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Debates over the role of multilateralism have been a recurring element in discussions of our foreign policy since the country's founding in the eighteenth century. At their core, these debates have hinged upon how we answer a basic, enduring question: how should the United States work with others to foster a world conducive to our interests and values.
How Americans have answered that question helped define the failures and successes of U.S. foreign policy in the last century. Following the First World War, the failure to sustain multilateral cooperation helped pave the way to the Great Depression and the Second World War. Following the Second World War, American success in forging new multilateral arrangements like the United Nations, NATO, GATT, and the Bretton Woods system, helped sustain our relationships with allies, our prosperity, and our strength through the long decades of the Cold War.
The debate over multilateralism took on new urgency in the wake of the Soviet Union's demise. Ironically, multilateralism risked becoming a victim of its own success. Victory in the Cold War called into question the continued relevance of the multilateral institutions like NATO that had served us so well when we confronted a qualitatively different set of international challenges. Moreover, with the end of the Cold War, the United States became and has since remained the world's preeminent nation state in all measures of power and without a "peer competitor" in sight. For some, multilateralism's necessity seemed diminished.
During the past decade, Americans thus searched to find the appropriate role for multilateralism. We worked with our partners abroad to begin revising the multilateral institutions of the Cold War era to ensure their relevance in the future, for instance, by expanding NATO and strengthening the OSCE. Likewise, we worked to extend and deepen cooperation in new domains with the creation of NAFTA, APEC, and the WTO, and to integrate new partners-and even former adversaries-into these multilateral arrangements.
We have learned from this decade of experience. Today, at the dawn of a new century, the Bush Administration is forging a hard-headed multilateralism suited to the demands of this global era, one that will both promote our values and interests now and help structure an international environment to sustain them well into the future.
Fundamentals matter. A successful foreign policy begins by comprehending both the realities of power-its potential and its limitations-and the nature of an era's challenges and opportunities. We have not yet coined a catchy word or phrase to describe this period of international relations. Nevertheless, we recognize that many of the defining features of this increasingly globalized era are intrinsically transnational. Equally important, they often defy the efforts of any single country to solve alone-even a country as powerful as the United States.
Just consider some of the important foreign policy tasks before us:
-- stymieing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction that threaten to wreck havoc upon civilization;
-- promoting world trade and a robust international financial architecture essential for our continued prosperity;
-- combating the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases that not only pose health threats, but destroy societies, devastate economies, and destabilize entire regions;
-- maintaining around the globe forward momentum for good governance, rule of law, and democracy that expands the sphere of individual freedom and development;
-- integrating new countries and peoples into the global economic order so that they can reap its rewards instead of being left behind; and
-- coping with state failures that endanger in this world of increasing interconnections and unprecedented mobility not only their neighbors, but also -- as we have tragically seen in the case of Afghanistan -- American lives and our way of life.
This, of course, brings me to our preeminent national security challenge-international terrorism. As the events of September 11th tragically reminded us, international terrorism is globalization run amok. Al-Qaida and its cousin terrorist networks have twisted the benefits and conveniences of an increasingly open, integrated, globalized world to serve their destructive agenda. And they have demonstrated that globalization, despite its enormous benefits, brings new vulnerabilities to the United States as well.
We should take Usama bin Laden, his minions, and their Taliban supporters at their word. They seek to drive the United States out of the Middle East so that they can topple regimes throughout the region and destroy Israel; then they aspire to impose their rule. They consider the United Nations a "tool of crime." They cannot abide by the personal freedoms we take for granted-freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the freedom of women to be educated. They will continue their indiscriminate slaughter of innocents of all races, creeds, and nationalities until they achieve their objectives or they are stopped.
We will stop them. Our campaign against international terrorism does not represent some sort of "clash of civilizations." Instead, it is a clash between civilization and those who would destroy it.
We understand that the campaign will be long and difficult. To destroy terrorist networks root and branch, we will employ the full spectrum of the tools of statecraft -- diplomatic, law enforcement, intelligence, public information, economic, and military. And we recognize that expansive multilateral cooperation offers the best hope of triumphing over the international terrorist scourge. As President Bush stressed last week: "The defeat of terror requires an international coalition of unprecedented scope and cooperation." Indeed, such cooperation provides the foundation for the campaign against terrorism's success not just today, but in the years ahead.
Multilateral cooperation is essential to success on the three major fronts in the campaign against terrorism: first, the predominantly military front now in Afghanistan; second, the humanitarian, political, and economic front of Afghan reconstruction; and, third, the broad front against terrorism with a global reach that will involve carefully tailored policies exploiting all the tools of statecraft.
The first front: the destruction of the al-Qaida network in Afghanistan and the removal of the Taliban regime that has aided and harbored those responsible for the September 11th attacks as well as other terrorist acts. A little more than five weeks ago, we began our military campaign in Afghanistan. We could not wage this sustained campaign by ourselves. We need basing and over-flight rights for our forces operating in the region. We also need critical intelligence above and beyond satellite photos and communications intercepts, intelligence involving human contact-that which only those on the ground can provide. Our allies are also supporting the campaign by providing essential logistical support, increased security at American facilities worldwide, and their own forces to backfill when ours have to be redeployed. With each passing day, more countries offer forces to join our military operations against al-Qaida and the Taliban and in favor of securing liberated areas. Coalition members and international organizations are also offering much needed diplomatic and economic support to the frontline states in the region to ensure their stability and security in these difficult times. The Taliban's retreat marks success not just for the Afghan opposition or us, but for the entire international coalition.
The second front: our commitment to the political and economic reconstruction of Afghanistan so that it will never again be a safe haven for the likes of Usama bin Laden, a source for drugs or refugees, or a threat to its region. Our combined humanitarian, political, and economic efforts on this front are all rooted in multilateral cooperation.
Before the current crisis, the United States was already the world's largest contributor of humanitarian aid to the Afghan people, who have been starved by the Taliban -- sometimes through deliberate policies, such as harassing and forcing out Western aid workers. Now, we have redoubled our efforts. At each stage, we have worked closely with the countries in the region and international organizations such as the World Food Program and the UNHCR to address the Afghans' full range of humanitarian needs.
We are also now heavily engaged in the multilateral efforts to found a transitional government to replace the Taliban, one that will represent the interests of all the people of Afghanistan and move the country toward a stable, peaceful future. I can personally attest that our approach is multilateral to the core. As the U.S. Coordinator for Afghanistan's future, I am in regular contact with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, his special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, and the representatives of nearly every country interested in Afghanistan's fate. On Monday at the United Nations, for instance, I participated in discussions of Afghanistan's future within the 6+2 Group, comprising Afghanistan's immediate neighbors as well as the United States and Russia. And we are working closely as well with our European and Asian allies and our partners in the region to help the Afghan opposition to establish a transitional government framework.
The economic reconstruction of Afghanistan must move in step with the political. Here too our approach is fundamentally multilateral. The United States is now working with other donors to create a group to support the long-term reconstruction of Afghanistan. We hope that such a group will harness the international community's resources and channel them to build the economic foundations for a more stable Afghanistan.
The third front: as President Bush has repeatedly stressed, "Afghanistan is the beginning of our efforts in the world.... [But] we will not rest until terrorist groups of global reach have been found, have been stopped, and have been defeated." Once again, our strategy is multilateral. We began the campaign on this, the broadest front, even before our operations in Afghanistan. We must remember that al-Qaida cells exist in over sixty countries around the world -- including our own. Combating other terrorist groups with global reach -- as well as their supporters wherever and whoever they may be -- demands that we work cooperatively with our coalition partners to maximize the effectiveness of our efforts -- be they diplomatic, economic, intelligence, law enforcement, strategic information, or military.
These efforts have already had impact. We are working aggressively with other countries to choke off terrorists' financial lifelines, both by fully implementing U.N. Security Council Resolution 1373 and by freezing the assets of those individuals and entities listed in Executive Order 13244. Over 150 nations have joined us in these efforts, together blocking tens of millions of dollars in potential terrorist assets. Similarly, intelligence sharing and law enforcement cooperation has led to numerous arrests and new leads around the world. Just yesterday, for example, Spanish authorities arrested nine suspected terrorists. Success in Afghanistan is likely to provide further impetus to these efforts.
The challenge of terrorism is not transitory. Neither can be our response. We must be prepared to use the full range of tools of statecraft-from law enforcement and diplomacy to intelligence and military operations -- now and in the future. We must therefore begin creating the machinery to fight, in President Bush's words, "terrorism in general." We must work to establish the frameworks for cooperation that will make us and our partners less vulnerable to terrorism in the future and better able to fight it when it does appear. We have already taken the first steps in this direction, for instance, by helping create a new counterterrorism subgroup to the G-8. But we have only just begun.
Considered together, our efforts on these three fronts in the campaign against terrorism -- our current operations in Afghanistan, our efforts to ensure a better future for the Afghan people, and our fight against terrorism with a global reach -- all highlight how multilateral cooperation does not have to constrain us. Rather, such cooperation can be a true force multiplier, enabling us to leverage our assets in combination with others'.
When we step back from and reflect upon the campaign against terrorism, it is possible to discern basic principles to guide our approach to multilateralism in the coming years.
First and foremost, American leadership is fundamental. Without it, multilateral initiatives can go astray -- or worse. We must be resolute and confident once we have embarked upon a policy. Yet leadership demands, President Bush has emphasized on many occasions, a sense of humility. Leadership thus requires genuine consultation. We must respect the values, judgment, and interests of our friends and partners. We will need their support not just today and tomorrow, but in months and years to come.
In forming multilateral initiatives in this era, we should not be shackled by the memories of past animosities or prickly relations. Ultimately, we are interested in results. We thus must continue to try to integrate countries like Russia, China, and India into our efforts to create a better future.
We cannot expect every nation to make the same commitment to a coalition. Differences in capabilities, location, foreign policy outlook, and domestic concerns make this impracticable. Instead, we should expect our coalitions to be dynamic and embrace the benefits of the division of labor. Some multilateral efforts will become embedded in more formal institutional structures, but others will change through time as the particular challenges wax, wane, and evolve. Even in the campaign against terrorism we have, as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld says, not "a single coalition," but "revolving coalitions that will evolve and change over time depending on the activity and the circumstance of the country."
Our desire to work cooperatively with others does not mean, however, a willingness to agree to unsound efforts just because they are popular. Empty or ineffective but high-profile agreements do not make for a sound foreign policy. As we know from our own history, majorities are not always right. We also cannot forget that the United States has unique global responsibilities. And if we are to meet them effectively, we may not always be able to go along with measures that many or even most others support. We are willing to listen, learn, and modify policies when we hear compelling arguments. But we all recognize that even the closest of friends will sometimes disagree on what constitutes the best policy.
We have, moreover, demonstrated that we can and will act alone when necessary. Our right to self-defense is unquestioned. Secretary of State Powell has repeatedly underscored this fact to prevent any misunderstanding. As he testified to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October, "There are no arrangements within this coalition which in any way, shape, fashion or form constrain the President and the exercise of his constitutional responsibilities to defend the United States of America and to defend the people of the United States."
By the same token, we do not take lightly the costs to ourselves and to others when we forego participation in some multilateral initiative. In the future, we will give consultations every reasonable chance to produce an acceptable compromise. But if we conclude that agreement is beyond reach, we will explain why and do our best to put forth alternatives.
In sum, multilateralism is not an end in itself, but it is often a necessary means to our ends. A commitment to multilateralism need not constrain our options -- done right, it expands them.
The campaign against terrorism embodies these basic principles. However, we need not -- indeed we must not -- limit our multilateralism to counterterrorism. We must confront a series of transnational challenges including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the spread of HIV/AIDS, and the trafficking in humans and drugs that we cannot tackle by ourselves. This will require that we work with others to reinvigorate our traditional alliances, recast relationships with former adversaries, and integrate more countries and peoples into a mutually beneficial international order. So even while the campaign against terrorism must be our top national security priority, it cannot be our only one.
The most basic challenge facing American foreign policy, therefore, is to continue in the midst of this immediate and pressing crisis to make progress across the full spectrum of issues that will affect our future. We must continue to strive to integrate other countries and organizations into arrangements that are necessary to sustain a world consistent with U.S. values and interests.
This is a demanding task. Some might ask whether is too demanding. How in the midst of a major conflict can we expect to do it?
We have done it before. We did it during the Second World War when Americans helped found the United Nations and the Bretton Woods system. And we did it again during the Korean War. Fifty years ago this month, for instance, Secretary of State Dean Acheson led an American delegation to Paris to discuss with our allies how to add sinew and muscle to the skeleton of NATO, how to reintegrate their former mortal enemy Germany into the West, how to fortify the still fragile democracies of Europe so that they could be self-sustaining and prosperous when Marshall Plan support ended, and how to build upon the success of the Schuman Plan and foster further political and economic integration in Europe.
Today we are reaping the rewards of such investments made fifty years ago as our allies come to our aid when our homeland has been attacked. Witness NATO's unprecedented invocation of Article 5 of the NATO Treaty, Australia's invocation of Article 4 of the ANZUS Treaty, and how both have matched words with deeds. Witness Japan's historic support for the campaign against terrorism. Witness our Western Hemispheric neighbors' invocation of the Rio Treaty and their commitment to combat terrorism in our backyard. Symbolizing this solidarity and how an attack against one is an attack against all, today NATO AWACs manned by Germans, Danes, Belgians, and other nationalities fly overhead protecting American airspace. Such are the benefits of consistent, forward-looking, and realistic multilateralism.
Our challenge is to stay true to this tradition of hard-headed multilateralism. We need to resist the temptation of unilateralism, which only in special circumstances can be effective in this globalized world. At the same time, we need to resist going along to get along-that's soft-headed multilateralism. Like Goldilocks, we need to get it just right. Hard-headed multilateralism is not an alternative to leadership, but its manifestation.
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