Remarks at the Meeting of the Advisory Committee on Democracy PromotionSecretary Condoleezza Rice
October 8, 2008
MR. CRANER: Well, Madame Secretary, thank you very much for being with us today. We truly appreciate your presence in these meetings. It’s always a sign of your personal commitment and that of the Administration on these issues of human rights and democracy promotion. We know how critical a role you played, as we were saying with Paula, to have lasted eight years through all this. But to have played a role in formulating the approaches on democracy and human rights these past eight years and, as a committee, we want to thank you for all of your hard work to advance these issues. Thank you.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you very much. I first want to thank you, Lorne, for your leadership of this committee. I want to thank all the members for really excellent work over the last several years. And I’d also just, for a moment, like to thank Paula, who has been stalwart in eight years of work in this regard, acquired a new title in terms of democracy, but has been a fierce fighter for democracy ever since I’ve known her, which goes all the way back to the late 1980s. And so I really want to thank Paula. I want to thank also David Kramer and before him, Barry Lowenkron, who were excellent Assistant Secretaries for DRL and brought a passion and a compassion about these issues to our work.
This is my last meeting with you as Secretary, and thank you for not applauding that fact. I look forward to continuing my democracy work as someone who will go back to the private sector. But I think that we’ve achieved a lot. You provided really critical recommendations over the last two years. Most of the recommendations are in certain stages of implementation.
I wanted to acknowledge that we all know that democracy can be a bumpy ride. We’ve had some real progress, some real successes. We’ve had some setbacks. The road is never smooth. But I remind people always that as long as we continue, as the United States of America, to advocate for democracy, to insist that we are not neutral when it comes to form of government, then I think democracy will slowly but surely make its way to become more than just the dominant form of governance across the world, but ultimately, it will be the only form of governance across the world. And I fundamentally believe that.
You know, too, that the President has been someone for whom this is at his core. He, of course, in his second inaugural address talked about the freedom agenda. We’ve done several things to institutionalize that, including a national security presidential directive. There will be an unclassified version of that available, I’m told, very soon. It concludes that championing freedom is a national security imperative, and I fundamentally believe that. I’m very often asked about our interests versus our values. And I try to remind people that while at times there may seem to be short-term tradeoffs, that the United States has never been confused that in the long term our interests and our values are absolutely identical; that we can only be truly secure when the network of free peoples is expanded as far as possible. The President and I believe that democracy promotion is a generational commitment. It will take a long time, but it is something that we have to pursue and pursue and pursue.
And finally, I would just say that the President not only has made this a matter of policy, a matter of discussion with every country around the world, but he has personally been committed. I was just with him when he met with a group of dissidents just recently, and it was a fascinating meeting. Because you looked around this table, and there were people from all corners of the earth who, I think, really recognized that they had an advocate in this President, someone who has cared about these issues. It is really the case that the fact of tyranny offends him, offends him personally that some people live in tyranny. And he simply does not believe that it is acceptable.
Now, we have sometimes been accused of being a bit too, either naïve or optimistic or whatever about democracy. But I would ask that we think what would happen if the United States of America ever chose to accept the world as it is rather than to insist that the world can be the one that we want it to be.
I would submit to you that had the United States of America just been willing to accept the world as it is, we would never have seen the defeat of Nazi Germany. We would not have seen Japan move from imperial tyranny to one of our closest friends and a strong democracy. Had we accepted the world as it is, we would never have seen the collapse of the Soviet Union, a country with 30,000 nuclear weapons, 5 million men under arms covering 12 different time zones, and peacefully, one day, went away. Had we accepted the world as it is, we would not have seen the turn away from juntas in Latin America and toward free states or the emergence now of democracies in Africa, several of which have seen peaceful transitions from one leader to another.
Many of the things that we’ve seen, I believe, would have been unthinkable and unimaginable. And now, we look back, and somehow they seem as if they were always inevitable. So when we look out and we see new democracies being born – struggling democracies – whether in Afghanistan or Iraq or in Palestine or in Lebanon, I think we recognize that while the Middle East may, in fact, have been the last place that the United States was really willing to speak forcefully for democracy, that we have plenty of experience that if the United States continues to insist that no man, woman, or child should live without basic freedoms, we can make a difference.
And that’s why I’ve been very proud to be associated with this group and with the efforts that the Administration has made. And without those of you who are in the trenches every day advocating for democracy, it wouldn’t be possible to achieve what we have, and to have some confidence that we’ll achieve even more in the future. So, thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. CRANER: There’s the applause. (Laughter.) Well, those of us who are in the trenches want to thank you again for the spirit that you and Paula and others not only came in with, but that you depart with. And I think many of us are going to be very pleased to be able to work with you, if we can tear you away from pleasant climes in California. (Laughter.)
I know many folks here have comments or thoughts on these issues. We do have a piece of business, which is to inform you of our thoughts on the Advanced Democracy Act, on the implementation. Members of the committee – particularly, I want to thank Mark Palmer and Jennifer Windsor, have had the opportunity to go through this in depth, both here at DRL and on the Hill and elsewhere to talk to folks about the implementation.
I have to tell you, certainly, with the issues within the control of DRL, the progress has been striking— remarkable considering that this act was just signed a little over a year ago. The laws provisions on DRL’s organization, we feel, have been completed; the country strategies on democracy promotion, assembling a new report to Congress, which is never an easy issue.
Something that I found was very, very consequential; while I was here translating the reports, individual reports – I understand 96 percent are now being translated so that folks in the countries can actually read them – expanded consultations with other democratic countries on democracy promotions and efforts, Congress willing, to contribute to the UN Democracy Fund. Tasks underway, we felt, were accountability for war crimes. There are a number of provisions in there. I think Mark was particularly interested in those. And then increased reporting via the internet; there’s some efforts underway with America.gov to do that.
Again, we want to thank David and Paula especially for their efforts in these areas. We did find a number of areas in which we think DRL needs cooperation from other bureaus within State, and these tasks have not been completed, we felt. First was the upgraded training at FSI for FSOs on democracy promotion, additional incentives for FSOs to serve at DRL. We were, I must say, quite struck by the fact DRL’s been unable to upgrade an existing commendation and establish additional incentives for FSOs who distinguish themselves in advancing human rights.
And finally, I would say there is the matter of additional FTEs to fulfill the bill’s requirements that State establish democracy liaison officers and that there be democracy fellows. These democracy liaison officers would be in places like the OES and the AU. I must tell you as – personally, I was kind of surprised, given this FTE issue, to find that there are no more FTEs at DRL than when I took over in June of 2001. These are all things that seem to us who have worked at the Department, especially, to be quickly solvable, we hope. And we think that given your leadership, that may yet happen in the three-plus months that remain in this Administration.
SECRETARY RICE: I’ll commit to you to see how many of them I can follow up.
MR. CRANER: Okay, that would be great.
SECRETARY RICE: I absolutely will.
MR. CRANER: That would be great. I must say I think this Advanced Democracy Act was a long time in the birthing. I think it took about three years from conception to being finally passed. And if here at State, you are able to complete these tasks in a little over a year, I think that will be a fitting final testament to the commitment on democracy-building issues.
Mark, what would you add?
MR. PALMER: Madame Secretary, as somebody who was very involved in the struggle with Paula to get the act enacted, I want to congratulate you and Paula and David for the implementation. As Lorne just said, it’s really striking. I think it’s exciting for me, at least, that the strategies now -- every 105 embassies, I think, have done strategies. And I think that’s essential.
If you’re going to help democratic forces in these still not free countries or apparently free countries, you have to talk to the local dissidents, ask them what we can do to be helpful, and have a longer-term scheme. Henrietta mentioned these things don’t happen overnight. You need to be persistent and consistent. And the strategies, I think, will help us go beyond one Administration or one surge of interest and make this a long-term program.
So for that alone, I think Tom Lantos, who is no longer with us, and others who were involved in this, Frank Wolf and others, I’m sure must be very pleased about the progress.
MR. CRANER: Yeah, I think – I had the opportunity to talk to a couple folks on the Hill and there are obviously still things they would like to see done, including some of the ones we outlined. But I think they’re – many of them are quite impressed by how much progress has been made within DRL.
Jennifer? No? Okay, I’ll invite other comments and thoughts. Richard?
MR. SOUDRIETTE: Madame Secretary, I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve on this committee. I also want to thank Paula and her team for the great support that we have all received. In particular, I want to pay tribute to the leadership that you have provided in terms of putting democracy promotion on the agenda and really making it a pillar of U.S. foreign policy.
And in particular, I want to really thank you for your passionate defense of democracy when it has been threatened. I’m thinking in particular of your efforts on behalf of Georgia. I really believe that you played a singular role in helping to prevent the duly elected government of President Saakashvili from being overthrown. So I thank you for your efforts and I think we all pay tribute to your fine work. Thank you.
MR. GERSHMAN: Well, Madame Secretary, it’s been, you know, not only great working with you while you’ve been Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, but of course, we had a relationship before when you were at Stanford and we look forward to working with you after you retire. It’s very exciting possibilities.
I was hoping you might reflect a little bit. You know, you’ve been through, obviously, an awful lot. And we had a meeting a couple of years ago and you pointed out that – when you were asked on the Hill about how much you’re spending on democracy and you didn’t know, and that sort of led to a total reorganization of our assistance. And maybe you could reflect with us just a little bit on the lessons of that, you know, from a few different perspectives.
I mean, one is that this is a field that has grown, as been commented here, very substantially over the past two decades, but especially during the Administration of President Bush. And what do you think about issues regarding division of labor? There are so many different players in this game now. You know, there’s the USAID, there is the State Department, there is the Pentagon, there are other agencies of the Executive Branch, there are institutions like the NED. Is there a division of labor?
And I have in mind especially issues like, what do you think about the issue of the use of grant-making by the State Department to implement policy? And especially regarding difficult situations like countries with which we have – we used to call them during the Cold War, friendly tyrants. But there are, you know, semi-authoritarian countries. Obviously, I have in mind Pakistan before the elections – it’s a very difficult situation right now – Egypt – but countries where there are significant diplomatic constraints. And then you have other countries such as, obviously, countries with which we have very bad relations: Burma or Cuba, Iran, even, increasingly Russia, where the governments are not welcoming to what we do, and you operate under a lot of constraints.
I mean, what is your thinking about how our government can operate versus, you know, other ways in which we might operate?
SECRETARY RICE: Well, thanks, and Carl, we have had a long association and I look forward to continuing that association. Let me go first to the question about the different players in the U.S. Government, because you’re right; I sat right around this table at my first budget presentation and I was just appalled. Nobody could tell me what we were spending on democracy and I thought it was because we actually didn’t have a unified approach toward each country.
So what we did was to establish, essentially with the foreign – having a director of foreign assistance and USAID be the same person to kind of take control of maybe 80 percent of what the United States actually spends – and now to integrate – not to give USAID and State the same functions, not to try to change the really quite considerable expertise and professionalism of USAID. It does different things than the State Department does.
But it was very important that when we sit down and we look at Egypt or we look at Mozambique that we had a country plan for dealing with everything for how the economic development was going to have a governance component, what role was AID going to play in that, what role would DRL play in that. So we tried to put it together in country plans. And I actually think the foreign assistance process now, which now also brings to the table not just USAID and State, but DOD and Treasury and others, so that for each country, we actually have a country plan. And I think it has helped to bring important values like democracy into our foreign assistance planning.
We also have various vehicles by which we are trying to work. And it’s extremely important that we keep them separate, but equal. And by that, I mean we’ve got the U.S. Government, we’ve got the nongovernmental sector of which NED is probably one of the most important elements. We also have local NGOs with which we try to work, and other civil societies. So let me say you have that whole range.
Now, in some places, it is really just a daily battle to make sure that they – that at high levels, they know that the United States Government knows if an NGO with which we have been working has been harassed by the police last night. And I actually think the fact that David or sometimes I will go to a foreign minister or a head of state and say, we know that after we had a program with that NGO, you called those people in, is something of a deterrent. And so, you’re right, it’s a struggle in some of these countries that are not free and where it’s sometimes resented that we are doing what we’re doing. But I want to assure you we do it.
And even with our friends who are not free, we sometimes publicly but always in our diplomatic engagements, are not just making the general principle about you need to have freedom of the press, you need to let these NGOs operate, that registration procedure that you just put in place is really, we can see a way so that NGOs can’t operate. But we go in with very specific information and we let them know that we know what they’re doing. And I think it’s made a difference.
Now, I think in the long run, the hardest thing for me has been when I am with young democracy advocates in these countries who sometimes feel that we’re not doing enough. And that’s actually very painful for me. You know, it’s been – especially – I’ll just give you an example. It’s been very hard in Egypt, because I gave the Cairo speech, I meant it. I was not going to give a Cairo speech every week. And yet the progress hasn’t been everything in Egypt that we would hope. We’ve had setbacks there. We’ve had disappointments there.
And it’s one thing to sit with you and say we’ve had setbacks there, we’ve had disappointments there. It’s really hard when I have to sit across from young democracy advocates and have them say: Why haven’t you been advocating more on our behalf? We have been. We’re not going to fail to have relations with the Egyptian Government, but we do advocate on their behalf.
So it’s – I won’t even say it’s a balancing act. I would say that it’s almost like a rheostat. You know, we try to dial up and dial back to try to be effective in these places. In a couple of places recently, we’ve had a little effect. You know, Belarus, I frankly did not think I would be sitting next to (inaudible) just -- what, a month ago, right?
MR. KRAMER: Two weeks ago.
SECRETARY RICE: Two weeks ago. How time flies. Two weeks ago. So you know, we’re trying to be effective. There’s a range there. And the final point I’d make is democracy promotion has got to be more than an American task. The rest of the world, the EU, has got to do more on this, particularly in places like Cuba. The democracies in places like ASEAN have to do more on a Burma and that’s something that we’re continuing to press for. A breath of fresh air in NATO and in the European Union has been the former captive nations which take it as a part of their agenda to do democracy promotion. So I think the next big frontier is to get more international support for this agenda. And it was a good thing that the UN did a democracy fund. That’s a very good thing.
MR. WOLLACK: Madame Secretary, I want to echo what -- the sentiments of everybody around this table in thanking you for your commitment and dedication on this issue. And we hope you will be a continuing voice after you leave for perhaps greener pastures. (Laughter.)
I’d like to make one comment because I think your remarks were quite important, particularly as they relate to the NSPD and the conclusion that democracy promotion is a national security imperative. And I think it’s a very important conclusion, because I think it reinforces this interconnectedness between American interests and American values. And I think it also helps garner support among American public, both for U.S. engagement overseas, in general, and democracy promotion, in particular.
At the same time, I think because of this linkage, we have to be careful in terms of how we do implement these programs overseas.
I think all of us who are engaged, as Lorne said, in the trenches every day, the most valuable commodity are the relationships we have with people on the ground and the trust that we all seek to build with reformers and democratic activists. And we come to this work not necessarily because we believe in – to do it because of American national security interests. We do it because we believe it’s the right thing to do. We could all make the case that it does serve U.S. national interests and national security interests. But when we support people overseas in this engagement, it’s important for them to know we’re doing it because of them, not that we’re doing it because of us, and that they are not part of some American national security doctrine.
If that is the message that is delivered overseas, then I think there is a danger over time of sort of severing that relationship of trust, so people on the ground will be seen as part of something foreign and part of something alien. So why I think this is very important, this relationship and enunciating this relationship in terms of implementing programs— I think we have to ensure that these are dotted lines and not straight lines; that we are doing this because we believe in these causes and there are byproducts to this effort. And this is particularly important in light of the Pentagon’s growing role in the area of nation building and in the area of public diplomacy.
SECRETARY RICE: I agree completely. We’ve just been going through this on AFRICOM, for instance, because I think AFRICOM has been widely misunderstood, frankly, in Africa. And we’ve had to try to get people to see that this is in order to enable Africans to do things like counterterrorism and work on crime and be trained for peacekeeping and so forth. But that the interesting thing there is that we have avowedly said, too, that we want to do those things in a way that is not cross-cutting to democratic development. In some places, too strong an army is not a great thing, and so if you are also trying to pay attention to civil-military links and to human rights training and so forth, that’s very important. But that’s really what we do. And that’s why there is a deputy in AFRICOM who’s a Foreign Service person, because we would expect that that would be something that we would carry.
But I take your point, Ken, and you’re absolutely right; we don’t want to have people think that we’re doing this all for our own interest. We’re doing it because it’s right, first and foremost. It happens to be a very good thing that we’ve learned that if we do what’s right, we’re also safer.
MR. MURAVCHIK: I’ve had the pleasure of arguing with Ken about this once before, and he succeeded in showing me some language that was quite self-defeating, I thought. But I don’t think the way you’ve put it here now, Ken, is quite right. Because my experience with working with people in other countries, if we say to them this is all for your sake, we’re not interested in our own benefit, they will not believe us, and that we’re only inviting distrust. And I think that the Secretary put it better earlier in the few sentences that you spoke about what we see as the identity of our interests and values. And perhaps there are ways in which that point can be elaborated in speeches by high-level officials or other kinds of documents. If we say to people we want to help you because we believe in it and we think that democracy in your country will be good for us too, that is a more believable message.
MR. CRANER: Madame Secretary, I know you have to depart. We want to again thank you for all you have done. On this issue of international cooperation, I think me – Ken and I and Jennifer and Carl, certainly, and others of us around the table, can attest to the growth in interest. I was president of IRI in the ‘90s and came back in this decade; it was perhaps the biggest difference in the international environment. It used to be us and the British and the Germans working on this, and now there are dozens of countries around the world, other European countries, new democracies – as you said, you almost have to hold them back sometimes.
SECRETARY RICE: Yes.
MR. CRANER: And certainly other new democracies in other areas. I was with a diplomat from a major country in Europe about two years ago that does not have a reputation for democracy building, and they were just starting to do some. And I said, “Why are you doing this?” And he said, “Well, frankly, we’re tired of the United States getting all the credit when a country changes from authoritarian to democracy.” And he said, “And we’re really tired of being nagged by the State Department on this.”
SECRETARY RICE: Good, good.
MR. CRANER: So you’ve had some effect. And I will say also it’s a distinct advantage overseas to having new democracies engaged in this work. I always say you can’t talk to Thomas Jefferson or George Washington, but you can still talk to Lech Walesa and Nelson Mandela or Kim Dae-jung. So you have certainly launched that process amongst other things. Thank you.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you. And thank you again. I think it’s been really a very good partnership. I’m also very proud of the Advance Democracy Act. I’m going to take as one of my tasks to try to see if we can’t get the rest of it implemented. I want to thank you for the recommendations you’ve made. We will work on those, too.
I’d just close with one point, and it goes to the international side. You know, there’s always been this kind of maxim out there: Well, you can’t impose democracy. And I always say to people, “You don’t have to impose democracy. You impose tyranny.” And never forget that I don’t care where people come from, how poor they may be, how illiterate they may be; if you ask them not about the grand term, but if you ask them simple questions – do you actually want to have a say in those who will govern you, do you actually want to be able to say what you think and worship as you please and educate your children, do you want to be free from the arbitrary knock of the secret police at night – people will say yes. And that says that we’ve got a very, very powerful set of values in the promotion of democracy.
Sometimes people say, oh, you should call it pluralism or other things because democracy has a bad word – a bad reputation– I don’t think so. I think people know that democracy is what we mean. And one of the things I’ll be passing on is America ought to always speak loudly for and defend democracy.
Released on October 8, 2008