Policy Chief Says Promoting Freedom Abroad Protects America
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 18, 2005 President Bush's policy of promoting democracy not only squares with a respect for sovereignty, it supports the national security strategy.
That was the message Douglas J. Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, delivered to the members of the Council on Foreign Relations, most of whom participated by teleconference, here Feb. 17.
"Our nation's most basic interest is to protect the freedom of the American people, the ability to govern ourselves under the Constitution. The sovereignty of the United States is another way of referring to this freedom," Feith said. "The United States strengthens its national security when it promotes a well- ordered world of sovereign states."
Many presidents have encouraged democracy over the years, Feith said, but achieving a democratic government requires, first, that the country wants democracy.
Then, he added, it takes more than people simply saying they want democracy. They have to be willing to do the hard work to create and preserve the institutions important or necessary for democracy: multiple centers of power, a culture of compromise, basic freedoms of conscience, religion and speech and fair elections, among others, he said.
Encouraging democracy yields a benefit for the United States as well as those countries seeking sovereignty, Feith noted. "We seek the advance of democracy for the most practical of reasons," he said, "because democracies do not support terrorists or threaten the world with weapons of mass murder."
With democracy comes changes in thinking and this goes a long way to what Feith said is the key to victory in the war on terrorism: the ideological fight. Disrupting and attacking terror networks serves its purpose, Feith said, but it only denies the terrorists what they need to operate. Winning the ideological war will deny them what they need to survive: safe haven and other support, he said.
"First we have to delegitimate terrorism," Feith said. "As the president said, we intend to make terrorism like the slave trade, piracy or genocide activities that nobody who aspires to respectability can condone, much less support."
The second component calls for supporting models of moderation, democracy, sound economics and healthy civil society that can "compete with the bloody bandishments of extremists."
But this will require more than military might alone, Feith said. It also requires the cooperation of allies and partners around the world.
Maintaining an interest in the relationships among the world's major powers is as important as the war on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction proliferation, he said. It also works to serve the goal of encouraging democracy, he noted, changing thinking and gaining cooperation in the war on terrorism.
One of the relationships that the United States is taking particular interest in is that of China with the rest of the world, Feith said. China has developed a confidence on the part of international business people that it will remain stable and hospitable to them for trade and investment, he said. He added that if China wished to continue to prosper, it would choose a benign path that would allow the world to accommodate its rise peacefully.
"The question is: Do its leaders see that China's long-term interests, including its opportunities to profit from foreign investment and trade, hinge on its becoming a respected and responsible member of an international community and that this will, in turn, require that it forego the threat or use of force to pursue reunification?" Feith asked.
While the answer can only come from Chinese leadership, Feith's suggestion was that the relationship between China and Taiwan, and relationships like theirs, be handled within the existing diplomatic framework, one where matters are resolved consensually and peacefully.
"Other key players in the world can help the Chinese leadership understand that China's future prosperity, stability and dignity depend, to a significant degree, on China's continued political development toward a freer society governed by a more representative political system," he said.
He concluded by thanking the people of the Department of Defense who are in the field working to see that the president's policy of encouraging democracy is being carried out.
"The men and women of the U.S. armed forces serving in combat abroad are contributing bravely and brilliantly to achieving the national purposes I've been outlining," Feith said. "They make us proud and deserve our grateful recognition."