Charles Krauthammer – AEI Annual Dinner 2004 | ARCHIVES

Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President
of the United States and Mrs. Cheney. Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, Christopher Demuth,
President of the American Enterprise Institute, and Charles Krauthammer, 2004 Irving Kristol
Award recipient. Chris DeMuth: Ladies and gentlemen, we will
begin by singing America the “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, God Save the Queen” version. I know that everyone present knows the word
by heart, but for those who would like a refresher, the words are printed in the middle of your
program. We will be led by my AEI colleagues, Alexandra
Obraskan [SP], Osea Dosova, and Heather Dresser, please. My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty, Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died, Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From ev’ry mountainside Let freedom ring! Our fathers’ God to Thee,
Author of liberty, To Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright,
With freedom’s holy light, Protect us by Thy might,
Great God our King. Chris DeMuth: Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated. Vice President and Mrs. Cheney, colleagues
and distinguished guests, welcome to the annual dinner of the American Enterprise Institute
for Public Policy Research.This is our largest annual gathering since Ronald Reagan gave
his final major address in Washington in December of 1988. I’m deeply grateful to our many, generous
sponsors, especially our friends, advisor and members of our dinner committee. George Shultz was once asked, “What is the
most important qualification for a senior position in government?” He replied, “A high tolerance for ambiguity.” Presidents and Cabinet Secretaries only get
to make hard calls, the easy calls are made by others. Many decisions have good arguments on both
sides, but the really hard ones are those that combine very large stakes with very large
uncertainties. They call for intelligence of the larger and
more profound kind, and a determination not to lose a kingdom for a shoe. If we were to form a commission of inquiry
into every important Oval Office decision made without the luxury of waiting for more
and better information, there would be no more worries about job creation in the service
sector. And in a fractious democracy such as ours,
the hard decisions are endlessly contested, in public debate, in competition among the
three branches of government, and even within the Executive Branch itself. For us, the biggest decisions are not executive
calls at all, but rather a process of continuous advocacy, compromise, and adaptation. During the past 29 months, America and the
Free World have entered a new political epoch, whose defining features are, precisely, terribly
large risks and terribly large uncertainties, especially concerning the operations of our
enemies. Our political leaders have made a series of
momentous decisions and have done so with great resolution. Their resolution is all the more impressive
when one considers that the deficiencies of information, and of government institutions
designed for an earlier era, are better known to them than to anyone else. Now their decisions and their resolution are
being tested in the cauldron of democratic politics. Tolerance for ambiguity is not a predominant
feature of partisan campaigning. But elections themselves have clarified and
fortified our foreign policies to an impressive degree in the past. In the Cold War, from the Truman Doctrine
to the Reagan Doctrine, our enemies were demonstrating their WMDs out in the open, bragging about
how they would use them against us, routinely invading and subjugating other nations, and
slaughtering civilians by the millions. Still, fashioning and sustaining a political
consensus was very hard, and contested from start to finish. Many Americans sincerely believed, and argued
vehemently, that the root of the world’s problems was America itself. But we prevailed. And we prevailed not in spite of, but because
of the vigor of our democratic practices and the sturdiness of popular understanding. Can we do it again, in circumstances more
shrouded and insidious? Today, despite stupendous initial victories,
we are in the midst of strenuous and necessary debates over military and political strategy,
the effectiveness of our intelligence and diplomatic institutions, and the maintenance
of fiscal discipline and personal and economic freedom at home. But if we stand at the beginning of another
50-year epoch, a “generational commitment” as Condoleezza Rice puts it, then we are still
just getting started, still at the moment of creation of new policies and new institutions
for facing the tasks and perils ahead. That the two men who are speaking to us this
evening have been present at the creation is another great stroke of American fortune. One, the recipient of AEI’s Irving Kristol
Award for 2004, is a man of thinking and writing. The other, a former AEI senior fellow and
vice chairman of our Board, now Vice President of the United States, is a man of thinking
and action. Charles Krauthammer, his great contribution
has been to see through fogs of uncertainty in times of upheaval. He has grasped the essentials of new problems
while others remained confused by incidentals. More than once, he has provided us with an
intellectual architecture that shows that what we already know provides a sturdy foundation
for action. Charles is also an avid amateur chess player. He is a founding member, along with AEI’s
Charles Murray, of one of Washington’s most exclusive secret societies, the Pariah Chess
Club. His Irving Kristol Award consists of this
exquisite John Jack’s Stan and Chess set and hand-crafted board. Our media, which can take the silliest people
and ideas seriously, often find truly serious men and women a bafflement. It is very funny to read the latest line on
Dick Cheney, that this open and engaging man, who has expressed himself on every manner
of policy question in 30 years at the center of American politics, who has been Minority
Whip of the House of Representatives, who has served in the senior ranks of four administrations,
who has become the activist Vice President par excellence, is just now emerging from
obscurity, getting around town, attending coming-out parties, and plunging into the
thick of public debate. At AEI, we admire people who think before
they speak, who choose their words carefully, and who understand when the time for research
is over and the time for decision has arrived. We are very honored that the vice president
would continue to attend our councils while on extended leave-of-absence through 2009
or 2017. Tonight he has graciously agreed to introduce
our Irving Kristol Lecturer. Ladies and gentlemen, the Vice President of
the United States. Vice President Cheney: Thank you. Thank you all very much. Thank you, Chris. And it’s a pleasure tonight to join all of
you in honoring Charles Krauthammer, a man I admire very much, and am proud to call a
friend. The Irving Kristol Award is named for one
great American, and tonight we bestow it on another. Lynne and I are pleased, as well, to be in
the company of so many other friends and colleagues, starting with Chris DeMuth, who does an absolutely
superb job as President of AEI. Being here brings to mind my own days affiliated
with AEI, which stretch back some 30 years, as an office holder, a freshman congressman,
an out-of-work politician, a member of the Board of Trustees, and a corporate official,
who didn’t appreciate how valuable the experience was till I was asked to contribute financially
for the privilege of being part of it. But it has been a very, very important part
of our lives, for me and for Lynne, and a very important part of our intellectual learning
and development during our years in Washington. I spent a time at AEI when I was a scholar,
a time when I had an office, a small staff, and not much in the way of actual responsibility. It turned out to be a lot like the vice presidency. Lynne and I are truly grateful for our many
years of association with the American Enterprise Institute. AEI has developed a reputation, well-deserved,
for disciplined scholarship, intellectual integrity, and fresh insight into public policy. And AEI continues to earn that reputation
every year with research and writing of high standards and ever-increasing influence. Few at AEI are more influential than the chairman
of our Board of Academic Advisers, Professor James Q. Wilson, who, last July, received
the Medal of Freedom from President Bush. I’ve known Jim for a number of years, I’ve
respected his work ever since I was a graduate student, in the days when Lynne and I were
both working on our PhDs. Lynne actually went on to earn her PhD in
British literature. I haven’t quite settled on a topic for my
dissertation yet. For me, an expected career in academic life
was overtaken by a series of opportunities in government. And so, I have spent much of the last three-and-a-half
decades in and around this city. Here, where our national debates are centered,
you get used to the shifting attention and the passing enthusiasms that characterize
so much of our political commentary. You learn to take it all in, and then to select
out the well-considered judgments of a serious thinker. You begin to listen through the chorus in
search of that one clear note. And so often, that clear note is the commentary
of Charles Krauthammer. This most respected of writers is also a distinguished
medical doctor who spent years in practice as a noted psychiatrist. He first came to Washington in the 1970s,
and soon found himself working at the White House for one of my predecessors. I now wish I had paid more attention at the
time to the speeches of Walter Mondale, because I’m sure they were absolutely first rate. By the early 1980s, Charles’s talent had been
recognized by editors and by readers in Washington and well beyond. And the most impressive aspect of his work
is the sustained level of quality over a period of more than 20 years. This is not a columnist who merely fills space
and meets deadlines. Charles Krauthammer always writes with care. In his columns and essays, there is always
a powerful line of reasoning, and behind it the workings of a superior intellect. When you read his words, you know you are
dealing with a serious person, who assumes the same of you. You see something else, as well, in a Krauthammer
column. Whatever the subject at hand, Charles gives
the reader evidence and argument, never just sentiment and the conventional wisdom. His great intelligence is guided by principle
and an understanding of the world as it is. These qualities produce special insights into
the very areas where we need them most, from the new powers mankind has assumed in science,
to the new dangers confronting America and other free nations. A consistent theme in Charles’s writings is
his belief in human freedom, and his abhorrence for violence and tyranny. Since September 11th, Charles has written
compellingly on the urgent duty of free nations to defeat the terrorists, and hold to account
any regime that supports or arms them. This war on terror has in many ways brought
out the finest qualities of the American people. And the complexities of this era have certainly
brought out the finest attributes of this writer, his wisdom, his deep moral sensibility,
and his conviction that freedom is the right of all mankind and must be defended. The citation for the Irving Kristol Award
for 2004 reads as follows: To Charles Krauthammer: Fearless journalist, wise analyst, and militant
democrat, who has shown that America’s interests and ideals are indivisible, and that the promotion
of freedom is hard-headed realism. I’m very pleased that Charles’s wife, Robyn,
and their son, Daniel, are here to witness the presentation of this award, and to see
the respect and affection we all feel for its recipient. It is my privilege to introduce the great
man we honor tonight, Dr. Charles Krauthammer. Dr. Krauthammer: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Thank you for those very kind words. I’m honored by your presence here, especially
during duck hunting season. And as a citizen, I wanna thank you not only
for your leadership and your wisdom during these extraordinary times, but for your courage. If Hamlet had borne half the slings and arrows
you have, it would have been a very short play. Seeing my checker past recalled in the program,
I’m struck by how many places I have fled, the democratic party, Canada and psychiatry,
the trifecta. The reason I’m here ladies and gentlemen,
is that I have nowhere left to go. I wanna thank Chris DeMuth, Jim Wilson and
the AEI Counsel for thinking otherwise and for bestowing upon me this great honor, particularly
one that carries the name of my dear and revered friend, Irving Kristol. My subject tonight, is “American Foreign Policy.” Americans have healthy aversion to foreign
policy. It stems from a sense of thrift. Who needs it? We’re protected by two great oceans. We have this continent practically to ourselves. And we share it with only two neighbors, both
friendly, one so friendly that its people seem intent upon moving in with us. It took three giants of the 20th Century to
drag us into its great battles, Wilson into World War I, Roosevelt into World War II,
Truman into the Cold War. And then it ended with one of the great anticlimaxes
in history. Without a shot fired, without a revolution,
without so much as a press release, the Soviet Union simply gave up and disappeared. It was the end of everything, the end of communism,
of socialism, of the Cold War, of the European wars. It was the end of e Russian Empire, an empire
was grooved by swallowing the equivalent of a Belgium every year for 200 years. Given how Brussels has behaved recently, overall,
not a bud idea. But the end of everything was also a beginning. On December 26, 1991, the Soviet Union died
and something new was born, something utterly new, a unipolar world dominated by a single
superpower unchecked by any rival and with decisive reach in every corner of the globe.This
is a staggering new development in human history, not seen since the fall of Rome. It is so new, so strange, that we have no
idea how to deal with it. Our first reaction, the 1990s, was utter confusion. The next reaction was awe. When Paul Kennedy, who had once popularized
the idea of American decline, saw what America did in the Afghan war, a display of fully
mobilized, furiously concentrated unipolar power at a distance of 8,000 miles. He not only recanted, he stood in wonder,
“Nothing has ever existed like this disparity of power,” he wrote, “Nothing. No other nation comes close. Charlemagne’s empire was merely western European
in its reach. The Roman empire stretched farther afield,
but there was another great empire in Persia, and a larger one in China. There is, therefore, no comparison.” Even Rome is no model for what America is
today. First, because we do not have the imperial
culture of Rome. We are an Athenian republic, even more republican
and infinitely more democratic than Athens. And this American Republic has acquired the
largest seeming empire in the history of the world, acquired it in a fit of absent-mindedness
greater even than Britain’s. And it was not just absent-mindedness, it
was sheer inadvertence. We got here because of Europe’s suicide in
the world wars of the 20th century, and then the death of its Eurasian successor, Soviet
Russia, for having adopted a political and economic system so inhuman that, like a genetically
defective organism, it simply expired in its sleep, leaving us with global dominion. Second, we are unlike Rome, unlike Britain
and France and Spain and the other classical empires of modern times, in that we do not
hunger for territory. The use of the word “empire” in the American
context is ridiculous. It is absurd to apply the word to a people
whose first instincts upon arriving on anyone’s soil is to demand an exit strategy. I can assure you that when the Romans went
into Gaul and the British into India, they were not looking for exit strategies. They were looking for entry strategies. In David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, King Faisal
says to Lawrence, “I think you are another of these desert-loving English. The English have a great hunger for desolate
places.” Indeed, for five centuries, the Europeans
did hunger for deserts and jungles and oceans and new continents. Americans do not. We like it here. We like our McDonald’s. We like our football. We like our rock-and-roll. And until 10 days ago, we liked our half-time
shows. We’ve got the Grand Canyon and Graceland. We’ve got Silicon Valley and South Beach. We’ve got everything. And if that’s not enough, we’ve got the Vegas,
which is a facsimile of everything. What could we possibly need anywhere else? We don’t like exotic climates. We don’t like exotic languages. All those declensions and moods, we don’t
even know what a mood is. We like Iowa corn and New York hot dogs, and
if we want Chinese, or Indian, or Italian, we go to the food court. We don’t send the Marines for takeout. That’s because we are not an imperial power. We are a commercial republic. We don’t take food, we trade for it, which
makes us something unique in history, an anomaly, a hybrid, a commercial republic with overwhelming
global power. A commercial republic that, by pure accident
of history, has been designated custodian of the international system. The eyes of every supplicant from East Timor
to Afghanistan, from Iraq to Liberia, Arab and Israeli, Irish and British, North and
South Korean are upon us. That is who we are. That is where we are. And now the question is: What do we do? What is a unipolar power to do? The oldest and most venerable answer is to
hoard that power and retreat. This is known as isolationism. Of all the foreign policy schools in America,
it has the oldest pedigree, not surprising in the country protected by two great oceans. Isolationism originally sprang from a view
of America as spiritually superior to the old world. We were too good to be corrupted by its low
intrigues, entangled by its cynical alliances. Today, however, isolationism is an ideology
of fear. Fear of trade. Fear of immigrants. Fear of the Other. Isolationists want to cut off trade and immigration,
and withdraw from our military and strategic commitments around the world. Even isolationists, of course, did not oppose
the war in Afghanistan, because it was so obviously an act of self-defense, only a fool
or a knave or a Susan Sontag could oppose that. But anything beyond that, isolationists oppose. They are for a radical retrenchment of American
power for pulling up the drawbridge to Fortress America. Isolationism is an important school of thought
historically, but not today. Not just because of its brutal intellectual
reductionism, but because it is so obviously inappropriate to the world of today, a world
of export-driven economies, of massive population flows, and of 9/11, the definitive demonstration
that the combination of modern technology and transnational primitivism has erased the
barrier between “over there” and “over here.” Classical isolationism is not just intellectually
obsolete, it is politically bankrupt as well. Four years ago, its most public advocate,
Pat Buchanan, ran for president of the United States, and carried Palm Beach, by accident. Classic isolationism is moribund. Who then rules America? In the 1990s, it was liberal internationalism. Liberal internationalism is the foreign policy
of the Democratic Party and the religion of the foreign policy elite. It has a peculiar history. It traces its pedigree to Woodrow Wilson’s
utopianism, Harry Truman’s anticommunism, and John Kennedy’s militant universalism. But after the Vietnam War, it was transmuted
into an ideology of passivity, acquiescence and almost reflexive anti-interventionism. Liberals today proudly take credit for Truman’s
and Kennedy’s role in containing communism, but what they prefer to forget is that, for
the last half of the Cold War, liberals used “cold warrior” as an epithet. In the early 1980s, they gave us the freeze
movement, a form of unilateral disarmament in the face of Soviet nuclear advances. Today, John Kerry boasts of opposing, during
the 1980s, what he calls Ronald Reagan’s “illegal war in Central America.” And oppose he did what was, in fact, an indigenous
anticommunist rebellion that ultimately succeeded in bringing down Sandinista rule and ushering
in democracy in all of Central America. That boast reminds us how militant was liberal
passivity in the last half of the Cold War. But that passivity outlived the Cold War. When Kuwait was invaded and the question was,
“Should the United States go to war to prevent the Persian Gulf from falling into hostile
hands?” The Democratic Party joined the Buchananite
isolationists in saying no. The Democrats voted No overwhelmingly, two
to one in the House, more than four to one in the Senate. And yet, quite astonishingly, when liberal
internationalism came to power just two years later in the form of the Clinton administration,
it turned almost hyper-interventionist. It involved us four times in military action:
deepening intervention in Somalia, invading Haiti, bombing Bosnia, and finally going to
war over Kosovo. How do you explain the amazing transmutation
of Cold War and Gulf War doves into Haiti and Balkan hawks? The crucial and obvious difference is this,
Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo were humanitarian ventures, fights for right and good, devoid
of raw national interest. And not only humanitarian intervention, disinterested
interventionism devoid of national interest is morally pristine enough to justify the
use of force. The history of the ’90s refutes the lazy notion
that liberals have an aversion to the use of force. They do not. They have an aversion to using force for reasons
of pure national interest. And by national interest, I do not mean simple
self-defense. Everyone believes in self-defense, as in Afghanistan. I’m talking about national interest as defined
by a great power, shaping the international environment by projecting power abroad to
secure economic, political, and strategic goods. Intervening militarily for that kind of national
interest, liberal internationalism finds unholy and unsupportable. It sees that kind of national interest as
merely self-interest writ large, in effect, a form of grand national selfishness. Hence Kuwait, no. Kosovo, yes. The other defining feature of the Clinton
foreign policy was multilateralism, which expressed itself in a mania for treaties. The Clinton administration negotiated a dizzying
succession of parchment promises on bioweapons, chemical weapons, nuclear testing, carbon
emissions, antiballistic missiles, etc. Why? No sentient being could believe that, say,
the chemical or biological weapons treaties were anything more than transparently useless. Senator Joe Biden once defended the Chemical
Weapons Convention, which even its proponents admitted was unenforceable, on the grounds
that it would “provide us with a valuable tool”, the “moral suasion of the entire international
community.” Moral suasion? The whole point of this treaty was to keep
rogue states from developing chemical weapons. Rogue states are, by definition, impervious
to moral suasion. Was it moral suasion that made Qaddafi see
the wisdom of giving up his weapons of mass destruction? Or Iran agree for the first time to spot nuclear
inspections? It was the suasion of the bayonet. It was the ignominious fall of Saddam and
the desire of interested spectators not to be next on the list. Moral suasion is a farce. Why then this obsession with protocols, legalisms
UN resolutions? Its obvious net effect and after all is to
temper American power and reduce American freedom of action by making it dependent on
constricted by serving into the will and interest of other nations. But that, you see, is the whole point of the
multilateral enterprise, to tie down Gulliver with a thousand strings, to domesticate the
most undomesticated, most outsized, national interest on the planet, ours. Who, after all, was really going to be most
constrained by these treaties? North Korea? Today, multilateralism remains the overriding
theme of liberal internationalism. When in power in the ’90s, multilateralism
expressed itself as a mania for treaties. When out of power in this decade, it manifests
itself in the slavish pursuit of “international legitimacy,” and opposition to any American
action undertaken without universal foreign blessing, which is why the Democratic critique
of the war in Iraq is so peculiarly one of process and not of policy. The problem was that we did not have the permission
of the UN. We did not have a large enough coalition;
we did not have a second Security Council resolution. Kofi Annan was unhappy and the French were
cross. The Democratic presidential candidates all
say we should have internationalized the conflict, brought in the UN, enlisted the allies, for
two reasons, they say, assistance and legitimacy. First, they say, we could have used these
other countries to help us in the reconstruction. This is rich. Everyone would like to have more help in reconstruction. It would have been lovely to have the Germans
and the French in Baghdad. So Germans the ca’do the policing, the French
ca’do the catering. But the question is moot, and the argument
is cynical. France and Germany made it absolutely clear
that they would never support the overthrow of Saddam. So, accommodating them was not a way to get
them into the reconstruction, it was a way to ensure that there would never be any reconstruction,
because Saddam would still be in power. Of course, it would be nice if we had more
allies rather than less. It would also be nice to be able to fly. But when some nations are not with you on
your enterprise, including them in your coalition is not a way to broaden it, it’s a way to
abolish it. At which point, liberal internationalists
switch gears and appeal to legitimacy? On the grounds that multilateral action has
a higher moral standing. I have always found that line of argument
utterly incomprehensible. By what possible moral calculus does U.S.
intervention to liberate 25 million people forfeit moral legitimacy because it lacks
the blessing of the butchers of Tiananmen Square or the cynics of the Quai d’Orsay? Which is why it is hard to take these arguments
at face value. Look, we know why liberal internationalists
demanded UN sanction for the war in Iraq. It was a way to stop the war. It was the Gulliver effect. Call a committee meeting of countries with
hostile or contrary interests, i.e., the Security Council, and you have guaranteed yourself
another 12 years of inaction. Historically, multilateralism is a way for
weak countries to multiply their power by attaching themselves to stronger ones. But multilateralism imposed on great powers,
particularly on a unipolar power, is intended to restrain that power, which is precisely
why France is an ardent multilateralist. But why should America be? Why, in the end, does liberal internationalism
want to tie down Gulliver, to blunt the pursuit of American national interests by making it
subordinate to a myriad of other interests? In the immediate post-Vietnam era, this aversion
to national interest might have been attributed to self-doubt and self-loathing. I don’t know. I leave that question to a trained psychiatrist. What I do know is that today it is a mistake
to see liberal foreign policy as deriving from anti-Americanism or lack of patriotism
or a late efflorescence of ’60s radicalism. On the contrary, the liberal aversion to national
interest stems from an idealism, a larger vision of country, a vision of some ambition
and nobility, the vision of a true international community. And that is, to transmute the international
system from the Hobbesian universe into a Lockean universe, to turn the state of nature
into a norm-driven community, to turn the law of the jungle into the rule of law of
treaties and contracts and UN resolutions. In short, to remake the international system
in the image of domestic society. And to create such a true international community,
you have to temper, transcend, and, in the end, abolish the very idea of state power
and national interest. Hence the antipathy to American hegemony and
American power. If you are going to break the international
arena to the mold of domestic society, you have to domesticate its single most powerful
actor. You have to abolish American dominance, not
only as an affront to fairness, but also as the greatest obstacle on the whole planet
to a democratized international system where all live under self-governing international
institutions and self-reenforcing international norms. This vision is all very nice, all very noble,
and all very crazy. And it brings us to the third great foreign
policy school, realism. The realist looks at this great liberal project
and sees a hopeless illusion. Because turning the Hobbesian world that has
existed since long before the Peloponnesian Wars into a Lockean world, turning a jungle
into a subdivision of the suburb, requires a revolution in human nature. Not just an set of new institutions, but a
revolution in human nature. And realists do not believe in revolutions
of human nature, much less stake their future, and the future of their countries upon them. Realism recognizes the fundamental fallacy
in the whole idea of the international system being modeled on domestic society. First, what holds domestic society together
is a supreme central authority wielding a monopoly of power and enforcing norms. In the international arena, there is no such
thing. Domestic society may look like a place of
self-regulating norms, but if somebody breaks into your house, you call 911, and the police
arrive with guns drawn. That’s not exactly self-enforcement. That’s law enforcement. Second, domestic society rests on the shared
goodwill, civility and common values of its individual members. What values are shared by, say, Britain, Cuba,
Yemen and Zimbabwe-all nominal members of this fiction we call the “international community?” Of course, you can have smaller communities
of shared interests-NAFTA, ANZUS, the European Union. But the European conceit that relations with
all nations, regardless of ideology, regardless of culture, regardless even of open hostility,
should be transacted on the EU model of suasion, and norms, and negotiations, and solemn contractual
agreements is an illusion. A fisheries treaty with Canada is something
real. An agreed framework on plutonium processing
with the likes of North Korea is not worth the paper it is written on. The realist believes in the definition of
peace offered in “The Devil’s Dictionary” by Ambrose Bierce, “Peace, noun. In international affairs, a period of cheating
between two periods of fighting.” Hence, the realist axiom, the international
community is a fiction. It is not a community, it is a cacophony of
straining ambitions, disparate values and contending power. What does hold the international system together? What keeps it from degenerating into total
anarchy? Not the phony security of treaties, not the
best of goodwill among the nicer nations. In the unipolar world we inhabit, what stability
we do enjoy today is owed to the overwhelming power and deterrent threat of the United States. If someone invades your house, you call the
cops. Who do you dial if someone invades your country? You dial Washington. In the unipolar world, the closest thing to
a centralized authority, to an enforcer of norms, is America, American power. And ironically, American power is precisely
what liberal internationalism wants to constrain and tie down and subsume in pursuit of some
brave new Lockean world. Realists don’t live just in America. I found one in Finland. During the 1997 negotiations in Oslo over
the land mine treaty, one of the rare holdouts, interestingly enough, was Finland. The Finnish Prime Minister stoutly opposed
the land mine ban. And for that he was scolded by his Scandinavian
neighbors. To which he responded tartly that this was
a very convenient pose for the other Nordic countries, after all, Finland is their land
mine. That one usually takes about five seconds. It helps to have a map. Finland is the land mine between Russia and
Scandinavia. America is the land mine between barbarism
and civilization. Where would South Korea be without America
and its land mines along the DMZ? Where would Europe, with its cozy arrogant
community be without America having saved it from the Soviet colossus? Where would the Middle East be had American
power not stopped the Saddam in 1991? The land mine that protects civilization from
barbarism is not parchment but power, and in a unipolar world, American power, wielded,
if necessary, unilaterally, and if necessary, preemptively. Now, those uneasy with American power have
made these two means of wielding it, preemption and unilateralism, the focus of unrelenting
criticism. The doctrine of preemption, in particular,
has been widely attacked for violating international norms. What international norm? The one under which in 1981, Israel was universally
condemned, even the Reagan administration joined in the condemnation at the Security
Council, for preemptively destroying Osirak reactor. Does anyone today doubt that it was the right
thing to do, both strategically and morally? In a world of terrorists, terrorist states
and weapons of mass destruction, the option of preemption is especially necessary. In the bipolar world of the Cold War, with
a stable non-suicidal adversary, deterrence could work. Deterrence does not work against people who
ache for heaven. It does not work against undeterrables. And it does not work against undetectables. Non-suicidal enemy regimes that might attack
through clandestine means, a suitcase nuke or anonymously delivered anthrax. Against both undeterrables and undetectables,
preemption is the only possible strategy. If anything, the doctrine of preemption against
openly hostile states pursuing weapons of mass destruction is an improvement on classical
deterrence. Traditionally, we deterred the use of weapons
of mass destruction by the threat of retaliation after we’d been attacked, and that’s too late. The point of preemption is to deter the very
acquisition of weapons of mass destruction in the first place. Whether or not Iraq had large stockpiles of
weapons of mass destruction, the very fact that the United States overthrew a hostile
regime that had repeatedly refused to come clean on its weapons has had precisely this
deterrent effect. We are safer today not just because Saddam
is gone, but because Libya and Iran and others contemplating, tracking with Weapons of Mass
Destruction, have, for the first time, seen that it carries a cost, a very high cost. Yes, of course, imperfect intelligence makes
preemption problematic. But that is not an objection on principle,
it is an objection in practice. Indeed, the objection concedes the principle. We need good intelligence. But we remain defenseless if we abjure the
option of preemption. The other great objection to the way American
unipolar power has been wielded is its unilateralism. I would dispute how unilateralist we have
been, not nearly enough for my taste, but no matter. Look, of course, one acts in concert with
others if possible. It is nice when others join us in the breach. No one seeks to be unilateral. Unilateralism simply means that one does not
allow oneself to be held hostage to the will of others. Irving Kristol once explained that he preferred
the Organization of American States to the UN. In the OAS, you see, we can be voted down
in only three languages, thereby saving interpreters’ fees. Of course, you build coalitions when possible. We garnered a coalition of the willing for
Iraq which included substantial allies like Britain, Australia, Spain, Italy and much
of Eastern Europe. France and Germany made clear from the beginning
that they would never join in the overthrow of Saddam. Therefore the choice was not a wide coalition
versus a narrow one, but a narrow coalition versus none. There were serious arguments against the war
in Iraq, but the fact that France did not approve was not one of them. Realists choose not to be Gulliver. In an international system with no sovereign,
no police, no protection, where power is the ultimate arbiter and history has bequeathed
us unprecedented power, we should preserve that power and our freedom of action to use
it. But here we come up against the limits of
realism. You cannot live by power alone. Realism is an antidote to the woolly internationalism
of the 90s, but realism can only take you so far. Its basic problem lies in its definition of
national interest as classically offered by its great theorist, Hans Morgenthau, interest
defined as power. Morgenthau postulated that what drives nations,
what drives the foreign policy, is the will to power, to keep it and expand it. For most Americans, will to power might be
a correct description of the world of what motivates other countries, but it cannot be
a prescription for America. It cannot be our purpose. America cannot and will not live by realpolitik
alone. Our foreign policy must be driven by something
beyond power. And unless conservatives present ideals to
challenge the liberal ideal of an international community, they will lose the debate, which
is why among American conservatives, another more idealistic school has arisen that sees
America’s national interest as an expression of its values. It is this fourth school that has guided foreign
policy in this decade. This conservative alternative to realism is
often lazily and invidiously called neoconservatism, but that is a very odd name for a school whose
major proponents in the world today are George W. Bush and Tony Blair. If they are neoconservatives, then I’m a liberal. There’s nothing neo about Bush, and there’s
nothing con about Blair. Yet they are the principal proponents today
of what might be called democratic globalism, a foreign policy that defines the national
interest not as power but as values, and that identifies one supreme value, what John Kennedy
called “the success of liberty.” As President Bush put it in his speech at
Whitehall last November, “The United States and Great Britain share a mission in the world
beyond the balance of power or the simple pursuit of interest. We seek the advance of freedom and the peace
that freedom brings.” Beyond power, beyond interest, beyond interest
defined as power. This is the credo of democratic globalism,
which explains its political appeal. America is a nation uniquely built not on
blood, or race, but on a proposition, to which its sacred honor has been pledged for 200
years. This American exceptionalism explains why
non-Americans find this foreign policy so difficult to credit, why Blair has had more
difficulty garnering support for it in his country, and why Europe, in particular, finds
this kind of value-driven foreign policy hopelessly and irritatingly moralistic. Democratic globalism sees as the engine of
history not the will to power but the will to freedom. And while it has been attacked as a dreamy,
idealistic innovation, its inspiration comes from the Truman Doctrine of 1947, the Kennedy
inaugural of 1960, and Reagan’s evil empire speech of 1983. They all sought to recast a struggle for power
between two geopolitical titans into a struggle between freedom and unfreedom, and, yes, good
and evil. Which is why the Truman Doctrine was heavily
attacked by realists like Hans Morgenthau and George Kennan, and Reagan attacked by
the entire foreign policy establishment for the sin of ideologizing the Cold War by injecting
a moral overlay. That was then. Today, post-9/11, we find ourselves in a similar
existential struggle but with a different enemy, not Soviet communism, but Arab-Islamic
totalitarianism, both secular and religious. Bush and Blair are similarly attacked for
naively and crudely casting this struggle as one of freedom versus unfreedom, good versus
evil. Now, given the way not just freedom but human
decency were suppressed in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the two major wars of this new war,
you would have to give Bush and Blair’s moral claims the decided advantage of being obviously
true. Nonetheless, something can be true and still
be dangerous. Many people are deeply uneasy with the Bush-Blair
doctrine. I dare say, many conservatives in particular. When Blair declares in his address to Congress,
“The spread of freedom is our last line of defense and our first line of attack,” they
see a dangerously expansive, aggressively utopian foreign policy. In short, they see Woodrow Wilson. Now, to a conservative, Woodrow Wilson is
fighting words. Yes, this vision is expansive and perhaps
utopian. But it ain’t Wilsonian. Wilson envisioned the spread of democratic
values through as-yet-to-be invented international institutions. He could be forgiven for that. In 1918, there was no way to know how utterly
corrupt and useless these international institutions would turn out to be. Eight decades of bitter experience later,
with Libya chairing the UN Commission on Human Rights, there is no way not to know. Democratic globalism is not Wilsonian. Its attractiveness is precisely that it shares
realism’s insights about the centrality of power. Its attractiveness is precisely that it has
appropriate contempt for the fictional legalisms of liberal internationalism. Moreover, democratic globalism is an improvement
over realism. What it can teach realism is that the spread
of democracy is not just an end but a means, an indispensable means for securing American
interests. The reason is simple. Democracies are inherently more friendly to
the United States, less belligerent to their neighbors, and more inclined to peace. Realists are right that to protect your interests
you often have to go around the world bashing bad guys over the head. But that technique, no matter how satisfying,
has its limits. At some point, you have to implant something,
something organic. And that something is democracy. But where? The danger of democratic globalism is its
universalism, its open-ended commitment to human freedom, its temptation to plant the
flag of democracy everywhere. It must learn to say no. And indeed, it does say no. But when it says no to Liberia, or Congo,
or Burma, or countenances alliances with authoritarian rulers in places like Pakistan and, for that
matter, Russia, it stands accused of hypocrisy, which is why we must articulate criteria for
saying yes. And I propose a single criteria, where to
intervene? Where to bring democracy? Where to nation-build? Where it counts? Call it democratic realism. And this is its axiom: We will support democracy
everywhere, but we will commit blood and treasure in places where there is a strategic necessity,
meaning, a place central to the larger war against the existential enemy, the enemy that
poses a global mortal threat to freedom. Where does it count? Fifty years ago, Germany and Japan counted. Why? Because they were the seeds of the greatest
global threat to freedom in mid-century, fascism, and then were turned into bulwarks against
the new, next great threat, the Soviet Union and Soviet communism. Where does it count today? Where the overthrow of radicalism and the
beginnings of democracy can have a decisive effect in the war against the new global threat
to freedom, the new existential enemy, the Arab-Islamic totalitarianism that has threatened
us both in its secular and religious forms for the quarter-century since the Khomeini
revolution of 1979. Establishing civilized, decent, non-belligerent,
pro-Western polities in Afghanistan and Iraq and ultimately their key neighbors would,
like the flipping of Germany and Japan in the 40s, change the strategic balance in the
fight against Arab-Islamic radicalism. Yes, it may be a bridge too far. Realists have been warning against the hubris
of thinking we can transmute an alien culture because of some postulated natural and universal
human will to freedom. And they may be right, but how do they know
in advance? Half a century ago, we heard the same confident
warnings about the imperviousness to democracy of Confucian culture. That proved stunningly wrong. Where is it written that Arabs are incapable
of democracy? Yes, the undertaking as in Germany and Japan
is enormous, ambitious, arrogant, and it may not succeed. But we cannot afford not to try. There is not a single, remotely plausible,
alternative strategy for attacking the monster behind 9/11. It was not Osama bin Laden, it’s the cauldron
of political oppression, religious intolerance, and social ruin in the Arab-Islamic ,oppression
transmuted and deflected by regimes with no legitimacy into murderous anti-Americanism. It’s not one man, it is a condition. It will be nice to find that man and to hang
him, but that’s the cops-and-robbers law-enforcement model of fighting terror that we tried for
20 years and that gave us 9/11. This is war, and in war, arresting murderers
is nice. But you win by taking territory and leaving
something behind. We are the unipolar power, and what do we
do? In August, 1900, David Hilbert gave a speech
to the International Congress of Mathematicians naming 20 still unsolved mathematical problems
bequeathed by the 19th Century to the 20th. Only three remained by the way, but the soup
is getting cold, so that’s for another night. Had he presented the great unsolved geopolitical
problems bequeathed to the 20th century, one would have stood out above all, the rise of
Germany and its accommodation within the European state system. Similarly today, at the dawn of the 21st Century,
we can see clearly the two great geopolitical challenges on the horizon, the inexorable
rise of China and the coming demographic collapse of Europe, both of which will irrevocably
alter the equilibrium of the international system. But these problems come later. They are for mid-century. They are for the young people here tonight. And we won’t even get to these problems unless
we first deal with our problem. And our problem is 9/11 and the roots of Arab-Islamic
nihilism. Nine-eleven felt like a new problem, but for
all its shock and surprise, it is an old problem with a new face. Nine-eleven felt like the initiation of a
new history, but it was a return to history, the history of radical ideologies and existential
enemies. The anomaly is not the world of today. The anomaly was the ’90s, our holiday from
history. It felt like peace, but it was an interval
of dreaming between two periods of reality. Nine-eleven woke us up. It startled us into thinking that everything
was new. It’s not. What is new is what happened not on 9/11 but
10 years earlier, on December 26, 1991, the emergence of the United States as the world’s
unipolar power. What is unique is our advantage in this new
struggle, an advantage we did not have during the struggles of the 20th Century. The question for our time is how to press
this advantage, how to exploit our unipolar power, how to deploy it to win the old/new
war that exploded upon us on 9/11. What is the unipolar power to do? Four schools, four answers. The isolationists want simply to ignore unipolarity,
pull up the drawbridge, and defend Fortress America. Alas, the fortress has no moat, not after
the airplane, the submarine, the ballistic missile, and as for the drawbridge, it was
blown up on 9/11. Then there are the liberal internationalists. They like to dream, and to the extent they
are aware of our unipolar power, they don’t like it. They see its use for anything other than humanitarianism
or reflexive self-defense as an expression of national selfishness. And they don’t just want us to ignore our
unique power, they want us to yield it piece by piece, by subsuming ourselves in a new
global architecture in which America becomes not the arbiter of international events, but
a good and tame international citizen. And then there is realism, which has the clearest
understanding of the new unipolarity and its uses, unilateral and preemptive if necessary. But in the end, realism fails, because it
offers no vision. It is all means and no ends. It cannot adequately define our mission. Hence, the fourth school, democratic globalism. It has, in this decade, rallied the American
people to a struggle over values. It seeks to vindicate the American idea by
making the spread of democracy, the success of liberty, the ends and means of American
foreign policy. I support that. I applaud that. But I believe it must be tempered in its universalistic
aspirations and rhetoric from a democratic globalism to a democratic realism. It must be targeted, focused and limited. We are the friends of all, but we come ashore
only where it really counts. And where it counts today is the Islamic crescent
stretching from North Africa to Afghanistan. My friends, in October 1962, for 13 days,
we came to the edge of the abyss. Then, accompanied by our equally shaken adversary,
we drew back. On September 11, 2001, we saw the face of
Armageddon again, but this time with an enemy that does not draw back. This time with an enemy that knows no reason. Were that the only difference between now
and then, our situation would be hopeless. But there is a second difference between now
and then, the uniqueness of our power, unrivaled, not just today but ever, and that evens the
odds. The rationality of the enemy is something
beyond our control, but the use of our power is within our control. And if that power is used, constrained not
by illusions and fictions, but only by the limits of our mission, which is to bring a
modicum of freedom as an antidote to nihilism, we can and we will prevail. Thank you, very much.

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  1. Thank you for sharing this. It’s nigh on impossible to express how much Charles Krauthammer will be missed. I did not always agree with him, but his cogent arguments, stunningly peripatetic intellect, and sense of humor always gave me hope that the public intellectual wasn’t a chimera. Ave Atque Vale, Dr. Krauthammer.

  2. If a generation can be blessed once in a lifetime by a person of such intellectual stature to enter the stage of public observation and challenge the commonly narrow minded pathway of thought and to widen its expance and to clear the way for those who are fortunate enough follow, to help all with and form of ken to see and understand life's mysteries and glorious revelations we can be greatful. I thank you God for giving us such a life in Charles Krauthammer. May his family and friends be comforted with wonderful memories of him and in your love find peace.

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