Speaker: Hillary Clinton, Member, U.S. Senate (D-NY)
Presider: Richard Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
Council on Foreign Relations
December 15, 2003
New York, NY
SENATOR CLINTON: Thank you very much, Richard, and it's delightful to be here this morning and to have this opportunity to speak with all of you.
I want to thank Richard and congratulate him for his transition from government to the council and especially for his role in the Northern Ireland peace process, which has been a vitally important one, on behalf of our country.
I also want to extend my best wishes -- and, I'm sure, the best wishes of all of us here -- to Secretary Colin Powell, who, it was announced this morning, will be having surgery for prostate cancer. And I think all of us send him not only our warmest wishes but our gratitude for his public service and his continuing contributions to our country.
You know, it is a great opportunity for me here in New York, before this prestigious body, to speak about where we find ourselves with respect to foreign policy. And I think it's appropriate to put it into the context of a quote that I agree with, that was made by the former council president, Leslie Gelb, who said that the purpose of the Council on Foreign Relations, as an organization, is to promote American internationalism based on American interests.
We stand at a point in time where we are now in the process of redefining both American internationalism and American interests. That probably would have been inevitable, because the process of adjusting to the changes at the end of the Cold War, the extraordinary advances in technology and globalization, the spread of so many problems globally, most prominently terrorism, would certainly have brought that about.
But it is also true that given our reaction to the events of September the 11th and to our missions in Afghanistan and Iraq and other problems that we face around the world, what was a description by Leslie Gelb has become an imperative, and an imperative not just for those in elected office, not just in the administration or the Congress, but, I would argue, for a much broader debate amongst our citizenry. There's a role for the private sector to play that I think has been neglected over the last several years. There's a role, certainly, for academia and not-for-profit organizations. There's a role for every segment of our society.
As we look out around the world and attempt to define internationalism and American interests, we certainly have our work cut out for us. But it is a timely discussion and one that we ignore at our peril.
When we were attacked on September the 11th and when we lost nearly 3,000 men, women and children, for many Americans, that was also a loss of innocence and a sense of invulnerability. I remain absolutely confident in our eventual victory over the forces of terror, but I also believe that we have our work cut out for us and that what we face is a long-term challenge that not only is external but internal, as we define who we are, what our values should be in the face of this new threat.
It is true that I am confident about the outcome, but I worry about the cost. I worry about the price being paid by young men and women in uniform fighting in difficult terrain. I worry about our brave first responders, who we will once again expect to answer the call of duty should we face another attack on our shores. And I worry about the fear that I see among so many of our citizens, a fear that is understandable but one which, unfortunately, may very well undermine the values that have made us so strong, so optimistic, for so long.
As you know, I recently returned from places where Americans are risking their lives. Foremost are military forces, but also civilians who have answered the call of duty as well. Hundreds have been killed and thousands grievously injured. With my colleague on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, we were privileged to spend Thanksgiving with our troops in Afghanistan and then go on to Iraq. I was especially pleased that I could visit the 10th Mountain Division soldiers who are on the front lines in Afghanistan and could bring over 3,000 letters from school children here in New York expressing their thanks and telling the soldiers what it meant to them that they were there defending their freedom as well.
I know that a short trip such as the one that I took is only a snapshot, but it is a snapshot that both confirmed much of what I already believed and had learned from the countless briefings and other committee work and much of the attention that has been focused on Iraq and Afghanistan, but it also opened my eyes and led me to think a little bit differently about some of what we should be doing.
It is essential that we win this war against these borderless terrorists, but it is, I believe, critical that we once again recommit ourselves to that American internationalism that I mentioned in the beginning. For more than a half a century, we know that we prospered because of a bipartisan consensus on defense and foreign policy. We must do more than return to that sensible, cooperative approach. I think we should be in the midst of working to reform the institutions and alliances that we historically have been part of, revamping agreements that we reached in the past that may no longer be as timely and effective as we would hope, working and examining relationships around the world not because it's a good thing to do, not because it worked in the 20th century, but because it remains as essential today as it was in the past in order to meet the 21st (sic) challenges of terror and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
We obviously need to build a world with more friends and fewer terrorists. The question is, how do we do that? Everyone agrees on the goal, but what are the strategies most likely to result in success?
Turning to Iraq, yesterday was a good day. I was thrilled that Saddam Hussein had finally been captured. Like many of you, I was glued to the television and the radio as I went about my daily business. We owe a great debt of gratitude to our troops, to the president, to our intelligence services, to all who had a hand in apprehending Saddam. Now he will be brought to justice, and we hope that the prospects for peace and stability in Iraq will improve.
I was especially pleased that the capture was led by the 4th Infantry Division, whom I visited in Kirkuk and had a a briefing from the commander, General Odierno, and during that briefing was given some insights into the efforts to apprehend Saddam. And it's very good news indeed that they have come to fruition.
This moment, however, cannot be just about congratulating ourselves and the Iraqi people for this capture. It should be a moment where we step back and consider how now to go forward. What is it we can do today, based on the circumstances of yesterday, that will strengthen our hand and move the Iraqis closer to a time when they can have self-government and create a stable, free, democratic Iraq?
I was one who supported giving President Bush the authority, if necessary, to use force against Saddam Hussein. I believe that that was the right vote. I have had many disputes and disagreements with the administration over how that authority has been used, but I stand by the vote to provide the authority because I think it was a necessary step in order to maximize the outcome that did occur in the Security Council with the unanimous vote to send in inspectors. And I also knew that our military forces would be successful. But what we did not appreciate fully and what the administration was unprepared for was what would happen the day after.
It has been a continuing theme of my criticism and others that we would be further along, we would have more legitimacy, we would diminish the opposition and resentment that is fueling whatever remains of the insurgency if we had been willing to move to internationalize our presence and further action in Iraq. I believe that today. And in fact, I think that we now have a new opportunity for the administration to do just that.
We could, if the administration were to be so inclined, open the door to a stronger and wider coalition that would help us rebuild and safeguard Iraq and provide a transition to self-government. As President Bush said in his remarks to the nation yesterday, the capture of Saddam, while extremely important, does not signal the end of this conflict. The violence is likely to continue. It's unclear whether it will spike up or whether it will diminish, but we know it will remain, and therefore, all Americans and international aid workers and Iraqis remain at risk.
So what could we do to try to take advantage of this moment in time? Well, I have both some suggestions and some questions. First, I am worried about the administration's announced plans to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqis by next July, the way that those plans have been announced and how they would proceed. The process coincides with the first major troop rotation, meaning that thousands of seasoned American forces will be withdrawing precisely during the time of great domestic sensitivity and even perhaps increased peril. That could be a recipe for disaster.
I and others have questioned the confluence of those two events, and having been on the ground, briefed by not just the generals but talking with colonels and captains and sergeants and privates, it is clear that much of the positive work that has been done in Iraq has been done by our military forces. They have been rebuilding the schools. They have been reopening the hospitals. They have been creating the relationships on the ground with Iraqis. Sitting in a meeting with the members of local governing councils in Kirkuk, it was abundantly clear that their primary relationship is with the military forces that are based there.
And so we not only create the inevitable dislocation that occurs when you're moving thousands of men, women and equipment, but also the destruction of those relationships, that trust that is so hard to build up over time.
So it is clear to me that we are going to have a lot of concerns that have to be addressed if this turnover is to occur smoothly. It would be difficult enough, but we also have no idea how the local people in the various parts of Iraq are going to react to this, because the plan laid out by the administration does not really go to an immediate transfer of political power, but a staging, through a caucus system, to create some kind of legitimate governance structure that can do the constitution and then oversee elections.
That was not at all clear to the people with whom I met in Kirkuk. They had the idea that come June or July, they would be in charge in Kirkuk and that they would have responsibility. And they were anxious to wield it, because they had felt particularly aggrieved over the many years of Saddam's rule, which focused often most harshly on the Kirkuk area.
It would be timely and, I think, appropriate to now create a bridge using international support and legitimacy, similarly to what we did in Bosnia and Kosovo. The timing would be appropriate. The American military would still be in charge and responsible for security, but we could begin to cede some of the hard political decision-making to an international presence.
Now as we look at the election process that is contemplated, Ambassador Bremer told Senator Reed and myself that he would very much like the United Nations to monitor the election process. I agree with that. But it will be very difficult to convince the United Nations to come in to help monitor an election process that it has nothing to do with setting up or creating the means of implementing. I can't believe that we could expect the United Nations to participate without some more authority and involvement. But now would be the time to try to create those conditions.
There are many other issues about our presence in Iraq and the transition that we are attempting to bring about. Among them are the continuing challenges that the Iraqi Civil Defense Force, the police force and the army face.
The Iraqi Civil Defense Force received high marks from both the civilian and military Americans on the ground. They're beginning to do quite a good job patrolling with Americans, as I saw in Kirkuk. But they need more training, they need vehicles, they need uniforms, they need communications equipment. We are further behind with respect to the Iraqi army, but again we can improve conditions there by increasing the pay and the prestige in order to stop the widespread resignation -- as high as 20 percent -- that is occurring.
We also have to reconsider including Ba'athists who were Ba'athists in name only in positions of responsibility, such as teaching and the medical profession. When we disbanded the army, we disbanded the army of teachers and doctors and others who were compelled, in many instances, to join the party in order to practice their profession and continue their livelihood in Iraq under Saddam.
We are also going to be facing a tremendous movement of people throughout Iraq with the Hajj in late January and early February. There is a pent-up desire among many Iraqis to go to Mecca. So we will have thousands, if not millions, of people on the roads, moving across the country. We will also probably have people coming from Syria and Jordan and elsewhere. There is no way that I can imagine we could prevent that, but providing for the security that will be necessary during this period is an enormous undertaking. And it is only slightly before the date that the massive transfer and movement of our own troops take place. So first, dealing with the Hajj, and then secondly, dealing with our own troops, in mass numbers on the road in their equipment, poses another significant security challenge because, of course, as some troops are moving out, the other troops haven't yet come in. So we're going to be in a transition there, as well.
So the question that I was asked most frequently when I returned was, well, are you optimistic or pessimistic, and I have to confess that my answer is neither. I am both a little optimistic and a little pessimistic, but what I'm trying to do is be realistic about where we are and what we need to be successful. We have no option but to stay involved and committed.
To that end, I applauded both Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld for their recent trip to NATO to persuade NATO to become involved in Iraq. This may be somewhat tardy, but it is very welcome. Unfortunately, there has not been a very positive response from NATO as of yet. At this point, I think, NATO -- and indeed, non-NATO allies -- have as much of a stake in the success of Iraq as we do. And therefore, they should be looking to work with the administration to create the opportunities that they can then pursue to become more involved in Iraq. It would be extremely important and it would remove the taint of this being an American occupation.
Secondly, I would strongly recommend we create some kind of organization -- call it what you will; the Iraq Reconstruction and Stabilization Authority, or whatever name is chosen. It could include a proper role for NATO and for the U.N., which would replace the Coalition Provisional Authority, which would add both military and civilian resources so that this was not just an American occupation, and would provide more flexibility for us in achieving the timetable at whatever speed is appropriate to transfer sovereignty to the Iraqis.
Let me turn now to Afghanistan, a place I believe we have not paid sufficient attention to in recent months. And by "we," I refer to all of us -- citizens, the media, elected officials, the administration. And this point was crystalized for me when I was greeted by a soldier saying, "Well, senators, welcome to the forgotten front line of the war against terror."
Over the course of this past year, we've heard so much about Iraq, which is understandable, and so little about Afghanistan, which is not. Afghanistan, I don't need to remind New Yorkers or any Americans, is the place where September 11th was conceived and implemented. It was and still is the place where al Qaeda was based, where its terrorists were trained, where Osama bin Laden lives, there and across the border in Pakistan.
We went in fast and strong in 2001, toppling the Taliban and scattering al Qaeda, and we made tremendous progress in helping a new government form. But too soon, the eyes of the administration moved from Kabul to Baghdad and we began pulling out resources -- troops, intelligence -- and shifting them to Iraq. We reduced our troop commitment substantially. In fact, we had more law enforcement personnel on duty in Salt Lake City for the 2002 Olympics than we have soldiers in all of Afghanistan today.
Now, forgetting Afghanistan seems to come easy to us. We've done it before, leaving a vacuum after a regime was toppled. That was 1989. And after years of helping and equipping and financing Afghan and foreign rebels that were supported by Arab Mujaheddin whom we essentially created -- such as Osama bin Laden -- to combat the Soviet occupiers, we pulled back. After the Soviets left, we washed our hands and we walked away. And we know the results. Having failed to leverage whatever influence we might have had in 1989, by the mid- 1990s, we had no influence on the Taliban, and less-than-useful influence with Pakistan, who had been the primary sponsor of the Taliban.
Now, some of us spoke out about the excesses of the Taliban regime, especially its treatment of women, and the Clinton administration did attempt, through military action with missiles, to ferret out bin Laden and his training camps. In the years that followed, the government looked for efforts, covert and overt, to try to hit bin Laden, but he was, as he is today, an elusive enemy.
September 11th gave us the opportunity as well as the obligation to do what there had been no domestic or international consensus to do before we were attacked on our own shores: to go into Afghanistan and to try to root out both the Taliban and al Qaeda. We cannot afford to make the same mistake that we made in 1989, yet I fear we might unless we ramp up our involvement in this forgotten front-line land in the war against terror.
First, here we have a commitment from NATO. We were given that commitment, and after some back and forth with the administration, it has been decided hat NATO will expand its commitment of troops and equipment. But it has not yet happened. When we were in Kabul, we couldn't even find anybody in the command structure of NATO with whom to speak. When Secretaries Powell and Rumsfeld went to NATO to request assistance with respect to Iraq, Lord Robertson responded, "Well, first we have to fulfill our commitment in Afghanistan." I could not agree more. There is a structure in Afghanistan. We have troops of many nations, including from those that did not support us in Iraq, most notably France and Germany, and we should make sure that the Article 5 commitment is fulfilled in Afghanistan.
Second, we have to do more along the Afghan-Pakistan border. And we were reminded yesterday, with the assassination attempt on President Musharraf, how difficult that effort to control that border remains. We met with President Musharraf at around midnight on Thanksgiving night, after coming from our visits in Kabul, Bagram and Kandahar. And he is a man in a very difficult position. He has been a very vocal and helpful ally to the United States in the war against terror. He has for the first time attempted to put troops into the tribal areas along the border in Pakistan. But he faces considerable risks at moving more effectively against the Taliban and the al Qaeda. We have to support him in every way that we possibly can, and we have to make clear that we need and expect that support.
We know that new training camps have sprung up across the border in Pakistan. We know that new jihadists are being recruited on a regular basis. We know that the madrassas, which become the not only educational facility but the indoctrination tool for between 600,000 and 700,000 young men in Pakistan, are a rich breeding ground for future terrorists.
(Short audio break) support President Musharraf is not just with more military equipment, as important as that may be and as much as he may want it, but we should be doing more to help him deal with the educational shortcomings in Pakistan that drive families to turn their young boys over to madrassas. There are no other schools in many of these areas. And because it is a dangerous and largely ungovernable area, it is difficult to recruit teachers and to put in the equipment, the curriculum that could provide an alternative to the indoctrination of the madrassas.
I spoke about that with President Musharraf. He is well aware of it. They are attempting to address it. But this is a rich and important potential area of cooperation not just for the United States but for the larger world community.
Third, we have to continue our close efforts with President Karzai and the United Nations to assure that the constitutional loya jirga that is going on as we speak, and then the elections that are planned to follow in June or July, will stay on track and will provide a real means for the Afghan people to express their newly found freedom and to create a governing structure that will try to unify this disparate land.
I'm heartened by the news that the loya jirga has commenced, but the news reports that I've seen have been also very touching to me because some of the officials running the loya jirga have said, "Well, the delegates came together and all they wanted to talk about was when will we get a new school, when will we get a new health clinic, how will we get some help for the people who have no money and no means for income?" You cannot proceed, in my opinion, on just the track of electoral, constitutional, governmental effort. There has to be a comparable parallel track that tries to provide tangible results for the Afghan people about the improvements in their lives.
I suggested to President Karzai that he could perhaps think about adopting some signature issue that would send a clear signal to all Afghans, whether they be Tajik or Pashtun or Uzbek or whatever, that their president was thinking about them and where they lived and the challenges they faced. Because of my strong conviction that attention paid to the role and development of women is the most effective investment one can make, I suggested an effort to try to improve maternal health.
You know, women have always been at the fulcrum of Afghani politics and reaction. It happened in the early part of the 20th century, when the kings of Afghanistan attempted to modernize Afghanistan and pick as one of the principal objectives the more fully participating role of women. And that caused a backlash, which led to all kinds of reaction in the tribal areas. One of the reasons why we were able to marshal the Mujaheddin and the warlords against the Soviets is because the Soviets tried to provide more opportunities for women.
So women's roles is a critical point as to whether there can be a stable, free, democratic Afghanistan. If we were to focus on improving maternal health, that is an objective that is not in any way contradictory to the concerns of the most traditional, as well as the hopes of the most modern Afghans.
I was told that the hospital in Kabul delivers 200 babies a day. That is an astonishing number. And they do it in very difficult circumstances. We could cut in half the maternal death rate in Afghanistan, which is the highest in the world, with relatively little money.
The next step would be more difficult and expensive, but to clearly send a signal that the United States, President Karzai, all of us around the world wish the people of Afghanistan, particularly the mothers of Afghanistan, well would be a political and strategic statement, as well as a humanitarian one. Afghans need better schools, they need more health clinics, and they're expressing that at the loya jirga.
Finally, we have to address the drug problem in Afghanistan. The country produces more opium than any place in the world -- some for export and some, unfortunately, for increasing use right there in Afghanistan.
The consequences are bad all the way around -- for users, wherever they might be; for those who will contract HIV from sharing needles; and for the stability of the Afghan government, because of the role that the warlords and the drug traffickers play in obtaining the results of selling the opium and then having money flow to terrorists and criminal cartels.
There are many other issues of concern that were raised with us: the imbalance of Pashtuns and Tajiks in the army, and the lack of Pashtuns in the government; the touchy relationship between India and Pakistan and Afghanistan, which cannot be permitted to become another proxy for their ongoing conflict.
But the overriding immediate objective of our foreign policy must be to significantly step up our military engagement, preferably through greater involvement from NATO, and then ramp up our domestic involvement by funding education and health care, and putting in place an aggressive anti-drug strategy. We simply cannot afford to let Afghanistan slip once again into chaos and become a haven for terrorists and drug lords and criminals.
Finally, with regard to both Iraq and Afghanistan, we need more of something that is often in short supply here in our country: patience. I was struck, during our briefing at the embassy in Kabul, by a comment made by one of our U.S. aid workers, who had recently returned from the Southeast and had met with a number of former Taliban, so-called former Taliban. And one of these former Taliban said, "Americans may have all the watches, but we have all the time." I think it's a lesson that we forget at our peril. This will not be an easy undertaking. It will require patience, and it will require the continuing support of the American people.
I was struck, in my briefing with Ambassador Bremer -- his frequent reference to the American occupation in Germany. I think we've all heard Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Wolfowitz and others refer to the German example. There certainly are lessons to be learned from that, and in some respects we have actually exceeded the time line in place there. The banking system is further along than it was at the time in the post-World War II era in Germany. There is a central bank that's up and going, to some extent.
But it took 10 years to create a stable, sovereign government, and we still have troops in Germany, as we do in Japan, as we do in South Korea, as we do in Bosnia, as we do in Kosovo. So the idea that we can somehow bring about dramatic transformational change in either a short period of time or with a relatively limited financial commitment is contradicted by our own history. And therefore we have not only the need for patience but a sense that we are going to be involved over the long run, or we will not guarantee or create the conditions for potential success.
There are a lot of lessons that perhaps we can learn from already looking back at Iraq and Afghanistan. The overriding lesson I take away is the need for international support. And that has become almost a mantra, and people say it, and no one's quite sure what it means, but everyone keeps saying it. But to me, it is clear that just as we were reminded with the quote that I recited from Leslie Gelb that our interests are often embedded in American internationalism, I think have seen that clearly.
The irony is that while the administration was quite dismissive of broader international support before the war in Iraq and until relatively recently, the recent moves to try to obtain NATO support, the appointment of James Baker signal without [inaudible] broaden the international involvement. That certainly seems appropriate, and not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the smart thing to do. It is smart to have more people involved. It is smart to move toward multilateralism and anyway from unilateralism. It is smart to look at how we can get more people to have an ownership and participation interest in what we do.
And of course, that has been undermined in this last week by the by the administration's announcement, very publicly, that they were going to be cutting allies out of reconstruction contracts. Well, I think all of us can agree that American firms should be given preference. The extent of our role in toppling and capturing Saddam Hussein, the risks and losses incurred by our troops and our civilians, the hefty contribution of our taxpayers, the domestic economic situation that we face all argue for preference for American firms.
But the idea of so publicly prohibiting other nations from competition is unnecessarily antagonistic and may hinder our ability to gain support for such causes as debt relief and the fulfillment of financial commitments that were made at the Madrid conference. We already have a profound problem with how we are perceived today in the world, including among many of our traditional allies with whom we have a lot of shared values in common. And I have to add that no-bid contracts to the likes of Halliburton here at home does not help our government's image abroad, nor when it appears that taxpayers may be disadvantaged does it help our government's image at home, either.
And finally, let me just end with a few remarks about what we need to do to maintain domestic support for the patience that is required and the commitment that we've undertaken, since failure is not an option. It is extremely important that the administration level with the American people about the costs and the sacrifices that will be required in Afghanistan, in Iraq and in the ongoing war against terror.
Many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle have urged that the administration not only level with the American people but begin to talk about sharing sacrifice for this ongoing commitment. The lack of call, the absence of a call to sacrifice and to share the burden has been quite telling. And compared with other points of danger and risk in our history, it stands alone. We have gone forward with not only huge tax cuts for the wealthiest among us -- now, of course, since my husband's making money, we're in that category -- (laughter) -- so I certainly am aware of it and the implications -- but the extraordinary deficit that we have now accumulated of a half a trillion dollars suggests that we are not serious about engendering and maintaining domestic support.
One cannot continue to expect the American people to postpone fixing up their own schools and hospitals or foregoing the kind of infrastructure improvements that are called for, in sewer systems and water treatment systems and the like, or continue to do less than is necessary in homeland security to protect our own citizens, without undermining the support for the long-term commitment in the war against terrorism.
I worry a lot about how difficult it will be in the political arena to stay the course. And I would hope that not only in more transparency and openness and candor with the American people, but in a rhetoric that matches the sacrifice made every day by our men and women in uniform we can begin to create a deep and lasting support for what is necessary to be done to protect ourselves and to spread our values around the world, over however many years it may take.
You know, when we look back on our own history and we think about the leaders who have led in the past and have summoned us to difficult goals, it is a great tribute to the American people that they responded to that call for sacrifice and duty. Now we don't have a draft, and it would be all too easy to begin viewing our military as a mercenary force, somebody else's son and daughter or husband and wife, when, I think it's fair to say, that these are the best of the best of our young people in this generation. And if we don't have those of us who are most able to give being called to, it is very easy not only to be apart from, but turn our backs on, the level of sacrifice that is still required.
We need a tough-minded, muscular foreign and defense policy, one that not only respects our allies and seeks new friends as it strikes at known enemies, but which is understood and supported by the majority of the American people. The consequences of unilateralism, isolationism and overtly expressed preemptive defense, I think, are severe. We will end up with fewer nations, fewer intelligence services and fewer law enforcement personnel internationally helping to protect us against attacks, fewer nations helping to counterattack when we are struck, and less leverage in advancing democracy, freedom, open markets and other values that we believe elevate the people of the world even as they protect our people here at home.
This is not to propound some golden rule of international affairs, because I think it's rooted in the intelligence and the success of the 20th century. The more we throw our weight around, the more we encourage other nations to join with each other as a counterweight. We have a lot of problems besides Iraq and Afghanistan on the horizon. The number one problem remains the spread of weapons of mass destruction and those falling into the hands of either rogue nations or borderless terrorists. And so we have to have a united front of the world that cares about life more than death; that consists of builders instead of destroyers, standing together, fighting together, working together.
It is important that we remember the admonition, more than 40 years ago, of Dwight Eisenhower against arrogance. President Eisenhower said that "the people of the world must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect." I think we should listen to such wise counsel from our history, if we are to lead in the 21st century in a way that is keeping with our values and our interests.
We have many, many reasons to work more closely together, but the most important are our children, our future grandchildren, all the children who deserve from this generation of leadership the same commitment to building a safer, more secure world that we inherited from the last generation.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
RICHARD HAASS: Again, let me thank Senator Clinton.
What I'd like to do is abuse the prerogatives of the chair here and just try to get clarification on two issues or so, which were central to your talk, and then we'll open it up.
The first is on Iraq. You said, as I was listening, that we should not transfer sovereignty to the Iraqis until an appropriate time, and you argued, obviously, for internationalization, and you were worried about troop rotations. I was trying to deconstruct that. Were you saying, therefore, that we should delay beyond July 1 the program of transfer of sovereignty? And if so --
CLINTON: Well, I think that we should transfer leadership when we have maximized the conditions for stability and success. That may be in June or July, but it also could be undermined by our troop rotation, which will be disrupting a lot of the relationships on the ground that are essential for the trust and confidence to be present that must undermine such a transition.
I think everyone agrees that we should move as quickly as possible, it's just the devil is in the details about what is possible. I think we could buy ourselves some time, particularly because of this massive transition that we are going to be in the midst of, by creating some authority or organization with international participation and legitimacy that would help to oversee this transition. And it is also important that we bring in the neighbors in the region, who have a stake in the stability of Iraq, to support the move toward self-governance.
The idea behind the administration's proposal that was originally adopted by the Governing Council, which then seemed to have some second thoughts, was a kind of caucus system with mostly appointed people coming to some agreement on how to write a constitution and then create the conditions for elections. That has been, as you know, strongly criticized by at least Ayatollah Sistani. I think that we would have a greater chance of dealing with the legitimate objections of the Shi'a, which clearly go to one man, one vote, and move toward some kind of bridge, an international bridge, a creation of an organization or, as I suggested, an Iraqi reconstruction and development authority, something that would put a non-American face on these decisions.
You know, it is quite difficult to deal with Ayatollah Sistani since no American has met with him, that I'm aware of, and it's all through intermediaries. And I think that there are lots of issues that remain open and unanswered that I'm not sure Americans alone can successfully deal with. But I think in a broader, more expanded coalition, we would improve the chances that we could.
HAASS: Why don't I open it up. George? I'm sorry, if we can have people wait for the microphone and just very quickly state their name and their organizations.
AUDIENCE: George Schwab, National Committee on American Foreign Policy. Thank you very much, Senator, for your in-depth remarks.
I had one question. You mentioned very briefly danger of weapons of mass destruction. My question is, do you have any thoughts on how we should proceed with North Korea?
CLINTON: I do. I actually have spent an enormous amount of time trying to educate myself on this issue because I do think it is the number-one issue hat we confront. And just briefly let me put North Korea into some kind of context.
And let me also recognize former congressman Ben Gilman, who is here, who has been a stalwart voice for internationalism during his time in the Congress and is now at the United Nations. And I deeply respect him and am delighted to see him.
You know, the administration's approach to weapons of mass destruction, I believe, is ill-considered, the efforts to both reject and undermine nonproliferation treaties, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and other international efforts, without anything replacing them. I mean, it's one thing to say we're not in favor of this set of agreements, but let's work together to try to create a new 21st century protocol that would more accurately reflect the dangers we face. The administration's lukewarm support of Nunn-Lugar, I think, is a very big mistake, and I hope we can remedy that, because it has proven effective in many instances. I think we can point to, you know, Ukraine, Belarus and other places.
I also think it's a mistake to undermine the International Atomic Energy Agency in the almost derisive way that sometimes comes from the administration. Instead, I think, again, we should be looking to support them where we can and looking to try to upgrade and change where we can't, and deal with one of the real loopholes in the, you know, regimes that they attempt to enforce, which is the continuing presence of spent-fuel rods in places that are dangerous to have them.
With respect to North Korea, I have a hard time figuring out what the administration policy is. On the one hand, we know that there is a group of what might be referred to as very hard-line, anti-North Korean officials who don't want any kind of bilateral talks and don't want any kind of United States agreement of any sort. And they point to the continuing flaunting of agreements going back to '94 with the Clinton administration and forward, that demonstrate to them there's no point in having an agreement with North Korea.
There are still some multilateralists who believe that we can get an agreement by having this process with China and Russia and others involved. And it kind of moves in fits and starts.
And there are those lonely few who think we ought to move quickly to reach some kind of agreement with North Korea because it's too dangerous not to.
I'm sort of in the last camp, I guess. You know, my view is that the 1994 agreement, insofar as we can track it, did have a positive effect with respect to spent fuel and plutonium. It was, clearly, breached in spirit because of their efforts on enriched uranium. I always believe it is better to try to figure out if there some agreement that can be reached that is enforceable, rather than letting a dangerous situation drift without any real understanding of where it's going to end up.
So, from my perspective, I've urged the administration that if they are intent upon multilateral talks, hold the multilateral talks, but don't be adverse to having some bilateral pathway going at the same time.
You know, North Korea can't do anything very well except create weapons. And they live in such a delusional state, the best we can determine, that the idea of being able to become a nuclear power, and then having yet another cash crop to sell to terrorists and others, is very attractive. And they also could well pick up the message that if Saddam Hussein had had nuclear capacity instead of intending to and threatening to, we might not have invaded him.
So, it is a very difficult situation for the administration to find itself in, but I think they have been unwilling to really set a course and stick with it, at least as I would hope that eventually we could because it's a very dangerous part of the world and we can't afford to have them be any more nuclear than they are right now, whatever that may be, since our intelligence is somewhat up in the air about it as well.
HAASS: Yes, ma'am? Do you want to wait for a microphone? That would be helpful. It's right next to you.
AUDIENCE: Mia Bloom, Rutgers University, the Office of Counterterrorism. There was an article, a week ago Sunday, about tactics surrounding Abu Hishma with barbed wire. And there's been a lot of cooperation between the Israelis and the Americans in urban counter terror tactics. Could you comment on that because there's a possibility of it going really wrong.
CLINTON: Well, I think that many of us were taken aback when we saw that article and we saw the barbed wire and the fence. I did hear one report in the last 24 hours that the military command in that region is going to consider using the capture of Saddam Hussein as a way to back down from that, and I hope that's the case. I think it is important.
It is very hard to build any fence that's going to keep a terrorist out. That is certainly the tragic lesson of Israel's efforts against terrorism over all these years. And what we have to figure out how to do -- and we succeeded with respect to the capture of Saddam Hussein -- is to convince enough Iraqis that their future lies with us and with the possibility of a free, stable, economically viable Iraqi state. And I hope that that's the tactic that we will pursue.
HAASS: Yes, ma'am?
AUDIENCE: Felice Gaer, the Blaustein Institute for Human Rights. Thank you, Senator, for your speech and for reminding us [inaudible] also falls into that category. And with the constitutional loya jirga in Afghanistan right now meeting, I'm wondering if you could tell us whether you think, in terms of right things and smart things, whether the administration is adequately amplifying the voices of moderates and persons seeking freedom in that country. Thank you.
CLINTON: You know, Felice, I don't have any basis for an opinion about that. I know it's a concern of a number of people, and there's even a coalition of delegates going to the loya jirga who are raising that concern.
Obviously, this is a tough situation to be in. And there is a potential clash between realpolitik and our highest ideals at work here, because somehow the loya jirga and President Karzai, along with us, have to thread this needle. On the one hand, we've got the warlords and their militias and their potential destabilizing impact. On the other, we know that if we just side with them or we create a situation, either de facto or de jure, where they are once again in control, we haven't really succeeded. So it's going to be a tough balancing act.
From my impression and my conversations with President Karzai, he's well aware of that, and he's got some very good people around him. So I know that they are trying to strike that right balance. We'll have to see how it comes out.
HAASS: We're a bit over schedule. We'll try to take one or two more. Sir? We've got a microphone right here, to your left.
AUDIENCE: Gerry Hamilton. I'm the president of the American Council on Germany, and it is that professional connection which prompts me to ask you to delve back into one point which you made. You've said so many things today, Senator, that I could agree with wholeheartedly that I hate to pick on the one thing which I feel can't. But I have to ask the question: Do you feel that in the post-Cold War era, the presence of American forces in Germany has had anything to do with stability in that nation? And do you feel in fact that that was the case throughout most of the Cold War, or weren't those our own interests we were serving there? Thank you.
CLINTON: Well, I am by no means an expert on Germany. But I think our interests and German stability were coincidental for much of the last part of the 20th century. I believe that creating the conditions for a stable, peaceful Germany and particularly the integration of the East and the ongoing challenges that that poses was the highest priority for Germany and for us.
I remember very well conversations with Helmut Kohl, who was so grateful for the American presence and believed that without the continuing American presence and support for the forces of democracy and freedom and stability, the outcome might have been different.
Now who can look back and second-guess history? I'm -- I certainly can't. But I think it was in American interest and in German interest and in the eventual interests of our defeating Soviet communism that we retained troops in Germany.
Now I think we have to take a new look at, you know, where we deploy troops, where our bases are, what our interests are. But I certainly believe that it was an important and necessary step for us during those decades.
HAASS: We have a rule of ending council meetings on time, and I'm going to violate it, give Ben Gilman -- I always found it hard to resist the former chairman. So --
CLINTON: (Chuckles.) Most people did.
AUDIENCE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and congratulations on your presidency.
HAASS: Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Senator Clinton, we welcome you, and we welcome your astute analysis of what's been happening.
Having met with the military commanders in Afghanistan and in Iraq, do you favor more U.S. troops? I know you've suggested NATO, which is a good, sound suggestion. But what about our U.S. troop involvement?
And secondly, what are your thoughts about the Middle East peace process? (Laughter.)
CLINTON: (Chuckles.) Well, let's --
HAASS: All within a minute!
CLINTON: Yeah. Let's end on an easy question. (Laughter.)
With respect to troops, I still believe we need more troops, and we need a different mixture of troops. I would prefer that they be other than American troops, for all kinds of reasons.
We have this commitment by NATO in Afghanistan. I'm waiting for them to fulfill it. And I -- you know, I landed at Kabul. It's run by the German military. We know that they're already there, doing important work, like these provincial reconstruction teams. But we need more of a presence. We did not keep enough troops there, and we haven't gotten enough of our NATO friends to participate.
In Iraq, I know that the refrain constantly from the administration is, we don't need any more troops. I think that we clearly had enough troops to win the military victory, and everyone knew that it was inevitable. We did not enough troops to dominate the country after we secured the military victory.
And I cannot tell you how many people -- Iraqis -- mentioned to me the looting. It is still a huge overhang. "How could you come, get rid of Saddam, and then let everything be looted?" Well, part of it is because we were there in a kind of, you know, cognitive dissonant way, if you will. We were there to win a military victory, but not to be viewed as an occupier. And the administration didn't want to put in enough troops to do that, and they were reluctant to declare martial law. And they weren't really equipped with the right mix of troops, the MPs and the Civil Affairs and the others, to be able to move in immediately with respect to a postwar situation.
So I still believe we could do with more troops. I'd like to see them be non-American troops. And I think there are some things we could do. And if we are able to convince our NATO allies to go into Iraq, you know, we could move American troops out of the Kurdish area, because that is a much more stable environment right now. We could put in NATO troops there. We could move British and American troops out of the South and put in different NATO troops there. And we could concentrate our troop strength in the central part of the country, around Baghdad.
But we also -- continually we're told we did not have enough intelligence, we did not have enough MPs, we did not have enough Civil Affairs and probably not enough engineers. So we've got to keep in mind not only numbers but troop mix.
And of course, then, you know, that this raises the issue that is now percolating in Washington: What should be the end strength of our Army and the rest of our military? I have supported Senators Hagel and Reed in their effort to just be honest about it and talk about expanding the numbers in our Army, particularly in light of the fact that many of the key components that we needed in both Iraq and Afghanistan were Reserve and Guard forces. And we are depleting them, and I worry greatly about the strains that we've put on these citizen soldiers.
So there's a lot to be looked at as we go forward with Secretary Rumsfeld's transformational strategy, but it's essential that we be honest about what it's going to require of us to be effective in these various theaters. And you know, we can talk about that at greater length, but I think that's how I see it.
You know, really, this would take another hour, but it is imperative that the United States be actively involved and perceived as being actively involved in the Middle East. I think we lost some very valuable time and opportunity with the transition from the Clinton to the Bush administration. Obviously the roadmap is a possible vehicle for getting people together to try to talk about what the future holds. We have to continue to bear down on the Palestinians to deal with the terrorists and we've seen a respite from terrorism, which always suggests to me that it is controllable and it can be stopped and we therefore have to expect it to be stopped.
But we are in a very dangerous period right now, it seems, and I would hope that the administration really puts a lot of time and attention. You know, I know that there were many criticisms and questions about the Oslo process, but I do believe that having people engaged in a process -- particularly one that steadily cuts the number of terrorism incidents and diminishes the loss of life in Israel and among the Palestinians, as happened in the 1990s -- because there was a sense of engagement: the Israeli economy picked up; there were economic investments made in Jordan and elsewhere that I believe have helped to stabilize, especially in this rather volatile period with what's going on in Iraq, the relations not only with Israel and a country like Jordan, but with respect to American interests.
So it's a very important issue that we ignore at our peril, and we have to stand steadfastly for Israel's security, but how the best way we do that is increasingly -- (audio break) -- by some of the statements by leading Likud officials about the dangers posed to Israel without a two-state solution, you know. And I -- so there -- history and demography may not be on Israel's side, in the absence of some kind of agreement, sooner instead of later, that then is enforced by the United States and the international community and people are held responsible for their actions.
So that's a very brief, overly generalized response, but we have to protect Israel's interests and we have to do everything we can to end terrorism emanating from the territories there.
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