Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi Address to Council on Foreign Relations

March 7, 2003

New York, N.Y. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi delivered the David A. Morse lecture at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City this morning. Below is a transcript of her remarks:

Thank you, Pete Peterson, for that gracious introduction. We are all indebted to you for your outstanding leadership in business, public service and foreign affairs. Thank you for your dedication to America.

And thank you members of the Council on Foreign Relations for inviting me here today, and for all that the Council has done for more than 80 years to spark and shape debate on the central issues defining the world and America’s place in it.

Being here today is a personal honor for me, in part because of the relationships David Morse shared with two generations of my family. He knew my father, when he was a member of Congress in the 1940s. Then, more than four decades later, David and his wife Mildred became good friends with my daughter, Jacqueline and her husband, Michael Kenneally.

In fact, when Jacqueline lived here in the late 1980s, she went to the Morse home almost every Sunday night. Thank you, Mildred, for giving my daughter what she always felt was a home away from home.

David Morse was the model of a true public servant and citizen of the world. He stood for the rights of people around the globe to work—and, indeed, to live—in dignity. He stood up for our international organizations and the simple, yet powerful, idea at their core—that we are stronger and safer together than apart. And he stood up for freedom and democracy.

As Director-General of the International Labor Organization for more than 20 years, David Morse put forth a philosophy that “universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice.” In 1969, he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for the ILO for executing that philosophy, and his vision guides us and inspires us to this day.

Secretary George Shultz said of David Morse that he always stood “for a blend of power and principle, not simply interest and power, but principle and power.” It is that blend—of principle and power—that I want to discuss this morning.

The World Today: Secured by American Principles and Power

This is a dangerous moment in the history of our country. American diplomats, military forces, the intelligence community and law enforcement are confronting the greatest threat facing our nation – the clear and present danger of terrorism.

In Iraq, inspections continue, but war looms on the horizon. In North Korea, we face a serious crisis with the increasing possibility that Pyongyang will use its plutonium stocks to develop nuclear weapons. And here at home, the nation remains at a high threat level.

But as we confront the challenges of our time, we must not lose sight of this unprecedented moment in world history.

We say it so often that we may forget what it means: the United States is the sole superpower -- economically, politically, and militarily. The American economy is the engine of the world. American freedoms are the envy of the world. And American diplomatic leadership, backed by an unsurpassed military, remains the key to peace and stability in every corner of the world.

Our challenge as a nation is therefore clear: How can we build a freer, more secure world grounded in democratic values? How can our ideas and our example inspire rather than incite? How can we harness our unprecedented economic power to alleviate the conditions that contribute to violence and aggression? How can American leadership expand the peace?

Our past can be a guide. We are the greatest force for peace and freedom in history because we have sought to use our power wisely and to advance the principles to which all people in all nations are entitled – freedom, human rights, peace and prosperity.

These ideals and values are now threatened by forces both known and unknown – from the terrorists who will spare no innocent; from weapons that can produce unparalleled destruction; and from the fury of despair of those with little hope for their future.

We must have goals as ambitious as the risks we face: to track down the terrorists at their sources; to do everything in our power to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction; to do and spend what is required to protect the homeland; and to commit ourselves to fighting the long-term conditions that breed poverty, instability and environmental degradation.

America’s Military Personnel: The Backbone of Our Military Power

As we meet here today, a possible war with Iraq is on all of our minds. The United Nations Security Council meets later today to debate the war. Last night, the President again made his case for the war. My position has not changed. I do not believe that going to war now is the best way to rid Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.

Before going to war, we must exhaust all alternatives, such as the continuation of inspections, diplomacy, and the leverage provided by the threat of military action.

I have just returned from visiting the people who bear the burden of that action and are the backbone of our military power -- our men and women in uniform. Along with Congressmen Jack Murtha and David Hobson, I traveled to Kuwait, Qatar, and Turkey to see our military personnel who may soon be in combat in Iraq.

The men and women I met were an inspiration. In recent months, they have waved goodbye to their wives, husbands and children. They are enthusiastic, courageous, and motivated by a deep love of country. They are the best trained, the best equipped, and the best led force for peace in the world.

Our men and women are more than ready. Should they be called upon to go into battle, regardless of our disagreements about the war, our troops will have the full support of our Congress. It will be one team, one fight.

Congress’ Role in Upholding American Principles and Power

As elected officials, our first responsibility is set forth in the Preamble of the Constitution – to provide for the common defense. In our time, common defense means protecting our homeland from terrorists as well as from traditional military threats.

We must have an honest debate about our national security priorities and how we can effectively achieve them. Our most pressing goals – eliminating the threat of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction – will not be achieved by any one President or one session of Congress. This effort will be extremely costly and will require extraordinary vigilance and continuity.

The role of Congress in foreign policy must extend far beyond voting yes or no on particular appropriations, resolutions, and treaties. Recent history – from the creation of NATO to its expansion – demonstrates the value of collaboration between the President and the Congress.

Whenever Presidents work with Congress to devise and implement their national security policies, it strengthens, not weakens, their hand. It strengthens, not weakens, our policies. It strengthens, not weakens, the ability to gain the informed consent of the American people, without which, history has painfully taught us, we cannot successfully wage a war or win the peace.

Principles of American Leadership

How can the President and Congress forge national security policies that strengthen, not weaken, our position in the world?

This morning, I want to offer three principles that should contribute to the successful exercise of our power.

First, America is strongest when we work with our friends and allies.

The events of 9/11 made it clear that commitment to international alliances are essential to our national security. It is a great paradox. Never have we had so much power. And, yet, never have we been so reliant on other nations.

We cannot turn away from the network of alliances and international organizations that we have helped build. They have led to the betterment of our country and the world for more than half a century.

None of us will ever forget the outpouring of support after 9/11 and the coalition of countries that helped us in Afghanistan. Over the past two years, we have too often tested the reservoir of good will toward us by saying and doing things that show disregard for our friends.

When we withdraw from the Biological Weapons Convention and the Kyoto treaty without discussion and without an alternative, we communicate far more than our positions on arms control or global warming.

None of us argues that the United States should sign on to every international agreement, regardless of whether it serves our national interest. But, if agreements address our collective needs, instead of opting out, we should work with the international community.

We should try to work out differences by listening and respecting the views of our allies, whose cooperation we will need in the years ahead.

Second, America must use power to promote long-term peace and security.

If ever there was a moment when American ideals and values inspired the world and laid the foundation for future peace and security, it was at the end of World War II. We undertook a task no other nation had ever done in history – turning dictatorships into democracies and foes into friends. The Marshall Plan was not charity. It was self-interest.

As George Marshall stated: “It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace.”

More than half a century later, our task is similar. Whether a war with Iraq ultimately brings that country freedom and security will depend on what happens after the fighting ends. The Administration does not like to use the term nation building, but that is what we, working with the international community, must do. Rebuilding an Iraq that is a safer and better place will not be easy. It will be a long and difficult road.

If we want to achieve long-term peace and security in the Middle East, we must do our part to bring security for Israel and a future for the Palestinian people. At the same time, we need to strengthen the hand of those in the Arab and Islamic world who want to pursue a more hopeful and peaceful path.

If we want to achieve long-term peace and security on the Korean peninsula, we must immediately confront the urgent crisis in North Korea, one of the world’s worst proliferators of weapons of mass destruction.

When I visited Pyongyang a few years ago, I saw firsthand the repression and poverty there. The people were starving. They were eating roots and grass. Government officials told us openly that missiles were their major export and that they would sell them to all buyers.

Today, North Korea has enough plutonium to develop nuclear weapons. Their recent actions, their covert highly enriched uranium program, and their provocative acts of the past few months are extremely dangerous. Kim Jong Il must turn North Korea back from its destructive nuclear course.

It is difficult to know what the Administration’s policy on North Korea is. I agree with the President that we must work with South Korea, Japan, Russia and China. However, we must also engage immediately in direct talks with North Korea in which those countries should participate. In those talks, we must get more from North Korea than in existing agreements.

North Korea should not just step back from the threatening actions of the past few months and give up its covert nuclear program. It must step forward to account for its past nuclear history and be subject to comprehensive and verifiable international scrutiny.

True peace also requires that we rededicate ourselves to eliminating the fury of despair and instability that plagues too much of the world and the region. We serve our interests and the world’s when we lead the international community in addressing global poverty and fighting infectious diseases including the AIDS pandemic, which has left 13 million children orphaned in the developing world. We serve our interests and the world’s when we work to provide safe drinking water and primary education for the developing world. We serve our interests and the world’s when we provide economic opportunity, family planning and prenatal care to women, 600,000 of whom die of pregnancy complications every year.

As we prepare to observe International Women’s Day tomorrow, we must remember women around the world who are still struggling for basic rights and dignity.

Third, America must engage with those who aspire to democratic values.

As a college student standing on the grounds of the Capitol on a freezing cold day, I listened to President Kennedy’s enduring challenge, which is familiar to every person in our country: “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Less-well known – but equally important -- is the line that followed: “My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of mankind.”

Throughout our history, our international standing has rested in part on our democratic values. As we define our role today, we must be clear about why we engage with the world. We must engage because we believe the ideals that we cherish—freedom, democracy, human rights and respect for people as individuals - can make countries plagued by conflict better places to live, and better partners in creating a safer world.

The pursuit of freedom is difficult. There are times when our democratic values seem at odds with other interests. But it is in our national interest to reconcile them. We should not accept the false choices among protecting our national security, promoting economic opportunity and advancing human rights.

We can and must achieve all of them. As we support democracy abroad, we cannot forget that some of our power derives from how we practice it here at home. As we protect and defend the American people against terrorism, we must protect and defend the Constitution and the civil liberties that define who we are. And we must treat honest debate for what it is: an expression of patriotism, not a violation of it.

The World We Want

As unprecedented as this moment in history is, and as unique as our security challenges may be, we face the same fundamental question that has confronted every generation of Americans before us – what kind of future do we want for our children?

We want a world in which our unrivaled power and influence is a source of inspiration to others. We want a world in which we lead friends and allies by example and strengthen international institutions to confront the transnational threats that no nation can defeat alone. We want a world in which we embrace our enlightened self-interest and engage in the difficult yet necessary work of proactively laying the foundation for long-term peace and security.

Finally, we want a world in which our foreign policy is heralded as reinforcing the ideals and values that improve lives and build peace and prosperity – freedom, democracy and human rights.

This foreign policy would achieve the goals David Morse stood for: the blend of principle and power. This foreign policy is what President Kennedy challenged us to do when he stated so eloquently: “what together we can do for the freedom of mankind.”


Current Presss Releases
2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003
2002 | 2001 | 2000 | 1999 | 1998 | 1997 | 1996