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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2004 > March

Remarks at the 2004 Annual Kennan Institute Dinner, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Secretary Colin L. Powell
National Press Club
Washington, DC
March 25, 2004

(7:00 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Lee, for that very warm and kind and short introduction. (Laughter.) We did have some interesting times a couple of days ago before the 9/11 Commission, and you did give me instructions to be here on time tonight, knowing that I had to go to Madrid overnight and come back from Madrid after attending a very moving memorial service.

But in order to follow your instructions, I managed to get myself in trouble. Because when I was in Madrid, after the memorial service, I was planning to see and was invited to see the new Prime Minister of Spain, Mr. Zapatero. And as I was waiting to see him, there were a number of other leaders before me. And for those of you who follow these matters, you will notice in Financial Times today, there is an article that I was a little bit rude and that I was a little indignant that I was being kept waiting by the President of the French Republic. President Chirac was in with the new Spanish Prime Minister.

Now, I don't wish to offend my French friends or President Chirac or anyone. But I was anxious, but it had nothing to do with the fact that I was waiting in queue behind President Chirac. It had to do with the very simple fact that my airplane crew was running out of flight time, and if I did not get into this meeting with the new Prime Minister and out of this meeting with the new Prime Minister, out to the airport in 15 minutes flat, and back here to the United States, we would have lost 24 hours and I would not be with you this evening. (Laughter.) So with due apologies to (applause) President Chirac, I am here.

Secretary Albright, so many other distinguished guests here, I am quite pleased to be with you all this evening. And Lee, I assume that both you and the dinner chairman, Tom Pickering, had a hand in inviting me here to talk about diplomacy and foreign policy and the Kennan legacy. And it's flattering because I can think of no two other Americans that I admire more with respect to their contributions to diplomacy, to foreign policy, and their dedication to public service. Tom -- one of the most able and experienced of all of our Foreign Service Officers, still regarded as something of an icon in Foreign Service (applause) and continuing to do your great work.

And Lee, of course we all know they grow 'em tall and tough, but smart and subtle out in Indiana. And you're a diplomat in so many ways. And you and I have spent some quality time together lately, Lee. And in fact, as I see Madeleine here, and Tom here, and you here, and this nice big table here, we might as well get started again and see what else we can do. (Laughter.)

But I thank you, Lee, for being the Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission. Once again, you're serving your nation. And I know the Commission will do its job well and I know the Commission will wade through all of the charges and countercharges, comments and commentary that we see going back and forth. The American people want to know exactly what might have been known or not known during this difficult period before 9/11 and over a period of two Administrations.

I know that President Bush was committed to doing everything we can do with respect to terrorism and I know President Clinton felt the same way. None of us were unmindful of the threat that this nation was facing overseas and here at home. And I know that as a result of the dedicated work that you and your Commission members will put into this and all of the people you have been speaking to, you will come out with the right answer for the American people. The families of the 9/11 victims want that and expect that, and I know you'll provide that to them.

And we also want to know what we can do better in the future. What might we have missed in the past that could have given us more indication of what was about to happen, but just as important, what should we do in the future to prevent a recurrence? And I hope the Commission succeeds, and I'm confident that it will under your leadership and with the leadership provided before and by all the members of the Commission.

It's a particular honor for me to have been invited to this annual Kennan Institute dinner. Not only does this dinner celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Institute, it also coincides with the Ambassador's 100th birthday.

The Institute is renowned for its sponsorship of scholars examining the former Soviet Union and Russian and Eurasian issues in general. Its work has been of the highest quality, as befits the Wilson Center and the Smithsonian Institution, of which it is a part, and it's still going strong after all these years. Whether it's the Institute's short-term grant program or its research scholarship program, interested top-rate scholars know where to apply. And if it's archives one needs, the NPR/Kennan Institute-founded audio archive is superb.

Now, the Kennan Institute has seen some pretty amazing changes over the 30 years of its life. We have moved from a time when Americans and Russians sat mostly in separate rooms and considered each other as target sets to where we now sit in the same room and target the solution to problems common to us all.

I was in Moscow just a few weeks ago. I can testify to the truth of that statement. Could I have thought 30 years ago or 30-odd years ago, 32 years ago to be precise, when I was a young lieutenant colonel of infantry and I had the chance to visit Russia, the Soviet Union for the first time, could I have imagined back then in the very depths of the Cold War that I'd live to see such a day as this, when an American Secretary, and I'm not just the first, Madeleine has had the same experience, could visit Moscow and be genuinely among friends in high places working on issues of mutual interest, working to strengthen a partnership, disagreeing on some issues but being drawn closer and closer together by those issues in which we have a common interest?

I don’t really remember if I could have dreamed of something like that so many years ago. I was too busy at that time defending the Fulda Gap as a young lieutenant. I love to tell the story of being a second lieutenant of infantry and being sent to Germany and being assigned to a rifle platoon that had a section of the Fulda Gap, and having explained to me in the most clear, concrete, crystal terms one can imagine what my job was in the conduct of the strategy of containment. My company commander said to me, "Lieutenant, you see that tree and you see that tree?" "Right, yeah." "Well, you guard between those two trees, and when the Russian army comes, don't let 'em through. You got it?" "Got it." (Laughter.) That's all I needed to know. They shall not pass.

And now these 30-odd years later, just as George Kennan predicted, the Fulda Gap is a tourist attraction. Fulda and Gap -- I often joke, maybe Gap means the store, GAP, no longer the Gap that I worried about for all those years. But George Kennan knew there would be such a transformation. He knew it would happen, and he lived to see it. 100 years old -- now that really is something, even in a day of amazing medical breakthroughs.

Most of us, I think, have pondered the secret of what it takes to reach that elusive third digit in our ages. There's certainly lots of lore and humor on the topic to stimulate us, but it's clear to me that one quality that it takes to reach 100 is patience. Living 100 years is something you just can't rush. George Kennan has shown the virtue of patience, but not just by making it to 100 years of age. Ambassador Kennan also demonstrated patience by waiting more than 45 years for his prediction of Soviet collapse to come true. And we could return, as you heard earlier, to a discussion about Russia as our partner.

He suffered though plenty of arguments during those years about the "if's," "why's," and "wherefore's" of containment -- would it work? Was it more diplomatic or was it more the use of military power and force? But he never changed his mind; he always knew it would happen. He was patient and he was proven right in his own lifetime. And all of us should be so fortunate to get at least one big thing right in our lifetime, and to live to see it come to pass.

All of us might also learn a lesson about diplomacy from Ambassador Kennan’s patience. Patience is indispensable to long-term success in foreign policy. And that goes double for a large and wealthy country with a capable military such as the United States. Indeed, patience in a great power goes to the core principle of diplomacy itself, one of three principles that I'd like to talk about this evening.

This first principle concerns the relationship between diplomacy and the power to coerce others, whether military power or economic power. That principle is that power is a necessary condition for foreign policy success, but not always a sufficient one. Power is necessary because using force in statecraft is sometimes unavoidable -- as every single American Administration and official in any American Administration since Pearl Harbor has experienced and knows well. It's just not possible to reason with every adversary that threatens a vital interest.

Fortunately, "jaw-jaw" -- as Winston Churchill called diplomacy -- is often judged better than war-war. Contests of persuasion form the normal course of events, and that is fortunate. Obviously then, patience is a virtue in diplomacy; but it's not the only virtue. A willingness to use power when necessary is a virtue, also.

But what's the mean, what's the balance, between patience and power? How does a president decide, when everyone knows there are risks and dangers in both directions, risks and dangers of using too much power and of using too little? A president doesn't know. He can't know for sure. No president can. No one can see into the future. A president assembles the best advice he can and then uses his best judgment. Such judgments aren’t easy. It's hard to be president. All of our greatest presidents from history have told us so. Every future president will know it, too, or learn it quick enough.

When a president does have to use force, it's a blessing to have the best force around. And the United States military, in the case of military power, is the finest in the world. We're thankful for that and we're proud of it. Our troops and those of our coalition partners performed brilliantly in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al-Qaida, and in Iraq against the Baath regime -- and on that point everyone agrees.

I was in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan last week, and I remember a moment in Baghdad when I was talking to a large group of troops and civilian workers and diplomats in a large hall in the Coalition Provisional Authority room. And after my few remarks, I was taking pictures and shaking hands as all of us like to do, and it's so great to be with those young people. And one young soldier shoved his hand through the crowd and grabbed my hand. And he shook it vigorously and he said, "Not Secretary, but General, stay the course. Stay the course." What he meant by that is he knew why we were there; he knew what we were doing; he knew that the days ahead would be difficult. He knew the dangers, but he also knew that what we were doing was right: the opportunity to bring hope to a people; the opportunity to bring democracy to a people; the opportunity to rebuild a nation that had been devastated by a dictatorial, despotic regime that filled mass graves.

I saw that same attitude in Afghanistan when I visited our troops there and saw what they were doing and visited a registration center where women, for the first time, were coming forward, uncovered, in order to sign the necessary forms to get a registration card so they could vote, and vote freely on the basis of the new constitution that had just been passed in Afghanistan by a Loya Jirga.

Stay the course. Even though the days ahead are difficult in Afghanistan and Iraq because the work we do is noble and correct. Stay the course. We stay the course, also, against the threat of terrorism, which all of us are seized with this week. There's no question that the new ideology that threatens us is not called communism or fascism, but it is terrorism. And it affects all of us and no nation can step away from it. No nation can think they're immune from it. No civilized nation dare not be part of this great crusade against the evil of terrorism that afflicts all of us.

We're all in debt to these wonderful young men and women of ours in uniform and also, we're in debt to the thousands of other civilians, diplomats, contractors, who work at their side. That this work goes on illustrates this first principle of democracy. It shows that military victories don't translate automatically into political achievements the day after the war ends.

After the fighting stops, other hard work begins, including political and diplomatic work, rebuilding, transforming a defeated country -- something we have experience in from World War II and other events that we have been involved in over the years; so it was after our Civil War, World War II, so it is today. But while the effective use of force doesn’t always immediately translate directly into final political success, it does do more than defeat enemies on the battlefield.

Power has a reputation as well that walks before it into the future, affecting what others think about us and what their reactions will be to future events. America never looks for opportunities to exercise power except in defense of our vital interests and the vital interests of our allies. We don't use force just to burnish our reputation or to enhance our credibility. As every president knows, it's better, whenever possible, to let the reputation of power achieve policy goals rather than the use of power, especially military power itself. And it's diplomacy that deploys power's reputation to do this in the form of political influence. One of my predecessors and Madeleine's predecessors at the State Department, a great American by the name of Dean Acheson, captured this idea when he wrote that "influence is the shadow of power."

For any Administration, any president, real and lasting success in foreign policy frequently comes from deploying the shadow of power as well as, when necessary, from the application of power itself. Moreover, history makes clear that force is only one element of policy success. There are many reasons for this, all embedded firmly in our history books and all very well understood by President Bush.

As he made clear, speaking of Iraq, "all the tools of diplomacy, law enforcement, intelligence, and finance are important. We're working with a broad coalition of nations that understand the threat and our shared responsibility to meet it. The use of force has been, and remains, our last resort.” But use it when necessary.

We as a nation are now debating recent history -- Afghanistan, Iraq, the campaign against terrorism. We should debate it. It befits a great democracy. We're reviewing judgments that have been made by presidents over the years. That is also appropriate in a great democracy. And there are also broader concerns that we have to look at and which Lee Hamilton and the members of his Commission are looking at to make sure that we are structured properly for the times that we live in and the times that we will be living in.

But there is no disagreement in principle about the relationship between power and persuasion in American diplomacy. Everyone who understands that power is necessary, but not always sufficient for foreign policy success knows, too, that force and authority aren't the same. Not all use of force is created equal in diplomatic terms. Others will grant authority to the use of force if it falls within bounds of justice and reason.

Obviously, we still lack universal agreement on what is just and reasonable. There are disagreements, but there is a growing sense of both. Between 1991 and November 2002 the United Nations Security Council passed more than a dozen mostly Chapter 7 -- use of force -- resolutions concerning Iraq; resolutions authorizing the use of force. That matters in a world where principles count. And that's the kind of a world we live in, not least because America, more than most, has tried hard to bring such a world into being.

We’re mindful of all this. We’ve used force when we believed we had to, but not beyond. But it's not just about force. It's about diplomacy. President Bush has stressed that states supporting terrorism are as guilty as terrorists themselves, and he's right -- they are. But we were never so unimaginative to think that one approach would work in dealing with all cases. That's why were determined to make best use of the reputation of American and coalition power to achieve goals without necessarily having to use force.

What do recent decisions of the Libyan Government tell us about that effort? What do less dramatic but still noticeable changes in either policy or body language in certain other Middle Eastern countries tell us? I think they tell us that we understand well this first basic principle of diplomacy.

Diplomacy, then, if I may spell it out in a phrase, is the combination of power and persuasion, the orchestration of deeds and words in pursuit of policy objectives. Now, every true diplomat knows this, but not everyone's a diplomat. Some have recently argued that Libya’s recent decision to turn away from weapons of mass destruction is an interesting thing, but they see it in terms that remind me of an old beer commercial: "tastes great/less filling, tastes great/less filling." Did they do it because of force? Did they do it because of diplomacy?

And of course, in almost every situation I deal with, it’s not either/or. Diplomacy isn't the opposite of force. Diplomacy without power is just naked pleading. Power without diplomacy is incomplete. Libya's change of heart, in my judgment, wouldn't have happened in the absence of American power as a backdrop. But policy success also required American and British skills at persuasion. In this case, the combination of power and persuasion is what worked. And we all saw on our television sets this afternoon a remarkable scene: Prime Minister Tony Blair sitting in a tent with Muammar Qadhafi. And you also saw this morning, Assistant Secretary of State Bill Burns with Muammar Qadhafi yesterday. Or the day before, I guess it was.

A second basic principle of diplomacy follows from the first: Policy success comes easier when more actors work with you to achieve it than work against you to prevent it.

One of diplomacy's main jobs is to arrange coalitions so that one's power and one's reputation are multiplied. The fact of power alone cannot do this because power repels as well as attracts. A wise diplomacy magnifies power's attractive quality by using power to benefit others as well as oneself. It shows other states that their most important equities will be advanced if they cooperate with you. And the epitome of this principle is a formal alliance.

American diplomacy after World War II exemplified the soundness of this principle. We put our power at the disposal of all who cherished freedom and peace. We did things for others they couldn’t do for themselves. We defended others, yes, but we also forgave our former enemies and helped reconcile old adversaries. We advanced common prosperity by building institutions to promote trade and investment.

All this magnified the attractive qualities of American power and legitimized our power in the eyes of others. We were the candyman, the rainmaker, of international politics. And we still are. I know the rap, the charge against this Administration's supposed unilateralism. I don't buy it because the facts say otherwise.

Do we not put our power at the disposal of others, including the dozen of allies who stand with us in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the dozens more who work with us in the war against terrorism worldwide? We do not still do for others things they cannot do for themselves, like -- do we not still do for others things they cannot do for themselves like organize regional coalitions to bring relief to shattered countries like Liberia and Haiti? We still embrace old enemies with new perspectives, including some in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we still work to reconcile old adversaries, our efforts in the Middle East, in Africa, in South Asia and elsewhere show.

I spent part of last week in India and Pakistan working hard to see these two nations that 18 months, 20 months ago on the verge of war -- war that might have been a nuclear war -- but the headline this time when I was there was, "Pakistan Wins At Cricket," and they're talking to one another. They're exchanging trade ideas and they're exchanging delegations. And they have an agreement underway being executed now to begin conversations that will lead through the thicket of issues that they have to work on, to include Kashmir.

We're no less committed to free trade than we ever were, and we're no less dedicated to our allies either, despite the shifting of the circumstances that gave rise to our oldest and most cherished alliances.

Now, allies aren't always easy to get along with, in war or in peace. But when there's trouble among friends -- as we've had over the past year or so -- it doesn’t follow that the fault always lies on one side. Nor should disagreements among friends surprise or overly excite us.

Nearly every year since 1949, someone has predicted, for example, the end of NATO -- over Berlin, over Suez and Hungary, over Vietnam, over the 1973 Middle East War, over the Euromissile ordeal of the 1980s, or something else. But NATO hasn't ended. Quite the contrary, it's enlarging.

I still remember in the early '90s after the Soviet Union ended and I was still Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and I got to really know some of the Russian generals up close and personal in a way that I couldn't have known them earlier. They would say to me, "Well the Warsaw Pact is gone. You don't need NATO anymore. It only existed for the Warsaw Pact, so why don't you get rid of NATO?"

And I thought about it and gave it some of the most weighty consideration I possibly could, and the simple answer was, it's hard to close down a club when people continue to ask for membership applications. (Laughter.)

And this Monday we will add seven more members to this grand alliance. An alliance that is no longer seen as a threat to the Russian Federation, and in fact, the NATO-Russia Council invites Russia to work with NATO. It's a great change in history and it teaches us two things: First, don't fall for the NATO hysteria-du-jour, that something's about to fall apart; second and more important, it teaches us that alliances based on principles and not just on momentary needs have the ability to adjust when circumstances change. And NATO is such an alliance.

In the late 1940s we worried that Western Europe might be overrun by the Red Army, or subverted by local Soviet-supported communists. We're no longer worried by the dangers that confronted us in the late 1940s, or even the late 1980s. By that measure, if NATO were only a military coalition, serving only Cold War purposes, it would have expired, it should have expired, a long time ago. In the late '40s American statesmen were just as concerned that Europe be rebuilt in such a way that we wouldn't be dragged into a third World War over new European squabbles.

And that's why we were so concerned that post-war Europe be dominated by genuine, stable and prosperous liberal democracies, because liberal democracies don't produce disasters like the First and Second World Wars. So NATO was never just a military alliance. It's been a compact of political principles, too. And that's why NATO can now and has now transformed itself from an alliance devoted mainly to the defense of common territory into an alliance devoted to the defense of common interests and ideals. And that's why it can apply its irreplaceable experience in common defense to dealing with new kinds of threats.

That transformation can be tricky. Our common security challenges are no longer as vivid as they were in the days of Soviet military power. Threats are less well defined, more unpredictable. As a consequence we and our allies no longer share common perceptions of threat to the same extent as we did in Cold War times. That's been true even of terrorism, though it's clear now that this threat is global and not simply aimed at America. You can see that in Bali, Madrid, Riyadh, Turkey, so many other places, in Russia itself, in Moscow.

Whatever NATO members today may lack by way of identical definitions of threats,
we do more than make up for that through a mature recognition that we share the same vision of a good society and of a better world.

Transatlantic ties are as flexible as they are unbreakable.

So those are the reasons that America's alliance in Europe, in Asia and elsewhere, particularly an alliance that we celebrate this evening a little bit, NATO, become even stronger over the years. We shouldn’t let the inevitable stress of dealing with change mislead us or deter us. Our partnerships are growing stronger as they adapt to new realities.

I'll be in Berlin next week for a major conference on Afghanistan. Afghanistan is NATO's first non-European deployment in its history. And Germany is a leader in it. German soldiers head the first provincial reconstruction team in Konduz, under NATO command.

This is the same Germany, with the same German Government that we differed with seriously about Iraq last year. But here we have common cause.

Of course, we don’t look forward to disagreements, just so we can feel relieved when we put them behind us – though that is a terrific feeling. I'm feeling it a lot lately. NATO is closing ranks and working well on a whole range of issues, not just Afghanistan, and I hope NATO will find a role to play in Iraq reconstruction as well.

Everyone knows we need each other. We're wrapped up in each other like family, as we have been for so long. We argue with each other in proportion to how much we care about each other. We care a lot -- enough to keep our differences in perspective.

Now let me come now to the third principle I wanted to talk about this evening. It's this: Success in diplomacy is often most advantageous when it's incomplete. That may sound strange, but all I mean is that it's possible to overdo things -- that there are ways of winning that can turn victory into defeat. Examples of overreach fill history books. Fortunately, there are also examples in those books of getting it right.

Another way to put this principle is that an adversary needs an honorable path of escape if we're to achieve our main policy goals without using force. Some adversaries will never take that avenue of exit, of escape -- Saddam Hussein being a perfect example. A cornered adversary may lash out, and our eventual success at arms, if it comes at all, could be a pyrrhic victory. The diplomacy of the Cuban Missile Crisis illustrates this.

By offering to remove U.S. Jupiter missiles in Turkey that we'd scheduled for removal anyway, President Kennedy gave Chairman Khrushchev a way out. He took it. Our success was incomplete. We didn't get the Soviets altogether out of Cuba at that time. We didn't get Fidel Castro out of power, as we know. But our success was the most advantageous one available given the risks and probable costs of seeking more. We did remove a mortal threat to the United States, and we transformed the dynamics of Cold War risk-taking into a positive way.

This third principle of diplomacy remains very much in play. We have a problem in North Korea. Madeleine Albright worked on it. We're working on it. The DPRK North Korean leadership has been trying to generate a crisis atmosphere on the Korean Peninsula. It's part of a pattern of extortion that the DPRK has practiced over many years.

It wouldn't be diplomatic for me to lay out all of our tactics in dealing with North Korea, but it's telling no secrets out of school to say that the President's been very patient. All options remain on the table, but we've focused our efforts on persuasion, so we get back to principle number one.

The President has also gathered allies -- principle number two. The main equities of four of our five interlocutors in the six-party talks run parallel to our own. Russia, China, South Korea, Japan -- all are committed to the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of all North Korean nuclear programs.

By working to bring Japan, Russia, China, and South Korea into our Korean diplomacy, we advance their equities as well as our own. We legitimate our power; we give it greater authority.

We also enhance the prospect that a solution will endure, and we improve our relations with important countries in ways that transcend the stakes in Korea.

To succeed, however, principle number three is key. We're seeking the end of North Korea's nuclear threat. And to achieve that there has to be an exit through which the North Korean leadership can move if it makes the right choices. That exit embark -- is called, "embark here and now for the 21st century, and to have an honorable place in the world community."

If North Korea's leaders do embark for the 21st century, and if our diplomacy achieves the complete dismantling of North Korea's nuclear programs, we will have gained an important success.

It would still be an incomplete success -- knowingly so. As with Cuba, we will achieve the most advantageous success available, given the probable risks and costs of seeking more.

That's the President’s policy, and it's the right policy. It doesn't mean we'll ever reward the North Korean regime for oppressing its people and threatening its neighbors, any more than we have rewarded the Cuban regime since 1962.

Those regimes will change, either because the regimes themselves will seek transformation, or because their peoples will change the regime. They are running against the tide of history over a long period of time, just as the Soviet Union did until it realized a better world lay ahead.

Clearly, not every instance of political progress in the world can or should be accomplished by force or arms, certainly not just American force of arms. Of course we stand for universal ideals -- we stand for liberty, for freedom, for government of, by, and for the people under the rule of law. But we can’t just wave our hands and turn these ideals into reality everywhere at once.

The President knows, we all know, that if we want our power to endure, and the reputation of our power to prevail over the long haul, we must be patient, cooperative, and prudent as well as strong and bold in the face of danger.

As I've tried to describe it this evening, American foreign policy is anchored in a method as well as in its ideals. It's President Bush's method, in which power and persuasion combine in an active diplomacy. It's a method by which we seek partners though whom our power can be both legitimated and used for the greater good.

And perhaps above all, it is a method that recognizes the need to distinguish between what is both desirable and attainable, and what is only one or the other.

I'd like to think George Kennan understands and applauds this description of American diplomacy. After all, to a considerable extent, we all learned much from him, from his example and from his writings.

So let me close, then, by thanking the Wilson Center for the privilege of addressing you this evening, by again congratulating the Kennan Institute on reaching its 30th year -- and especially, in the presence of Ambassador Kennan's family, for Ambassador Kennan reaching his 100th year. We are forever in his debt. He remains an inspiration to all of us in the State Department.

Thank you very much.



Released on March 25, 2004

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