John Kerry's Foreign Policy
In the campaign for president of the United States, the definitive
speech Senator John Kerry gave on foreign policy and national
security was actually back on May 27 in Seattle. His convention
address, on the other hand, was all about his war experience or
at least it seemed that way. He didn’t say a word about this in
May, though, thus giving you a sense of how Kerry’s stump
speech has been molded since the campaign kicked into high
As I promised to present both sides of the debate, and having
already done more than a few pieces on the opinions of President
Bush and his acolytes these past few years, I present Kerry’s
Seattle address without comment. [Edited only slightly.]
There was a time, not so long ago, when the might of our
alliances was a driving force in the survival and the success of
freedom, in two world wars, in the long years of the Cold War,
and then from the Gulf War, to Bosnia, to Kosovo, America led
instead of going it alone. We extended a hand, not a fist. We
respected the world, and the world respected us.
More than a century ago, Teddy Roosevelt defined American
leadership in foreign policy. He said America should walk softly
and carry a big stick. Time and again this administration has
violated the fundamental tenet of Roosevelt’s approach. As
Roosevelt described it, if a man continually blusters, if he lacks
civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble.
And that is precisely what this administration has ignored.
They’ve looked to force before exhausting diplomacy; they
bullied when they should have persuaded. They’ve gone it alone
when they should have assembled a whole team. They have
hoped for the best when they should have prepared for the worst.
They’ve made America less safe than we should be in a
dangerous world. In short they have undermined the legacy of
generations of American leadership, and that is what we must
restore, and that is what I will restore.
Today, as you around you, talk to your neighbors, listen in your
places of work, talk with family at homes, there’s a powerful
yearning around the world for an America that listens and leads
again; an America that is respected, not just feared and
mistrusted. I believe that respect is an indispensable mark of our
nation’s character, and it is an indispensable source of our
nation’s strength. It is the indispensable bond of America’s
It’s time for a new national security policy that is founded on
four principal imperatives.
First, we must launch and lead a new era of alliances for the
Second, we must modernize the world’s most powerful military
to meet the new threats.
Third, because our military might is not the only source of
power, of our power in the world, we must deploy all that is in
the American arsenal – our diplomacy, our intelligence system,
our economic power, and most importantly, the appeal, the
extraordinary appeal that through centuries has made us who we
are, the appeal of our values and our ideas.
Fourth and finally, to secure our full independence, our full
freedom, to be the masters of our own destiny, we must free
America from its dangerous dependence on Mideast oil.
These four imperatives are an inescapable reality. The world –
and the war itself – has changed. The challenge and the enemy
are different. And we have to think and we have to act anew.
Today we’re waging a global war against a terrorist movement
committed to our destruction. Terrorists like al Qaeda and its
copycat killers are unlike any adversary that our nation has ever
faced. We don’t know for certain how they’re organized. We
don’t even know for certain how many operatives they have. But
we know the destruction that they can inflict. We saw it in New
York and in Washington. We’ve seen it in Bali and in Madrid, in
Israel and across the Middle East. And we see it day after day in
This threat will only be magnified as the technology to build
nuclear and chemical and biological weapons continues to
spread. And we can only imagine what it would be like, what
would happen, if the deadly forces of terrorism got their hands
on the deadliest weapons in history.
Everyone outside of this administration seems to understand that
we’re in deep trouble in Iraq. Failure there would be a boon to
our enemies, and it would jeopardize the long-term prospects for
a peaceful, democratic Middle East, leaving us at war not just
with a small radical minority, but with increasingly large
portions of the entire Muslim world.
There is also the continuing instability of Afghanistan, where al
Qaeda has a base. Osama bin Laden is still at large because the
Bush administration didn’t finish him off at the Battle of Tora
Bora when they had the chance.
And in East Asia, North Korea poses a genuine nuclear threat
while we have begun to strip American forces from the peninsula
to relieve the overburdened forces in Iraq .
I want to set out the overall architecture of a new policy to make
America stronger and respected in the world.
The first new imperative represents a return to the fundamental
principle that guided us in peril and victory through the past
century – alliances matter, and the United States must lead them.
Shredding alliances is not the way to win the war on terror or
even to make America safer. As president, my number one
security goal will be to prevent the terrorists from gaining
weapons of mass murder, and our overriding mission will be to
disrupt and destroy their terrorist cells. Because al Qaeda is a
network with many branches, we have to take the fight to the
enemy on every continent – smartly. And we have to enlist other
countries in that cause.
America must always be the world’s paramount military power,
but we can magnify our power through alliances. We always
have. It has always served us. It’s always saved us money, it’s
always saved us lives, it’s always made it safer. We simply can’t
go it alone or rely on a collation of the few.
The threat of terrorism demands alliances on a global scale, to
find the extremist groups, to guard ports and stadiums, to share
intelligence, and to get the terrorists before they get us.
In short, we need a coalition of the able, and in truth, no force on
earth is more able than the United States and its allies. So we
must build that force and we can. We can be strong without
being stubborn; indeed, that is ultimately the only way that we
But building strong alliances is only the first step. We cannot
meet the new threats unless our military is adapted for new
missions. And that is the second imperative.
As president, on my first day in office, I will send the message to
every man and woman in our armed forces, this commander-in-
chief will ensure that you are the best led, best equipped fighting
force in the world, and you will be armed with the right weapons,
schooled in the right skills and fully prepared to win on the
battlefield. But you will never be sent into harm’s way without
enough troops for the task or asked to fight a war – and you will
never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace.
And you will never be given assignments which have not been
clearly defined and for which you are not professionally trained.
This administration has discarded and disrespected the advice,
wisdom and experience of our professional military officers, and
often ended the careers of those who dared to give their honest
assessments. That is not the way to make the most solemn
decisions of war and peace. As president, I will seek out, listen
to, and respect the views of our experienced military leaders,
and I will never let ideology trump the truth.
I will honor professional military careers and the lifetime of
patriotism that they represent.
In the past when our leaders envisioned the use of force, they had
in mind the unleashing of massive numbers of American troops,
battleships and aircraft in confrontation with the uniformed
military of an enemy nation. Of course, a conventional war to
halt conventional aggression still remains a possibility in some
places and it is one for which we must prepare, but there are
other, urgent challenges.
I will modernize our military to match its new missions. We
must get the most out of our new technologies. We must reform
training and update the way we structure our armed forces: for
example, with special forces designed to strike terrorists in their
sanctuaries, and with National Guard and Reserve units retooled
to meet the requirements of homeland security which have been
neglected by this administration.
This strategy focuses not only on what we must do but on what
we must prevent. We must ensure that lawless states and
terrorists will not be armed with weapons of mass destruction.
This is the single gravest threat to our security. Any potential
adversary should know that we will defend ourselves against the
possibility of an attack by unconventional arms. And if such a
strike does occur, as commander in chief I will respond with
overwhelming and devastating force.
If such an attack appears imminent, as commander in chief I will
do whatever is necessary to stop it. And as commander in chief,
I will never cede our security to anyone. I will always do what is
necessary to safeguard our country .
So this is my message to the terrorists. As commander in chief, I
will bring the full force of our nation’s power to bear on finding
and crushing your networks. We’ll use every resource of our
power to destroy you.
But not all problems should be viewed through a military lens.
We should never wait to act until we have no other choice but
war, and that brings me to my third new imperative. In this new
world, beyond military power, we must deploy all of the power
in America’s arsenal, and we should do that before we go to war.
We need to employ a layered strategy to keep the worst weapons
from falling into the worst hands, a strategy that invokes our
non-military strength early enough and effectively enough so
military force does not become our only option.
As president, I will launch a long-overdue global initiative to
fully secure the materials needed for nuclear weapons that
already exist and sharply limit and control future production.
This initiative will include changes in international treaties,
sharing of intelligence, and setting conditions for economic
sanctions and the interdiction of illegal shipments. The key is
for America to lead, to build an international consensus for early
preventative action so that states don’t even think of taking the
nuclear road, and potential traffickers in nuclear / biological
technology fear the consequences of getting caught.
We must also have the best intelligence capabilities. Nothing in
a war on terror is more important than early warning and specific
information when dangerous technologies are being developed or
sold. Whether it was September 11th or Iraq’s supposed weapons
of mass destruction, we have endured in these last few years
under this administration too many intelligence failures. And
that is why I will do what this president has failed to do: reform
our intelligence system by making the next director of the CIA a
true director of national intelligence with true control over
intelligence personnel and budgets all across our government so
we coordinate more effectively that we ever have before .
Finally, a new national security policy demands an end to our
dependence on Mideast oil, and that is my fourth new
imperative. For too long America has lost its voice when talking
about the policies and practices of some governments in the
Persian Gulf. We’ve been constrained by their control over the
oil that fuels too large a portion of our economy. This is a
weakness that this administration has ignored and one that must
I have proposed a plan for energy independence from Mideast oil
in the next 10 years. It invests in new technologies and
alternative fuels. It provides tax credits to help consumers buy
and manufacturers build fuel efficiency cars in the United States
of America, built by Americans.
It will tap America’s ingenuity and initiative to strengthen our
national security. It will grow our economy, and it will protect
our health and our environment, and reduce the cost of health
care in America.
I will look for cooperation and I will seek to work constructively
with all those who want to become part of a peaceful and
reformed Middle East. But we must never be forced into a box
where we trade our values for oil
If we are serious about energy independence, then we can finally
be serious about confronting the failure of Saudi Arabia to do all
that it can to stop financing and providing ideological support of
al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
We cannot continue this administration’s kid glove approach to
the supply and laundering of terrorist money. As president, I will
impose tough financial sanctions against nations or banks that
engage in money laundering and facilitate terror in this world,
and we will take strong steps against those who fail to act. I will
launch a “name and shame” campaign against those that are
financing terror, and if they do not respond, they will be shut out
of the U.S. financial system.
And the same goes for Saudi sponsorship of clerics who promote
the ideology of Islamic terror. To put it simply, we will not do
business as usual with any country that does not demonstrate its
full will to partner in this struggle. They must all take concrete
steps to stop their clerics from fueling the fires of Islamic
Let me now turn to a subject that I know is much on the minds of
all Americas – the situation in Iraq .The president (did)
acknowledge what many have known all along; that we would be
far better off if our allies were with us. What’s important now is
to turn this late realization and acknowledgement from words
into action .
Attracting international support in a situation like Iraq is a clear
test of presidential leadership; it is what capable and confident
presidents do. It is its own statement about this administration’s
failed approach that they must so constantly be so urged to
change that approach, and that they do so only reluctantly and at
the last minute.
It is time for President Bush to make a sustained effort to
accept Iraq as an alliance mission with more troops from NATO
and its partners. He should seek help in expanding international
support for training Iraq’s own security forces so that they can
safeguard the rights and the well-being of their own people and
allow them to come out into the streets and take part in new
freedom. And he should propose the creation of an international
high commissioner to work with the Iraqis in organizing
elections, drafting a constitution and coordinating reconstruction.
Over the last year, we’ve heard from the president that our policy
should be to simply stay the course. Well, one thing I learned in
the Navy is that when the course you’re on is heading for the
shoals, it’s pretty smart to shift the rudder. Staying the course is
important. But staying the wrong course is not a sign of strength;
it is a mark of stubbornness, and it ultimately weakens this nation
and the world.
If President Bush does not secure new support from our allies,
we will once again feel the consequences of a foreign policy that
has divided the world instead of uniting it. Our troops will be in
greater peril. The mission in Iraq will be harder to accomplish, if
not impossible, and our country will be less secure.
I have spoken today about the architecture of a new national
security policy. But at issue here is not just a set of
prescriptions; at stake is a vision of an America that’s truly
stronger, truly respected in the world. This is not a partisan
cause. Patriotism doesn’t belong to any one party or to any
president or to any ideology. And if I am president, I will enlist
the best among us, regardless of party, to protect the security of
And I will call on the whole nation to let America be America
My father was a pilot during World War II. A year before Pearl
Harbor, he was on active duty. And for the rest of his life, he
served in one capacity or another, whether nationally or locally,
by vocation or as a volunteer. He told me shortly before he died
that the human conscience, when it works, is the most divine
thing in our small segment of the universe.
In today’s world, conscience marks the difference between
tolerance and terror. In an earlier era, it was the difference
between honor and holocaust. Much has been written about the
greatest generation. The question before us now is what will be
written about our own, because for better or worse, as Abraham
Lincoln once said, we cannot escape the judgment of history.
We do not have to live in fear or stand alone. We don’t have to
be a lonely watchman on the walls of freedom. Instead, we must
honor the legacy of the greatest generation by restoring respect
for the United States as the greatest force for freedom and
progress on this planet.
Hott Spotts will return August 19.