Charles Nailen/The Hoya Presidential prospect Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) delivers a major foreign policy speech in Gaston Hall Thursday afternoon.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), one of six current Democratic presidential hopefuls, spoke about foreign policy and national security to a standing room only crowd in Gaston Hall on Thursday. Kerry directly criticized the Bush administration’s policy concerning Iraq and the Middle East and offered his own policy alternatives to the audience.

Dean of the School of Foreign Service Robert Gallucci introduced Kerry.Suggesting the podium was lucky, he provided an anecdote recalling a certain Arkansas governor who made a foreign policy speech in Gaston Hall over a decade ago.

“We need a new approach to national security – a bold, progressive internationalism that stands in stark contrast to the too often belligerent and myopic unilateralism of the Bush Administration,” Kerry said.

As a result of American generations opposing aggression and defending freedom, the U.S. is now the world’s greatest power, he said. “Not since the age of the Romans has one people achieved such preeminence.”

Kerry explained, however, that America is different from Rome because Americans are committed to the values of democracy and human rights. “So while we can be proud, we must be purposeful and mindful of our principles; and we must be patient – aware that there is no such thing as the end of history,” Kerry said. “With great power, comes grave responsibility.”

Kerry reflected on American ingenuity, sacrifice and spirit but described terrorism as a new threat. He then warned against U.S. unilateralism. “We also face a renewed choice – between isolation in a perilous world, which I believe is impossible in any event, and engagement to shape a safer world which is the urgent imperative of our time,” Kerry said. “A choice . between those who want America to go at it alone, and those who want America to lead the world toward freedom.”

Kerry expressed his disagreement with the current administration’s unilateralism, describing its policy as “pursu[ing] our national interests in arrogant ways that make a mockery of our nation’s ideals.”

He further said that the “blustering unilateralism” and the alienation of historical allies are wrong and dangerous for the U.S.

Kerry then explained that the government could do better than it is currently doing, and that a vision for the future should look like Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt’s international engagement and leadership. “These leaders recognized that America’s safety depends on energetic leadership to rally the forces of freedom, and they understood that to make the world safe for democracy and individual liberty, we needed to build international institutions dedicated to establishing the rule of law over the law of the jungle,” Kerry said.

Kerry spoke more about his goal to forge a bold, progressive internationalism for the global age. He explained that he wanted to provide principled diplomacy backed with military might, a policy “that focuses not just on the immediate and the imminent but insidious dangers of democracy, to destructive weapons, endemic poverty and epidemic disease.”

Kerry said that a reasonable alternative to President Bush’s policy would start by understanding the nature and source of the threat Americans face. He said that it is not only terrorism that we are fighting but also the beliefs of hatred and intolerance that are motivating terrorism.

He discussed the plight of the Middle East, calling it a “civilization under extraordinary stress.” Jordan, orocco and Qatar have governments struggling to make progress, while Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Syria remain among the 10 least-free nations in the world. In addition, he spoke disparagingly of the political and economic participation opportunities afforded to Arab women.

“A combination of harsh political repression, economic stagnation, lack of education and opportunity and rapid growth has proven simply explosive,” Kerry said. “The streets are full of young people who have no jobs, no prospects and no voice. State-controlled media encourage a culture of self-pity, victimhood and blame-shifting. This is the breeding ground for present and future hostility to the West and our values.”

Calling for “more than a one-dimensional war on terror,” Kerry said that the U.S. must destroy terrorists who are plotting murder against Americans and other innocent people in the world, but that we must help the vast majority of people of the greater Middle East build a better future.

Criticizing the Bush Administration for “[having] a plan for waging war but no plan for winning the peace,” Kerry called for a “smarter, more comprehensive and far-sighted strategy for modernizing the greater Middle East.”

Kerry further advocated a multilateral campaign with U.S. allies to bring together democracies and the Middle East. He set forth four points of strategy.

First, he described the destruction of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups as the number one priority. He said that the Bush Administration made a mistake in relying on local warlords to carry the fight against the enemy terrorists, resulting in many al Qaeda members and perhaps Osama bin Laden himself escaping to safety. He further called for the U.S. to pressure Pakistan to gain control of its Afghanistan border, “which has become a haven for terrorists.”

Second, he described Saddam Hussein as a “brutal, murderous dictator leading an oppressive regime” and said he must be disarmed. Kerry criticized the Bush Administration for a delayed emphasis on disarming Hussein. “When [the administration] finally did speak, it was with hasty war talk instead of a coherent call for Iraqi disarmament.”

He placed burden with Hussein to live up to the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 ceasefire agreement, but also placed burden with the Bush Administration to “do the hard work of building a broad coalition at the U.N. and the necessary work of educating America about the rationale for war.”

He further advocated a longer and more careful consideration of war. “The U.S. should never go to war because it wants to, the U.S. should go to war because we have to,” Kerry said. “And we don’t have to until we have exhausted the remedies available, built legitimacy and earned the consent of the American people, absent, of course, an imminent threat requiring urgent action.”

Kerry described his third point of strategy as not merely focusing on gaining stability in the Middle East, but trying to develop democratic values and human rights in that area. Finally, the Middle East needs to be put on the Bush Administration’s trade agenda. He said that a Middle East trade initiative would combat economic regression and spark investment, trade and growth in the region.

Kerry then offered five policy goals. First, he said he wants to build on the success of the Clinton administration’s Jordan Free Trade agreement, which created about 40,000 jobs.

Second, he advocated a duty-free program for the region, as the U.S. has done in the Caribbean Basin Initiative and the Andean Trade Preference Act. “We should set some conditions: full cooperation in the war on terror, anti-corruption measures, non-compliance wit the Israel boycott, respect for core labor standards and progress toward human rights,” Kerry said.

Third, he called for greater investment and trade in the Middle East, as well as legal protections that modern economies need to succeed. Also, he said we should “use the leverage of capital flows to trade to lift, not lower, international labor and environmental standards.” He also expressed a need to strengthen the IMF’s ability to stop “full-scale economic meltdowns” before they start.

Last, he discussed the need for a new vision with the U.S. leading the effort to make peace and restoring the reputation America once had for friendship and leadership in the Middle East.

Kerry expressed unequivocal support in regards to Israel. “Israel is our ally, the only true democracy in this troubled region, and we know that Israel as a partner is fundamental to our security,” Kerry said. “From Truman through Clinton, America has always been committed to Israel’s independence and survival – we will never waver.”

Kerry then shifted the focus of his speech to the situation in North Korea.

“There the Bush Administration has offered only a merry-go-round policy. They got up on their high horse, whooped and hollered, rode around in circles and ended right back where they’d started,” Kerry said. He said that current administration’s vacillating policy has been extremely detrimental to relations.

He further criticized the Bush Administration for missed opportunities with regard to the environment, specifically in abandoning the Kyoto Protocol. “What the administration failed to see was that Kyoto was not just an agreement – it was a product of 160 nations working together over ten years,” Kerry said. “It was a good faith effort – and the U.S. just dismissed it . The administration was simply ready to aim and fire, and the target they hit was our international reputation.”

The final issue he addressed was the current HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, where more than 29 million people are afflicted with the disease. “Responding is not only morally right, but deeply practical and fundamentally important to the cause of global stability and ultimately our own safety,” Kerry said. “How can countries – or whole continents – torn apart by an untreated epidemic successfully resist the call to violence, terror and the trade of weapons of mass destruction?”

“Taken together, I believe these proposals, that I have put forward today, present a far better vision for how we deal with the rest of the world – a better vision for how we build relationships – and how doing so will make America safer,” Kerry said.

The Georgetown University Lecture Fund, the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy and the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service sponsored the event.

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