Speeches & Floor Statements

Remarks Of Sen. Alexander - Dr. Condoleeza Rice NominationTo Be Secretary Of State

Posted on January 25, 2005

Mr. President, I rise in support of the nomination of Dr. Condoleezza Rice to be America's next Secretary of State. President Bush has made an excellent choice. Her experience as National Security Adviser will make her uniquely effective. When foreign leaders talk with Dr. Rice, they will know she is speaking with the President's voice. The major issue confronting Dr. Rice and our nation is the war in Iraq. At Dr. Rice's hearing, some of my colleagues said we need an exit strategy in Iraq. I disagree. We don't need an exit strategy in Iraq, we need a success strategy — but such a strategy may mean taking a more realistic view of what we mean by "success." It is one thing to help people win their freedom. It is another to help a country become a stable, pluralistic, democratic, flourishing society. We need to ask ourselves: How many American lives are we willing to sacrifice to do this? How long are we willing for it to take? What is our standard for "success?" And we should be thinking beyond Iraq, as well: the next time the opportunity occurs for the United States to undertake regime change or nation building, what lessons have we learned in Iraq? During his campaign for the presidency in 2000, President Bush was critical of nation building. That was before September 11, 2001. Today the situation has changed. Our initial war in Iraq was a stunning success. What came afterwards has been a series of miscalculations. But the United States has engaged in nation building more than a dozen times since World War II. Based upon those experiences, should we not have anticipated that nation building in Iraq would have required more troops, more money and taken longer than we expected? And what do these lessons say about our future policy toward nation building? I asked Dr. Rice about this when she appeared before the Foreign Relations Committee. One lesson she said we learned is that we need to train our own diplomatic personnel with the skills of nation building. She said that we need to learn how to help a country set up a new, independent judiciary, establish a currency, and train up police forces, among other things. I'm sure other lessons will be learned as we move forward, and we should be humble enough to learn them. I would hope that our experience in Iraq has reminded us what a major commitment regime change and nation building require. I hope that the next time someone suggests to the President that he pursue "regime change" that one of his advisors, perhaps Dr. Rice, will say, "Mr. President, based on the history of post-war reconstruction and what we've learned in Iraq, any regime change will take us several years, cost hundreds of billions of dollars, and require the sacrifice of thousands of lives." American history is the story of setting noble goals and struggling to reach them and often falling short. We sincerely say that "anything is possible" and "all men are created equal" and "no child will be left behind," even though we know down deep we will fall short and we will have to keep trying. We also have said we want to make the world safe for democracy, and we remember an inaugural speech 44 years ago in which a new President named John F. Kennedy said we would "pay any price, bear any burden" for freedom. Last Thursday, President Bush echoed these sentiments when he said to the people of the world, "When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you." Yet there obviously is a limit to what we can do, and what we are willing to do and the number of lives we will sacrifice to secure the blessings of freedom and democracy for others. Now that we have a new Secretary of State, new Iraqi elections, and we're about to spend another $80 billion there, it is important to be clearer about what our success strategy is in Iraq. When I asked Dr. Rice about this at her hearing, she acknowledged that we need a success strategy but did not want to commit to a timetable. In a Washington Post op-ed this morning, two of her predecessors, Secretaries Kissinger and Shultz, agree that we should not set a specific timetable for pulling out our troops. But they also go further than Dr. Rice did in outlining the framework of a success strategy. They write: A successful strategy needs to answer these questions: Are we waging "one war" in which military and political efforts are mutually reinforcing? Are the institutions guiding and monitoring these tasks sufficiently coordinated? Is our strategic goal to achieve complete security in at least some key towns and major communication routes (defined as reducing violence to historical criminal levels)? This would be in accordance with the maxim that complete security in 70 percent of the country is better than 70 percent security in 100 percent of the country — because fully secure areas can be models and magnets for those who are suffering in insecure places. Do we have a policy for eliminating the sanctuaries in Syria and Iran from which the enemy can be instructed, supplied, and given refuge and time to regroup? Are we designing a policy that can produce results for the people and prevent civil strife for control of the state and its oil revenue? Are we maintaining American public support so that staged surges of extreme violence do not break domestic public confidence at a time when the enemy may, in fact, be on the verge of failure? And are we gaining international understanding and willingness to play a constructive role in what is a global threat to peace and security? An exit strategy based on performance, not artificial time limits, will judge progress by the ability to produce positive answers to these questions. I hope when Secretary Rice comes back to speak with the Foreign Relations Committee about Iraq that she will address these questions and say more about what our objectives are. And when she does, I also wouldn't mind if she acknowledges when things aren't going well, or when we need to change our strategy or tactics because our earlier approach isn't working. I think such acknowledgements only strengthen her credibility and reassure us that needed adjustments are being made. At President Reagan's funeral last June, former Senator Jack Danforth said the text for his homily was "the obvious," Matthew 5:14-16. "You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a bushel basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works, and give glory to your father in heaven." From our beginning, that vision of the city on a hill has helped to define what it means to be an American and provided America with a moral mission. It helps explain why we invaded Iraq, why we fought wars "to make the world safe for democracy," and why President Bush said last Thursday, "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors." It's why we are forever involving ourselves in other nations' business. It is why when I was in Mozambique last summer I found 800 Americans, 400 of them missionaries and most of the rest diplomats or aid workers. But is it possible that too much nation building runs the risk of extending too far the vision of the city on a hill? Letting a light shine so that others may see our good works does not necessarily mean that we must invade a country and change its regime and remain there until it begins to look like us. It may mean instead that we strive harder to understand and celebrate our own values of democracy, equal opportunity, individualism, tolerance, the rule of law and the other principles that we hope will be exported to other parts of the world. How we ourselves live would then become our most persuasive claim to real leadership in a world filled with people hungry to know how to live their lives. For example, in my own experience, and I am sure in Dr. Rice's, we have found that sometimes the most effective way to export our values is to train foreign students at our universities who then return home to become leaders in their own countries. Of course we will never say that only some men are created equal, that only some children will not be left behind or that we will pay only some price to defend freedom. But perhaps we should think more about strategies for extending freedom and democracy in the world other than nation building and determine what those strategies are and when they most appropriately might be used.