Council on Foreign Relations
NANCY ROMAN: [In progress]—introduce them, because our distinguished Alton Frye will say a few words about each of them. But I just wanted to welcome you and say this is the kickoff of—we call it the Debate Series on the Election—but I realize maybe we've misnamed it, because we're really hoping it will be a foreign policy discussion. The Council is one of the last bastions of non-partisanship, and it's an election year, so we'll have a few jibes, perhaps, but we're really hoping we can engage in policy. And there's no one better to preside than Alton Frye, who has been with the Council for 30—more than 30 years. He has a distinguished academic background at Harvard and Yale, but I think he really represents stability and bipartisanship, and we're delighted to have him. Thanks, Alt.
ALTON FRYE: Thank you very much. Let me do a few of the procedural particulars very quickly. Please respect the tradition of turning off the cell phones so we don't disrupt our proceedings or our colleagues. This meeting, unlike most Council proceedings, will be on the record. And since we're starting late, we will stretch a bit late, but we will run close to 45 minutes past the hour at the latest. And I think you will appreciate the fact that in a tight format we've asked both of our speakers to offer concise opening remarks. We hope that they will hold it to less than eight minutes each to open the discussion. And then we'll give each of them a chance to comment—not necessarily a rebuttal, but at least [an] observation about their colleague’s comments that have been made at the beginning, before we turn to our Q&A and general discussion.
I'm going to assume that because Senator Biden, known to all of you, has been in the Senate more than half of his life now—which is a pretty impressive achievement—I'm assuming that it would be agreeable to Senator Smith if we allow Senator Biden to open. And as Nancy [Roman] emphasized, we want to welcome you to a campaign conversation. This is embedded in a series that we have contemplated as debates, but we're dealing here with two senators who can speak to these policy issues and the political issues with the kind of measured judgment and observation that they require.
I think many of you know that some students of Congress think of the political divide as a line between Republicans and Democrats. Some say it's between liberals and conservatives. For me it has always been between constructives and destructives—between those who see their solution as finding the common ground on which reasonable policy can be based, and those who incline toward the role of impeding the construction of the essential coalition demanded by the American political system.
Simply said, both of our senators speaking today are constructives. Senator Biden, as the ranking member on the [Senate] Foreign Relations Committee, and having chaired the [Senate] Judiciary Committee as well, has varied and long experience as I mentioned, and is now the party's ranking spokesman on foreign policy and national security. Senator Smith, now in his second term from Oregon, represents the rising group of informed and committed legislators who have already begun to make their mark. And I think that he will probably acknowledge what I assume—that he has also had the pleasure of working with Senator Biden during his prior service in the Foreign Relations Committee. With that, Senator Biden, the floor is yours.
JOSEPH BIDEN: Well, I'll be extremely brief in light of the fact we got started so late. Let me say that everything I say I am absolutely confident [presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Senator] John Kerry [D-Mass.] will do when he is president. I have no doubt. I just want you to know I speak for him and every word he says, and I am sure the same can be said for Senator Smith.
Look, the fact of the matter is—and there's no room we can assemble beyond this and understand this point better—is there is less of a Republican-Democrat divide on foreign policy today than there is a divide that breaks down between the neo-conservative point of view—and I say that not in the pejorative sense—I say that with great respect—and these are people who are the brightest and the most informed and patriotic people in this town, in this country—and the more traditionalist view of international engagement. The fact of the matter is that there's a San Andreas Fault that runs through this administration, but it's quite frankly broader and deeper than the fault that runs within the Senate between Democrats and Republicans on American foreign policy. And it is not unusual.
I've been here for seven presidents. I've served with seven presidents. I've been here since Richard Nixon. Every president who's come to town who's been a governor does the same exact thing, no matter how informed or uninformed they're perceived to be, no matter how bright or slow they're perceived to be. They all do the same thing in foreign policy, where they have little or no background. They go to their side of the equation, the political axis, and they choose two people with distinctly varying views, because they feel, I think intuitively in fact, if they had the brightest of their party's perspectives laid out for them—that are the extremes that are the differences in their party, they'll be able to choose. What did Jimmy Carter do? He got [two] wonderfully kind men named Cyrus Vance [secretary of state] and Zbigniew Brzezinski [national security adviser], who had virtually nothing in common in terms of American foreign policy. And fast-forward to this president. Does anyone in this room—raise your hand if you think that there is literally [a] substantive point, other than being patriotic Americans, shared between [Secretary of State] Colin Powell and Vice President [Richard] Cheney on their view—I'm not trying to be facetious—I'm being deadly earnest—in terms of their view of America's role in the 21st century? I respectfully suggest it's profoundly different.
So this is an unusual year, an unusual debate, the debates occurring within the Republican Party [are] as profoundly [different] as it is between the Republican and Democratic parties. And I might add it's profoundly occurring within the Democratic Party. There's still 30 percent of my party that has a profoundly different view of how we should engage the world than 70 percent of us.
So that's the opening point I would like to make to you. And let me suggest to you that it breaks down primarily upon not whether or not the use of force is the legitimate element of a construct and exercise in American foreign policy, but under what circumstances. And, for example, we aren't very good at projecting power. We're not very good at staying power. I would use as an illustration—it is not—in the interest of time—it doesn't give us a full insight into all the differences in terms of the foreign policy between President Bush and John Kerry, but the bottom line is, what is the role of international institutions? Is there a role for them? What is the role for the military? What is meant by the preemptive doctrine? Is it the only doctrine that can be in fact imposed, although unarticulated now in a world that has changed so drastically—so drastically, just in the last six years?
I would respectfully suggest to you that there is a tendency—and I would offer Iraq as an illustration. I voted for us to go to war in Iraq, for the president to have the power to go to war in Iraq. I did not have a fundamental disagreement on whether or not Saddam Hussein should be dealt with. But the fundamental breakdown in the administration as well as between us was this rationale: was the rationale based upon a doctrine of pre-emption or a doctrine of enforcement? Most of us argued that the rationale to go to war was Saddam Hussein in the early 1990s—violated every international norm, invaded a country, was thrown out of that country by a group of nations including us, sued for peace, and signed on to 14 firm commitments. Had it been 1919 instead of 1990, he would have been at Versailles signing the peace agreement. But it was the United Nations that was the vehicle for enforcing and laying out the conditions in which he would stay in power. He violated every single one of those conditions.
And so in my party the debate between us was whether or not international institutions matter. Do they matter if there is no enforcement? People like me said they don't matter very much, unless the enforcement mechanism is employed when the international rules are violated. On the Republican side of the equation, the debate was between whether or not the rationale to go to war was this newly articulated doctrine of pre-emption or enforcement. He's looking at his watch—he's always been a pain in the ass. I mean, I love him—we've been together for 31 years. But here's the bottom line: We went to war in Iraq, and we squandered three opportunities—I'll conclude with this—one, by exaggerating the fact that there was an imminent danger, we squandered the opportunity to generate broader support to go to war later. The specific case in point, the [Army’s] 4th ID [infantry division] coming down through Turkey. Had that occurred, there would be no Sunni Triangle. We squandered the opportunity to generate support in Iraq by going [in] with too little power, based on a commitment to [the] ideology that [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld supported, which is rational, reasonable but wrong, that we didn’t need as much force. And we squandered an opportunity for legitimacy by deciding that [Iraqi National Congress leader]Ahmad Chalabi should be airlifted into Basra and that the Shi'a would march into Baghdad like Christ went into Jerusalem before he was crucified. The crucifixion took place early.
And so the bottom line is, we went with too little power, too little legitimacy, and we went on a premise that was not sound when we went. And that is part of an ideology that is in competition for the president's attention within this administration as well as beyond the administration. And the straw dog is whether or not the United Nations is the alternative. No one is offering the United Nations blue helmets [peacekeeping troops] as the alternative. That's enough for me to say. I will be happy to respond later. Thank you.
FRYE: Senator, you will be able to continue momentarily, but may I invite Senator Smith?
GORDON SMITH: Thank you. It's a pleasure to be with you. I will say at the outset that were Joe Biden the Democratic candidate for president, I would be far less concerned than I currently am. [Laughter.]
BIDEN: I could say the same—[laughter]—about President Bush.
SMITH: When I consider my colleagues in the U.S. Senate—and Joe Biden quickly rises to the top as one of the great people with whom I serve. I will tell you, though, that I am concerned about the criticism of the policies from the Kerry camp, and frankly without offering a meaningful policy in response.
Right now, or at least in the last few days, John Kerry has been running an ad in the state of Oregon in which he says if he's elected the first thing he will do is return to the international community. He clarifies that by saying U.N. Security Council. I want to suggest to you that that is the most vacuous policy or promise I have ever heard in light of recent events—and even a dangerous policy in light of recent events.
I will tell you that when I was elected to the U.S. Senate a little less than eight years ago, I didn't feel that way—but I do today. And let me tell you why. When I came and began serving with Joe on the Foreign Relations Committee, I was very much in favor of our treaties, our alliances, and helped to pass many additional ones, and I as a child of the Cold War had rejoiced with all of you with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the ending of the Cold War, and was anxious to support President [Bill] Clinton as he pursued America's interests in the world. And I will tell you in my judgment he was well-motivated. But because we did not know what to do with American power, our response to the world was somewhat ad hoc. I say that because what I began to see unfolding before me in our international commitments was frankly a very one-sided affair. I'm very much for NATO. I think we should stay in the U.N. But I think our engagement should be one based on concerned engagement, realistic, even skeptical engagement as it serves America's interests. Because what I saw, beginning with the  bombing of the Khobar Towers [in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia], the hitting of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen harbor [in 2000], the  bombing of our embassies in [Kenya and Tanzania]—is that we got much sympathy from the world, but little help from the world in responding. And we saw Saddam Hussein kick out the U.N. [weapons] inspectors in 1998, and President Clinton came to us and said, “We have to do something about this. We need regime change.” We crafted a resolution [H.R. 4655] and we voted unanimously in the Senate in 1998 for regime change. And we bombed Saddam Hussein for four days and four nights, based upon what he had declared in terms of WMD, [weapons of mass destruction] but had not provided evidence of their destruction.
And what I saw after that was President Clinton come to the Senate and ask for our support in Kosovo. I'll tell you how disappointed I was when so many of my Republican colleagues didn't support President Clinton in an action which I think was based upon an American value, stopping the genocide. I was one of the few Republicans to stand with Joe Biden, criticize my party and support President Clinton. But I remember asking him, when he asked for our votes, would he not be better served to go to the U.N. Security Council to get authorization? And he said, “Senator, I can't—because the Chinese and the Russians promised to veto it.” But he felt—and I agreed—that it was worth America's effort to help our European allies that had not the budgets nor the bullets nor the will to take care of Kosovo on its own. So we went in and did it. But at the end of the day, he couldn't go to the Security Council, because it was not a democratic institution like we needed it to be for standing up for those values.
And then for me everything began to change on 9/11. I never served in the military. I came along in the Vietnam War towards its end. I was never drafted and I did not volunteer. I actually regret that, because I never saw the face of battle until a group of us senators went to ground zero and saw the remains of the destruction and the body parts of our countrymen strewn all over that site. And President Bush, at that moment, began a fundamental change in American foreign policy. No longer get-along-go-along, no more appeasement, but actions to take the facts of terrorism where they go, and to go and rid the world of some of the tyrants and their supporting states. And I believe that while weapons of mass destruction were the reason we bombed [Iraq] in '98, and why we went in as part of the war on terrorism, it was a legitimate reason to go, but not the only reason to go. What President Bush is trying to do is to get at the fundamentals of what is wrong in the Middle East, and that is a lack of the rule of law, a lack of democracy. And I tell you as you watch the food-for-fraud, or I guess it was food-for-oil, scandal unfold in the U.N., I tell you you cannot find legitimacy in the United Nations when at its core it is terribly corrupt. You find legitimacy in democracy, and that's what we're trying to establish.
FRYE: Thank you very much, senator. Senator Biden, before we move to the general discussion with the group, we invite you to comment on any point that Senator Smith has raised.
BIDEN: Let me respond this way: I think the senator set up a bit of a straw man here. I know of no one, including John Kerry, that's suggesting that the United Nations and blue helmets move into Iraq. What Senator Kerry is suggesting is that in order—we have one of three choices: We get out now and lose—not acceptable. We stay the course and do not change our policy at all, and, I predict, lose the peace. Or we broaden the coalition, we change the face, and we, in fact, enhance the possibility that we can end up with a stable Iraq, secure within its borders, not a threat to its neighbors, not possessing weapons of mass destruction, or harboring terrorists. I'll put it to you this way: We're going to hand over power on June the 30th. We're plain old politicians—at least I am—the people we're going to hand power over to— the president of the United States has already gone to the U.N. He has said [U.N. envoy to Iraq Lakhdar] Brahimi will make this decision. Where did Brahimi come from? Brahimi is the U.N. The president is waiting for a message from Brahimi to tell him what this new government will be. Now, that new government, as a consequence of what happened at Abu Ghraib prison, is going to be faced with a public that instead of 70 percent of whom believe that there's a necessity for America to stay for a while longer, 70 percent are now saying they should leave immediately. Each of these new people to be appointed want to also—will want to be the ones to run their country in November 2006. Are any one of them going to cooperate with the United States of America if they want to politically survive? So we have to give them an excuse. We have to change the face. I've met with six four-star NATO former allied commanders and present allied commanders. NATO will in fact take on this mission, if we explicitly state what the mission is and what we want them to do. We need a U.N. resolution authorizing—as we did in Bosnia—a multinational force, led by NATO, to be the operative force in Iraq to sustain an open prospect of free elections to take place in the year 2006, as a rationale. That will give an excuse for that governing council to cooperate. Absent that, somebody tell me how we succeed there. There's only the third option: we must engage the international community in a way that takes the American face, in part, off of this, to have any chance of succeeding. That's what the debate is about. That's what the discussion I had with the president for an hour yesterday was about. That's what's needed to be done.
FRYE: Senator Smith, you're entitled to comment also on anything that Senator Biden has said. But, since this is a specific point of some difference in the emphasis you bring to the discussion, let me connect Senator Biden's last comment with a direct question: now that the administration has, in fact, begun the effort to frame a Security Council resolution to bless a different approach to the transition, do you think the administration is placing undue weight on an international engagement?
SMITH: Well, let me simply say that there is a straw man here, it isn't my straw man—it's John Kerry's straw man—because George Bush has gone to the international community. He has repeatedly gone back, and he has said, “to the degree you can help, help.” And they have, while withdrawing their personnel from Baghdad, they have sent Mr. Brahimi. And President Bush has said, “Fine, to the degree you can help, we accept your help.” And so, we are. And so, I'm wondering why Mr. Kerry is running the ads. What more can he get from the international community? What America will get is, if he goes as president to Paris with a tin cup, we will get humiliation. Why didn't Paris, why didn't Bonn—or Berlin—why didn't Moscow want to get involved in Iraq? These are the countries that were fundamentally the primary predators of Saddam Hussein. These are the countries that are primarily complicit in the food-for-fraud scandal. They had every reason not to watch us—and to watch us topple Saddam Hussein. So, am I opposed to using the international community? No. And I am not advocating getting out of the United Nations. But I'm saying, use it the way others use it—carefully, cautiously, realistically, selectively. And if we do that, we will serve the American security interests. But what I appreciate about this president is he said, “No longer do we go to the U.N. Security Council to get a permission slip to provide security to the American people.”
FRYE: Before we turn to general questions from the Council members assembled here, I want to sustain this discussion, just a bit, among the three of us, because we do want to talk about the broader array of concerns arising in the prospective presidential campaign. Iraq is so consuming—it's such an overarching concern for all of us, naturally we gravitate to focusing on that. But, Senator Biden, I'd like at least to extend the discussion beyond that. If you were asked to draw a ledger with the assets and liabilities of the administration's performance as they enter this campaign, I wonder which would you put among the affirmative initiatives that deserve to be credited, and which, beyond Iraq, would you raise as question points. I'm sure, you have such a ledger?
BIDEN: Well, I have it in my back pocket right here. [Laughter.] I do believe some of the initiatives the administration has made with regard to trade—they failed—but I think they're correct. I think the initiatives made with regard to attempting to reach out and, initially, begin to right our relationship in this administration with Russia and, to some extent, China. But I do think that this administration, on the liability side, their priorities, I think, have been backwards. I think they have absolutely blown the situation in Korea. I think they have misunderstood the consequence of this neo-conservative notion of leveraging power.
I would like to use as an example—for over four years, there was, not a pro-Western, but a real democracy movement within Iran. The ayatollahs—the governing clerical council controlling the security apparatus and the intelligence apparatus—were fearful of crushing it, for fear of how the world might react, and for fear of what may happen as a consequence of that. If, in fact, this notion of this exercise of power that would, in fact, demonstrate to the axis of evil that they had to act appropriately and mend their ways had any relevance, don't you find it curious that with 138,000 troops, American troops, essentially on Iraq's doorstep, another 40,000 on Iran's doorstep, another 40,000 on their eastern doorstep—sum total—that they chose this moment to crush the democracy movement like a bug? My point is this: the rationale for the use of power and the method of the use of power, I think, is going to be counterproductive. My generation of leadership, including John Kerry and the Democratic Party, has been trying to drag the Democratic Party out of the Vietnam syndrome that suggests force is never appropriate. I ask you the rhetorical question: unless we get it right real quick in Iraq, what prospects do you think the next president of the United States in the year 2007 will have of dealing with another [Yugoslav dictator Slobodan] Milosevic? And there will be one. What prospect do you think he will have of generating support within his party, or the other party, or among the American people for the exercise and the use of force? I think we have squandered our power. I think we have squandered the awesome opportunity we've had, and I think we have to rescue it.
FRYE: Senator Smith, I want to run the risk of backtracking to Iraq for a moment, inspired by the unusually powerful and direct column (http://www.townhall.com/columnists/georgewill/gw20040512.shtml) that [syndicated columnist] George Will published this week, in which he argued that the failures in Iraq demand accountability, and asserted that Secretary Rumsfeld is a man who will know what decision to make best to serve this country and his president. The question for you is really a political one. In thinking about this campaign, do you think the president would be best served by Secretary Rumsfeld continuing in office, or best served by his departure? And related to that is this. I'm 1,000-percent-behind-you embrace designed, in fact, to lock him into the Cabinet or to facilitate his early exit?
SMITH: I believe the best response to Mr. Rumsfeld is to allow the process to work, to show the world how the rule of law works. No doubt what happened in that prison is deplorable to every American, and a shame, unfortunately, a besmirchment of our troops over there. But I also want to suggest to you that firing Mr. Rumsfeld will satisfy no one. It will feed the appetite of our enemies. There will be blood in the water. It's a wrong time to show weakness, because weakness invites more attack, more violence from our enemies.
And I think what's important to see is how the American people, under the rule of law, respond to the violations of military law in Abu Ghraib prison. Contrast that with the response you see in so much of the Middle East—or rather no response—to the beheading [by insurgents in Iraq] of an American citizen [Nicholas Berg]. There's no condemnation. There's no one holding a trial. There, frankly, is an invitation of more of this, if we respond weakly. I think saying to Mr. Rumsfeld to go now would show weakness, especially if he can still be effective. Let us allow the rule of law to work. There are criminal trials that are proceeding. And let's let the world see how a civilized nation responds. We see how uncivilized people are responding to the murder of Nick Berg.
FRYE: I'm going to move now to general inquiries from the audience at large, because we have a compressed program, starting late. I'll ask each of you to remember that we need to have you wait for the microphone. When you pose a question, please stand and identify yourself. And, obviously, being concise, as both of our senators have been, remarkably, so far, would help advance the conversation. Questions from the floor. Right here. Forward, please.
QUESTIONER: Lincoln Gordon at [The] Brookings [Institution]. My question is addressed to Senator Biden. In the interstices of all these arguments about what to do for a transition in Iraq, there has been mention of a possible so-called cabinet of experts whose absolutely critical commitment would be not to run for office or to try to seek office after Iraq is on its own—I don't know when that will be. That strikes me as a very desirable idea. Do you think there's anything in it?
BIDEN: I think it's a very desirable idea. I spoke about 45 minutes with Mr. Brahimi, and he pointed out the following to me: he think it's desirable as well, but he has a very difficult task of unwinding the 25-person [Iraqi Governing Council] now, which is not viewed as legitimate within Iraq, some of whom have militias accountable to them, and the ability to be able to start de novo and pick 25 or two—in this case a prime minister, a president, two vice presidents, et cetera—who are technocrats committing not to run—may be a bridge too far. That is a desire. That would be in everyone's interests. It would be in the interests of the Iraqi people. But it may not be practically achievable. So I think it's a goal worth seeking. Mr. Brahimi, to the best of my knowledge, is pursuing that course, but is realistic enough to understand that he may not be able to accomplish that and set up this new interim authority. The place where he hopes this will work—and I think it's a very good idea—is he's going to go out and find 1,000 to 1,500 Iraqis, based on tribal allegiances, that will essentially be a loya jirga. My question to him was, could he do some of that by in fact holding local elections quickly, investing the Iraqi people more quickly in this, so the issue becomes Iraq not us? And he had an interesting response to that as well, which was, “Senator, we would be able to hold them fairly, freely, locally in some areas and not others. And that would then cause us to find we had legitimacy questions in the whole of the 1,000 or 1,500 people.” So it's a difficult task. He's inherited a bad situation. That's his goal, but I'm not sure it's achievable.
FRYE: Do you want to speak to that? Please?
SMITH: Yeah, I think Joe is reflecting some of my own concerns. And I think you have the concern, because you have asked the question. And I have wondered, is this too idealistic to achieve in such a difficult neighborhood. My response is, what sort of democracy is OK? A moderate tyrant? A couple of real bloodthirsty clansmen to rule? My sense is that the president is doing the right thing by having some turnover of power on June the 30th and, as quickly as possible, to get ballots being cast, so some institution can evolve that has legitimacy.
Now, let me tell you where I think we're going to go, where I hope we go as a country. I hope we provide to them this constitutional framework so that we do not have to patrol the streets, but that we keep a very serious garrison in Iraq on the front line of the war on terrorism, to make sure that if some moderate tyrant pops up his head, we have the ability to go in and continue to influence the democratic process. You don't have democracy if you don't have security. And ultimately we're going to have to have a role there—it won't be on the front line, but it will certainly be in Iraq. We need fewer resources in Europe now. We need them in the Middle East, where the action is, where the war on terrorism is being fought. And right now, folks, if you want to fight al Qaeda, you know where you do it? You do it in Iraq.
FRYE: Next question here in the front, please, and then we'll come there. Henry?
QUESTIONER: [Inaudible.] There are really two issues in this election. One is force, which we've talked about today. The other is the economy. And neither of you said a word about that, and that depends a lot on what we do abroad in trade and investment and so forth. So I'd like to ask each of the speakers to say, in turn, what they think should be the next administration's policy in respect to the expanding trade and investment which lies at the heart of our economic growth. If I could ask each of you, in turn, to have a say on that.
FRYE: Perhaps I'll ask Senator Smith to address that first.
SMITH: When I left the Foreign Relations Committee, I went on the Finance Committee. We deal with the issue of trade. And I will tell you that there are few issues more important in which to be multinational. I will say this about my colleague John Kerry: he votes to be multinational in terms of trade; he now campaigns against his votes on trade. I think that is very unfortunate. And that isn't just trade—it's also the [USA] Patriot Act, it's No Child Left Behind [President Bush’s education initiative], all of these things he's voted for, spoken for, now campaigns against, and the notion that, somehow, he has been deceived in voting for these. And I would say we're electing the commander in chief, not the chief of [inaudible]. And it's important that when you vote for some of these things, that you keep fighting for them to make them happen.
Now, as it relates to trade and our economic health, I have to say, unfortunately, the war on terrorism is crowding out all of the good news. Understand what we've been through. From the last year of President Clinton's office to the first year of President Bush's office, we lost $8 trillion of equities on Wall Street. I mean, that is like Depression levels of loss of wealth. And then you have 9/11 attacks, you have corporate scandals. And look where we are now. We are growing at nearly 5 percent. We are adding now in the last three months nearly a million jobs. Our economy is hitting on all cylinders right now, but nobody is able to hear it because of all the bad news coming from the war on terrorism—or at least the perceived bad news. The truth is there's a lot of good things happening in the war on terrorism, you just don't hear it reported. But in terms of our economy, I predict to you that, come the fall, the economy will not be the issue of this presidential campaign, because the economy is doing very, very well, in part because of trade.
FRYE: Senator Biden, let me put a sharp point on this, because Henry has directed us in a useful direction here. You mentioned in passing relatively positive feelings about the administration's energetic efforts to move forward the trade agenda. Do you think it's possible for the Democratic candidate to run vigorously on an open international trading regime pledge, or is he going to have to be ambiguous, hide from it, and deal with parts of his constituency that are deeply worried about the loss of jobs?
BIDEN: [Inaudible] going to have to be honest and more straightforward than this administration has been. The reason I didn't respond to the economy, or mention it, is we were specifically told to speak to only foreign policy. I just want you to know that, number one.
Number two, the second point that I'd like to make is this: that notwithstanding the fact that we have economic growth, it's amazing how everything has sort of changed here. The Republicans have become the Keynesians. It's astounding kind of—you know? I mean, this is an interesting little point. If I go out and deficit-spend $520 billion, I'll get the economy moving. Now, the problem internationally is the rest of the world is looking at our accumulation of a deficit of over 530—now, I want to say this here—a dangerous thing to say—the deficit for next fiscal year will be $600 billion. Hear me now? $600 billion. Will it have an immediate impact next year? No. Will it have a profound impact on our trading capacity, our imbalance of trade? Will it have a profound impact? Absolutely positively. And so what we should be doing is two things—one, having a trading policy that in fact no longer only does the bidding of business in this sense. The idea that after all the low-lying fruit having been picked, and international and fast-track trade agreements is done, that we will go into the 21st century in the second decade not talking about the environment and not talking about employment and how people are employed and worker's rights, is bizarre. You're all smoking something if you think that is not going to become a dominant issue, abroad as well as here. And so we have to have a policy that is relevant to what's happening in the year 2004. And we have to look ahead a little bit. We are very, very good at doing things very short term. Does anyone in here think—raise your hand if you think there is any possibility under the present fiscal policy that by the year 2008 we will have cut the deficit in half. Raise your hands. I only got one. Congratulations, and good luck, and I hope you're doing well.
FRYE: We have another question here, left forward, Alexis, if you can take the mike to the left there. Please.
QUESTIONER: Thank you. You talk a little bit—
FRYE: State your name, please.
QUESTIONER: I'm sorry, my name is David Walker. You talk a bit about a loya jirga for Iraq. We have a game plan similar to what's gone on in Afghanistan and we're trying to move the stages in Iraq to what happened in Afghanistan after the invasion—U.N., NATO, local elections, local legitimacy. I feel that NATO may have underperformed in its security role in Afghanistan. Do you see if NATO has a role similar to what they did in Afghanistan, can they muster the resources to provide a similar level of security commitment in Iraq?
FRYE: Senator Smith, let me get you to speak to that first, because I know Senator Biden has already alluded to it, and has other things to say as well.
SMITH: I think, as Senator Biden has recently talked to [Supreme Allied Commander, Europe] General [James L.] Jones, I would just—so I will defer more to him. But I would simply say NATO could play a bigger role. NATO doesn't play a bigger role, because it doesn't budget for it. When you talk about NATO, who's doing it? We're doing it. It has a NATO name on it, fine. But the problem with our European allies, they're all in arrears on NATO, and there's a terrible problem in Europe now in that they love to substitute words for deeds, and that's a problem with NATO. And it's easy to veto. And right now we've got some people in NATO that will veto more involvement in Iraq. That's my opinion. I hope—I'm sure they say otherwise, but they don't act otherwise.
BIDEN: The biggest problem in Afghanistan is we've not kept our commitment. We've not kept our commitment. We've not leveled with you or the American people. Remember immediately after the Taliban fell? I happened to be with—in Bagram for five days immediately after they fell. Every single person I spoke to wearing an American or British uniform said we had to expand the International Security Force. Secretary Powell strongly urged when I came back and wrote a report that we expand the International Security Force. NATO was prepared to expand the International Security Force. Rumsfeld concluded that we would not expand the International Security Force—reason being it would interfere with our force there, because we'd have to talk with them; secondly, it would divert resources from Iraq. Lest you think I'm kidding, remember when the first real rupture occurred with [German Chancellor Gerhard] Schroeder? Schroeder risked his very chancellorship on a vote of confidence in the Bundestag, won by one vote to send 6,000 marines—German marines—out of area to Iraq. Rumsfeld said, “We don't need you.” Then [Senator] Dick Lugar [R-Ind.] and I got on the phone and asked to see the president and begged them: Accept their offer. Accept their offer. You can't do this. The president said, “We don't need them.”
We had a donors conference in Japan headed by the secretary of state. The president of the United States—not liberal Democrat Joe Biden—the president of the United States uttered the words, “We need a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan”— a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan. Where is it? Where is it? What is the plan? As they used to say, what's the plan, Stan? What's the deal? And one thing my generation has learned—our generation has learned—no matter what your view on Vietnam was—I didn't go either. I tried to go and flunked the physical. They would not take me. So neither one of us had the advantage of going. The one thing our generation agrees on: no foreign policy can be sustained without the informed consent of the American people. I begged the president before we went—in the Oval Office, in public—level with the American people, Mr. President. I reminded him—I look around here at some former generals. I said, Mr. President, there's a reason why your father stopped and did not go to Baghdad. And he took umbrage initially. And I said, “Don't be offended, Mr. President, simple reason: He did not want to stay five years and spend hundreds of billions of dollars. Are you ready to do that? If you are, I am with you.” So the first man that says we need several hundred thousand troops gets fired. The first man who says it's going to cost over $200 billion—within three weeks got fired, chief economic adviser, Mr. [Lawrence] Lindsey. So what's the deal, folks? What's the deal? Have the American people been leveled with? Rumsfeld said by November we'd be down by 30,000 troops. Name me a credible person that thought that was possible. Name me one.
So, folks, time to level. Time—the irony is Joe Biden and Gordon Smith are the ones calling for more troops in Iraq! John McCain and Joe Biden. And Rumsfeld said, “No, we don't need more troops.” Give me a break. Ideology is being swamped by reality. It's time the president forgot about Kerry—at least listen to the joint chiefs of staff and listen to the secretary of state, because we are hardly off on how we're proceeding in Iraq right now.
FRYE: Senator, before we take the last question from the floor, do you want to speak to this specific question of whether at this stage ramping up the American military capability is appropriate and required, and would it be either feasible or effective?
SMITH: Well, I think Joe makes a very good point about our military and our military size. The truth is after the Cold War we as a nation enjoyed a tremendous peace dividend, at the expense of our military and our intelligence community. My concern going forward is we have a new action plan, but we still have the military of the '90s and the intelligence community of the '90s, and we do need to look very, very seriously at our core size. And so I don't dispute what Joe is saying, but I also am not a military expert, and I ultimately trust that there will be those in the Joint Chiefs who will tell the president or commanders in the field that will tell the president what they need, and if it's more, I as one U.S. senator will vote to give them that and more. It's very important that we have the force structure necessary to our security needs. I'm not sure we do.
FRYE: We'll take a last intervention from the floor, from Jim Moody, and then we'll offer closing remarks from the speakers.
QUESTIONER: Jim Moody, Morgan Stanley. Senator Smith, you said about the prison scandal that Secretary Rumsfeld should not resign, that democracy should work, we should have the trials and so forth. What is the inconsistency? I mean, what's undemocratic about someone, a head of an important part of our government, resigning if his policies has failed. It doesn't mean we're losing democratic values for him to resign. You pose it as an either-or, and I just don't see that. And, Senator Biden, just quickly, when the senator said that the fight to face terrorism is in Iraq, you shook your head no, and I wondered if you would elaborate on what you feel about that.
FRYE: And in order to give us an orderly conclusion, I'm going to invite Senator Biden to offer the first closing remarks, summing up on any points he wishes to offer.
BIDEN: One of my private that later became public debates and discussions with the president of the United States is that I believe that moving as prematurely as we did in Iraq literally jeopardized our efforts in Afghanistan. There is no doubt—none—and even the president stopped saying it. He used to say, “If we don't fight them in Baghdad, we'll fight them in Boston.” Ladies and gentlemen, if we brought peace and security totally to Iraq tomorrow, do any of you believe you would not have any more orange alerts? Do any of you believe you would not find as many terrorist acts occurring around the world as occur now? The irony is more have occurred. I'm not saying it's because of Iraq, but more have occurred.
So the problem is they merged, but they are separable at the roots. The fundamental disagreement I have with a guy I have great respect for, the deputy secretary of State [sic] Paul Wolfowitz, who I've known for 28 years—I got here when I was 29 years old—is that Paul and others believe—and some of you believe in the Council—that there is no ability for an international terrorist organization to have capacity, power, and unity without being state-sponsored. That is a fundamental mistake in my view. They are capable of existing on their own. So the rationale for going to Iraq was held by Paul and others as it related to terror that this couldn't exist—this couldn't exist on its own unless state-sponsored. The irony is if we lose Iraq, the very thing they most worry about will become a reality: it will be a failed state, and a haven for terror.
Now, closing comment about where we are. It seems to me that I operate on two premises as it relates to Iraq, but also can be extrapolated to other policy decisions this administration is making. Number one, we cannot want freedom for the Iraqi people more than they want it. Let me say that again: We cannot want freedom for the Iraqi people more than they want it. I operate on the assumption the polling data is correct with regard to Iraq, that somewhere between 65 and 80 percent of the Iraqi people want some system of government different than a religious-based theocracy like Iran, and different than a straw man. But in order to get that 70 percent of the population to rise its head up for 30 years of getting it chopped off if they stuck their head up, you need to provide security. You need significantly more power to provide that security. And I mean in the neighborhood. Unless you can send your daughter to the local corner store to bring home the bread for the day, there is no security. They will not come forward.
Second premise is the Europeans need us to succeed in Iraq even more than we need to succeed in Iraq. They will be gigantic losers if we lose. I trust and know they understand their own naked self-interests. Why would they help us now? Only out of their own naked self-interests. And the fact of the matter is we are going to have to project more power in Iraq in order to be able to set the environment for that democratic middle we're looking for to come forward. And if we fail, we will inherit the whirlwind.
So, again, I'll conclude by saying we have three choices: declare we lost, as some already have in the press, and get the hell out of here. That's a loss. Stay the course we have now, do it ourselves, pay 90 percent of the burden, use 90 percent of the force, take 90 percent of the casualties, and I predict to you the only issue will be: who asked us to leave first, the new Iraqi government or the American people? Or, thirdly, internationalize this in a legitimate way, where in fact you don't have blue helmets—you have nations of interest engaged in requiring the prospect of a secure state being established there. That takes hard work. Only one man can do it. Only one man has the power, as I told him yesterday. I said, “Mr. President, because of the seat you're sitting in as I speak to you, and because of the moral clarity you are known for, you are the only one who can do this.” And, Jim, it's real simple: What happened to grace and dignity for a great nation? What happened to the notion that we would demonstrate we understand the profound—the profound—the profound damage done to us by what happened in that prison? And to compare it to a group of people from the 14th century is not the relevant comparison. Our values are what have people follow us. And the idea that in a great nation, a democracy, accountability is not the single most important element of it, and that someone doesn't have the grace to step forward and say, “Take me, Mr. President,” and then say—as I said to the president yesterday—a big idea—“Send your 150 best interrogators today to that prison. Go through all 7,000. Release the 5,500 who probably don't belong there anyway, and announce it. Take that prison and go to the 25-member council and get permission to bulldoze it to the ground, and commit to build the largest hospital in Iraq there.” There is a need—there is a need for something grand, a gesture as big as our nation. But to try some kid who is depraved in Iraq, suggesting that there's no further moving up the line—I'm telling you here, folks, the last thing I'll say—the same thing is going to come forward in Afghanistan. What do we do then? It's time to cauterize this wound. I give a darn about Rumsfeld. I don't care whether he goes or stays. I care that there's a demonstration—a demonstration of the grandness of this nation. And that's not coming forward. There's nothing grand, noble, significant being done. We're being pushed into everything, and we look bad. And that does not help our troops on the ground. [Applause.]
FRYE: Senator Smith, you have the option of equal time and the grand finale. [Laughter.]
SMITH: I'm not going to top Joe Biden when it comes to finale. But the answer to your question, Don Rumsfeld serves at the pleasure of the president. All I'm saying is there is nothing in evidence yet that would say to this senator he should resign. He maybe will of his own accord, and that's a judgment in the administration. I don't think it would satisfy the people who murdered [Wall Street Journal reporter] Daniel Pearl [in Pakistan] or Nick Berg.
Let me in summation thank the Council on Foreign Relations for the privilege of being part of this discussion, and thank my friend Joe Biden for allowing me to enjoy some of the reflected light that he casts. [Laughter.] I will tell you—and not elaborate—but Joe Biden at a personal level has been an enormous help to me recently. But, moreover, he's a great U.S. senator and a patriotic American and needs to be listened to more by his colleague, my colleague, John Kerry. [Laughter.] Let me also say Afghanistan and Iraq are both part of the war on terrorism. They have been fought in very different ways, because the facts on the ground there require that they be fought differently. And I believe one is not exclusive of the other.
Finally, I'm reminded when we hear the word internationalization, of the counsel of the Prophet Isaiah to the ancient Israelis to lean not upon a weak reed. I don't know what internationalization means any more, because ultimately what I have seen in nearly eight years as a U.S. senator is to get something done it takes American leadership, because we're the only ones that budget for it, and we're the only ones willing to actually put action behind our words. And ultimately I believe, notwithstanding the great tragedy of Abu Ghraib prison, what still underlies and overgirds our foreign policy are the values of the Bill of Rights and the United States Constitution. I believe what America holds out to the world are the values of freedom of religion, diversity, due process of law, equal protection under law, democracy, the defense of human rights, the expansion of prosperity through trade. I still believe in that ideal. I believe President Bush has enough sense of America that he knows it takes American leadership to reflect that in the world, because if we rely upon some of our fair-weather allies, we will be left less secure. And ultimately I believe the war on terrorism has us in Iraq. I ultimately believe the answer to Iraq are the ideals that the president has set forth. They will be a long time in coming, but we won't have to patrol the streets forever, but we need a presence there if we're serious about protecting the American people here. It is no accident that since 9/11 we have not had another attack on this soil, and that's because our government is doing a damn good job in defending the American people. The Patriot Act, our law enforcement, our fire departments, our reservists, our military deserve a pat on the back, because they're showing up to work, and they're interdicting a lot more than you ever read about. So I say thank God for America, and I thank you for the opportunity to be here with you today. [Applause.]
FRYE: I also want to thank all of you for your flexibility and adaptability to a moving calendar, as we had to work through this adjusted schedule. Some of you know that one of my favorite Russian aphorisms reads that history teaches no lessons and punishes those who fail to heed them. [Laughter.] Actually, I think we're always searching for the multiple lessons of history. And one that I think our conversation today suggests is that in American politics a central lesson is that civility in discourse remains essential to real communication. And from me and for those in the Council who are here today, I want to say thank you both to Senator Biden and Senator Smith for showing that even in a period of maximum political tension, at a time when many observers consider Congress to be fractured beyond recent memory's intensity, we still have leaders who can be open minded enough, civil enough, and vocal enough in the presentation of their own case to make meaningful communication possible. If we could match that during the coming presidential campaign, America will be very well served indeed. Thank you. [Applause.]