The True Clash of Civilizations

Samuel Huntington was only half right. The cultural fault line that divides the West and the Muslim world is not about democracy but sex. According to a new survey, Muslims and their Western counterparts want democracy, yet they are worlds apart when it comes to attitudes toward divorce, abortion, gender equality, and gay rights -- which may not bode well for democracy's future in the Middle East.

Democracy promotion in Islamic countries is now one of the Bush administration's most popular talking points. "We reject the condescending notion that freedom will not grow in the Middle East," Secretary of State Colin Powell declared last December as he unveiled the White House's new Middle East Partnership Initiative to encourage political and economic reform in Arab countries. Likewise, Condoleezza Rice, President George W. Bush's national security advisor, promised last September that the United States is committed to "the march of freedom in the Muslim world."

But does the Muslim world march to the beat of a different drummer? Despite Bush's optimistic pronouncement that there is "no clash of civilizations" when it comes to "the common rights and needs of men and women," others are not so sure. Samuel Huntington's controversial 1993 thesis -- that the cultural division between "Western Christianity" and "Orthodox Christianity and Islam" is the new fault line for conflict -- resonates more loudly than ever since September 11. Echoing Huntington, columnist Polly Toynbee argued in the British Guardian last November, "What binds together a globalized force of some extremists from many continents is a united hatred of Western values that seems to them to spring from Judeo-Christianity." Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Democratic Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut, after sitting through hours of testimony on U.S.-Islamic relations on Capitol Hill last October, testily blurted, "Why doesn't democracy grab hold in the Middle East? What is there about the culture and the people and so on where democracy just doesn't seem to be something they strive for and work for?"

Huntington's response would be that the Muslim world lacks the core political values that gave birth to representative democracy in Western civilization: separation of religious and secular authority, rule of law and social pluralism, parliamentary institutions of representative government, and protection of individual rights and civil liberties as the buffer between citizens and the power of the state. This claim seems all too plausible given the failure of electoral democracy to take root throughout the Middle East and North Africa. According to the latest Freedom House rankings, almost two thirds of the 192 countries around the world are now electoral democracies. But among the 47 countries with a Muslim majority, only one fourth are electoral democracies -- and none of the core Arabic-speaking societies falls into this category.

Yet this circumstantial evidence does little to prove Huntington correct, since it reveals nothing about the underlying beliefs of Muslim publics. Indeed, there has been scant empirical evidence whether Western and Muslim societies exhibit deeply divergent values -- that is, until now. The cumulative results of the two most recent waves of the World Values Survey (WVS), conducted in 1995-96 and 2000-2002, provide an extensive body of relevant evidence. Based on questionnaires that explore values and beliefs in more than 70 countries, the WVS is an investigation of sociocultural and political change that encompasses over 80 percent of the world's population.

A comparison of the data yielded by these surveys in Muslim and non-Muslim societies around the globe confirms the first claim in Huntington's thesis: Culture does matter -- indeed, it matters a lot. Historical religious traditions have left an enduring imprint on contemporary values. However, Huntington is mistaken in assuming that the core clash between the West and Islam is over political values. At this point in history, societies throughout the world (Muslim and Judeo-Christian alike) see democracy as the best form of government. Instead, the real fault line between the West and Islam, which Huntington's theory completely overlooks, concerns gender equality and sexual liberalization. In other words, the values separating the two cultures have much more to do with eros than demos. As younger generations in the West have gradually become more liberal on these issues, Muslim nations have remained the most traditional societies in the world.

This gap in values mirrors the widening economic divide between the West and the Muslim world. Commenting on the disenfranchisement of women throughout the Middle East, the United Nations Development Programme observed last summer that "no society can achieve the desired state of well-being and human development, or compete in a globalizing world, if half its people remain marginalized and disempowered." But this "sexual clash of civilizations" taps into far deeper issues than how Muslim countries treat women. A society's commitment to gender equality and sexual liberalization proves time and again to be the most reliable indicator of how strongly that society supports principles of tolerance and egalitarianism. Thus, the people of the Muslim world overwhelmingly want democracy, but democracy may not be sustainable in their societies.


Huntington argues that "ideas of individualism, liberalism, constitutionalism, human rights, equality, liberty, the rule of law, democracy, free markets, [and] the separation of church and state" often have little resonance outside the West. Moreover, he holds that Western efforts to promote these ideas provoke a violent backlash against "human rights imperialism." To test these propositions, we categorized the countries included in the WVS according to the nine major contemporary civilizations, based largely on the historical religious legacy of each society. The survey includes 22 countries representing Western Christianity (a West European culture that also encompasses North America, Australia, and New Zealand), 10 Central European nations (sharing a Western Christian heritage, but which also lived under Communist rule), 11 societies with a Muslim majority (Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, and Turkey), 12 traditionally Orthodox societies (such as Russia and Greece), 11 predominately Catholic Latin American countries, 4 East Asian societies shaped by Sino-Confucian values, 5 sub-Saharan Africa countries, plus Japan and India.

Despite Huntington's claim of a clash of civilizations between the West and the rest, the WVS reveals that, at this point in history, democracy has an overwhelmingly positive image throughout the world. In country after country, a clear majority of the population describes "having a democratic political system" as either "good" or "very good." These results represent a dramatic change from the 1930s and 1940s, when fascist regimes won overwhelming mass approval in many societies; and for many decades, Communist regimes had widespread support. But in the last decade, democracy became virtually the only political model with global appeal, no matter what the culture. With the exception of Pakistan, most of the Muslim countries surveyed think highly of democracy: In Albania, Egypt, Bangladesh, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Morocco, and Turkey, 92 to 99 percent of the public endorsed democratic institutions -- a higher proportion than in the United States (89 percent).

Yet, as heartening as these results may be, paying lip service to democracy does not necessarily prove that people genuinely support basic democratic norms -- or that their leaders will allow them to have democratic institutions. Although constitutions of authoritarian states such as China profess to embrace democratic ideals such as freedom of religion, the rulers deny it in practice. In Iran's 2000 elections, reformist candidates captured nearly three quarters of the seats in parliament, but a theocratic elite still holds the reins of power. Certainly, it's a step in the right direction if most people in a country endorse the idea of democracy. But this sentiment needs to be complemented by deeper underlying attitudes such as interpersonal trust and tolerance of unpopular groups -- and these values must ultimately be accepted by those who control the army and secret police.

The WVS reveals that, even after taking into account differences in economic and political development, support for democratic institutions is just as strong among those living in Muslim societies as in Western (or other) societies [see chart]. For instance, a solid majority of people living in Western and Muslim countries gives democracy high marks as the most efficient form of government, with 68 percent disagreeing with assertions that "democracies are indecisive" and "democracies aren't good at maintaining order." (All other cultural regions and countries, except East Asia and Japan, are far more critical.) And an equal number of respondents on both sides of the civilizational divide (61 percent) firmly reject authoritarian governance, expressing disapproval of "strong leaders" who do not "bother with parliament and elections." Muslim societies display greater support for religious authorities playing an active societal role than do Western societies. Yet this preference for religious authorities is less a cultural division between the West and Islam than it is a gap between the West and many other less secular societies around the globe, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. For instance, citizens in some Muslim societies agree overwhelmingly with the statement that "politicians who do not believe in God are unfit for public office" (88 percent in Egypt, 83 percent in Iran, and 71 percent in Bangladesh), but this statement also garners strong support in the Philippines (71 percent), Uganda (60 percent), and Venezuela (52 percent). Even in the United States, about two fifths of the public believes that atheists are unfit for public office.

However, when it comes to attitudes toward gender equality and sexual liberalization, the cultural gap between Islam and the West widens into a chasm. On the matter of equal rights and opportunities for women -- measured by such questions as whether men make better political leaders than women or whether university education is more important for boys than for girls -- Western and Muslim countries score 82 percent and 55 percent, respectively. Muslim societies are also distinctively less permissive toward homosexuality, abortion, and divorce.

These issues are part of a broader syndrome of tolerance, trust, political activism, and emphasis on individual autonomy that constitutes "self-expression values." The extent to which a society emphasizes these self-expression values has a surprisingly strong bearing on the emergence and survival of democratic institutions. Among all the countries included in the WVS, support for gender equality -- a key indicator of tolerance and personal freedom -- is closely linked with a society's level of democracy.

In every stable democracy, a majority of the public disagrees with the statement that "men make better political leaders than women." None of the societies in which less than 30 percent of the public rejects this statement (such as Jordan, Nigeria, and Belarus) is a true democracy. In China, one of the world's least democratic countries, a majority of the public agrees that men make better political leaders than women, despite a party line that has long emphasized gender equality (Mao Zedong once declared, "women hold up half the sky"). In practice, Chinese women occupy few positions of real power and face widespread discrimination in the workplace. India is a borderline case. The country is a long-standing parliamentary democracy with an independent judiciary and civilian control of the armed forces, yet it is also marred by a weak rule of law, arbitrary arrests, and extrajudicial killings. The status of Indian women reflects this duality. Women's rights are guaranteed in the constitution, and Indira Gandhi led the nation for 15 years. Yet domestic violence and forced prostitution remain prevalent throughout the country, and, according to the WVS, almost 50 percent of the Indian populace believes only men should run the government.

The way a society views homosexuality constitutes another good litmus test of its commitment to equality. Tolerance of well-liked groups is never a problem. But if someone wants to gauge how tolerant a nation really is, find out which group is the most disliked, and then ask whether members of that group should be allowed to hold public meetings, teach in schools, and work in government. Today, relatively few people express overt hostility toward other classes, races, or religions, but rejection of homosexuals is widespread. In response to a WVS question about whether homosexuality is justifiable, about half of the world's population say "never." But, as is the case with gender equality, this attitude is directly proportional to a country's level of democracy. Among authoritarian and quasi-democratic states, rejection of homosexuality is deeply entrenched: 99 percent in both Egypt and Bangladesh, 94 percent in Iran, 92 percent in China, and 71 percent in India. By contrast, these figures are much lower among respondents in stable democracies: 32 percent in the United States, 26 percent in Canada, 25 percent in Britain, and 19 percent in Germany.

Muslim societies are neither uniquely nor monolithically low on tolerance toward sexual orientation and gender equality. Many of the Soviet successor states rank as low as most Muslim societies. However, on the whole, Muslim countries not only lag behind the West but behind all other societies as well. Perhaps more significant, the figures reveal the gap between the West and Islam is even wider among younger age groups. This pattern suggests that the younger generations in Western societies have become progressively more egalitarian than their elders, but the younger generations in Muslim societies have remained almost as traditional as their parents and grandparents, producing an expanding cultural gap.


"The peoples of the Islamic nations want and deserve the same freedoms and opportunities as people in every nation," President Bush declared in a commencement speech at West Point last summer. He's right. Any claim of a "clash of civilizations" based on fundamentally different political goals held by Western and Muslim societies represents an oversimplification of the evidence. Support for the goal of democracy is surprisingly widespread among Muslim publics, even among those living in authoritarian societies. Yet Huntington is correct when he argues that cultural differences have taken on a new importance, forming the fault lines for future conflict. Although nearly the entire world pays lip service to democracy, there is still no global consensus on the self-expression values -- such as social tolerance, gender equality, freedom of speech, and interpersonal trust -- that are crucial to democracy. Today, these divergent values constitute the real clash between Muslim societies and the West.

But economic development generates changed attitudes in virtually any society. In particular, modernization compels systematic, predictable changes in gender roles: Industrialization brings women into the paid work force and dramatically reduces fertility rates. Women become literate and begin to participate in representative government but still have far less power than men. Then, the postindustrial phase brings a shift toward greater gender equality as women move into higher-status economic roles in management and gain political influence within elected and appointed bodies. Thus, relatively industrialized Muslim societies such as Turkey share the same views on gender equality and sexual liberalization as other new democracies.

Even in established democracies, changes in cultural attitudes -- and eventually, attitudes toward democracy -- seem to be closely linked with modernization. Women did not attain the right to vote in most historically Protestant societies until about 1920, and in much of Roman Catholic Europe until after World War II. In 1945, only 3 percent of the members of parliaments around the world were women. In 1965, the figure rose to 8 percent, in 1985 to 12 percent, and in 2002 to 15 percent.

The United States cannot expect to foster democracy in the Muslim world simply by getting countries to adopt the trappings of democratic governance, such as holding elections and having a parliament. Nor is it realistic to expect that nascent democracies in the Middle East will inspire a wave of reforms reminiscent of the velvet revolutions that swept Eastern Europe in the final days of the Cold War. A real commitment to democratic reform will be measured by the willingness to commit the resources necessary to foster human development in the Muslim world. Culture has a lasting impact on how societies evolve. But culture does not have to be destiny.


If I Were President ...

George W. Bush's policies toward North Korea and Iraq are under fire, and public approval of his presidency is declining. What's the Democratic alternative?

Throughout the U.S. presidential campaigns of the last decade, foreign policy took a back seat to the economy, family values, Social Security, and taxes. But American voters didn’t lose interest in the world; rather, without the looming threat of the Soviet Union, what happened “over there” just seemed less relevant to their daily lives. Rising tensions in the Middle East couldn’t compete with the rising costs of prescription drugs.

But when “the world” returned to American consciousness with a vengeance on September 11, 2001, the dynamics of U.S. politics changed yet again. President George W. Bush’s opponents in the Democratic Party, confident they had the political advantage on domestic issues, suddenly found their voices drowned out by the commander in chief. The dismal performance of Democrats in the 2002 midterm elections only reinforced the perception that their party has no global vision or popular mandate on national security issues.

The Democratic candidates who seek to unseat President Bush in 2004 now know they must not only convince a skeptical public that they can lead the United States through its current crises but that they can lead the country better than Bush. Foreign Policy magazine asked four Democratic presidential hopefuls to articulate their vision of the United States’ role in the world.

By John Edwards

Since the first responsibility of any government is to protect its citizens from harm, Washington must now do as much as possible to meet two overriding priorities: securing the American people at home and addressing both the immediate and long-term threats to our security abroad. Yet I worry that the Bush administration is failing to achieve both, neither doing what it takes to make the United States safe nor working hard enough to develop a comprehensive strategy for enhancing global security.

Let’s begin with homeland security, which is a vital part of any national security strategy. Thankfully, we have made real progress on airport security systems and have started a massive government reorganization to create the Department of Homeland Security. But we still don’t have the means to infiltrate terrorist organizations operating within the United States or adequate ways to stop terrorists or their weapons from getting through the holes in U.S. borders or ports. We still have not given police the proper training and equipment to protect bridges and tunnels. We still have not done enough to help the police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians on the front lines to help coordinate a response in the event of an attack. We still have not done nearly enough to encourage and help all Americans to play a part in making the country safer.

In short, today there is still no comprehensive strategy for domestic security. Up to now, the Bush administration has focused on racking up political achievements for itself rather than substantive achievements for U.S. security. And against all reason, the administration stubbornly clings to permanent tax cuts that will benefit mainly the top 1 percent of Americans while arguing that the government can’t afford vital measures to protect the American people.

A comprehensive approach to domestic security must include initiatives to find and track terrorists through better intelligence, to improve border security and target protection, and to do as much as possible to enhance domestic readiness. I have outlined proposals in each of these areas, and I believe acting on them must be an urgent priority.

Yet making the United States safe at home is only the first step—we also have to do much better to make the United States safe in the world. This effort means we have to meet at least three key challenges: eliminating the threat of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons; winning the war on terrorism; and promoting democracy and freedom around the world, especially in the Middle East.

To eliminate the threat from weapons of mass destruction, we must ensure countries such as Iraq and North Korea abide by their international obligations. That is why I supported authorizing the use of force to disarm Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and why I was so dismayed by the administration’s muddled response to the recent North Korea crisis. But the threat from weapons of mass destruction is much bigger than Iraq and North Korea. To prevent future threats from arising, the United States must treat non-proliferation as a strategic imperative. Unfortunately, so far, the administration has spent far more diplomatic energy to weaken the international consensus against proliferation than to strengthen it.

The world needs more U.S. leadership on these issues, not less. Just as the United States must lead a global coalition against countries like Iraq, it must forge a global coalition against the larger threat from weapons of mass destruction. We must do much more to support the many disarmament programs already in place to dismantle weapons and prevent access to weapons-grade materials in Russia and the former Soviet states; we must also devote the maximum resources necessary to support cooperative threat-reduction programs, including the Nunn-Lugar Act of 1991.

American resolve in these efforts must also be matched in the long-term fight against terrorist groups like al Qaeda. I reject the false choice between fighting the war on terrorism and combating the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. The United States’ national security requires both.

The war on terrorism, as the fight against weapons proliferation, will never be won through unilateral American action. Though powerful, the United States cannot be everywhere and learn everything without cooperation from our friends and allies. Al Qaeda alone is known to operate in more than 60 countries, and we therefore need the cooperation of intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world.

The United States must also be there to fight terrorism for the long haul—waging war when necessary but also doing what it takes to win the peace. From the Balkans to Afghanistan, the Bush administration has displayed a visceral rejection of leadership in post-conflict situations. Again, we should not—and cannot—go it alone. But we must make such leadership a higher priority. We’ve proved that we have firepower. Now we must show the world that we have staying power.

A vital part of staying power is the U.S. effort to promote global democracy and freedom. Ultimately, there is no greater force for peace and prosperity and against terrorism than the promotion of democratic regimes that respect human rights and the rule of law both within and beyond their borders. That’s why the United States must lead a far-reaching new effort to build the infrastructure of just and lawful societies: a free press and civil society, open and fair elections, and the legal, political, and regulatory institutions to make government accountable.

This effort will require steady diplomatic pressure and increased funding. I support the administration’s ongoing effort to link assistance to just and responsible governance. But the United States must also rally Europe, Japan, and multilateral aid agencies to put democracy and good governance at the center of their strategies and standards.

This emphasis is especially important for the Middle East. No area of the world is now more critical to U.S. interests, yet no area of the world is less democratic. Getting serious about political reform and human rights in the Middle East will require specific strategies in specific countries, but it will also depend on achieving energy security. Presidents of both parties have tolerated and even supported authoritarian regimes in the Middle East in part because the United States depends on them for oil. A real commitment to energy independence—which the Bush administration clearly lacks—would not only strengthen the U.S. economy but free the United States to promote American values. The United States must also do far more to promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Finally, Americans must remember this fundamental fact: Success in combating weapons of mass destruction, fighting terrorism, and promoting democracy is only possible through American leadership of the world—not American disregard for it. Too often, the current administration sends the message that others don’t matter. It rightly demands that U.S. allies back efforts vital to U.S. interests but then shows disdain for cooperative endeavors and agreements important to theirs. Indeed, the administration often treats allies as an afterthought, gratuitously rubbing in its contempt for them and their views.

We will always have some differences with friends and allies. But what’s important is how we resolve those differences—or agree not to. We should always stick to our principles, do our best to bring others to our way of thinking, and remain committed to resolving disputes in a respectful spirit. But picking up and walking away is not an exercise of leadership; it is an abdication of it. After all, a leader who has to go it alone is no longer leading anybody.

Right now, when it comes to U.S. security at home and abroad, Americans have the worst of both worlds: an administration that has not done enough to strengthen our domestic security but has done far too much to isolate us in the world. The American people deserve better on both counts.

By Richard A. Gephardt

Last June, I gave a foreign policy address to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Council on Foreign Relations in which I offered to work with President George W. Bush to build an effective policy toward Iraq. I felt then, as I do today, that to protect the United States’ national interests, we must use diplomatic tools where we can and military means when we must to eliminate the threat Iraqi President Saddam Hussein poses to the region and our own security.

In negotiations with the Bush administration on the congressional legislation authorizing the use of force, if necessary, to eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, my proudest contribution was to insist on language calling on Bush to continue active diplomatic engagement to resolve this crisis before he resorts to military action. In every conversation I had with the president, I emphasized the importance of exhausting all diplomatic means and of working with other nations to maximize our potential for success. These efforts compelled the president into a partnership with the United Nations that resulted in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441, which warns of “serious consequences” if Iraq does not allow weapons inspectors to verify the destruction of its weapons of mass destruction.

In approaching this crisis and other foreign policy challenges, I drew from a long tradition of leadership that has shaped U.S. foreign policy since World War II. At many points in the last half century, our nation has faced a choice between taking a global leadership role or reverting to the illusory security of isolation, as we did after World War I. To our great benefit, our leaders have repeatedly committed themselves to the first path through their keen understanding of America’s long-term interests, their constant recognition that the United States must be engaged in world events, and their sustained efforts to draw other nations to our cause and the values that guide it.

I am determined to further this tradition of committed leadership and have pursued such a course in international affairs throughout my career. In my view, U.S. foreign policy must focus first and foremost on protecting U.S. security interests, engaging the world to advance those interests, and using our influence to broaden the community of nations that share our values and aspirations. Unlike the times of our previous presidents, however, the new opportunities afforded us by globalization and the dangers beset upon us by terrorism require an additional commitment to broad-based citizen involvement. To expand the circle of free and prosperous nations in today’s world, I am convinced the United States must invest the skills, talents, and altruistic spirit of the American people in this enterprise.

Over the last two years, President Bush has unfortunately chosen to disregard these essential principles as he has attempted to manage U.S. foreign policy. Instead, he has chosen to pursue objectives through unilateral actions and a widely criticized doctrine of preemption rather than through the use of influence and coalition building that generally has had a more lasting and effectual impact on the course of world events. Sadly, Bush’s path has had the effect of isolating our nation, alienating our allies, and—most seriously—undermining our security and values throughout the world.

Consequently, as our nation faces the greatest threat to its security since World War II, we are today less able to advance our interests through the exercise of global leadership. Fewer nations choose to follow our lead; more nations resent our tilt toward unilateralism. The consequences of this approach are evident:

First, President Bush showed strong leadership in the weeks after the tragedy of September 11, 2001. On the first battleground of the war on terrorism, Bush successfully rooted the Taliban out of Afghanistan, however, he failed to close escape routes for Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders. And by refusing to commit to a sufficient peacekeeping presence in Afghanistan, he has allowed instability to fester and terrorist cells to regroup for the next fight.

Second, in the Middle East, it has always been imperative that our nation maintain unflinching support for Israel’s security and an unwavering commitment to reduce violence and promote steps toward peace. In contrast, this administration has wavered between support and criticism for Israel, which, combined with a distinct effort to disengage from any dialogue, has frustrated the progress toward peace.

Third, in terms of U.S. relations with Russia, I have worked since the days of glasnost and perestroika to assist its transition to democracy and build new partnerships from the grass roots up. Moreover, in 2001, I called for a new strategic framework to promote mutual security and to counter the threats of proliferation and terrorism. President Bush chose to pursue a different course by abandoning a framework that had preserved stability for three decades without offering a coherent vision of our future bilateral relations. Today, all he has to show for this course is a nuclear weapons treaty that doesn’t eliminate nuclear weapons and a construction plan for a missile defense system that has not yet proved to work.

Fourth, in Africa, I have met with people on the front lines in the struggle against hiv/aids and have advocated steadily for increased funding to eradicate this threat to the health and security of all nations. I have also supported and contributed my efforts to relieve the staggering debt that burdens African nations. Despite many promises, President Bush has yet to deliver the resources necessary to fulfill our moral obligation to these efforts.

Finally, and perhaps most important, at home I worked diligently for the creation of a Department of Homeland Security that will maximize the safety of our citizens and value the hard work of its employees. After exerting considerable effort to oppose this initiative—not to mention opposing an independent commission that can apply lessons learned from September 11—the president belatedly joined the cause. But he continues to withhold the funds needed for many critical security measures to be implemented effectively.

Without a clear sense of our nation’s key global interests, a sustained commitment to engage on their behalf, and a desire to strengthen and expand alliances, our foreign policy can and will falter. As we confront these challenges, we must keep these principles in mind and look for new opportunities to advance our values and our security throughout the world.

During missions to other countries, I have seen that U.S. foreign policy is often most effectively exercised by average Americans. From the retired businessman administering microloans in Morocco to the young lawyer working to empower women in India, Americans abroad can make a difference.

For many Americans, the tragedy of September 11 awakened a new interest in the world and a new potential to effect positive change in regions where hopelessness has bred extremism. Our government must encourage efforts beyond established military and diplomatic means to spread democratic values, the rule of law, and free enterprise. Our goal must be to reach beyond our borders and forge bonds that can last for generations.

Today, our nation confronts a serious threat from North Korea, one that may not have reached this stage had our president adopted the fundamental foreign policy principles that have served this nation well since World War II. Instead, he walked away from this challenge early in his administration, ignoring advice from myself and others to protect the nation’s interests by remaining engaged and working with allies. As we contend with this threat and other global challenges, I believe that steady, committed leadership and inspired public involvement can provide the foundation for a more coherent and forward-looking foreign policy for the coming years.

By John Kerry

Democrats must resist a new orthodoxy within our party—a politically stagnating shift that does a disservice to more than 75 years of history. That is the new conventional wisdom of consultants, pollsters, and strategists who argue that Democrats should be the party of domestic issues alone.

They are wrong. As a party, Democrats need to talk about all the things that strengthen and protect the United States. We need to have a vision that extends to the world around us, and we should remember that this vision is as old as our party. Woodrow Wilson was elected president during a time of peace, but he led during a time of war. Franklin Roosevelt was elected to tackle the Great Depression, create Social Security, and put the United States back to work. But no one should forget that he did those things even as he responded to Pearl Harbor and marshaled the nation’s troops from Normandy to Iwo Jima. And John F. Kennedy didn’t try to change the subject of the debate when Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vice president brought up foreign policy. Kennedy challenged the United States globally, insisting that the country do more and better, not because these things are easy but because they are hard.

It’s our turn again to talk about things that are hard.

The war on terrorism is different than any war in history. Intelligence is this nation’s most important weapon but also its greatest vulnerability. It is now common knowledge that crucial intercepts from September 10, 2001, weren’t translated until two days later because of severe understaffing at U.S. intelligence agencies. As of January 2002, the U.S. Army had an average 44 percent shortfall in translators and interpreters in five critical languages: Arabic, Korean, Mandarin-Chinese, Persian-Farsi, and Russian. The State Department reported a 26 percent shortage of authorized translators and interpreters.

To remedy this intelligence deficit, U.S. college campuses need to overcome a Vietnam-era mind-set that demonizes the cia and fbi. To respond to the new threats, we must redouble our information-gathering efforts and make sure proper officials heed critical information, so that when we talk about preventing another September 11, we’re dealing in reality, not rhetoric. We also face critical choices in the makeup and structuring of the U.S. armed forces. Operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, and the Persian Gulf have highlighted changes in military tactics and equipment needs. Outdated military equipment may please defense contractors, but it won’t win tomorrow’s battles. A modern military means smarter, more versatile equipment; better intelligence; advanced communications; long-range air power; and highly mobile ground forces.

Predictably, the Bush administration has talked about improvements but so far has failed to enact meaningful change. It is up to Democrats to understand and prepare for Fourth Generation warfare (fighting unconventional forces in unconventional ways), so our nation can be better prepared to wage and win the new war.

We must also change the way we interact with the world. For people who have suggested that unilateralism is “just the American way,” it’s time to acknowledge that more and more, our allies are our eyes and ears around the globe and will play a critical role in intelligence operations. We need partners. We should work on our public and private diplomacy more thoughtfully, sensitively, and intensely to develop both.

I support the Bush administration’s goal of a regime change in Iraq. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is a renegade and outlaw who turned his back on the tough conditions of his surrender put in place by the United Nations in 1991. But the administration’s rhetoric has far exceeded its plans or groundwork. In fact, its single-mindedness, secrecy, and high-blown phrases have alienated our allies and threatened to undermine the stability of the region.

As both a soldier and a senator, I learned that when it comes to war, our goal must not be just regime change but a lasting peace. The United States has won the war in Afghanistan without securing the peace. This administration has failed to make its case on the international stage or to the American people for the rationale of starting the war or for the means of ending it. We cannot afford to put the security of our allies, the region, and ultimately ourselves at risk for the vague promises we have heard to date. We must do better.

American leadership means we must listen to the cultures and histories of other countries and work harder to build coalitions and partnerships. But for two years, the Bush administration has drifted from its chosen proactive message of disengagement to the reactive, mixed, and contradictory messages of reluctant engagement.

We can and must engage thoughtfully, strategically, and firmly. Nowhere is the need more clear or urgent than in North Korea.

But the Bush administration has offered only a merry-go-round policy: Bush and his advisors got up on their high horse, whooped and hollered, rode around in circles, and ended up right back where they’d started. By suspending the talks initiated by the Clinton administration, asking for talks but with new conditions, refusing to talk under the threat of nuclear blackmail, and then reversing that refusal as North Korea’s master of brinkmanship upped the ante, the administration sowed confusion and put the despot Kim Jong Il in the driver’s seat. By publicly taking military force, negotiations, and sanctions off the table, the administration tied its own hands behind its back.

Now, finally, the Bush administration is rightly working with allies in the region—acting multilaterally—to pressure Pyongyang. It’s gotten off the merry-go-round; the question is why one would ever want to be so driven by unilateralist dogma to get on in the first place. Draining the swamps of terrorists will require much greater involvement in the world. It must include significant investments in the education and human infrastructure of troubled countries. The globalization of the last decade proved that simple measures like buying books and teaching family planning can do much to expose, rebut, isolate, and defeat apostles of hate. These and other techniques are crucial to ensuring that children are no longer brainwashed into becoming suicide bombers and that terrorists are denied the ideological swamplands in which they thrive. Foreign aid must be increased and reformed to focus on education. We must give countries in the Middle East a reason to want peace. In the next few years, if changes aren’t made, the potential for violence in that region will only increase. If we fail to reach the children and the families wrecked by the violence of poverty and seclusion, the growing population of unemployed and unemployable kids will find in fanaticism a tragic answer to its problems. Americans’ security depends on helping the people of the Middle East see and act on a legitimate vision of peace.

It’s up to the United States to respond. Only the United States is in a position to lead the effort with other governments and private-sector partners to beat this pandemic; only the United States has the resources to make a difference. An American president once said, “We cannot... be content to rot by inches in ignoble ease within our own borders, taking no interest in what goes on beyond them, sunk in scrambling commercialism; heedless of the higher life, the life of aspiration, of toil and risk... We cannot sit huddled within our own borders and avow ourselves merely an assemblage of well-to-do hucksters who care nothing for what happens beyond.”

The Republican Party has in too many ways already disavowed the lessons of that Republican leader, Teddy Roosevelt. Our party can’t afford to repeat those mistakes, not when national greatness hangs in the balance. It is time for Democrats to make clear once more: We will never surrender or submit—not on any issue, and not on any question before this country.

By Joe Lieberman

In this era of uncertainty and conflict, the United States—blessed with the world’s strongest military, most ingenious economy, and most tolerant society—remains a model and leader to the world.

But around the globe, anti-Americanism is growing and U.S. leadership is being challenged. That is partially a by-product of U.S. preeminence, but some of it is a direct response to the Bush administration’s policies. Even our staunchest friends are troubled by the administration’s inclination for unilateral action, its inconsistent words and deeds, and its dismissive response to their legitimate concerns.

How do we use our power and leverage our moral authority to make the United States and the world safer and better? By meeting three intertwined challenges: living up to our security responsibilities, opening up new opportunities around the globe, and becoming more engaged in the world community.

Responsibility means living up to our government’s constitutional obligation to provide for the common defense and insure domestic tranquility. Since September 11, the most immediate dangers we face are from al Qaeda and other global terrorist networks. In the months and years to come, U.S. armed forces and intelligence agencies must pursue those terrorists more aggressively. We must fight the war with more than force—using diplomatic, economic, and political tools to disrupt al Qaeda and deprive it of support. We will need ploughshares and swords to win this war. We must refocus nato, the world’s greatest military alliance, to apply its might to uproot terrorism. At home, we must reshape domestic defenses with more urgency, vision, and precision than the Bush administration has demonstrated.

Rogue nations present a grave second danger—one we must counter through early intervention, firm diplomacy, and, when necessary, an uncompromising willingness to use force. These past six months, the Bush administration has been strong, clear, and consistent on Iraq but weak, confusing, and inconsistent on North Korea. North Korea has a totalitarian leader whose destructive attempts to develop nuclear weapons are the cause of the current crisis. But by straying from the path of strength and diplomacy pursued by the Clinton administration, the Bush administration has turned a difficult challenge into a dangerous crisis.

The danger of terrorists and rogue states is compounded by the proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons. That’s why we must invest further in the Nunn-Lugar program to dismantle and secure loose nuclear materials and technologies and why we must renew our leadership in pursuit of more comprehensive nuclear arms control. An important start is recommitting to the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. But preventive efforts might fail, so an effective missile defense system is also necessary.

Third, maintaining the global balance of power must be as high a priority as countering threats from terrorists and rogue nations. That means understanding the consequences of the Bush administration’s clumsily articulated policy of military preemption—and correcting the policy quickly. The United States has always reserved the right to use force to prevent an attack against us. But by declaring this doctrine without offering friends and foes clarification as to how and when the policy might be exercised, our government has prompted unease among allies and defensive action among enemies—without strengthening U.S. security.

Finally, we must reinvigorate the U.S. military for the new century through an aggressive transformation that makes it lighter, more lethal, and more readily equipped to win unconventional wars. The Bush administration’s rhetoric, which has been good on this point, must be matched with tough decisions and real resources. Those resources will be increasingly difficult to find since the president has overcommitted our national resources to his ineffective tax cuts.

Opportunity means advancing American values in the world by protecting human rights, meeting human needs, and opening global markets. Here again, the administration’s rhetoric has not been matched with concrete actions or adequate resources.

The Muslim world is in the midst of a civil war between a moderate majority, which seeks a better life, and a militant minority, which seeks to wage permanent war against all who are different and to bring down a theological iron curtain separating Islam from the rest of the world. For the sake of U.S. security and values, we must support the moderate Muslim majority’s aspirations. That means doing more than “draining the terrorist swamp.” We must also seed the garden—helping average people flourish by increasing economic opportunities and laying the institutional foundations of a civil society.

I have introduced a bill with Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska to do exactly that in partnership with the people of Afghanistan. Soon, Senator Hagel and I will introduce legislation expanding that model to the rest of the Muslim world. When we bring down trade and business barriers and build up democratic institutions that respect the God-given rights of all people, we will more clearly communicate that we are fighting a small group of vicious terrorists, not engaging in a global clash against Islam.

We must also demonstrate a commitment to opening markets, respecting human rights, and fighting disease in Africa—which is why I have supported the Debt Relief Enhancement Act and the African Growth and Opportunity Act. So, too, must we help pave the path to prosperity in the still tenuous democracies of Latin America by expanding trade and development and reinvigorating political groups such as the Organization of American States.

Finally, we must dramatically reform foreign aid—to ensure it helps those we intend it to help and reinforces American values of tolerance, equality, and opportunity. Once we are confident the money is being spent wisely, we should significantly increase our investment.

Community means engaging constructively with like-minded nations to build strong, sustaining institutions and alliances—and bringing emerging powers into this community so future conflict becomes less likely. The Bush administration has demonstrated an unhealthy disregard for the opinions of fellow nations—a disregard that has squandered some of the support we received after the September 11, 2001, attacks and diminished our influence around the world.

Consider the administration’s approach to global warming. Though the United States produces about a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gases and will be affected badly by climate change, the Bush administration has shown no interest in doing anything about the problem. That undermines our stature and causes an unnecessary rift with our allies that could come back to haunt us as we seek global support in the war against terrorism. Victory in this war depends upon partnerships—in intelligence, law enforcement, asset seizure, and a range of other operations. There is a better way: a market-friendly system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that I have introduced with Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

The most powerful nation in the world cannot oscillate between sulking and shouting. The United States must speak with a clear and consistent voice and lead all nations to face major global challenges together. The U.S. government has paid dearly for pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol and rejecting the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Although each of these agreements was flawed, each became more so when the United States moved to the sidelines. Helping shape credible international institutions is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of confidence in U.S. strength and ideals. By disengaging, President Bush has often marginalized U.S. policies, interests, and values.

In his April 1917 address to Congress asking for a declaration of war, President Woodrow Wilson said, “we shall fight for those things which we have always carried nearest our hearts, for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments.”

As we reflect on the last century, we must see that only by preparing to fight for the things we carry nearest our hearts -- the power of our ideals -- did we make it an American century. And only by putting our muscle behind our morality will we make this new century as full of progress for the United States and the world.


Sen. John Edwards (North Carolina)
Edwards was a trial lawyer prior to serving in public office. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998, defeating incumbent Republican Sen. Lauch Faircloth.

Edwards sits on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; the Committee on the Judiciary; the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

In March 1999, Edwards voted in favor of a resolution authorizing “military air operations and missile strikes in cooperation with nato against Yugoslavia.” Two months later, he joined 77 other senators (46 Republicans and 31 Democrats) in opposing a resolution authorizing then President Bill Clinton to “use all necessary force and other means” to achieve victory in Kosovo, including the possible use of ground troops. Edwards supported ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and voted in favor of legislation calling upon the United States to deploy national missile defense as soon as such a system is technologically feasible. He has criticized the White House for blocking efforts to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and notes that: “In its 31-page National Security Strategy, there is only one paragraph that says anything about strengthening preventive measures like non-proliferation.” In 2000, Edwards voted in favor of permanent normal trade relations with China. In that same year, he was one of 19 senators to vote against the African Growth and Opportunity Act, which specified that expanded trade with African, Caribbean, and Central American countries would be contingent upon those nations’ meeting specific eligibility requirements, such as eliminating child labor. In the months following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, he introduced four pieces of legislation intended to strengthen homeland security: the Biological and Chemical Weapons Preparedness Act, the Airport and Seaport Terrorism Prevention Act, the Cyberterrorism Preparedness Act, and the Cybersecurity Research and Education Act. In 2002, Edwards was one of the cosponsors of the bipartisan resolution authorizing President George W. Bush to use military force to ensure Iraq complies with U.N. resolutions on disarmament.

Rep. Richard Gephardt (Missouri)
Gephardt began his political career as a precinct captain and alderman in St. Louis. In 1976, he was elected to the House of Representatives; he went on to become chairman of the House Democratic Caucus in 1984. Three years later, he emerged as the first Democratic candidate to enter the 1988 presidential race, but he lost the nomination to Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. Gephardt was the House majority leader until the Republicans recaptured Congress in 1994. He then served as House minority leader before stepping down from that position in 2002.

In 1991, Gephardt was one of 183 members of the House of Representatives to vote against the resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. (Eleven years later, he said he was wrong in casting a “no” vote.) He joined with 155 Democrats, 43 Republicans, and one Independent to vote against the North American Free Trade Agreement (nafta) in 1993. (“The day nafta passed was one of my darkest in Congress,” he recalled in 1999. “The agreements affecting labor and environmental issues are sadly inadequate.”) In 1998, he voted against granting then President Bill Clinton fast-track trade negotiating authority; two years later Gephardt opposed permanent normal trade relations with China, arguing that Beijing still needed to make more progress on human rights. In 1999, he was one of 105 House members to vote against deploying a national missile defense system. Also that year, he joined 300 other representatives to vote against an amendment that would have blocked funds for a ground war in Kosovo without the authorization of Congress. In 2001, he voted in favor of an ammendment making the payment of $244 million in funds designated for U.N. back dues contingent upon the United States being restored to its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission. In 2002, Gephardt helped draft the resolution authorizing President George W. Bush to use military force to ensure Iraq complies with U.N. resolutions on disarmament. The resolution passed in the House of Representatives, 296-133.

Sen. John Kerry (Massachusetts)
Kerry was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984, after serving as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts for two years.

Kerry sits on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; the Committee on Finance; the Committee on Foreign Relations; and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

In 1989, as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics, and International Operations, Kerry oversaw the publication of a 1,166-page report titled “Drugs, Law Enforcement and Foreign Policy,” which faulted U.S. government officials for turning a blind eye to the narcotic-trafficking activities of the Nicaraguan contras. Kerry joined with 44 other Senate Democrats to vote against the 1991 resolution on the Use of Force Against Iraq, arguing that economic sanctions should be given more time to work before “rushing headlong into war.” He supported granting the president fast-track trade negotiating authority in 1997 and voted in favor of permanent normal trade relations with China in 2000. In 1999, Kerry sided with 47 other senators in favor of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and also supported legislation that called for the deployment of national missile defense as soon as such a system is technologically feasible. He is the chair of the Center for Strategic and International Studies Task Force on Strengthening U.S. Leadership on hiv/aids; in 2000, he cosponsored legislation to facilitate the creation of a “trust fund” by the World Bank to raise money from governments, the private sector, and nongovernmental organizations as part of the global effort to prevent the spread of aids. Also in 2000, Kerry mediated negotiations in Cambodia to establish a tribunal to prosecute surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge. In 2002, he voted with 28 other Senate Democrats and 48 Senate Republicans in favor of a resolution authorizing the Bush administration to use force to ensure Iraqi compliance with U.N. resolutions.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (Connecticut)
Lieberman was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1988. In 2000, as presidential candidate Al Gore’s running mate, he lost his bid to become vice president, but he was elected to a third term in the Senate.

Lieberman sits on the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs; the Committee on Environment and Public Works; the Committee on Armed Services; and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. Lieberman also previously served as chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, a national organization of centrist Democrats that former President Bill Clinton helped establish in 1985.

In 1991, Lieberman coauthored the resolution authorizing President George H. W. Bush to use military force to expel the Iraqi military from Kuwait. (He was one of 10 Democratic senators to support the resolution.) Following a 1997 wave of terrorist bombings in Israel, Lieberman joined with four Republican colleagues to send a letter to President Clinton denouncing Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat as the “villain” of the peace process. In 1997, he was in favor of granting the president fast-track trade negotiating authority, and, in 2000, he supported permanent normal trade relations with China. In 1998, he cosponsored the International Religious Freedom Act. Lieberman frequently denounced Serbian aggression in the Balkans throughout the 1990s, and, in 1999, he cosponsored a resolution in the Senate authorizing President Clinton to use “all necessary force and other means” to achieve victory in Kosovo, including the possible deployment of ground troops. Also in 1999, Lieberman voted in favor of ratifying the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and supported legislation that called upon the U.S. government to deploy a national missile defense system as soon as such a system is technologically feasible. One month after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Lieberman introduced legislation to create a new Homeland Security Department. In 2002, he introduced the bipartisan resolution authorizing President George W. Bush to use military force to ensure Iraq complies with U.N. resolutions on disarmament.