This week saw ugly and deeply dishonest attacks launched against former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE), in the context of his name being floated as the possible nominee for the next Secretary of Defense. APN's position on Hagel and rejecting these attacks is available here.
For the sake of those who are not familiar with Hagel's real record on the issues (and are so far relying on reports that, when examined, prove inaccurate if not duplicitous), below is a compendium of major statements made by Hagel expressing his views on Israel and the Middle East and spanning his time in office.
Mr. President, the Middle East today is a region in crisis. After 3 weeks of escalating and continuing violence, the potential for wider regional conflict becomes more real each day. The hatred in the Middle East is being driven deeper and deeper into the fabric of the region, which will make any lasting and sustained peace effort very difficult to achieve.
How do we realistically believe that a continuation of the systematic destruction of an American friend, the country and people of Lebanon, is going to enhance America's image and give us the trust and credibility to lead a lasting and sustained peace effort in the Middle East?
The sickening slaughter on both sides must end, and it must end now. President Bush must call for an immediate cease-fire. This madness must stop. The Middle East today is more combustible and complex than it has ever been. Uncertain popular support for regime legitimacy continues to weaken governments in the Middle East. Economic stagnation, persistent unemployment, deepening despair, and wider unrest enhance the ability of terrorists to recruit and succeed.
An Iran with nuclear weapons raises the specter of broader proliferation and a fundamental strategic realignment in the region, creating more regional instability. America's approach to the Middle East must be consistent and sustained, and it must understand the history, the interests, and the perspectives of our regional friends and allies.
The United States will remain committed to defending Israel. Our relationship with Israel is a special and historic one. But it need not and cannot be at the expense of our Arab and Muslim relationships. That is an irresponsible and dangerous false choice.
Achieving a lasting resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is as much in Israel's interest as any other country in the world. Unending war will continually drain Israel of its human capital, resources, and energy as it continually fights for its survival.
The United States and Israel must understand that it is not in their long-term interests to allow themselves to become isolated in the Middle East and the world. Neither can allow themselves to drift into an ``us against the world'' global optic or zero-sum game. That would marginalize America's global leadership, our trust and influence, further isolating Israel, and it would prove disastrous for both countries, as well as the region. It is in Israel's interest, as much as ours, that the United States be seen by all states in the Middle East as fair. This is the currency of trust.
The world has rightly condemned the despicable actions of Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists who attacked Israel and kidnapped Israeli soldiers. Israel has the undeniable right to defend itself against aggression. This is the right of all nations.
Hezbollah is a threat to Israel, to Lebanon, and to all who strive for lasting peace in the Middle East. However, military action alone will not destroy Hezbollah or Hamas. Extended military action is tearing Lebanon apart, killing innocent civilians, devastating its economy and infrastructure, and creating a humanitarian disaster, further weakening Lebanon's fragile democratic government, strengthening popular Muslim and Arab support for Hezbollah, and deepening hatred of Israel's position across the Middle East. The pursuit of tactical military victories at the expense of the core strategic objective of Arab-Israeli peace is a hollow victory. The war against Hezbollah and Hamas will not be won on the battlefield.
To achieve a strategic shift in the conditions for Middle East peace, the United States must use the global condemnation of terrorist acts as the basis for substantive change. For a lasting and popularly supported resolution, only a strong Lebanese Government and a strong Lebanese Army, backed by the international community, can rid Lebanon of these corrosive militias and terrorist organizations.
President Bush and Secretary Rice must become and remain deeply engaged in the Middle East. Only U.S. leadership can build a consensus of purpose among our regional and international partners. To lead and sustain U.S. engagement, the President should appoint a statesman of global stature, experience, and ability to serve as his personal envoy to the region. This individual would report directly to the President and be empowered with the authority to speak and act for the President. Former Secretaries of State Baker and Powell fit this profile.
The President must publicly decry the slaughter today and work toward an immediate cease-fire in the Middle East. The U.N. Security Council must urgently adopt a new binding resolution that provides a comprehensive political, security, and economic framework for Lebanon, Israel, and the region--a framework that begins with the immediate cessation of violence.
I strongly support the deployment of a robust international force along the Israel-Lebanon border to facilitate a steady deployment of a strengthened Lebanese Army into southern Lebanon to eventually assume responsibility for security and the rule of law.
America must listen carefully to its friends, its partners in the region. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and others--countries that understand the Middle East far better than we do--must commit to help resolve today's crisis, and they must be active partners in helping realize the already-agreed-upon two-state solution.
The core of all challenges in the Middle East remains the underlying Arab-Israeli conflict. The failure to address this root cause will allow Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorists to continue to sustain popular Muslim and Arab support--a dynamic that continues to undermine America's standing in the region and the Governments of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and others, whose support is critical for any Middle East resolution.
The United States should engage our Middle East and international partners to revive the Beirut Declaration, or some version of that declaration, proposed by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and adopted unanimously by the Arab League in March of 2002. In this historic initiative, the Arab world recognized Israel's right to exist and sought to establish a path toward a two-state solution and broader Arab-Israeli peace. Even though Israel could not accept it as it was written, it represented a very significant starting point--starting point--document initiated by Arab countries. Today, we need a new Beirut Declaration-type initiative. We squandered the last one.
The concept and intent of the 2002 Beirut Declaration is as relevant today as it was in 2002. An Arab-initiated, Beirut-type declaration would reinvest regional Arab States with a stake in achieving progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace. This type of initiative would offer a positive alternative--a positive alternative--vision for Arab populations to the ideology and goals of Islamic extremists. The United States must explore this approach as part of its diplomatic engagement in the Middle East.
Lasting peace in the Middle East, and stability and security for Israel, will come only from a regionally oriented political settlement. Former American Middle East Envoy Dennis Ross once observed that in the Middle East a process is necessary because a process absorbs events. Without a process, events become crises. He was right. Look at where we are today in the Middle East with no process. Crisis diplomacy is no substitute for sustained, day-to-day engagement.
America's approach to Syria and Iran is inextricably tied to Middle East peace. Whether or not they were directly involved in the latest Hezbollah and Hamas aggression in Israel, both countries exert influence in the region in ways that undermine stability and security. As we work with our friends and allies to deny Syria and Iran any opportunity to further corrode the situation in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, both Damascus and Tehran must hear from America directly.
As John McLaughlin, the former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, recently wrote in the Washington Post--and I quote Mr. McLaughlin--
Even superpowers have to talk to bad guys. The absence of a diplomatic relationship with Iran and the deterioration of the one with Syria--two countries that bear enormous responsibility for the current crisis [in the Middle East]--leave the United States with fewer options and levers than might otherwise have been the case.
Distasteful as it might have been to have or to maintain open and normal relations with such states, the absence of such relations ensures that we will have more blind spots than we can afford and that we will have to deal through surrogates on issues of vital importance to the United States.''
Ultimately, the United States will need to engage Iran and Syria with an agenda open to all areas of agreement and disagreement. For this dialog to have any meaning or possible lasting relevance, it should encompass the full agenda of issues.
There is very little good news coming out of Iraq today. Increasingly vicious sectarian violence continues to propel Iraq toward civil war.
The U.S. announcement last week to send additional U.S. troops and military police back into Baghdad reverses last month's decision to have Iraqi forces take the lead in Baghdad and represents a dramatic setback for the U.S. and the Iraqi Government.
The Iraqi Government has limited ability to enforce the rule of law in Iraq, especially in Baghdad. Green zone politics appear to have little bearing or relation to the realities of the rest of Iraq. The Iraqis will continue to face difficult choices over the future of their country.
The day-to-day responsibilities of governing and security will soon have to be assumed by Iraqis. This is not about setting a timeline. This is about understanding the implications of the forces of reality. This reality is being determined by Iraqis, not Americans.
America is bogged down in Iraq and this is limiting our diplomatic and military options. The longer America remains in Iraq in its current capacity, the deeper the damage to our force structure--particularly the U.S. Army.
And it will continue to place more limitations on an already dangerously overextended force structure that will further limit our options and public support.
The Middle East crisis represents a moment of great danger, but it is also an opportunity.
Crisis focuses the minds of leaders and the attention of nations. The Middle East need not be a region forever captive to the fire of war and historical hatred. It can avoid this fate if the United States pursues sustained and engaged leadership worthy of our history, purpose, and power. America cannot fix every problem in the world; nor should it try. But we must get the big issues and important relationships right and concentrate on those.
We know that without engaged and active American leadership, the world is more dangerous. The United States must focus all of its leadership and resources on ending this madness in the Middle East now.
Last year, I wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine that "a wise foreign policy recognizes that U.S. leadership is determined as much by our commitment to principle as by our exercise of power." For decades, the strength of U.S. leadership has brought together allies in common cause, addressing common challenges with common action. In February 2003, three weeks before the U.S. invaded Iraq, I said in a speech at Kansas State University:
"America must approach the world with a sense of purpose in world affairs that is anchored by our ideals, a principled realism that seeks not to re-make the world in our image, but to help make a better world.
We must avoid the traps of hubris and imperial temptation that come with great power. Our foreign policy should reflect the hope and promise of America tempered with a mature wisdom that is the mark of our national character. In this new era of possibilities and responsibilities, America will require a wider lens view of how the world sees us, so that we can better understand the world, and our role in it."
Trust and confidence in America is about more than our military might or economic power. Power alone will not build coalitions, will not inspire trust, will not demonstrate confident leadership, will not resolve complicated problems, and will not defeat the threats that the United States will confront in the 21 st century.
After World War II, America used its leadership and power to help forge a consensus on vital international issues. We built relationships, alliances and international organizations. By doing so, we enhanced our power, our ability to influence, and our ability to protect our national interests.
These institutions are as vital today as when they were formed. They need constant adjustment to reflect the realities of today and tomorrow...but what remains unchanged is the critical importance of these alliances to achieve global stability. America's past leaders recognized that the United States, alone, was incapable of confronting global threats and challenges.
We must maintain a clear-eyed focus on our vital interests and understand regional complexities and dynamics as we pursue our strategic objectives. The recent violence during President Bush's trip to South America and the reluctance of some of our regional neighbors to pursue a regional free trade agreement underscore this point.
Nowhere is this perspective more important than in the Middle East. Ethnic currents, nationalist and religious ideologies, historical tensions, and long-running conflicts intersect to create a complex regional dynamic. For there to be any hope of peace and stability in the Middle East, American policies must be based on regional perspectives and relationships.
A close friend and ally, Israel, remains threatened by some of its neighbors. Violent Islamic extremism finds refuge in Iraq, Iran, and Syria and seeks to make inroads elsewhere in the region. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction remains a threat. Political and economic reform is limited and incomplete. And, the United States has nearly 160,000 soldiers in Iraq in support of Iraq's uncertain future.
As President George H.W. Bush's National Security Advisor, General Brent Scowcroft, wrote in November 2004 in the Washington Post,
"...we no longer have the luxury of treating Middle East policy as a series of unrelated events running on separate calendars. We face the need for simultaneous actions to avoid failed states while reducing the incentives to violence and instability that threaten American and friendly states throughout the region. Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Iran and terrorism are parts of a whole and can only be satisfactorily engaged as such. To cut through this Gordian knot will require not only a new approach but the deep, sustained commitment of the United States and a significant investment of the President's attention."
The challenges that we face in the Middle East are more real today than a year ago. The unity of Iraq is not assured and its insurgency risks further destabilization of its neighbors. The shakiness of the Assad regime in Syria, the recent terrorist bombings in Jordan, and Islamic extremism in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the region continue to pose dangerous threats to regional stability. Many Arab states are concerned that Iran is emerging as the big regional winner.
Trust and confidence in the United States has been seriously eroded. We are seen by many in the Middle East as an obstacle to peace, an aggressor and an occupier. Our policies are a source of significant friction not only in the region but in the wider international community. Our purpose and power are questioned. We are at the same time both a stabilizing and a destabilizing force in the Middle East.
We face the possibility of a much more dangerous and destabilized Middle East, with consequences that would extend far beyond the region's borders.
There have been positive, recent developments in Libya, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. To maximize the potential of these developments, the United States must demonstrate diplomatic agility to adjust and respond to the uncertainties, nuances and uncontrollables that the region will continue to face.
Iraq held a successful constitutional referendum on October 15. Iraqi political parties are now preparing for parliamentary elections on December 15 leading to the formation of a constitutionally-based, freely-elected government.
As Iraq moves toward achieving a formal political transition, the United States should recognize that we must act to help build an international consensus on Iraq and address the regional complexities of the Middle East. We have few good options.
Our strategic goal should be to get out of Iraq under conditions that offer Iraq the best possible opportunity for success--Iraqi success being defined as a free and self-governing country. This is not about setting a timeline. This is about pursuing policies designed to gradually pull the United States further away from the day to day responsibilities of defending Iraq and de facto governance of Iraq, and encouraging and demanding more responsibility from the Iraqis.
The future of Iraq will be determined by the Iraqi people and its leaders. The new Iraqi government will have the potential for a wider vision and a longer horizon, establishing more stability and more confidence to engage the challenges that lie ahead. The recent decision by the UN Security Council to extend the mandate for the multinational forces in Iraq until the end of 2006 helps the next Iraqi government develop its capabilities to govern, defend and support itself, while continuing to limit America's role as the only real "enforcer" in Iraq.
As the Iraqi government assumes more responsibility for governing Iraq, so too must Iraq's forces continue to take on more responsibility to defend their country. The U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, underscored this point on October 25 when he told Gwen Ifill on The News Hour with Jim Lehrer that he believes that the United States is, "on the right track to start significant reductions [of U.S. military forces] in the coming year." I believe the United States should begin drawing down forces in Iraq next year.
U.S. military power is not a surrogate force upon which Iraq can indefinitely depend. The current Iraqi government's announcement on November 2 to accept the return of junior officers of the former Iraqi army--reversing U.S. Ambassador Paul Bremer's decision to disband Hussein's armed forces--was a critically important development. Political confidence and military capability will reinforce and strengthen Iraq's ability to govern and defend itself and sustain that confidence. We should not obstruct this development. The United States must encourage and expect demonstrations of new Iraqi independence and decision-making.
Secretary Rice acknowledged before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on October 19, "there is no doubt the international community needs to be more involved with the Iraqis--there's no doubt about it--especially the neighbors." But, today there is no standing mechanism for regional partners, with support from the international community, to develop consensus on building relationships around common security, political and economic interests.
Henry Kissinger wrote in the Washington Post in August 2005 that we need:
"a political initiative inviting an international framework for Iraq's future. Some of our allies may prefer to act as bystanders, but reality will not permit this for their own safety. Their cooperation is needed, not so much for the military as for the political task, which will test, above all, the West's statesmanship in shaping a global system relevant to its necessities."
Once the newly elected Iraqi government is in place after the December 15 elections, the United States, along with its allies, should propose a ministerial-level regional security conference on Iraq. This conference should be held in the region--perhaps with Egypt as the host--and should be endorsed by a new UN Security Council resolution. The conference would bring together Iraq and its regional neighbors--Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Syria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The G-8 countries and international institutions--the UN, the EU, NATO and the World Bank--should also be involved in this effort.
The conference agenda should focus on the three pillars for Mideast stability--security, political, and economic. The conference would be broader, both in its agenda and participation, than the upcoming meeting in Cairo on Iraqi reconciliation that the Arab League has proposed. Unlike last weekend's "Forum for the Future" meeting in Bahrain, which emphasized reform and economic growth, this conference would be focused on building regional cohesion based, at least initially, on Iraq. And, unlike past international conferences on Iraq--Sharm el-Sheikh in November 2004 and Brussels in June 2005--this conference would not be a one-time event. The conference must produce agreement to maintain and regularly convene a sub-ministerial forum structured to effectively address Iraq's ongoing challenges. Most important, it cannot be seen as a U.S.-imposed event to further U.S. interests and influence in the Middle East.
Creating a formalized regional mechanism is vital for security in the Middle East. Iraq's neighbors will be the countries most impacted by the outcome there. Although a regional mechanism does not assure Iraq's success, the active involvement of the countries in the region allows a more promising future of stability for Iraq and lessens the chances for civil war and sectarian violence. It also lessens the possibilities that further instability and violence in Iraq will spread like a raging inferno throughout the region.
Establishing a regional and international umbrella for Iraq would mean that the United States take a shared role in a regional security conference in Iraq. This does not mean that America would withdraw abruptly from Iraq. The United States should continue to leverage its influence, urging all Iraqi parties to use the political process to address the deep fractures of their society. We must also remain focused on the mission of standing up capable Iraqi Security Forces.
The international community must now recognize the changed circumstances of a constitutionally-based Iraqi government and join Iraq's neighbors by investing in Iraq's future success.
The role for international institutions will grow in importance as Iraq becomes more self-assured and able to govern. The World Bank, the United Nations and NATO all need to be more actively engaged in Iraq. The Oil-for-Food debacle is a stain on the UN's reputation in Iraq. But that is not the UN's role in Iraq today. The United Nations can help provide Iraq both a broader political umbrella, and greater support and expertise to help build and coordinate government institutions, programs and structures. Last weekend's visit by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to Iraq--his first visit since the war--should help lead to this expanded role for the UN.
The Iraq war should not be debated in the United States on a partisan political platform. This debases our country, trivializes the seriousness of war and cheapens the service and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. War is not a Republican or Democrat issue. The casualties of war are from both parties. The Bush Administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them. Suggesting that to challenge or criticize policy is undermining and hurting our troops is not democracy nor what this country has stood for, for over 200 years. The Democrats have an obligation to challenge in a serious and responsible manner, offering solutions and alternatives to the Administration's policies.
Vietnam was a national tragedy partly because Members of Congress failed their country, remained silent and lacked the courage to challenge the Administrations in power until it was too late. Some of us who went through that nightmare have an obligation to the 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam to not let that happen again. To question your government is not unpatriotic--to not question your government is unpatriotic. America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices.
Today, the Senate engaged in a legitimate debate over exit strategy in Iraq as the Senate considered and voted on two Senate resolutions. This is a significant step toward the Congress exercising its Constitutional responsibilities over matters of war.
As we consider the regional context of stability and security in Iraq, there is another issue that we must deal with--a relationship between the United States and Iran. The fact that our two governments cannot--or will not--sit down to exchange views must end.
Iran is a regional power; it has major influence in Iraq and throughout the Gulf region. Its support of terrorist organizations and the threat it poses to Israel is all the more reason that the U.S. must engage Iran. Any lasting solution to Iran's nuclear weapons program will also require the United States' direct discussions with Iran. The United States is capable of engaging Iran in direct dialogue without sacrificing any of its interests or objectives. As a start, we should have direct discussions with Iran on the margins of any regional security conference on Iraq, as we did with Iran in the case of Afghanistan.
As Abbas Milani, Director of Iranian Studies at Stanford, Co-Director of the Hoover Institution's Iran Democracy Project, and former professor at Tehran University, wrote in the Wall Street Journal on October 31:
"The time for a new grand bargain with Iran's people has arrived. Instead of saber-rattling, the U.S. must encourage the unfolding discussions in Iran...Every element of this new bargain--ending the embargo and replacing it with smart sanctions; lifting the bans on airplane spare parts and offering earthquake warning systems; and even direct discussions with the regime--must be seen as part of a grand strategy to help the Iranian people achieve their dream of democracy."
America and the West need to pursue a wise course in considering the impact of our actions on those in Iran who would welcome a new openness in their country. Engagement, backed by confident and strong U.S. leadership, would re-frame our relationship. More unilateral U.S. sanctions--particularly third country sanctions--are exactly the wrong approach. Why would the United States want to give the Iranian regime more reasons to point to a foreign threat and alienate our friends and allies who share our concerns about Iran's nuclear weapons program, its threat to Israel, and its support for terrorism? That course is dangerous and self-defeating.
Central to peace in the Middle East is resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Earlier this year, we witnessed the election of a new Palestinian President and Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. The President's announcement on October 20 to extend former World Bank President Jim Wolfensohn's economic mission in the region and Secretary Rice's announcement last night to appoint Major General Keith Dayton to succeed Lieutenant General William "Kip" Ward as the U.S. security coordinator are very important and need more attention and support.
Developments since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza, however, risk dragging us back into cycles of despair and violence. Palestinian terrorists have struck Israel. Israel continues to expand settlements in the West Bank. Gazans have not yet seen a difference in their lives as borders remain closed with only a trickle of goods and people from Gaza to either Israel or Egypt. These uncertain conditions in Gaza create a disastrous investment climate. Gaza cannot remain a prison to its own citizens.
Last night, Secretary Rice, Mr. Wolfensohn, and General Ward helped Israelis and Palestinians reach an agreement that begins to re-open Gaza, in particular the Rafah crossing with Egypt that is Gaza's primary link to the world. As Secretary Rice has noted, this significant development will help create "patterns of cooperation" that will be critical to achieve greater progress toward peace in the Middle East. Secretary Rice, Mr. Wolfensohn, and General Ward deserve credit for this achievement.
But as all three clearly understand, major challenges remain. Both Israelis and Palestinians have unmet obligations, neither side can justify further inaction. American leadership can push and prod but we cannot force Israelis or Palestinians to negotiate.
We must also be prepared to identify and act on strategic regional opportunities to help achieve broader Arab-Israeli peace. The progress in ending Syria's corrosive influence in Lebanon should help create opportunities to undermine Syrian-backed Palestinian terrorist groups that have operated out of Lebanon, and thereby help to support Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The course of diplomatic events on Syria may also eventually help create opportunities to reinvigorate Israeli-Syrian negotiations, including the future status of the Golan Heights.
The United States should be very cautious about supporting the collapse of the Assad regime. That would be a dangerous event, with the potential to trigger wider regional instability at a time when our capacity to help shape a desired regional outcome is very limited. Our objective should be a strategic shift in Syria's perspective and actions that would open the way to greater common interests for the countries of the region.
Terrorism is a real threat and a present danger that we must confront and defeat. But we must not sacrifice the strengths and ideals of America that the world has come to respect and trust, and that define us. That is why I co-sponsored Senator McCain's amendment to prohibit cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment of any detainee under the custody of any branch of the U.S. Government. I strongly oppose any exception to this prohibition. As General Colin Powell wrote to Senator McCain in support of this amendment,
"Our troops need to hear from the Congress, which has an obligation to speak to such matters under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution."
The recent media reports of a worldwide American system of secret, black-hole jails, run by the Central Intelligence Agency, and developed explicitly to circumvent our obligations under the Geneva Convention, sullies everything that America represents. It further erodes the world's confidence in America's word and our purpose.
As columnist Jim Hoagland wrote last weekend in the Washington Post:
"Policies and attitudes have to change, too. Lifting the legal fog that intentionally envelops Guantanamo detainees is an urgent need, to reaffirm Americans' commitment to the rule of law as well as to stabilize the country's standing abroad. So is establishing with Congress accountability and some form of transparency for prisoners held abroad for U.S. purposes."
The Constitution also establishes Congress' authority and responsibility regarding decisions to go to war. The course of events in Iraq has laid bare the failure to prepare for, plan for, and understand the broad consequences and implications of the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein and occupy Iraq. Where is the accountability? In the November 8 Washington Post, Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, wrote,
"Our Founding Fathers wanted the declaration of war to concentrate the minds. Returning to the Constitution's text and making it work through legislation requiring joint deliberate action may be the only way to give the decision to make war the care it deserves."
The American people should demand that the President request a Declaration of War and the Congress formally declare war, if and when the President believes that committing American troops is in the vital national security interests of this country. This would make the President and Congress, together, accountable for their actions--just as the Founders of our country intended.
One of America's greatest 21 st century challenges is not to lose the next generation of the world...especially the next generation of Muslims. This is a generation that yearns for the opportunity and possibilities of globalization and reform. This is a generation that is prepared to embrace the politics of change and reform. We cannot afford to lose this generation--in the Middle East and around the world.
If we do, my children and your children will inherit a very dangerous and complicated world. The choices that America makes today; the policies we pursue; the actions we take; the friends and allies we make; and our preparation for the future will define the global frame of reference, and our role in the world, for decades to come.
I have spoken today about the regional interconnects of the Middle East and the need for new strategic U.S. thinking. This is not unique to this region. Regional dynamics infuse the challenges we face around the world...Asia, Africa, the Eurasian landmass, the Western Hemisphere. What the United States must help prevent is the possibility of several destabilizing events across regions. The complexities of the 21st century demand strategic, over-the-horizon American thinking, diplomacy and leadership. That will require creative diplomacy and a recognition of the varied perspectives and values of other countries. We can help countries reach their destination but it must be on their terms and their way, or it will fail and create a deep and dangerous anti-Americanism throughout the world.
A few weeks ago, I was looking through some old photographs and letters that my father wrote to his parents and sister when he was in the South Pacific during World War II. I found a picture of my father when he was the Commander of American Legion Post 84 in Ainsworth, Nebraska and my mother when she was President of the Legion Auxiliary back in the early 50's. I started thinking about how my family's life revolved around the American Legion and this country...what it meant to my family. That spirit of helping others, service, patriotism, is who we are as Americans.
When America's actions abroad have reflected these core values, we have inspired trust and confidence in the world. Demonstrating America's purpose is at the heart of America's strength. Nations, like individuals, must earn respect, confidence and the right to lead.
As I said at Kansas State three weeks before we invaded Iraq:
"What distinguishes America is not our power, for the world has known great power. It is America's purpose and our commitment to making a better life for all people. That is the America the world needs to see. A wise, thoughtful and steady nation, worthy of its power, generous of spirit, and humble in its purpose."
The end of Saddam Hussein's regime offers the prospect for a new era of hope and opportunity in the Middle East. But that path is far from assured.
America and her allies face difficult decisions in a part of the world that has moved from periphery to center in our geo-political strategy. The terrorist attacks over the past week -- in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Israel -- have given new urgency to our efforts to bring security and lasting peace to the Middle East. The instability and violence in Iraq and Afghanistan show that these areas remain complicated, unpredictable, and dangerous, even after deposing the brutal regimes of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.
The scope of the challenge and risk that we face in the Middle East is immense. But so is the opportunity. Setting this region right will require a commitment and focus that will test our leadership, resources, and alliances. We must strengthen those alliances that have served America and the world so well during the last 50 years, and build new ones.
We cannot step back from the Middle East. Our interests in defeating international terrorism, halting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and protecting our vital interests, all depend on our success in rebuilding and re-shaping alliances and international institutions. What we do in the Middle East, and how we do it, will have profound implications for global security.
Real long-term security in Iraq and the region requires that a peace process is initiated, sustained, and completed between Israel and her Arab neighbors. President Bush understands this linkage, as did his father, 12 years ago. The Madrid process, authored by President George H.W. Bush in October 1991, began a decade of progress between Israel and her Arab neighbors, including the Oslo Accords and the Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement. While much maligned today, that era reminds us of how close we once were, and how far we may now be, to a lasting peace in the Middle East.
The legacy of peacemakers is a legacy of courage and perseverance. But, ironically, it can also be a legacy of tragedy for those who take the risks for peace. Today, there can be no lasting peace, no lasting security for Americans, Israelis, and Arabs, without a willingness to take risks and make the tough choices. There are no easy choices in peacemaking. Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush made the tough choices for Middle East peace, but their historic achievements were overshadowed by other issues when their turns came for re-election.
Anwar Sadat and Yitzakh Rabin both paid with their lives for their commitments to making peace in the Middle East. Making peace is not about giving a good speech. It is putting everything on the line for a purpose greater than parochial or political self-interests.
America's re-engagement with the Middle East began on September 11, 2001. We cannot understand where we are today without understanding the effect of that day on America. From that day forward, the Middle East and the Islamic world became the focus of our national security. And in dealing with al-Qaeda and international terrorism, we again learned the value of global alliances. The international response to the war on terrorism reflects recognition of the common threats that face all mankind, and the role of American leadership in defeating these threats. Our successes in breaking up al-Qaeda cells and capturing their leaders have depended on close coordination with our allies in many areas: diplomatic; intelligence; economic; humanitarian; military; and law enforcement.
Afghanistan has not gone as we had hoped. While the Taliban no longer rules, the government of President Hamid Karzai has gained little ground. Warlords, and those who may sympathize with al-Qaeda and extremists, still control much of the countryside. Afghanistan could descend into civil war, or perhaps a failed state, which would have grave consequences for stability in South and Central Asia.
America will remain committed to help rebuild Afghanistan . . .and our success will depend to a great extent on the support of our allies. Germany is leading the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), and has led the support for NATO taking over ISAF this summer. France has had the responsibility of building the Afghan police force. And there are many other allies involved in our efforts in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is the first test in the war on terrorism, and we cannot fail.
In Iraq, the end of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime presents us with a new reality in the Middle East, a reality with both promise and peril. And, like in 1991, what begins in Iraq does not end in Iraq. Like Afghanistan, post-war Iraq has not gone according to expectations. Also like Afghanistan, what happens next in Iraq is directly connected to the war on terrorism, with the potential for further instability and violence in the Middle East and elsewhere.
I support the emphasis that Ambassador L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer III, the new civilian administrator for Iraq, has placed on establishing security in Iraq. If we do not secure the peace in Iraq, the liberation of Iraq will be compromised, an historic opportunity squandered, and America's will, purpose, and credibility will be severely damaged. Our military has done Iraq and the world a great service by ridding Iraq of the dictator, Saddam Hussein. However, this is only the beginning of a long journey in Iraq. We have few options other than to follow through with the critically important objectives and responsibilities we have undertaken.
The disorder in Baghdad and throughout Iraq today should not be considered as simply the unavoidable or untidy results of Iraq's liberation. The prospects for a democratic transition in Iraq will be corrupted and lost if we do not now set the situation right. That is why the administration has restructured our efforts in Iraq. Security must come first.
Increasing our commitment to security has its complications and controversies. I understand why many Americans would want to cut back our military presence so that we can reduce the risk to our men and women and get out of Iraq as soon as possible. But securing the peace is as important as winning the war. Our involvement in Iraq is far from over.
America should quickly internationalize the security and transition process in Iraq. NATO could play a vital role in Iraq's security. At some point, a U.N. resolution might recognize a role for U.N. peacekeepers in Iraq, as well as other important U.N. functions and responsibilities. Our Arab allies should play a major role in helping establish security and rebuilding Iraq's government and infrastructure. It is in their interest, as well as ours, that our regional alliances and relationships are strengthened and reinforced in dealing with restoring security and stability to Iraq. That America and Britain essentially alone should determine Iraq's short-term future is very risky and probably unachievable. This is an immense task. It will require the participation of our allies and the involvement of international institutions.
Rebuilding Iraq is an opportunity for rebuilding our alliances and relationships, especially at the United Nations. The current deliberations at the U.N. Security Council on a new resolution on Iraq reflect our recognition that our interests are best served through cooperation and consensus with our United Nations allies. We need to look ahead. It is in our interest to stay focused on the future.
The political transition in Iraq should encourage the emergence of new leaders from inside the country who have a stake in their country's future. That's what liberation is all about. But this will take time.
We must facilitate an economic transition in Iraq that presents opportunities for economic growth. U.N. sanctions on Iraq should be lifted unconditionally, as the president has requested. Those sanctions were meant to keep revenues from Saddam Hussein, not punish the Iraqi people. We must also encourage the world community to address all outstanding debt and reparations claims against Iraq. If not addressed, these debt and reparations obligations will compromise Iraq's future and undermine the prospects for democracy. Helping rebuild Iraq's economy will require international consensus and cooperation from the Paris Club, the World Bank, the U.N., and other international organizations.
President Bush's recently announced policies to promote trade-based growth and economic integration in the Middle East is an important part of the long-term solution to a region that for decades has been mired in economic stagnation. The prospects for economic development and growth will support political efforts to bring peace and stability to this region. Senator Lieberman and I are working on a bill to complement and support the president's plan with efforts to strengthen private sector development and regional trade in the Muslim world.
But there will be no long-term economic prosperity without resolution of the endemic political problems that have bedeviled the modern history of the Middle East. And those problems are connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The acts of terrorism against Israeli citizens over the past week should reinforce the urgency of starting, without delay, a new approach to bringing an end to this conflict We cannot allow the terrorists to hijack the peace process. We must not allow the peace process to be held hostage by extremists and terrorism. We must continue to move forward. This is in the interests of Americans, Israelis, Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims and the world. Yesterday, the president publicly reaffirmed his commitment to the Road Map and to supporting a renewed peace process. Today, he spoke directly with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. President Bush's personal commitment is critical to the process. Without the president's involvement, the peace process will stall and ultimately fail.
We must start the clock on the Road Map now. So far it has been difficult to identify any party that has demonstrated a willingness to step forward to make the tough choices that peace will require. That must change for all parties involved in this process.
None of the parties should be wedded to the fine print of the Road Map. It should be treated as a working document. That's why it is called a "Road Map." The first steps need to be about security. The Palestinian Government must take identifiable steps to end the threat to Israelis from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the al-Aqsa Brigade, and other terrorist groups. These steps by the new government of Prime Minister Abbas are essential, and not subject to negotiation or delay. And, at the same time, the Israeli government must take specific steps to ease the suffering and conditions of Palestinians living under Israeli curfew and occupation, and cease new settlement activity.
If we cannot accomplish these initial basic steps toward peace, then there will be no peace. We should also not further complicate and inhibit progress by putting the most sensitive items up front, like the "Right of Return" for Palestinians. Israel's Jewish identity should not be negotiated and can never be compromised. But we should not be setting conditions before we even get to the starting line. Neither party need accept the Road Map line-by-line right now. We need to get on with implementation, not spend time building more roadblocks to peace.
The governments and peoples of the Middle East hope, more than expect, that America will commit to re-engaging in the Middle East peace process. Low expectations have been assigned to American efforts. Our credibility in the Middle East is attached to these low expectations. After ridding the region of Saddam Hussein's regime, a commitment to real peace between Israelis and Palestinians would help define American purpose. If Iraq and Afghanistan slip away and the Middle East peace process fails, we will find ourselves back in a mindless cul-de-sac of violence and hopelessness, further jeopardizing world stability and American interests and security.
Like at the end of World War II, America must seize the initiative to strengthen alliances and rebuild international institutions to meet the challenges of this dangerous new era.
As Jim Hoagland recently wrote in The Washington Post:
"The victory in Iraq does not free the United States of its need for allies. In fighting international terrorism, the United States can no more 'pull down the blinds and sit in the parlor with a loaded shotgun' than it could in the Cold War, when Dean Acheson used that phrase to steel the nation against the temptation to leave Europe on its own."
And, in looking ahead to this new era in world affairs, Hoagland sagely advised that:
"The Bush administration should do nothing to deepen the self-inflicted divisions now roiling the Old Continent. And Washington has only a limited role to play in resolving these new divisions, which are political in nature and do not endanger a global stability."
We need Europe on our side in helping bring peace to the Middle East.
America must put forward a vision of a Middle East peace that builds confidence, trust and institutions, not only to prevent future conflict, but to offer hope where there has been only despair ... and hope for a future worth living and dying for. In addition to the Road Map, we need a regional security plan for the Persian Gulf by working with the United Nations, the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Iran, and Iraq. While we have real differences and conflicts of interests with Iran, the administration is right to bring those issues to Iran directly through quiet diplomatic channels. That is the most responsible and effective approach to putting Iran on notice regarding our concerns about its nuclear programs, support for terrorism, and its meddling in Iraq.
Without real progress in the Middle East, we will stagger from crisis to crisis. The interludes without terrorism will be only the illusions of false hope.
Making peace has always been man's greatest challenge. War and conflict breeds perpetual suffering and devastation. Making peace requires saying what's done is done, that we must move forward, learn from a dark past, but put it behind us. President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, and his counterpart, Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel, knew the risks of peace, but they also knew the costs of war. They did not choose the easy path: That would have been to do nothing. Instead, with America as a partner, they chose peace. In his landmark address to the Israeli Knesset in November 1977, President Anwar Sadat said it well:
"... There are moments in the life of nations and peoples when it is incumbent on those known for their wisdom and clarity of vision to overlook the past, with all its complexities and weighing memories, in a bold drive towards new horizons. Those who, like us, are shouldering the same responsibility entrusted to us, are the first who should have the courage to take fate-determining decisions which are in consonance with the circumstances. We must all rise above the forms of fanaticism, self-deception and obsolete theories of superiority."
He added that:
"... Peace is not a mere endorsement of written lines. Rather, it is a rewriting of history. Peace is not a game of calling for peace to defend certain whims or hide certain admissions. Peace in its essence is a dire struggle against all and every ambition and whim."
And Yitzhak Rabin, in his powerful statement on the White House lawn on the occasion of signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles on September 13, 1993, said that day came with "great hope mixed with apprehension" for the Jewish people. Israel had suffered, and that suffering could not be forgotten. But Rabin added:
"We have come to try and put an end to the hostilities so that our children, our children's children, will no longer experience the painful cost of war: violence and terror. We have come to secure their lives and to ease the soul and the painful memories of the past -- to hope and pray for peace."
Today, the testimony of Sadat and Rabin to the promise and peril of charting a new direction for their nations must not be lost. The path of expediency is the path of inaction, gamesmanship, and squandered possibilities. The challenge of peace places us in the company of world statesmen and peacemakers, who walked a lonely and difficult road, who looked beyond themselves, and their own pasts and limitations, to the hope of a better life for their children and their children's children. These are the choices that are again before us. Are we worthy of the legacy of Sadat and Rabin? Will we today find such men as Sadat and Rabin? Destiny is now in our hands. The future depends on us. History will render its judgment on whether we were the worthy inheritors of their legacy, or whether we let pass an historic opportunity to find peace in the Middle East. Great opportunities like great men are rare in world history. Will history repeat itself? The future belongs to those courageous enough to shape it. In such a time we now live.
The most powerful force for the future of the Middle East is the next generation of Arabs and Muslims. America cannot afford to stand by and allow these young people to grow up hating us. Nor can Israel.
We are now faced with a unique moment to reach out to this generation and build a future with them. That is perhaps the surest thing America can do to help provide a secure future for Israel and hope for the Palestinian people. To do this, the United States must avoid policies that isolate us in the world community. We face both opportunity and risk, but there is no other option.
Young Palestinians need to see their future in a peaceful, fully functioning state with economic opportunities and democratic institutions. If they do not, and instead see violence and destruction as the only way forward, the long-term consequences will be great. We could lose the next generation of Arab and Muslim youth and the future of the Middle East to radical politics and anti-Americanism.
Such a development would destabilize our allies, including Israel, and threaten relationships vital to America's global interests.
This is all the more reason why we cannot hold the Middle East peace process hostage by making Yasser Arafat the issue. The United States cannot excuse Arafat for his failings as a leader, his complicity in terrorism, and his inability to make the tough choices for peace. The Palestinian people and our friends in the Arab world have paid the price for Arafat's corruption, intrigues and limitations. They know their future does not lie with Arafat.
But if we are serious about reform in the Palestinian Authority, then we must allow the Palestinians and the Arabs to deal with Arafat. Credible alternative Palestinian leadership will not step forward in response to a perceived American-Israeli demand for Arafat's removal. Change must come from within.
America must understand that the Arab world sees this as a Palestinian identity issue -- not an Arafat issue. When we allow Arafat to become the issue in the Arab world, we take away from the Palestinian people and Arab leadership their options in dealing with Arafat their way. This undercuts reform and further polarizes and radicalizes Palestinian politics. We give the extremists an issue that we need not give them.
The United States must lead a diplomatic process to break the endless cycle of violence and get to the end game -- an independent Palestinian state and security for Israel. We cannot wait until Palestine is a full-blown Jeffersonian democracy before getting on with a peace process.
Israel must take steps to show its commitment to peace. This does not mean giving up or limiting its right to self-defense against terrorism. But Palestinian reformers cannot promote a democratic agenda for change while both the Israeli military occupation and settlement activity continue.
The international and regional constellation is with us. The program of the "Quartet" (United States, European Union, Russia and the U.N.) and the Arab League peace plan provide the context for a new consensus on Arab-Israeli peace. Our objectives need to be clear and firm, with the diplomatic flexibility to accomplish them.
America's efforts toward peace and reform in the Middle East must be accompanied by policies and programs promoting greater political and economic liberalization in the Arab and Muslim worlds. The proliferation of radical politics stems from the absence of democratic institutions.
American leadership over the coming weeks and months will help determine the direction of politics in the Middle East for the next generation. We have an opportunity to lead the region into a new era of peace and democratic transition. The task is difficult and complicated, and will remain so. If we falter, or opt out for whatever reason, the security of the United States and our allies will be jeopardized for a generation. This is not the kind of world I want my 9-year-old and 11-year-old to inherit.
Mr. President, I rise today to address an issue of urgent concern for American foreign policy: the situation in the Middle East and its implications for our war on terrorism.
Yesterday the majority leader offered three principles to guide our policy in the Middle East. I share his concern about the gravity of the situation we face and his affirmation of American support for Israel, and the imperative of American leadership in helping bring about a lasting peace in the region.
Time is not on our side. In April, I spoke before this body in support of President Bush's leadership in bringing a diplomatic resolution to this conflict. I applaud the President and his team for their progress so far in assembling the pieces of a potentially historic agreement and coalition for peace. But we are still only at the beginning of a long and difficult process.
What happens in the Middle East cannot be separated from our interests in the war on terrorism. If we fail in peace-making between Israel and her neighbors, there will be grave consequences for the United States, Israel, and the world. We will further empower the terrorists and extremists, those who thrive, find refuge, and recruit in conditions of poverty, violence, and despair. We must help secure a vision of hope for the people of the Middle East in order to reclaim the peace initiative.
It is time to put the endgame up front in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians must have a state, with contiguous and secure borders, and Israel must have a state without terrorism and with secure borders. President Bush endorsed the concept of a Palestinian state in a historic speech to the United Nations last year. If we do not address this, the core political issue of this conflict, we will allow the extremists on both sides to win. And then we will all lose: Palestinians, Israelis, Arabs, Americans, the world.
Strong, engaged, steady, and visionary American leadership is a predicate for the future of the Middle East. The Arab League peace proposal, at the initiative of Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, calls for normal relations between Israel and the Arab world and presents a unique and historic opportunity for peace. The Bush administration may be considering recognizing a transitional or provisional Palestinian state, with the specific details to be worked out over time, an idea similar to the Peres-Abu Ala agreement of last year. The so-called ``Quartet''--US, Russia, the EU, and the UN--provides an international context for this possibility and a revived diplomatic track.
The pieces may be in place, the image of an idea for peace forming on the horizon, although the work ahead will be difficult. There are no easy answers or risk-free options. We can no longer defer the tough decisions on Israeli settlements, Palestinian refugees, borders, and the status of Jerusalem. The time for a step-by-step sequential process has come and gone. We are close to reaching a line of demarcation, where only bold and courageous leadership on all sides can show the way to a resolution.
Israel must make some hard choices for peace. It knows that military means alone will not end terrorism. Settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza must end.
Israel should withdraw its military from the Palestinian towns it has re-occupied, as soon as the security situation allows. The emphasis for Israel must be on developing a coalition of common interests including our Arab allies and the United States to form the core of a peace coalition. Israel should move closer to this coalition and away from isolation and reliance on only the military option to ending the crisis.
The Israeli people have suffered too much and too long from terrorism. It must end. America will continue to stand by our friend and do what we must to help secure a peace and Israel's survival. But America's support of Israel should not be at the expense or exclusion of our relationships with our Arab friends and the Palestinian people. It need not be. America is against terrorists, America is not against Arabs or Palestinians. We are and can be a friend and supporter of all sides. We must be, or there will be no hope and no peace.
This also means that we will not retreat from our support of democratic principles, values, and expectations. We will not trade friendship and freedom for expediency and peace.
The other Arab leaders of the region must play a major role in this revived peace process. They have serious responsibilities and significant self-interests in helping end terrorism and resolving this conflict. There is no longer room for ambiguity or criticism from the sidelines. Abdication of responsibility or subtlety is no longer an option.
Crown Prince Abdullah, King Abdullah of Jordan, and President Mubarak of Egypt and other Arab leaders clearly understand the high stakes and are willing to take risks for peace. The prospects for getting a peace process back on track is best served when the risks are shared.
The Palestinian leadership must respond to the challenge and opportunity before it. Terrorism does an injustice to the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. A Palestinian state cannot be born from and committed to terrorism and hostility toward its neighbor.
It is a tragedy that the Palestinian people have been linked in the minds of many people--many Americans, to the methods of terrorists and extremists who represent only darkness and hatred, not the aspirations of most Palestinians for statehood and a life of hope and peace.
Real reform and change within the Palestinian Authority has become a condition of any peace agreement. This must happen--and happen now. The present Palestinian government must stand up and show a leadership that has been lacking for too long. The current Palestinian leaders must be accountable and take responsibility for the future of the Palestinian people. Terrorism and violence are not the means to statehood and legitimacy.
American and Israeli pressure and intervention, however, can not be the final determinants of a new Palestinian leadership. An alternative Palestinian leadership, as Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told me a couple of months ago, may be either too weak to make peace or too radical to even consider it. This will certainly be the case if alternative leadership is perceived as primarily the result of American or Israeli collaboration.
There are those in the Palestinian movement that have been speaking out for democracy and against corruption in the Palestinian Authority for some time. Hanan Ashrawi and Mustafa Barghouti, as well as many others, have been taking risks for democracy for Palestinians and transparency in Palestinian governance long before it became a condition for a renewed peace process.
Leaders of the Arab world must take more responsibility for Palestinian leadership. They cannot look away. It is now far too dangerous for them to allow further drift in the Middle East.
In considering the difficult road ahead, I understand the political constraints and risks that Israel and our Arab friends face in moving forward with peace. But it is better to share the risk than leave the field to the terrorists and extremists who will fill the leadership vacuum.
The problems in the Middle East affect and influence all aspects of our foreign policy, including our leadership in the war on terrorism. The Arab-Israeli conflict cannot be separated from America's foreign policy. Actions in the Middle East have immense consequences for our other policies and interests in the world. We are limited in dealing with other conflicts until this conflict is on a path to resolution.
America's policy and role in the Middle East, and the perception of our policies and role across the globe, affects our policies and interests in Afghanistan, South Asia, Indonesia, and all parts of the world. We cannot defeat terrorism without the active support of our friends and allies around the world. This will require an enhancement of our relationships, not an enhancement of our power. It will require America's reaching out to other nations. It will require a wider lens in our foreign policy with a new emphasis on humanitarian, economic, and trade issues as well as military and intelligence relationships.
We need the active support and involvement of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the other states of the Middle East to defeat terrorism. The potential for isolating them on one side, with the United States and Israel on the other, is the wrong path. The alternative to developing coalitions of common interest in the Middle East and our war on terrorism is a region afire with radicalism and rage directed at Israel and the United States. We cannot wait. We cannot defer the peace timetable to the perfect time for peace. There is no perfect time for peace or perfect set of dynamics for peace. It will happen because we make it happen. We must seize the time we have, with all its imperfections.
The perception of American power becomes the reality of American power. If we fail in our diplomatic efforts to help bring peace to Israel and her neighbors, and isolate ourselves and Israel in the process, our security and Israel's security will become more vulnerable and the world more dangerous.
We need to keep our eye on the objectives: peace between Israel and its neighbors and victory in our war on terrorism. I close by joining my colleague, the majority leader, in encouraging President Bush not to risk unraveling the progress we have made so far in the Middle East by allowing a period of inattention and inaction to drag us all back into a dark abyss of despair and danger. A conference or some tangible relevant framework for peace must be announced and organized soon. The stakes have rarely been so high, the opportunities so great, and the margins for error so small.
I come to the floor this morning to speak on the Middle East. I begin my comments this morning with a statement of support for Senator Daschle's comments yesterday concerning his call for restraint by our colleagues while Secretary of State Powell is in the Middle East. Senator Daschle's statement was wise. It is important we all listen carefully to what Senator Daschle said. And, more importantly, in my opinion, it is important that we follow his suggestion.
President Bush was correct in his assessment that he presented to the American public and the world last Thursday in his speech when he informed the world he was going to be engaged in the Middle East by sending Secretary Powell to the Middle East. It was a correct decision.
Secretary Powell is now engaged in a very difficult, dangerous, and delicate mission. Yes, there are great risks for the President's prestige, our Nation's risk to that prestige, and to America's prestige. There are risks all around.
We must not misunderstand the reality of with what we are dealing. We are not dealing with some abstraction or some theory. We are dealing with the cold, brutal reality of what is taking place in the Middle East. There are no good options. There are no risk-free options for America, for Israel, for the Palestinians, for the Arab world, and for, indeed, the entire world.
There are far greater risks if the United States of America does not engage and provide leadership where there has been a vacuum of leadership, which, in my opinion, has produced much of this danger, chaos, and turmoil, and which I believe borders on the brink of a raging inferno if this is not brought under control. We have no option but to lead. Terrorists win if we don't engage--if we allow ourselves to be held captive to terrorist actions.
As we follow this through, do we believe things will get better? Things won't get better. Things will get worse and more dangerous and will draw more and more of the world into this conflict. So we have no option.
The President is right. If this situation continues to spiral out of control, it serves no one's interest or purpose except the fringes, the radicals, and the terrorists.
It is not in Israel's interest, nor the Palestinians' interest, nor the world's interest to allow this problem to continue. Of course, our hearts go out to the Israeli people today, and to the victims and families of the latest terrorist bombing in Jerusalem. We can never justify nor condone acts of terrorism.
Unfortunately, I am not surprised that on the day Secretary Powell is in Israel meeting with leaders to attempt to bring some sanity to this situation that the terrorists have struck. That is what they always do. They try to drive us back. They try to fragment us. They try to get us to argue amongst ourselves as to strategy and policy. But we must not fall prey to terrorist actions and allow ourselves to become paralyzed by what they are doing.
No Nation and no people should have to live under the conditions the Israelis are presently living under and the Palestinian people are enduring.
That is why Secretary Powell is there. Let us not forget why he is there. Let us cut through the fog. He is there to try to bring some stability and peace and pull apart the warring factions so that we can get on with a settlement, get on with lives, and hopefully on into a future for all peoples of that region. That is why he is there.
President Bush has been very clear in his condemnation of terrorism and his unprecedented commitment to ending it. We understand Israel's right to defend itself. We are committed to that right. We have helped Israel defend that right. We will continue to do so. But it should not be at the expense of the Palestinian people--innocent Palestinian people and innocent Israelis who are paying a high price.
Both Israelis and Palestinians are trapped in a war not of their making.
We must step back from this great tragedy and recognize one constant: That the more the violence escalates, the more the terrorists win, and that further violence will embolden the terrorist bombers in Israel and elsewhere, and it will spread and spread.
We cannot allow a vacuum of leadership to develop in the Middle East. That, too, is why Secretary Powell is there. Secretary Powell is on a critical mission to help end this cycle of violence and eventually help both sides see a future where there can be peace. Look over the horizon. Is it imperfect? Absolutely. Is it full of problems and holes and gaps, imperfections and flaws? Absolutely. But if we do not anchor ourselves to some hope, some plan, some leadership--all, yes, full of risk--then what is there, what will there be?
We must be reminded that this cannot, and will not, be accomplished in one trip. This will take time. We must have patience. We must stay focused, disciplined, and prepared for setbacks. And there will be setbacks. But allowing this to spiral out of control is not an option.
The military solution alone is not an option. That is part of it. We will get to a time--I have confidence we will--where we will be asking, How do we guarantee this peace? Will America be called upon, NATO forces be called upon to help guarantee this peace? Maybe. But we should now put all our creative, new, wider-lens thinking on this issue, and all our foreign policy in this new world in which we live, on the table. It will require some new thinking.
Who guarantees this peace? If, in fact, we expect Israel to pull back to their pre-1967 borders, who guarantees that peace? Those will be difficult decisions for this body to be part of making, as well as the President having to make those difficult decisions. I do not tremble with any fear or quake with fear that we are not up to that. We will get to that. We must be prepared to think through that--and long term.
The Secretary's mission is all about the war on terrorism. Let's not get disconnected to the broader purpose. Its purpose is to end the violence and terror. The Middle East is connected to our policies in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are paralyzed now in some of these areas because we are totally consumed with the Middle East, and appropriately so. We have few options anywhere until this Middle East issue is on some track of resolution.
The situation in Afghanistan, as the Presiding Officer knows, is still very fragile and very dangerous. There is a long way to go. We must not allow Afghanistan to unwind. The investment, the progress, the good, the justice, the dignity--all that has been brought to that land as a result of American leadership, which we must preserve--we cannot allow to erode and for us to go back to a time when we were losing there.
Deadly terrorism stalks the world. It is the great challenge of our time. It is the reality of our time. We need the help of all our allies, all our friends all over the world, all the Moslem nations, to continue to root out terrorism and stabilize and secure the world.
This is not an American interest alone. And we cannot do it alone. We are the greatest power the world has ever known. We stand astride the globe as no power in the history of man. But we have limits, too. These coalitions for peace, coalitions for change, will be our future, the world's future. And we must lead that coalition. We cannot press forward on a regime change in Iraq with the fires burning in Israel or we will stand alone, without our allies. We will risk finding ourselves isolated, Israel isolated. It is not in the interest of Israel to find America and Israel isolated in the world.
America's and the world's vital interests are connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--completely, directly, daily. We must give Secretary Powell and the President the time to work through these unprecedented challenges, this unprecedented violence and danger. They need the latitude, the flexibility to work through to a solution, in consultation with the Congress, of course. In this body and in the House of Representatives reside great expertise, ability, common sense, and wisdom on which the President will and is calling.
We need an Arab coalition for peace, building upon the Saudi initiative of Crown Prince Abdullah, incorporating the Tenet plan and the Mitchell plan. We need to support the President's policies to help bring to this region peace which has worldwide consequences. All of the world will be affected by the outcome. There are consequences playing out today, and they will continue to play out, and they are uncontrollable consequences.
In conclusion, I offer a comment that Henry Kissinger made in a statement recently on U.S. policy in the post-cold-war world reality. Dr. Kissinger said this: ``history ..... will not excuse failure by the magnitude of the task.'' It applies very appropriately, clearly, and with deadly accuracy today in the Middle East. The President has shown his courage and the determination that a nation as great and worthy as America is--and can be, and has been--to go forward with the kind of leadership the world expects from us, and, yes, at great risk. But that risk is for peace, and that risk is worth taking. It will be long and difficult, but it can be done. We are dealing with a manmade problem. We will find a manmade resolution.
So I return to the opening of my comments this morning in once again suggesting that Senator Daschle had it right yesterday in calling for all of us on Capitol Hill to work together to support the President, to find solutions and resolutions. Criticism is easy. It is very easy to criticize. But we do not have an option to criticize. We have a responsibility to find a solution. And we will. We must support our President and Secretary Powell in his mission for peace.