Applause for Kay Bailey Hutchison!
Jude Wanniski
November 18, 1999


Thanks for e-mailing me your speech Tuesday to the SMU School of Law. I've been wondering for some time when a member of Congress would raise these issues... and who it might be. I'm really not terribly surprised that it would turn out to be you. You've been one of the few independent voices of reason and prudence in the Senate during our recent bombing campaigns here and there around the world. Your speech puts you at the top of my list as the next Secretary of State, in the administration of whoever wins in 2000. Do you mind if I start a Kay Bailey Fan Club?

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America's Engagement in the World at a New Century's Dawn
Legal and Ethical Implications for the Use of Force
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison Nov. 16, 1999 SMU School of Law

Today I want to talk about America and the World. How do we engage it? Since the Cold War ended, America has been unfocused. Our vast military superiority and our global influence have not been matched by policies that clarify our place and role in the world. Most think of our power as military power. It's much more than that. It's our culture, our economy, our very way of life.

Historians will have a difficult time categorizing the role that America plays in the world today. That is because there is no precedent for the global economic, cultural and military power wielded by America today. I will address each in turn. The American economy is the envy of the world. Each day it is powered to new heights by the creativity and freedom of our people. The millions of daily decisions by individuals result in prosperity the world has never seen. The same is true for our culture -- our music, movies, the English language Internet, English as the common language for the international air traffic control system, our literature, clothing, fitness and sports. It's everything from Burger King to bungee jumping, jet skis to jazzercise.

This is what some call "soft power," the sum total of enticements that flow naturally from genuine freedom. Young people around the globe find it hard to hate America when they love Levis and the Grateful Dead. Our military power too -- our hard power -- knows no competitor. In military terms, we are a colossus astride the world. Our troops are in Japan, Korea, throughout Europe, the Middle East. With their lives we guard countless other nations. We keep tyrants in check -- from Baghdad to Beijing to Pyongyang and Belgrade. No other nation has ever wielded such military power.

What's more: this power is wielded not for conquest, but for peace. America's place in the world is unmatched in all of history. What is that role? It has three elements: First and foremost is the protection of our way of life -- democracy, freedom of speech and religion, the rule of law, and free enterprise. Second, to support and defend allies that share our beliefs and interests. Third, to encourage other nations to free their people and economies.

What does that mean? Leadership on this scale requires discretion. The confidence to know the right course and the will to pursue it. And the confidence to know when not to engage, but encourage others to do so. But true leadership -- and I believe ethical leadership -- is striking out on the right course of action and having others follow by establishing a clear principle for our action. That was the leadership the Senate showed when it recently rejected the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The popular decision would have been to ratify the treaty because -- on the face of it -- who could be against a ban on nuclear testing? The treaty would have left us weaker, not stronger, by threatening the credibility of America's nuclear deterrent, which has helped keep the peace for a half-century.

We rely upon diplomacy to maintain much of this leadership. But when diplomacy fails, global leadership may require the use of military force. But when and how should the United States use military force? There was a time -- it seemed -- when the answer was clear. We should use military force when our vital national interests are clearly threatened. The Cold War forced us to be disciplined. We knew that if we acted, the Soviets might react. And vice versa. Today, because of our superpower status, we are much more free to act. That requires much more discipline. In our political system, that discipline comes from the checks and balances built into it. The Constitution grants the authority to the President as Commander-in-Chief to deploy troops. But we forget that it tilts heavily in favor of the Congress on many related matters.

The Constitution grants Congress a number of specific powers: to declare war; to raise and support armies, and to provide and maintain a navy; the power to make regulations of the land and naval forces; the power to call forth the militia; and the power to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia. Our framers were quite clear on this issue. They did not break with a monarchy in England only to establish another monarchy in America. In drafting our Constitution, they were chiefly concerned with checking the abuses of Executive power.

One of the framers of our Constitution, James Madison, argued that "the system of checks and balances will not hurry us into war; it is calculated to guard against it. It will not be the power of a single man, or a single body of men, to involve us in such distress."

And Madison remarked "the constitution supposes, what the History of all governments demonstrates, that the executive is the branch of power most interested in war and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care, vested the question of war in the legislative." But throughout our history, particularly the last half century, Presidents have sent our troops into conflict without a formal declaration of war. To regain some control in the waning days of the Vietnam War, Congress in 1973 enacted the War Powers Resolution. The act required the President to seek congressional approval to deploy forces not more than 60 days after they were dispatched.

President Nixon vetoed the bill, but Congress overrode his veto. He warned that the War Powers Resolution could "strike from the president a wide range of peace-keeping options...." That may have been the case during the Cold War. Very little has hampered President Clinton from sending peacekeepers all around the world, though. Congress has few tools available to check those excesses. The power of the purse is the most potent weapon, but it's ineffective once troops are on the ground. I would be very reluctant to support a cut-off of funding once troops are on the ground in an overseas mission.

Congress is gradually being excluded from its constitutional role in foreign policy. The consultation process is broken. Congressional involvement in foreign affairs is not and should not be a partisan issue. It is an institutional issue, critical to the future conduct of principled foreign policy. Here, our ethical and legal responsibilities are intertwined. In a representative democracy such as ours, elected officials must stand up and be counted when the most fundamental decisions of war and peace are made. Elected representatives have a bond of trust with their constituents that is never more important than when they are considering sending those constituents into armed conflict. The Constitution gives Congress the obligation to declare war, because the framers of the Constitution understood that our political system demands that accountability. There will always be advocates around the world for the United States to get involved militarily to stop some crisis or another. But who will advocate for the young soldiers that have to get out there and actually do it? If elected American officials do not think first of the Americans going in harm's way, who will? When we ignore that accountability, we threaten our very political system.

It is time for the Congress to reassert its Constitutional role. If the War Powers Resolution of 1973 isn't useful and enforceable, it should be altered, amended, replaced or repealed. I believe it is important for Congress to reclaim the deliberate role intended by the Constitution. I have proposed, for example, limits on the duration and size of a force that could be deployed without Congressional approval. I have proposed that the President be required to identify the specific objectives for a mission prior to its approval by Congress. Too often these operations are open-ended and there are no milestones to measure success or failure and there is no exit strategy.

One of my goals in the Congress has been to reinvigorate the role of Congress in foreign affairs and in the exercise of war powers. The Clinton Administration has difficulty separating the urgencies of regional conflict from the imperatives of superpower leadership. It is a hallmark of this administration for the U.S. to stumble into regional crises and displace friendly local powers who share our goals and could act effectively on their own.

Most recently and disastrously in Kosovo, where we fought to sustain an unsustainable government. We are trying to prevent the realignment of a region where the great powers have tried and failed many times to impose their will on ancient hatreds and atrocities. I do commend the Clinton Administration for not rushing headlong into the recent crisis in East Timor. Instead, the President encouraged the efforts of Australia and New Zealand to take a leading role.

We saw in the Balkans that the United States can bomb a much smaller country into temporary submission. There were ethical questions. We had to weigh the precedent of bombing a sovereign nation that had not attacked the U.S. against reports of ethnic cleansing. Even our method of responding had an ethical component: Is it right to bomb from 30,000 feet -- in a desirable attempt to avoid U.S. casualties -- with the consequence of casualties among the innocent civilians on the ground? This is a growing problem for the United States: What is our ethical responsibility when it comes to ethnic cleansing and other forms of internal terror perpetrated by governments against their own people? There is no easy answer. Generally, if the United States has a unique capability to stop it, I understand the urge to try.

The original mission in Somalia, for example, was simply to move food from the ports -- where it was rotting for lack of distribution -- to the people in the countryside who needed it. That was risky business, but very few countries can marshal the sizable logistic resources needed for such an effort -- thousands of tons of food and the manpower to distribute it. President Bush's intention was that we would leave once that had been accomplished.

But we didn't declare victory and leave. Our troops were ordered to capture the warlord Aideed -- we changed our mission and did not develop an exit strategy. We don't always have a unique capability, though. Not long ago, there was horrific ethnic and tribal cleansing in Liberia. It was as heinous as any we've seen in Bosnia or Kosovo -- in fact, much worse. A group of neighboring countries got together to stop it and intervened between the warring factions. They were successful, and there is now a shaky peace in Liberia. Certainly the U.S. could have done the same thing, but we don't hold a monopoly on peacekeeping.

Years ago, President Nixon laid out principles of how our military forces should be used overseas. Based on his principles, I offer the following outline for a rational superpower foreign policy:

(1) Intervene with troops on the ground only when our own national security is endangered. We could choose to get involved in every regional conflict around the world, but that would prevent us from being able to respond where only we can respond. If we're tied down in Kosovo, who will respond when the North Koreans invade the South and China joins in? This is an ethical question for elected officials. If there is no American security interest threatened by a military action we wish to take, then we have to consider very carefully whether it's right to send young Americans to possibly die in order to defend someone else's national security interest.

(2) Encourage our regional allies to deal with regional problems, with our assistance if needed. This will let us focus our resources where the United States has unique capability; in parts of the world where our interests may be greater or where air power is necessary. Australia is leading in East Timor. We should applaud that and offer the intelligence and logistics support they may require.

(3) Help those who are willing to fight for their own freedom. Too often, we ignore or even oppose local forces who are willing to fight for their own freedom. The Reagan Doctrine was to help freedom fighters help themselves. In the Balkans, President Milosevic was able to suppress the Croats until they ignored our arms embargo and fought to a draw. Congress tried twice to lift the embargo on the Muslims -- but the Clinton administration refused. I am sure the atrocities would have been fewer if there could have been the semblance of a fair fight.

The risks of ignoring these principles are great. Our military forces are being stretched to the breaking point. Just last week, the Army announced that two of its ten combat divisions are unfit for battle -- one fifth of our entire Army. That should alarm anyone who believes that a strong United States is a force for good in the world. Qualified personnel are leaving the services in droves. In 1998, 48 percent of Air Force pilots eligible for continuation opted to leave the service. The Army will fall at least 6,000 below Congressionally authorized troop strength by the end of 1999.

We used up a large part of our weapons inventory in Kosovo -- we were down to fewer than 200 cruise missiles worldwide, for example. That sounds like a lot, but it's about a day's worth for an operation such as Desert Storm. And let's be clear about what that means: Weakness is provocative. It is, in my view, also unethical. Should we have to send our forces into combat, it is simply wrong to do so without the best equipment we can get and all the support they'll need. That's becoming harder to do as we expand our involvement but reduce the size of our military.

By failing to keep our armed forces combat ready, we invite other nations to take advantage. Congress is responding with military pay raises and regular increases in the President's annual defense budget requests. There are other ways we are trying to change course. Congress recently passed a bill I authored that called on the Administration to examine whether we can reduce America's global commitments where the mission has ended or can be accomplished with fewer troops.

As a superpower, the United States must draw distinctions between the essential and the important. Otherwise, we will dissipate our resources and be unable to handle either. To maximize our strengths, we should focus our efforts where they can be best applied. For example, air power -- technology generally -- should clearly be an American responsibility.

But troops on the ground for these operations short of full combat -- such as in Bosnia and Kosovo -- is a much more expensive proposition for us. They require more support and self-protection because America is a bigger target. Some argue that allowing our allies to shoulder the burden of regional conflicts like Kosovo signals a policy of isolationism. That argument is just alarmism and, frankly, rank partisanship. Who could seriously argue that the U.S., with billions of dollars in foreign aid and our commitment to military alliances, is not doing its fair share in the world?

In fact, the truth is the opposite. We must choose more carefully between those areas where direct engagement is called for and those where a supporting role is more appropriate. If we do not, we will not be able to sustain our important global responsibilities. If America's core strength were allowed to dissipate, it would hurt our allies and others yearning for freedom. We cannot and should not do it all. We must carefully guard the strength entrusted to us by the people. It is not an endless supply and it is not easily replaced once exhausted.

Let me close with the wise words of President John Quincy Adams; Secretary of State; President; member of Congress. In 1821, John Quincy Adams defined his vision of America's role in the world. It provides a glimpse at the ethical underpinnings of American engagement by one of our earliest practitioners of foreign policy: "America well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own...she would involve herself beyond extrication in all the wars of interest and intrigue.... The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force.... Wherever the standard of freedom and independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will America's heart be. She goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.... The frontlet upon her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished luster the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictator of the world: she would no longer be the ruler of her own spirit."

That warning still applies today, and it frames the ethical questions we must address in a foreign policy that is right for our country: To remain strong, to stay true to our core principles, and to be the beacon of freedom to the world.