Remarks by Deputy Secretary Negroponte at Trinity College DublinJohn D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
November 17, 2008
Thank you Provost. I think that this is the oldest Society that I belong to. It is a pleasure and an honor and I thank you for this invitation to speak before you today. I want to mention that, somewhat to my embarrassment, this is the first time I have been to Ireland. One needs to say, better late than never. I am very happy to be here. And, again, thank you for bestowing this honor on me. I am humble to follow in the footsteps of such previous honorees as Archbishop Tutu, Senator John McCain and many others.
I am also delighted to have this opportunity to be with you in Ireland, a land I admired long before I ever visited it thanks to the skillful diplomacy of my Irish nanny, Nora Griffin. It is an especially great thrill to speak to a group that counts Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, and Samuel Beckett as alumni. Next to such literary giants, one can’t help but feel—in the coinage of another Trinity alumnus—Lilliputian, so I’ll stay on relatively surer ground, and sparing you all my reflections on James Joyce, will limit myself to the subject of American foreign policy.
Specifically, I’d like to speak tonight about the Bush Administration’s foreign policy—the broad agenda we’ve sought to advance in the past eight years, and where it stands today, just two months from the beginning of the Obama presidency. There is much anticipation, as the Provost suggested, and excitement around the world for President-elect’s inauguration, but I believe that many of the international challenges that we have faced—and indeed, many of the approaches that we’ve developed in response—will endure into the Obama presidency. So I think it’s important to get clarity about what we’ve achieved, how we’ve achieved it, and what remains to be done.
The Bush foreign policy is synonymous, in many people’s minds, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in reality it is much broader. It is properly understood not simply as a reaction to the September 11th attacks but as an attempt to adapt American power to an international landscape shifting from the tectonic forces of globalization.
Globalization is transforming our world in two important ways. On the one hand, it is empowering states that can seize its benefits, allowing billions of citizens in countries like China and India, Brazil and Indonesia to join the global economy and translate their growing wealth into national power. Increased cross-border trade and investment have been the engine of transformation of the world economy in the post-war period and have lifted millions from poverty.
On the other hand, globalization—as the current financial crisis attests—is revealing the downsides of integration. Domestic financial troubles in the United States and elsewhere are affecting the real economies of other countries and rendering developing states more vulnerable to the fluctuations of commodity price shocks and reductions in trade financing. Globalization is further revealing the inability of weak and failing states to govern effectively and to create opportunities for their people. Such states create holes in the fabric of the international system where terrorists can arm and train, where criminal networks can traffic in drugs and people and weapons, and where civil conflict and disease can fester and spread.
In response to these challenges, the Bush Administration has pursued a foreign policy that unites our ideals and our interests. We have aimed to work with our many international partners to build a world of democratic, well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people, that reduce widespread poverty, and that conduct themselves responsibly in the international system.
This is admittedly an ambitious goal, and achieving it will require a sustained commitment from the United States and our allies. But the Bush Administration has begun the difficult, often costly process of setting the foundation for a twenty-first century international order that harnesses the power of globalization to strengthen security and spread prosperity around the globe.
Our top priority, as you know, has been defeating the threat that violent extremism poses to free societies. Clearly, our most pressing need is to prevent existing extremists from launching attacks, and we have achieved good progress towards that end.
But, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said, we “cannot kill or capture our way to victory” in this war. Defeating extremism will require denying extremist groups safe havens and new recruits by supporting the growth of societies that are governed by law, with accountable, transparent institutions that respond to the needs of their people. And although this will be a generational struggle, we have already seen populations from Pakistan to Jordan to Iraq to Saudi Arabia turn against al Qaeda. In large part due to al Qaeda’s atrocities against fellow Muslims, the appeal of extremist ideologies is at low ebb in the Muslim world. Across the broader Middle East and beyond, moderate forces are resisting the extremists who are trying to hijack their peaceful religion.
Nowhere has this resistance been more striking than in Iraq. Every day, in ways big and small, Iraqis are rejecting extremism, pursuing reconciliation, expanding opportunity, and assuming control of their country’s future, and we are supporting them. The goal we share is an Iraq that is federal, democratic, pluralistic, and unified; an Iraq that is at peace with itself, with its neighbors, and with the international community. Iraqis are steadily achieving that goal, and the challenge now is to reinforce their recent progress and help Iraq overcome remaining obstacles to its success.
Iraq’s progress is fragile and reversible, but also significant and hopeful. For some perspective, consider the challenges Iraq faced when I arrived there as United States ambassador in June 2004. There was an increasingly widespread and lethal insurgency; a weak central government unable to provide security or public services; extremist infiltration of key institutions, including security forces; heavy foreign debt; and a profound reluctance by neighboring states to engage with, much less recognize, Iraq’s new government.
Now consider the situation today. The citizens of Anbar have made decisive progress in expelling al Qaeda from their province. Moqtada al Sadr has declared a ceasefire. Iraq’s government is asserting its sovereignty through successful operations in Basra, Sadr City, Mosul and elsewhere. Iraq’s security forces have assumed responsibility for the security of 13 of the 18 provinces. Iraq’s economy is growing by approximately 9 percent per year. Political reconciliation is progressing. And several of Iraq’s neighbors have named ambassadors to Iraq, while several more have made high-level official visits.
The significant progress of the past 20 months does not mean our work in Iraq is over. The reconciliation process, in particular, requires time and patience, and depends on the security situation’s continuing to improve. Sustaining United States and coalition involvement—both military and diplomatic—is vital. In addition, Iraq must overcome several hurdles of its own along the road to success. They include passing hydrocarbon legislation that equitably divides oil revenues among Iraq’s regions; successfully holding provincial elections now scheduled for January 31st; professionalizing the security forces; and settling the status of mixed Arab-Kurd cities in the oil-rich north.
These challenges are both a measure of how far Iraq has come and of how far it has yet to go. But as Iraqis work through these challenges, what’s already clear is their overwhelming rejection of extremists’ bleak vision for their country. Al Qaeda has suffered an ideological and strategic defeat. It is in retreat in Iraq, and its deliberate, unrestrained killing of fellow Muslims—both Shi’a and Sunni—is discrediting its ideology throughout the Muslim world. Osama bin Laden once called Iraq the “perfect base” and sought to establish a footing there for al Qaeda’s offensive presence in the Arab world. Today, al Qaeda increasingly has no base in Iraq. In losing el Anbar province, it also lost its most significant toehold in the Arab world. Al Qaeda cannot and should not be allowed to regain it.
The emerging, sovereign Iraqi state also represents a setback for Iran. Iran’s regime hoped Iraq would serve as a platform for projecting Iranian influence into the Arab world. But through its actions against Iranian-backed militias, Iraq has made two things clear: it will not be a client state of Tehran, and it will not be a theocracy. Iraq’s leaders do not see the world as Iran’s do. For Iraq’s leaders, the main distinction is not between Sunni and Shi’a but is between moderates and extremists. The emerging Iraq reflects this worldview: pluralistic, democratic, and a partner in regional stability.
Our goal in Afghanistan, as in Iraq, is to support the people’s desire for a future of opportunity, stability, and peace. Whenever the Afghan people have had the chance to choose a course for their nation, they have voted overwhelmingly, and at great personal risk and sacrifice, for a future of democracy, law, prosperity, and modernity. Their democratically-elected leaders are working hard to build that future, and together with our international partners, including Ireland, we are supporting them. But chaos is always easier to create than order, and the Taliban is a determined and ruthless enemy that has regrouped, to an extent, from the devastating blow we dealt it. The Taliban’s theory of victory is not to prevail on the battlefield or to win Afghan hearts and minds. It is to undermine the elected Afghan government, fracture the international coalition, and outlast us in Afghanistan.
Our theory of victory recognizes that defeating the Taliban on the battlefield is not enough. We are working with our Afghan and international partners to render the Taliban obsolete by supporting an effective, accountable Afghan state that can provide for human security through good governance, the rule of law, and economic opportunity. This is challenging work under any circumstances, and ongoing violence, narco-trafficking, and widespread corruption compound the difficulty. But where the Afghan government and its armed forces, working with international partners, have been able to implement this strategy—for instance, in the North and East of Afghanistan—the Taliban is in retreat. The Taliban can prevail only if the international community and our Afghan partners lose our will and abandon our commitment to help the Afghan people build their new nation.
We should not forget what we’ve already achieved in Afghanistan. In 2001, under the Taliban, only 900,000 children had access to education and girls were forbidden from attending school. Only eight percent of the population had access to healthcare, and thousands of infants and children were needlessly dying from preventable diseases.
Today, Afghanistan is far better off. More than 65 percent of the population has access to healthcare, and child mortality has fallen by 26 percent. Six million children now attend school, including over 1.5 million girls. Afghanistan is still tragically under-developed, but these figures, and the individual stories behind them, remind us that efforts to build a stable Afghanistan touch millions of lives.
The United States has also worked to support moderate political forces struggling to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East. This Administration has helped to launch and support a negotiations process between the parties that will provide a foundation on which to seek a just and lasting peace. We are hopeful of success because majorities in Israel and the Palestinian Authority now support achieving peace through compromise and have leaders who reflect that will. On the Palestinian side, we are supporting responsible leaders in an unprecedented effort to realign their society around the values of non-violence. Of course, Hamas’ control of Gaza is deeply troubling and threatens both Israel’s security and the Palestinians’ well-being. But that control also means that Hamas, and other violent extremists, can no longer hide in the shadows, destroying all prospects for peace without bearing any consequences for their actions. They are now being forced to make the fundamental choice they have always avoided: Either you are a terrorist group, or you are a political party—but you cannot be both.
All of the challenges I’ve mentioned intersect with another major challenge in the region: Iran. Through five United Nations Security Council resolutions, the international community has spoken with one voice in demanding Iran end its production of fissile material that can be used to make nuclear weapons. We are also working to end Iran’s other WMD and long-range missile programs, and to push Iran to abandon its support for terrorist and insurgent groups destabilizing democratically elected governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority. Finally, we continue to support the great and proud Iranian people in their pursuit of human dignity, human rights, and greater liberty.
Together with our European allies, Russia, and China, the United States has made clear to the Iranian regime the potential benefits of changing course and rejoining the community of nations as a responsible, constructive member. Those benefits include cooperation on peaceful nuclear energy, including light water reactors; increased trade and investment; deepening integration into the global economy; growing financial and technological assistance; and an opportunity to build better relations with the international community, including with the United States. But if Iranian leaders continue to support terrorists, pursue a nuclear weapons capability, and subvert its neighbors, we will rally the international community to deepen its isolation.
The Iranian regime’s list of victims is long and diverse. Throughout the Middle East, its agents and proxies stand in the way of moderates trying to build better futures for their societies—in Syria and Lebanon, in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and most of all, in Iran itself. But the Iranian regime’s malicious meddling doesn’t prove its power. To the contrary, it demonstrates the bankruptcy of a vision it can spread only by force and fear and intimidation.
Through the resistance it inspires, Iran’s regime—as is the case with al Qaeda—shows that the impulse to build a better life is strong in the broader Middle East. Indeed, whether in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, or South America, societies throughout the developing world are working to improve governance, to expand opportunity, and create better lives for their people, and the United States is supporting them.
Since 2001, the United States has doubled assistance to Latin America, nearly tripled it worldwide, and quadrupled it to Africa. We have led a multilateral effort to forgive $60 billion of debt for poor nations, and converted all of our development aid to grants instead of loans. And more fundamentally, we have changed our approach to assistance, putting our trust in leaders and citizens who are taking responsibility for their own challenges, taking ownership of their own development, and remaking their own countries.
We recognized, for example, that good institutions and basic investments in people and infrastructure are essential to development. So we created the so-called Millennium Challenge Account Initiative, which transforms our assistance into an incentive for developing countries to build the institutions that foster sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. Our Millennium Challenge Corporation has now approved development grants to transformational countries totaling more than $7.5 billion.
We recognized, also, that investments in basic health are essential for development. So we launched the largest international health initiative ever undertaken by one country: an $18 billion commitment over five years to combat HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria in the hardest hit countries. In 2003, when President Bush announced this initiative, fewer than 50,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa were receiving anti-retroviral treatment. Today, that figure is nearly 1.7 million. President Bush’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has allowed nearly 200,000 children in Africa to be born free of HIV and is on track to meet its ambitious five-year goals of treating two million people, preventing seven million new infections, and caring for 10 million people affected by HIV/AIDS. And thanks to a $48 billion re-authorization by our Congress, this initiative will help millions more in coming years.
These numbers, impressive as they are, paint only a partial picture of the American people’s compassion and generosity. Americans express their commitment to the developing world in their everyday lives through private philanthropy and remittances that dwarf the amount of government aid. In 2006, for example, United States private philanthropy and remittances to the developing world totaled $106.3 billion—four and a half times United States official development assistance. Indeed, relative to Gross National Product, only Ireland gives a comparable amount of philanthropy. And while these statistics do not diminish the generosity of donor other governments, they say something quite positive about our societies and about the responsibility our countrymen feel to support others striving for better, more hopeful lives.
To sustain this support amid concerns over a global economic downturn, the United States intends to honor its development assistance commitments and work against efforts to erect economic barriers and protectionist policies. Ultimately, we must realize that it is investment and trade that best enables our partners in the developing world to fight poverty and transform their countries. That is why in addition to working towards a successful conclusion to the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations, the United States under President Bush has signed free trade agreements extending the benefits of unencumbered trade to developing nations in Central America and the Middle East. Our priority in our closing months is securing the passage in Congress of new agreements that we have concluded with the countries of Colombia and South Korea.
Finally, let me say a word about the rising powers of the twenty-first century. Different powers present different sets of challenges and opportunities for the United States and the developed world. But as a general matter, we welcome the rise of strong, capable partners willing to assume their fair share of responsibility as stakeholders in the international system. We have worked particularly hard to build close, strategic partnerships with large, pluralistic democracies like India and Brazil. Such partnerships are a platform for projecting influence and for cooperating on the full panorama of common interests.
Those interests include long-term challenges of international governance, such as climate change. We cannot reach effective solutions to this challenge without consensus among both developed and developing major economies, especially India and China. Over the past several years, the Bush Administration has begun the difficult work of building that consensus through the Major Economies mechanism. And thanks to this process, there is now momentum among all major stakeholders in the international system to cooperate towards establishing a post-Kyoto framework on climate change.
I am hopeful that the United States, together with our allies and partners, can overcome the serious challenges that we face in a globalizing, multi-polar world. This is said to be the Asian century. But without taking anything away from the vitality and potential of Asia’s economies, I believe the United States will remain, in Madeline Albright’s words, the world’s “indispensable nation.”
My optimism reflects my assessment of America’s position today and my nearly five decades of experience as an American diplomat. I served in Saigon during the 1960s when the United States and Vietnam were sliding towards war. I served in Honduras in the 1980s when democracy was the exception in Latin America. And I served in Mexico in the early 1990s, when the United States and Mexico were still known as “distant neighbors.” Those memories are virtually unrecognizable in today’s world. The U.S.-Vietnam relationship has opened a new chapter of growing economic, military, and cultural ties; Latin America has undergone a democratic transformation; and thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement, U.S.-Mexican trade has increased nearly four-fold as our bilateral partnership has flourished. So while history is not a linear, inevitable march of progress, and while we still confront dangerous, difficult challenges, I am convinced of the benefits of a U.S.-led international order based on good governance, economic freedom, and open trade.
I am equally convinced that these principles will continue to serve us well in the twenty-first century, and should continue to define an international order that promotes prosperity, security, and stability for all nations.
Thank you very much.
Released on November 18, 2008