Latin America, working for sustainable development and working to train people to do jobs connected with sustainable development.

Finally, we face serious challenges in Africa. In Sudan, Zimbabwe and other countries long-term conflicts, external and internal, persist. Certainly in the Horn of Africa we see Islamist extremists attempting to lay down roots. And we are watching the Chinese gain influence, building soccer stadiums and parliament buildings.

The Pentagon is creating a separate command for Africa, and I fully support that, but they're having a problem figuring out where to place it, because the countries of North Africa are not welcoming us the way that I believe they would have at a previous period.

We've seen what happens when we fail to focus on Africa. The genocide in Darfur is a prime example. The United Nations must do more to hold its member countries responsible for meeting basic human rights standards. And the United States must do more to create an environment in which countries are willing to place their resources at the disposal of the mission to end genocide.

We've got to look for ways that we can create these opportunities within Darfur. If Sudan does not live up to its commitment to allow a full hybrid U.N. and African Union peacekeeping force, we should work with NATO to take military action. I would suggest a no-fly zone that would be blanketed over Darfur and be focused on the air support that the Sudanese provide to the Janjaweed as they rape and pillage their way through the villages - the bombing comes before, during and after.

And I think it is time for us to make a much more serious effort both to support the troops on the ground with airlift and logistics, and to have the threat of the no-fly zone and action taken against those who violate it, in order for this new effort that the U.N. and the A.U. are proceeding with to be successful.

But there are some good news stories in Africa that we've got to do more to support, and I particularly am pleased about Liberia. We've seen the very impressive presidency of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Her commitment to good governance has served as a real example. We have supported debt relief for Liberia, and the Congress is passing that insofar as the American portion of it. But we've got to do more to help the country rebuild, and to try to create some examples of good governance and positive development in Africa with our help.

And, of course, there's global warming, a particular challenge that has security implications. Eleven retired three- and four-star admirals [and generals], including General Zinni, had come out with a report entitled, "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change." It concluded that global warming did present a serious national security threat because of its projected impacts on reduced access to fresh water and impaired food production, the displacement of populations, the mass migrations that will occur, the failed states, the conflicts over scarce resources.

I authored an amendment for the Defense Authorization bill to implement many of the recommendations of this report. It is not the first one. The Pentagon actually did their own report, several years ago, which never saw the light of day to any great extent. And it is time that we clearly focus on global warming as a security challenge.

Finally, there is a challenge we face right here at home in trying to figure out how to rebuild our military and transform our government to face the threats of the 21st century and to take advantage of the opportunities.

I'm a member of the Transformation Advisory Group, which is a part of the U.S. Joint Forces Command. I was asked to join several years ago.

It's a unique advisory group, charged with thinking of new ideas to move our military and government into a more forward leaning, forward thinking posture.

And it's important that we look at the lessons from this group's discussion, that it's not just about what the military can and must do, but how the rest of the government has to be value-added and work together in a much more coordinated way.

Our increasingly interconnected world demands an interconnected strategy that takes into account political, economic, diplomatic and military concerns. When developing military strategy, our military leaders no longer speak of the battlefield, but they talk about the situation. They are much more adept than many people actually understand, that the battlespace goes far beyond the battlefield. And we need that kind of multidimensional thinking, both inside and outside the walls of the Pentagon.

So let's make an effort to increase the number of soldiers proficient in foreign languages, instead of kicking out interpreters who happen to be gay. Let's be sure our policies reflect concern for the will of governments and the perceptions of peoples. Let's make sure that we look just not at the Quadrennial Defense Review but at a document that looks at all of the government's responses to the threats and opportunities we face.

You know, despite the professed attempts at military transformation, much more needs to be done. We do need to increase the size of the Army to address the myriad threats that we still face, even after we begin withdrawing from Iraq. We need to reform the Pentagon's acquisition system to rein in the costs of weapons systems and spending on outside contractors. And we need to find the right mix between legacy systems that our service members are currently using and newer programs that will allow us to keep our technological edge.Our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan mean that we must not just learn but incorporate the lessons of asymmetric warfare and train and equip our forces accordingly.Finally, we need to re-evaluate the entire training and education that service members need in the 21st century.

Every challenge we face begins with the biggest challenge: restoring our leadership by once again valuing alliances, respecting our values, and understanding that American strength is more than just a show of force.

I want to end with a story that I particularly like, in part because it really does remind me of all that America can be when we have leadership that understands all that America should be.

It's a story that Secretary Albright has told. Back in 1995, she was asked to go to Europe to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II.

And she was particularly excited about going because she would go to the Czech Republic, having been born and raised in the former Czechoslovakia and having confronted Nazism and communism through her family.

So as she traveled around to these various commemorations, she noticed people waving American flags. But as she looked more closely, she realized those flags had only 48 stars.

And she kept asking people, "Where did these flags come from?"

And everyone told her the same thing: when the American G.I.s liberated Europe, they passed out these flags. And people had treasured them, passing them on from grandparent to parent to child. And, in fact, keeping them at some risk to themselves, because if they'd been discovered under Soviet occupation with an American flag, they could have gotten into trouble.

So she asked them, "Why did you keep these flags for fifty years?"

And everyone said the same thing: because they loved America and they loved the hope that those flags represented and the values that stood behind them.

Well, I want to see a restoration of those feelings about us around the world. But I also want to see their restoration here at home.

We have to begin believing again in our goodness and our greatness, in our ability to be both smart and tough. You know, 44 years ago this month, President Kennedy spoke just a short distance from where we are today at American University. And he said, "I speak of peace because of the new face of war."

In this new century, we are confronted by yet another new face of war and a new reality of global interdependence. It is a moment of peril and of promise. How we proceed is entirely up to us. We can repair the damage that has been done to our security and our standing over these past six years. We can rebuild our alliances and restore our moral authority, and reestablish our leadership in the world. And by doing so, we can forge a new American security for this new century.

Thank you all very much.

Hillary Clinton, Remarks at the Center for a New American Security in Washington, DC Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/277584

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