With Harold Koh, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
On January 12, 2001, the Carnegie Endowment hosted a symposium to discuss the Clinton administration's legacy in promoting democracy abroad. Harold Koh, the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor since November 1998, was the featured speaker. Elliott Abrams, President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in D.C. and former Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs under President Reagan, commented on Koh's remarks. Thomas Carothers, Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment, served as commentator and moderator. The event followed a symposium entitled "Examining the Clinton Record on Democracy Promotion," held at the Carnegie Endowment on September 12, 2000, and the publication of Carother's working paper, "The Clinton Record on Democracy," available on the Carnegie Endowment's web site.
The following is a full transcript of the event, including the question and answer session.
THOMAS CAROTHERS, VICE PRESIDENT FOR STUDIES, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT: Good afternoon. Welcome to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. I'm Thomas Carothers, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment, and I'd like to welcome you to this session on "Advancing Democracy: The Clinton Legacy."
During the past eight years, the Clinton administration has stressed the need for democracy promotion over and over. With the end of the administration at hand, it's a natural time to step back and attempt an assessment of the Clinton legacy in this field.
Several months ago, here at the Endowment, I presented such an assessment, and we released a working paper called: "The Clinton Record on Democracy Promotion." We have some copies available outside and it's on our web site at www.ceip.org.
At the time, Harold Koh wanted to come and give his perspective and his reaction to that paper, but he wasn't available. David Young of the State Department filled in quite ably, but I promised Harold a microphone and an audience whenever he wanted it, and I'm delighted that he accepted that invitation here in January, and so we're here today to continue the discussion.
Since it does fall in January, this event also stands as a farewell. Harold is leaving the State Department within the next week or two to return to Yale Law School, and so this is in a way also a goodbye to somebody who has served with capability in a very important position in the U.S. government. So, Harold, it's more than just an event, and we're delighted to have you here in that capacity as well.
I've also invited Elliott Abrams to join us today to serve as a commentator. Elliott, of course, served in the position that now is assistant secretary for democracy and human rights in the first half of the 1980s after he'd served as assistant secretary for international organizations, but before he was assistant secretary for inter-american affairs.
He is now president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington and has been deeply engaged in issues of human rights and democracy promotion for many years. Elliott, it's a pleasure to have you here today.
Harold Koh is going to lead off with some remarks, followed by Elliott's comments, and then I may say a few things, depending on what Harold says. [Laughter.] And then we're going to turn it to you for your questions and discussion from there. So, without further ado, Harold.
As you know, the Carnegie Endowment is kind of a halfway house for political types and academics, and when I contemplate my return to the private sector, it's great to be at a place where the chairs are more comfortable, the sandwiches are bigger, and the cookies are homemade.
It's really making me look forward to Yale.
The topic that I'm supposed to address is the Clinton administration's legacy on democracy promotion. Tom said the end is at hand and that reminds me of Kissinger's statement: Peace is at hand.
We do have some time left in the administration. There are some things in the pipeline. People in this room are working like crazy and we'll wait until next week before we write the final scorecard. I think some administrations are measured by their first 100 days. In our case, I think we hope the legacy will be measured in part by the last 100 days.
Second, whenever I hear a government official talk about their own legacy at the end of their term -- and we're getting a lot of that in Washington these days - I'm reminded of the quote attributed to Oscar Wilde after he attended a colleague's retirement dinner. And when asked by a friend to summarize the colleague's incredibly self-congratulatory retirement speech, Oscar Wilde reportedly said, "By his own lights, he did his best, but his lights were few and dim. And his best was none too good."
I think the message is clear. Professors should not write their own report cards and neither should assistant secretaries. Legacy evaluations should be left for others, who have a little bit more opportunity and distance.
But that having been said, Tom, I'm grateful to you for giving me this chance to reflect on what we've accomplished during the Clinton administration and particularly my own experiences during my 26 months as assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor, during which time I've traveled to more than 50 countries, I've made more than 150 foreign trips, all the while commuting from that hub of American transportation, New Haven, Connecticut.
It's been an incredible emotional journey for me as well because, as some of you recall, when this administration began, I was suing it for human rights violations as counsel of record in the Haitian refugee case. The Justice Department had filed a motion against me for Rule 11 sanctions for filing a frivolous lawsuit, although they ended that policy and reimbursed us for most of our costs and fees.
So, in the spring of 1998, when Madeleine Albright asked me to take this job, as the lead human rights official and defender of U.S. human rights practices, it was about the furthest thing from my mind and, to be honest, my first thought was whether I had a lot more to lose than to gain by coming into the government. But what made me decide to come was I was reminded of my former professor, the late Abraham Chayes, a former legal adviser at the State Department who later sued the U.S. at the World Court in the Nicaragua case.
He said, "Whether inside or outside the government, I've always thought there's nothing wrong with an American lawyer holding the United States to its own best standards and I shall live what I've tried to do to hold our policies to our own best standards, as well as those of other countries."
Now, I think the most critical thing to say is, obviously, I've only been part of a very large and dedicated team. You see the list of people who are here who started as colleagues and became really friends and family to me. There are too many to mention. But I do want to just say to all of you how much I'm grateful for everything you've done for me and for this cause.
Now, I think that in appraising how well we've succeeded - I read Tom's paper, a thoughtful working paper. It's called "The Clinton Record on Democracy Promotion," which really ought to be subtitled "Two Cheers for the Clinton Administration's Democracy Policy."
And for those of you who haven't read the paper, it's terrific, as all of Tom's work is. But what it says is, in a nutshell, first cheer: the Clinton administration has wisely made promotion of democracy and human rights an organizing principle of its foreign policy. I agree and I accept the congratulations on behalf of my president. Second cheer: those efforts, appropriately accelerated since Madeleine Albright became secretary of state with two principal developments - the main focus on certain democracy priority countries, in particular Colombia, Indonesia, Nigeria and the Ukraine; and second, what Tom called the institutionalization of democracy promotion, making it a mindset within the policy bureaucracy, not just at the State Department, but at USAID, USIA, and what he points out is an exponential growth in democracy assistance from about $100 million only 10 years ago to more than $700 million today.
And again, we accept the point. We think it's right. It was deliberate, and we think it ought to continue.
Third, and here's where Tom doesn't cheer so loudly, he points to a number of countries - and we can talk about them in the Q and A - where he says that the administration fell short of our rhetorical commitment to democracy. In his words, "We therefore did not revise fundamentally the semi-realist framework of U.S. policy."
And so the three cheers of the three possible cheers, Tom concludes: our democracy policy concept was right; our trajectory was right; but our execution was incomplete. In other words, we ran out of time. In eight years, he said, we took democracy policy from what he calls realism to semi-realism, but we didn't make it all the way to Wilsonian idealism, and that makes it possible for the ball to roll down the hill and, like Sisyphus, for democracy promoters to have to start all over again.
Now, like all of Tom's work, particularly and here I hold it up for the camera - his book...
... Aiding Democracy Abroad, a genuinely important book, full of sharp insights with which I agree. And again, I won't surprise you and say that I accept the cheers for the concept. I accept the cheers for the trajectory, and I urge him just to cheer a little bit louder for the execution. Because I think that our democracy glass is not only not just half empty, but way more than half full. And secondly, more important, I think we have designed the glass right and in a way that other administrations - whether they're Democratic or Republican - will continue to build on.
But let me explain what I mean - now, in the Q and A we can go country by country - in Tom's paper, he points to the fact that a number of countries, or a smaller number of countries, came into the democratic column in the late years of the administration. Now, that's obviously the wrong question. The question is where would those countries have been but for our efforts?
It reminds me of that same story that Jim Bouton tells about Mickey Mantle - that he might not play a certain day, goes out and gets incredibly drunk, and then the next day, hung over, comes to the baseball park and is called upon and expected to be a different kid. And he hits a fantastic home run. Perhaps in running around the bases, he says to his team mates, looking up at the crowd, "Those people don't know how hard that really was."
And Elliott knows, it looked a lot harder over at Foggy Bottom than it did for me when I was at Yale, and I think, as we all know from watching the Olympics, that when you score a point, you score not just for execution but for degree of difficulty. And I would argue that the countries that Tom faults us for not doing more on or getting more results - countries like China, Iraq - the degree of difficulty is extremely high. And I think we did the right things. We have to keep doing them. But the fact that they did not convert overnight is not a statement that we were doing the wrong things.
Moreover - and I think this is very important - I think we started to identify where, if you have limited resources, which you do in democracy-promotion efforts through the government, you would get the most bang for the buck. And the reason is that, at the beginning of the administration, if you looked at the way that the money was being spent - at that point only $100 million, but now $700 million in democracy assistance - you would see that most of it was being spent at the waist for countries that were established democracies or those which Congress mandated be given money because they were so far from democracy - China, Iran, Iraq and Libya, et cetera, the Cuban Democracy Act. All of these democracy acts are for countries where, in fact, you need a lot more than an appropriation by Congress in any given year.
What we have tried to do is to push the democracy policy into the middle - to those countries that are just entering the democracy column, like Indonesia, like Nigeria, and those that are just slipping back, like Pakistan, Cote d'Ivoire, Fiji, and to try and develop a consistent policy, so that we get the most bang for the buck. And we've taken that money up further. What we are leaving for the next administration and a number of the people who have worked on this project is an effort to identify factors that make particular countries more receptive and more likely to respond favorably to democracy-promotion efforts, and thereby, try to channel our government resources more effectively toward those countries.
The next one - and I think is this the really fundamental one that I'd like for you to take away - is that, even as Tom praises us for the concept, I don't think he fully describes the forest that we were trying to deal with. And my point really is, although we may be running out of time, we did not run out of ideas.
So let me clarify what was the concept, what were we trying to say.
Second, what was the strategy, what have we been trying to do.
And then, in the question and answer, we can talk about the execution - how much did we actually accomplish country by country after eight years of putting our noses to the grindstone and where are we at, what are the successes? And I'm sure people have their own examples of that.
First, what was the concept?
I think what Madeleine Albright, Bill Clinton, Sandy Berger and others said - Tony Lake - was that we need a 21st century human rights and democracy policy, one that is sustainable across administrations, one that is neither realist or idealist to use an old dichotomy, but practically idealist, namely, integrating democracy and human rights as a core value to be promoted as part of our foreign policy. And the critical notion was that values are a part of our interests and that the globalization of human freedom, which is the most important social revolution of my time, is both an end and a means. We want more people around the world to be free because it is a good of itself and because it is a means. It's a means to solving other global problems. Global democracy solves global problems. It solves problems of political insecurity. It solves problems of economic security. It addresses the issues of environmental degradation, health and human rights, and therefore, our democracy-promotion efforts will promote our human rights efforts, and our human rights promotion efforts will support our democracy efforts.
Now, the best way to illustrate that is to point to the now-famous map or two maps of the world as it existed in 1975, in which 30 countries have adopted a democratic form, and as it stands now - 120 countries, which have adopted the democratic form, although we could argue about how many of those countries have genuine commitments to democracy in the way that they do business.
And I think the first and most obvious point is then and now, the non-democratic countries are the ones that pose the most problems for our foreign policy, and the democratic countries are the ones who are the best allies in terms of bringing about improvements or solutions. And the globalization of human freedom has had the result that there are many, many more opportunities for collaborative efforts among democratic institutions.
I think another part of the idea here - and this was one, again, on which Democrats and Republicans agree - is that we don't just promote elections, but we help democratic institutions and, more fundamentally, democratic culture because if culture and institutions are strong, we can survive a bad election. I mean in our own country, one might say because we have such a strong democratic culture and institutions, it doesn't really matter the way any particular election goes because the democracy is secure.
So my message - we are all small-d democrats now. The 21st century approach is how to best use and expand the democracy areas of this map, and that therefore, our approach to human rights is fundamentally prevention, not pathology, because by promoting a world in which government structures are largely ones in which people have control over their own lives, there's a greater chance that there will be fewer human rights violations. That is the unifying field theory, the integrated theory, which began to be developed in the Reagan administration, the Bush administration, the Carter administration, but was, I think, brought to fruition and made rhetorically a centerpiece of our foreign policy in the Clinton administration, particularly under Madeleine Albright.
And my point about this concept is - if you get the structure of the glass right, other people can fill it. But I think it is only now that we got that piece of it done.
Okay, second - what was the strategy?
There are five dimensions on which we tried to develop this policy. First, the normative dimension. We got beyond simply talking about the right to be free of various kinds of governmental violations, and moved more to the notion that people have a right in the 21st century not just to freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, the right to associate, economic, social and cultural rights, but to forms of government that guarantee those rights - in other words, that they have a right to democracy itself.
And we promoted that standard-setting exercise through two successive revolutions at the UN Human Rights Commission, at the UN General Assembly, and most recently and prominently in the Warsaw Declaration in the first Community of Democracies meeting in June that was attended by some 106 countries.
The second dimension, which I've already discussed, the horizontal dimension, making sure that we're properly evaluating where democracy deficits exist, horizontally, and then devoting our resources where they pay off the most - if not in this country, then in the neighboring country, where you get the most bang for the buck.
Third, the vertical dimension - what Tom has called as high policy versus low policy - how to make sure that programs and policy and public diplomacy are integrated so that our money and our talk follow policy directives that are made by our central policy makers. And that was certainly facilitated by coordination and institutional integration between AID, USIA and the State Department.
Fourth, the multilateral dimension, the idea that democratic governments should engage with each other in intergovernmental forums as democracies, fund common interests and promote common values. After all, the landlocked states of the world, the island nations deal as caucuses or as joint conscience in various international forums. Why not democracies? And this was the genius, I think, of the approach that made democracies an issue for which my colleague and friend, Mort Halperin, and Penn Kemble, who are here, deserve the greatest credit.
And fifth and finally, the private and public dimension of democracy promotion, the notion that transnational actors like the Carnegie Endowment, NED, NDI, IRI, various think tanks, NGOs, are all working on the same kinds of issues. I see John Fox, so I mention OSI as well, particularly the development of the civil society, the development of democratic institutions, rule-of-law structures, et cetera.
So that's the structure of the glass. We have the integrated approach and we were pushing on all five dimensions. So, then, the question is how do you execute this strategy?
Well, I think Tom correctly identifies two things we tried to do -- localizing democracy; namely, thinking that it's possible to achieve these global democratic developments in every country in the world, and to bring about democratization even in countries that don't have a democratic form -- for example, greater capacity of people to control their own lives in countries in North Africa, such as Morocco or Tunisia or Jordan or Syria when a new government comes in or a new king comes in.
Second, I think Tom has correctly identified institutionalizing democracy promotion as a core feature or a core task. And finally, I think Tom has identified networking between private and public entities as another task that's a key part of the execution.
But there are two other tasks that I think are critically important and on which I think the next administration will be building, whichever way the chads have fallen, and that is first prioritizing, matching resources to policy, and choosing countries with which we get the most bang for the buck; and second, what I'd call bipartisanizing this agenda. Like the corruption agenda, the good-governments agenda, the rule-of-law agenda, the religious-freedom agenda, these are not agendas that should be turned on and off every four years depending on who gets elected. The United States government as a whole has an interest in the globalization of freedom as a means and an end and, whoever is the president, whoever is the secretary of state, and whoever is in my role, that ought to be pursued.
In short, the U.S. government's role in fostering the globalization of human freedom should be nurtured at the conceptual level, at a strategic level, at the level of implementation. And in that struggle, which I think a many, many year struggle, we don't shed our commitments when we change jobs. We simply change hats. And for me, as someone whose parents came to this country as immigrants because they sought democracy and human rights, my commitment to these will continue for as long as I live and wherever I am.
CAROTHERS: Thank you very much, Harold. Next we'll hear from Elliott Abrams.
In particular, I want to be clear that, in the remarks I'm going to make, I'm talking about Clinton administration policy and not Harold Koh, first, because I have the highest possible regard for him as a person and as a public official; and second, because I was in that job and know. In fact, on one occasion I called Harold to complain about something the administration had done only to find the next day that he had opposed it and lost the fight, which is why people should be nicer to assistant secretaries for human rights.
But that said, I do - I do disagree with a lot of what you said. And let me try to explain why briefly.
I think that this administration, like some others in the past, has had a better declaratory policy on democracy and human rights than it has had a real-world policy, when the rubber hits the road.
Let me quote from an article by Jim Mann in the LA Times last week. "The conclusion seems inescapable that the Clinton administration was tough on human rights and democracy where there were political reasons to do so - Cuba - but more lenient if a country was deemed especially important for America's strategic or commercial interests - Saudi Arabia, China."
Bob Kagan in his piece in The Weekly Standard last week said something quite similar about the administration in Haiti, that when the going got rough, the administration had a tendency to pull back.
I think that the key here is not what the Human Rights Bureau does. It can't do what it does better than was done under Harold Koh's leadership. The key to the integration of this - I guess we all agree on this - into overall foreign policy - and here I do not think the administration has such a good record despite the belief system or intentions of Secretary Albright.
I was reading last night some of the Chile documents that came out about a month ago - Chile in the '80s. And some of them, of course, are about the difficulty of getting Treasury to support the desire of the State Department to vote no or to abstain on loans to negotiate with Chile. That's the kind of trouble that one has to get into in having an effective human rights policy on the ground and promote democracy.
In that sense, I disagree with the last thing that Harold said because I think the really important thing about the Bush administration is going to be what does the U.S. trade representative think about building democracy and what does the secretary of the treasury think and what does the secretary of defense think, obviously, what do the president and secretary of state think. What this has to permeate - everybody in the government really has to come to the conclusion that you are right, that the promotion of democracy actually must be the centerpiece or a centerpiece of American foreign policy or it won't work.
And you will end up, as we so often have over the years, with a policy that is more rhetorical than real.
Just to give a couple of examples - Tom in his paper mentions that Egypt, to quote the line, "The administration uttered no words of criticism when Egyptian President Mubarak steamrolled his way through yet another national election in 1996." The administration was late, I think, in Indonesia. I think the administration was late in Peru. But I suppose the example I would end with is China because I think it's the worst example. It's the worst example for a lot of administrations. It reminds me of the days when we weren't allowed to say bad things about democracy in Mexico, which certainly was something that pervaded American foreign policy for decades and decades.
But you know, in the last analysis, this administration has delinked progress on democracy and human rights in China from trade. And in the last couple of years, the situation has gotten a good deal worse. There's more repression in China. Indeed, there's more repression in China since the passage of the PNTR. I was one who opposed that passage of the PNTR without attaching it to human rights conditions.
The administration took the view that this is how you promote human rights in China - you expand the economy, you expand trade. Thus far, I realize it hasn't been 20 years, but immediately, the human rights situation deteriorated and it has stayed worse. And I think the administration has been ineffective.
And again, not only is this not a criticism of Harold; in a certain sense, it's not a criticism of the administration in that, as he suggested, our tools are not all that powerful for a country like China, and that this problem of integrating human rights policy and democracy policy with the rest of foreign policy, with trade and economic and financial policy and with military policy is one which no administration has solved.
I guess I would just end by saying that I think that it is probably more - I would probably stress more the continuity between Carter, Reagan and Bush and Clinton policy and results here than Harold did, and the example I would give of that is that it is, after all, true that NDI, IRI, NED itself, were products of the '80s, not products of the '90s, not products of the last eight years.
So I think one can see, for better and for worse, a great deal of - more continuity, I think, than Harold saw, and I guess I just end by saying I predict absolutely that the next assistant secretary for DRL will also see less continuity than I do in the overall U.S. policy in this area.
My assessment of the Clinton administration's legacy on democracy is not an assessment of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, which is only one very small part of the State Department, nor is it an assessment of the State Department policies, per se, which are only one part of U.S. foreign policy.
It's also not just an assessment of the last two years of U.S. policy, but of the entire eight years.
And I'm not trying to hold the policy up against the Wilsonian ideal and regret that it fell short. I'm actually kind of glad it did. I'm not actually a pure Wilsonian.
I made three main points in my paper, which Harold summarized and, as an elegant and extremely skillful lawyer, slightly misrepresented.
So let me rerepresent them to you.
CAROTHERS: I think we agree on lots and lots of trees, Harold. I'm not sure we still agree on the forest. So let me characterize what I think the boundaries and some of the dimensions of that forest are.
I do find something that I think is fairly unobjectionable, but still seems to provoke friction: that the Clinton policy was a semi-realist policy in the sense that, in a significant number of places in the world during the last eight years, U.S. economic and security interests conflicted with democracy. Where they did, in many cases, the United States de-emphasized democracy. Where they didn't, in many cases, the United States promoted democracy. And I'm referring to countries in the Middle East, particularly Egypt, the Gulf countries, Jordan, a number of others; in Asia, China, Indonesia up until 1997, a number of others; the former Soviet Union, particularly Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and others; parts of Latin America, including the Andean region because of some of the conflicts with our drug policy, particularly Peru, and that that's a fact of life, and to try to characterize the policy otherwise is not persuasive to people in other countries because they know the realities of our policy. They see this picture. And to say otherwise actually doesn't get us very much and is, I think, counterproductive in some ways.
So my first argument is I think semi-realism is not a criticism per se. It's an attempt to make a statement or assessment of fact.
Second, I believe the Clinton policy was an evolution of the Bush policy, not a sharp break, and that there was greater continuity, as I already pointed out, to Reagan and Carter and further back. And that the main lines of the policy in Latin America and Eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere are all potentially similar between the Clinton administration and the Bush administration in terms of the gross lines of the policy, and that the argument that there was a concept of global democracy serving U.S. interests, that that was, as Harold just said, brought to fruition during the Clinton years, I think is a little bit misleading.
It was Secretary Baker - James Baker - who said, I think in 1991: After containment comes democracy. The concept was there. The concept was operative. The SEED program, the Freedom Support Act, the whole Enterprise for the Americas conception of Latin America policy and on throughout - this idea was there. And I think, if you're going to appeal to the notion of - I hate to repeat the word because I don't like neologisms - bipartisanizing a policy. Actually, I think you're doing yourself a disservice by trying to emphasize discontinuity where there was continuity because I think you're playing into the hands of some people who do see this as a Clintonian issue, or would like to see this as a sort of part of Clinton foreign policy or a foreign policy that some people didn't like and would like to change. Because I don't think there is a significant discontinuity. There are many areas of development, many excellent initiatives that were undertaken. But I don't think that it's correct to talk about a framework change. I think that's a misstatement, and I think that the evolution of the policy in the 1990s more greatly reflected the changes of events in the world more than policies emanating from here.
So for example, you point to Nigeria and Indonesia. Well, the Clinton administration did not promote democracy significantly in those countries until dictators fell or died; that reflects how policy followed events and did not lead them in many cases.
And so to sort of take credit for the fact that certain sorts of evolutions occurred and then to say our policy was there, in some cases, I think, is turning causality on its head. So the second point is that policy was evolutionary. There was not a qualitative shift or a discontinuity.
The third point is that there has been greater institutionalization of democracy in U.S. policy mechanisms and policy establishment. But that process of institutionalization is still not deeply integrated to the main policy. There is much greater discussion of democracy in U.S. foreign policy making than there was 10 years ago. There are more people in government committed to it. There are more experts on the subject. But both at the State Department - even at the State Department and USAID, it still struggles for a place in the policy. And anyone who watched decisions come out of Undersecretary Pickering's office over the last several years knows that it was fighting against other considerations. And to argue that it is now the main framework is a misperception.
Furthermore, at other agencies, particularly the Department of Defense, Department of the Treasury, and the Central Intelligence Agency, it is not the main framework for thinking about the world. And in fact, the State Department's weight in foreign policy has been declining during the last eight years and giving weight to those three agencies, particularly the first two, because of budgetary increases, points to the fact that there is - democracy has been competing against greater forces.
When we look at examples of our policy in Peru, where the Central Intelligence Agency had an important and a strong relationship with a fundamentally antidemocratic set of intelligence services, the leader of them, and that was a root element of our policy throughout most of the 1990s. I know that you weren't a supporter of that. I know DRL wasn't and other people in the State Department tried to work against it.
I'm not criticizing the fact that you weren't able to change that. It did eventually change due to certain things. But again, if we're trying to look at the overall balance of things, we have to take the totality of the picture and state it frankly and honestly.
Now, that doesn't make me cry or make me think that this is all going to be different tomorrow, but for us to go out in the world and say: "We're the leader of the community of democracies. We have this deep set of principles. We want you to abide by them, too." That's fine, but many people in the world have a cynical reaction to that and they have a reason to.
And I know you were working to change that, but again, what we're trying to do here is put a picture of the policy - I think these three elements, the semi-realist policy, the policy of evolution and continuity, and a policy in which institutionalization is still struggling for weight - those are the things that I would point to. So if that's two cheers rather than three, so be it. But that's how I see things.
Thank you very much. And Harold, I think you're welcome to take a little bit of time and then we'll turn to questions.
KOH: Sure, we've all seen those great French impressionist paintings - three views of the cathedral, and that's what we see.
I don't disagree with anything that Tom said. I do disagree with some of the things that Elliott said.
But let me just make the obvious point. Leadership comes from the top. President Clinton, Secretary Albright, they appointed me. I appointed the people who work for me as political people. And we sit on top of a bureaucracy. And George Bush will appoint the people that we're talking about. And it does make a difference if, for example, in the Treasury Department, you have somebody like Stuart Eizenstat, who works on Holocaust asset issues. I think that the president of the United States is accountable to the American people. He has to send a message. And I think that the basic notion that I didn't understand - if we care about these issues, it's not the way to go, it seems to me, to blame the State Department, the baggy pants pinstripers, but to ask the president whether our policy reflects our values.
Secondly, to Elliott, I would say that the role of the Congress in the session in the last couple of years and the Cuba policy and the Haiti pullback may have been a little bit associated with that. Congress does give the money. Congress gives the money, for example, or makes it hard for DRL or the State Department to get its work done where other agencies seem to have a lot of money. And that is also a question of whether that fully reflects American values.
I ask the question: Do the American people go to the polls to vote for national missile defense. I don't know. But maybe, after all, a good question which ought to be a given: Would more people go to the polls to vote for democracy and human rights in these countries than for national missile defense? I think we ought to ask that question.
My next point - given that we have such an evenly divided government, that is why we need a bipartisan agenda. And that's why I'm not going to sit here and say that there's anything wrong with Elliott Abrams or my future successor or George Bush or anybody else. I've met with Colin Powell. I've briefed him. I'm impressed by him. And I think that these core values are very important. And I do think that there will be a way in which Colin Powell, the first African-American Secretary of State, will come out more like Madeleine Albright, not just because they are both outsiders who came in, but because they're both 21st century secretaries of state.
As the secretary once said: "It's not your father's foreign policy anymore."
And the fact of the matter is that it may become that the - Jim Baker mentioned these things and so there is - well, I was alive in 1954. But I didn't have as full a conception of this as I do now.
When you talk about evolution, it means that people learn from the past and have a more fully fleshed out concept. I am not claiming that I had some thought that never crossed Elliott's mind, but it does get fleshed out. And that's part of a process and institutionalization.
Now, when we talk about countries Indonesia or Peru, we got there late. I'd say better late than never. What do we know about what would have happened in some of these countries had we not gotten involved there? Bureaucracies are difficult to mobilize. The important thing is that we did engage in those countries powerfully, and we did bail out Mexico in a way that was critically important and now has made it possible for it to be a powerful actor and to turn the corner.
So when we look at China, which is always brought up as the counter-example, I think we need to look at the supply side of repression. And what was going on there was that when we de-linked, we shifted from the policy of quid pro quo to a policy of prinicipled, purposeful engagement, namely trying to work as humanely as possible both inside and outside to bring our values across, and as that relationship expanded with a country like North Korea, that also has to be part of the story, that we engage on all issues, including human rights and democracy questions.
Now when we get to semi-realism, I just think it's really long overdue to banish the realist terminology from the discussion. Well, no. Nobody is serious urging these issues anymore. And the real question - I have to shift into academic lingo to prepare for my return - is that governments are not a billiard ball. Our interests are not exogenously given. Our values do construct our interests. And the question is: If Americans care about democracy and human rights, if our country is a country as it was born and built on democracy and human rights, is our governmental system receptive enough that it can accept these norms and make it as important in our policy as it is to our people?
And I think that that's the key idea here and when you talk about the fact that the Clinton administration didn't have a view on this or that its view was largely rhetorical, I would say if there is an Albright doctrine, if there is a Clinton doctrine, it is not the doctrine of humanitarian intervention, which may be an aspect. It is a commitment to democracy and human rights. And that's critical to our foreign policy boundaries. And that is what I think we're seeing.
And the real question is not that Powell is the secretary of state. Will we see that as not just a doctrine put forward by one party, but as an abiding commitment and will he be able to work that institutionally into his own bureaucracy so it can raise these issues with the CIA, Defense and Treasury?
Now, Tom would be the first to admit that there are changes. It was Bill Cohen who made the most powerful statement to the Indonesian government about military activity. It was Stu Eizenstat who led Holocaust assets. We had a new classification of Chilean documents, Peruvian documents, Argentinian documents. There's a change of attitude there as well. And institutional change takes a long time.
And the fact of the matter is - one is that democratic values of our people need to be fully reflected in the priorities of our government. And I think the answer to that question is - do those governmental leaders who are directly accountable to the people recognize that the people really do care about government of the people, by the people, for the people, and do they want their foreign policy to reflect that into the 21st century? And I think that is an unstoppable - an unstoppable - trend.
RICHARD FINNEY: Yes. Richard Finney, Radio Free Asia. Our relationship with North Korea for the last few years has focused on famine relief and proliferation issues. But I'm wondering whether more might not have been done to promote the basic human rights and freedoms of the North Korean people themselves? What more might we have done along those lines?
KOH: Well, you touched the issue that is closest to my heart. I went to North Korea. My father spent his life dreaming of a united Korea whole and free. And I never saw a clearer example of why self-government matters than when we flew out of North Korea with no electricity and the famine and the dispirited looking people into the south, which was just a bustling, mainstream marketplace of traffic jams, commerce, wild political parties, media, all acting like Koreans, like Koreans really do.
Now, you know, through a history we all understand, North Korea was taken into a situation of extraordinary isolation, surrounded by military defenses. And the question is: Is it the best way to promote human rights and democracy in North Korea to start to reverse that process of isolation according to a set of principles that are consistent with a policy of principled engagement? And that's what I think happened.
I was on the trip. The secretary raised in the highest level meetings with North Koreans not just the humanitarian issues, the relief issues, religious freedom issues, human rights issues, and set down markers for how any kind of eventual engagement, whether by this administration or the one beyond, would proceed.
Now, what more could we have done? I think we need to use the outside approach to the maximum extent possible - sanctions, isolation - and I think what ends up happening is that containment is not a particularly effective way of bringing about internal change, and that that is something that the engagement strategies address.
In China, building rule-of-law institutions, removing a lot of the restrictions on individual economic freedom, individual modes of communication, just opening these societies up. And that I think is something in which democracies have to work together.
ABRAMS: One brief word - just again, not on Korea, but China. It isn't clear to me, except in the very long run, that this open-up-the-economy strategy works because it would be logical for dictatorial rulers to conclude that the opening of the economy is, in fact, dangerous - and that it would be a reason for them to crack down further politically to guarantee or insulate against some of those dangers.
So when we pursue that economic strategy, it seems to me, and watch the human rights situation deteriorate, we need to be ready to respond quite forcefully on human rights. But neither the Congress nor the administration, I think, wanted to do that, at least in the year 2000, they didn't want to.
KOH: Well, you're preaching to the choir here, Elliott. But I think my main point is nobody said that the appropriate return is on laissez-faire economic opening. The fact of the matter is that the opening on economics is an opening whereby the issues of rule of law, anticorruption, good governance, judicial institutions can be raised, law reform can be raised and pressed by an administration that does this in a purposeful way.
Moreover, the opening that's created is much more for private entities than for governments. How many times will any secretary of state go to China in the course of a term. But one of the parts of the opening is tremendous opening for American corporations and businesses and those are the people who want there to be free flow of the Internet, who want there to be security of contracts, who want there to be good labor conditions. And the fact of the matter is, they will not be satisfied if all that is there is WTO-compliant law.
They would actually like law that is compliant with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. So I think the opening, the economic opening, provides an opportunity which is a - in the tent so that the camel's nose can go under, but the camel driver has to be suggesting to the camels that they keep moving that opening for more than just making money.
CAROTHERS: Yes. We're talking about China.
PHOEBE YANG: Phoebe Yang from the State Department. I'm just curious, both to Harold and to Elliott, on your comments on fragmentation of the human rights agenda into different kinds of human rights and how it affects overall U.S. policy.
KOH: I don't think there is a fragmentation. In fact, I think one of the important intellectual moments of the administration - again, not particularly noticed - was that, in 1993, at the Vienna Conference, it was Warren Christopher who, as a statement of American policy, again as a culmination of a long set of statements over time going back to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Four Freedoms Speech by Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy's inauguration, statements made by Ronald Reagan and George Bush, said: "Universal human rights are universal. They're indivisible and mutually dependent, and that, therefore, there's no hierarchy of rights." And as Martin Luther King, Jr. said: What good is it to have the right to sit at a lunch counter if you don't have anything to eat or enough money to buy anything to eat? That we have to push these agendas together."
Now it is true that certain agendas got special play in this administration -- the religious freedom agenda, which came from Congress, and was I think embraced by the administration; the labor agenda. And it seems to me that these agendas can be extremely important in teaching us how to promote the agenda as a whole. The goal is not establishing a hierarchy. The goal is understanding the interconnectivity of these issues.
The latest example of this is trafficking - trafficking in women and children. Legislation has come out of Congress. It's proposed institutional arrangements that have a law enforcement aspect. It has a women's rights aspect. It has a human rights aspect. It has an immigration aspect. And these are part of the global problems that have to be addressed by institutions at the State Department and other parts of the government that have a global focus.
CAROTHERS: We have two hands here. I'd like to take both questions. Down here.
JULIANA PILON: -- It's interesting and important that you all agree that there appears to be a strong commitment to the promotion of democracy in the United States among the people themselves, and the question is how do you translate that into actual policy? We are all knowledgeable about this here and you're talking to ourselves and that's good. One of the reasons they're so important is that these events address an audience outside the Beltway and even outside our circles. What I'd like to know from you is what advice you would have to the next administration - and perhaps Elliott, you could comment on that - advice specifically on how to bring a message to the American people that their instincts are correct and that this should continue to translate into support for whatever the administration may wish to do in the area of actual democracy building. Because rhetoric aside, and the large issues aside - China and so forth - that everybody understands, the fact of the matter is that assistance for democracy building is very small and Tom has made that point.
According to any report card on democracy building has to be within those restrictions. It's not really very much money. So how do you make that - that message understood, and then how do you get the response back?
CAROTHERS: Do you mind if I take the second question down here? You had a question, yes.
QUESTION: Well, I'm Grover Joseph Rees. I work with the House International Relations Committee. And I wanted to react and ask for a reaction about something that Harold said about the role of Congress in promoting or retarding progress on human rights. He suggested that some of the illustrations of the administration's failure to promote human rights more aggressively might have to do with Congress.
And I wanted to suggest that there are more counter-examples. Congress is a complicated place. Judge Patricia Wald once said that reading legislative history is equivalent to looking out over a crowd and picking out your friends. But on more issues and with more members of Congress - for instance, Peru and Indonesia - bipartisan and powerful, influential elements in Congress were hammering the administration before '97, before they got religion, saying: Should we really be funding - at one point we were funding democracy builders and we were funding pretty directly the people who were killing the democracy builders.
And people in Congress were aware of that, and were basically being stonewalled by the administration although not by Secretary Koh.
The administration - and this might be a systemic problem that I want to ask you about - so often when you have a good policy, even people in the administration who have a commitment to the policy say: "For God's sake, don't legislate it because that would be interfering with the way foreign policy ought to be done. You can't have 535 secretaries of state." If that hadn't happened on Indonesia, on Peru, wouldn't we have had better policy sooner?
KOH: The two questions really go together because I think Joseph, who has played a tremendous role on this, makes the obvious point about the relationship between Congress and the executive branch on which you could write a book - and I did.
Administrations have openly stated priorities and administrations have hidden priorities, and individual agencies have their own priorities. And then they get worked into what constitutes policy. And then Congress, on the other hand, which disposes as the executive branch proposes, also has priorities. And Elliott and I pointed to some examples where Congress did not fund certain kinds of activities - democracy promotion in Haiti after a certain point. But I think Joseph is absolutely right that Congress held the administration's feet to the fire - productively - in a number of different areas.
And we can go chapter and verse well beyond the number of country cases and the examples that you've given.
I think that, again, goes to the fact that if this agenda is going to be done in a coherent way, because this back and forth between congressional interests, which by its nature cannot be thematically unified, I think, congressional action is a vector of interest. I think it would have to be, somehow, coordinated through the way the executive branch approaches it, and that means that the executive branches themselves have to have leadership from the top and have some continuity of conceptual concerns from administration to administration.
And that's why my answer to you is - what would I say to the next administration? Colin Powell's speech, when he said he was going to be secretary of state, talking about democracy and human rights, talking about the finances of the world was right on. But now that he is going to be in, he should talk with some of the people, as he has done, who have been there for eight years, the same agenda, and to try to work out an agenda, he should talk to the president of the United States, and tell him that that agenda has to come from the top.
He should talk with members of Congress - including Republicans and Democrats - and persuade them that that agenda is in our national interests, and then get the resources necessary to carry it out and get the interagency coordination necessary to carry it out. And if he does that, and the president does that, it will be a big plus in terms of what the American people want out of their foreign policy.
ABRAMS: One additional point, I agree with all that. I just wanted one point. Powell said one other thing in that speech that I felt was almost as important as everything else he said. It was that the State Department needs more resources. And here we go back to things that both Tom and Harold have said. One of the problems, in fragmenting the foreign policy, I would say is not so much the issues - the human rights issues - as it is the change from the days when the State Department was clearly the lead agency.
We met over a couple of decades ago. But if Secretary Powell can take leadership of American foreign policy, and if he can get dollars - you know it comes down to that, too, to rebuild the State Department to a degree - which I think means more people and more posts. Over the last 25 years, a number of posts in significant places have been closed. If he can do that, that will have many benefits, obviously, for American foreign policy overall.
And one of them would be he's taken that part of the U.S. government that is most closely attuned to human rights policy.
KOH: Let me just add an echo of Elliott's point.
Americans expect their foreign policy to engage all of the crises of the world. I don't know that most Americans thought that Sierra Leone was going to happen on our watch or Kosovo or East Timor. But I think there was an expectation that there would be a response. And there are countries out there now, and we all know who they are, in which there are problems looming. And when those times come up on the radar screen and are major human rights and democracy problems, Americans will expect their government to engage in a way that's consistent with our values and interests. And that means that the resources have to be available to do that.
One of the things that I have learned on this job, that I will never again suggest that the State Department is an overly-resourced institution in which people are not working hard. When there's a crisis, I've never seen more committed people, getting on planes, going out there, working around the clock. Often diplomats are being committed into situations where the only other people there are humanitarian relief workers, in which we will not commit our own armed soldiers.
And those people are taking incredible risks to do what the American people hope and want to be done by their government. And I think if Congress is not prepared to give the money for that, we need different members of Congress.
CAROTHERS: I'm going to take another pair of questions.
LORI HANDRAHAN: Thank you. I'm an independent consultant.
Solzhenitsyn once said that the terrifying phenomena of totalitarianism has not been borne out of authoritarian systems, that it's been borne out of this democracy. And I've been thinking a lot about that statement in terms of the U.S. democracy system and human rights in the area that I know best, which is Central Asia.
And I would like the panel to comment on - if, perhaps - and I don't know if this is true, but perhaps the proposition has been reversed. I see, and this has been mentioned today in Tom's paper, democracy promotions will bring about human rights. I mean, I would just like to suggest perhaps that's not the case. Perhaps it's promotion of human rights institutions and protections that bring about more democratic behavior and more democratic environments. And perhaps if the proposition or the critical assumption had been that that we might have been able to more effectively spend the $2.1 million on democracy building alone in Kyrgyzstan, for example.
So rather than promoting democracy to gain human rights, promote human rights to gain democracy. Thank you.
KOH: That is the governing principle, and these are - you do one if you do the other. I think the basic point, though, which is very fundamental, is democracy promotion does not stop the first time people go to the polls to vote in what may or may not be a fair election, that democracy promotion, as I said, means building democratic institutions and cultures. And part of having democratic institutions and cultures means using those democratic institutions and cultures to eliminate the vestiges of totalitarian systems and the problems that they made -- cooperative threat reduction being a very good example.
Now, I think the critical point is you are absolutely right that most of the task that we face is not getting dictatorships to become democracies in form because we're doing pretty well on that. It's making democracies work better because the same freedom that people see when totalitarian government is released, it gives people the freedom to vote every once in a while, but also the freedom to be corrupt, the freedom to be trafficked, the freedom to subject people to various kinds of ethnic degradations, et cetera. And democratic governments have to be capable of responding.
That's where I think the critical point is about places like Indonesia and Nigeria. Those countries don't want to go back to totalitarianism, and I don't think people in Central Asia want to either. They want democracy to work better. They want democracy to deliver. And where the U.S. government, I think, has to see its role as facilitating this globalization of democracy promotion is by thinking creatively on a country-by-country basis as to how we can make democracy work better in these countries - not because it's just in our interests, but because it's in the interests of the people who live there.
CAROTHERS: I'd just like to make a comment on that odd situation in particular. I think, to put a little sharper edge on it, I mean, I think this region exemplifies two things that are very important going forward. One is - I subtitled my book "The Learning Curve," and I think Central Asia reflects an example of where the Clinton administration faced a fairly steep and, in some ways, punishing learning curve with respect to promoting democracy.
In Central Asia in 1993 and '94, even '95, there was a widespread feeling in the U.S. policy establishment that - sure, these weren't perfect countries, but as the ambassador to Kazakhstan told me repeatedly when I was in Kazakhstan a couple of times back in '93, '94 - "You know, Tom, just be a little more patient. Give them time. They're on the right track. You can't expect miracles."
By the late 1990s, we had given it time and the direction was bad and getting worse, not just in terms of increasing authoritarianism, but really the specter of state collapse arising in Central Asia. And when Secretary Albright went to Central Asia last year, she raised the democracy issue fairly forcefully, I understand. But by that point, it was pretty late, and by that point, President Nazarbayev didn't really particularly want to hear it from the American Secretary of State and wasn't very receptive to the message and felt that he was getting a pretty good ride out of things, and our moment for leverage there, although still exists to some degree, a lot of it was lost.
And that leads to the second point in Central Asia that it's true, Harold, that we need to help people in other parts of the world understand that democracy can bring benefits to them, but I don't think people in Central Asia are lusting for democracy. I think they're lusting for a life - a decent life, and a life in which, you know, there's a certain amount of some food on the table, a government that seems to act somewhat like a government, rather than predators, and various other things.
I don't mean to say that there's always a trade-off between giving people bread rather than democracy. But I don't think we can lead with democracy in a context like that because there's a great deal of nostalgia for the Soviet Union in that region. Opinion polls show that, by far, a majority of the people would like to go back to the Soviet Union. It doesn't reflect a longing for democracy. It reflects something else.
So I think we have to be careful in putting forward a democracy message, one that doesn't sound too much like one that would play here, but one that reflects the interests and perspectives there.
KOH: Well, first of all, I disagree that the moment for leverage in Central Asia is gone. That's like saying that the moment for leverage in China was lost when we delinked trade and MFN. The relationship is beginning, and the question is to what extent are these values incorporated in this whole relationship, which is going to go on for a very long time.
The question that you asked in the opinion polling to the Kazakhs or the Kyrgys is not: "Did you like it better, you know, are you better off now than you were eight years ago?" Because they may well answer no. The question is: "Do you want, for yourself and your children and your posterity, what this arrangement, this government arrangement is going to deliver or do you want what will be delivered if you have a well functioning democratic society?" And the answer to that, to those who are in the know and fully aware, is yes - that's what we want.
People told my parents, you know, we can't afford to have democracy in Korea because, until we have a certain gross national product, we can't afford self-government. And I spent much of my time growing up having people - Westerners - tell me that Koreans didn't want democracy. And I'll tell you, Koreans wanted democracy, and they got democracy and democracy is still imperfect, but that's why they came out of the Asian financial crisis ahead of any other, and that's why their president was the first Asian to receive the Nobel Peace Prize as a government official.
And I remember thinking - and my father telling me - you have to go into science because, if you want to win a Nobel prize….
...you're going to have to win it for physics.
But I think Central Asia has many of these features. We have to develop - this is a long-term, bipartisan strategy involving all of these dimensions - normative, horizontal, multilateral, vertical and private and public. And that's, in fact, what we've done to deepen democracy in Central Asia so that democracy delivers for the people. And when we do, they will be very happy and they'll be very grateful and it will be because of their own efforts which we assisted, not because we imposed it on them.
CAROTHERS: Just in the spirit of debate, I mean...
First, there are transitional moments in countries' histories, and there are opportunities. You can't compare Central Asia to China. In Central Asia, these are states that are states for the first time. And they went through a state-building phase of great importance in the early 1990s. It was a rather unique moment. And so it doesn't mean we can never have influence again that we don't have now. But there was a moment.
Secondly, I'm not saying the people in the majority don't want democracy or can't become democracies. I'm saying, because of their experience with what was sold to them as democracy in the first half of the '90s, they're rather sour on it right now. That was a bad experience with it and they're making their own strategic calculation. When they look at their experience over there, when they see a period that was good to them in some ways, but not in others. In the recent period, it's been fairly disastrous for many people. And they're making a calculated choice.
But it doesn't mean that they don't ever want democracy or they don't believe it. They're trying to survive. And the idea of a productive, full-fledged democracy - it doesn't seem very likely to them. And so they're making a defensive choice. So I'm not buying into the argument that, therefore, that region cannot become or will not become democratic at some point in the future. But I think it is important to understand how they see their choice.
And the third point - that we, the United States government, now have a sophisticated or well founded or well funded program for promoting democracy in Central Asia - I take issue with you there. I don't think you can call the kinds of aid programs we have there, and the rather small amounts that they are, the overwhelming bulk of U.S. interests in that region, how we've been approaching it, as a policy which is best described as a well established policy of democracy promotion.
KOH: Well, on the last point, of course, we need more money for Central Asian democracy building, and I think you made a plausible case for it.
But I go back to the point which was - and I think is the fundamental point - about Central Asia or anywhere else in this environment. These countries and the people who are living in them fear a return to where they are and have a dream of where they might be many years down the road. And then they have to deal with today and tomorrow and the deprivations that exist.
But when they talk about what they want - and I've met so many members of the civil societies in these countries, I can't tell you - they want to be part of the global economy. They want to be part of the global culture. They want to be part of the global communications system. And they are not satisfied simply to have a little bit to eat and have some minimum level of deprivation within the country.
Obviously, they have to prioritize. But the long-term goal is globalization, being part of the global system. And I think that the message that we have to send is: To be part of the global system, you have to play by the global rules - whether in the trade context, in the communications context, or in the human rights and democracy context. You have to set global standards and use bilateral pressure. That's what the Community of Democracies is all about because, as countries that are not truly democratic in form adhere to these principles, there is a standard they themselves have accepted which can be used to judge their own conduct.
That's what the Helsinki Declaration did. That's what the Warsaw Declaration did. And it's a long-term project that has to be approached on a bipartisan basis.
I don't think that there's a Republican and Democratic approach to democratizing Russia in the end. There may have been slight variations, but it was a bipartisan agenda that has been pushed over a long period of time, and that's what we need at this point for a 21st century democracy policy to succeed.
CAROTHERS: I'm pretty hesitant about - excuse me a minute, Pat. Martha Olcott has been raising her hand. But this is not a seminar on Central Asia, and so I'm pretty hesitant about that. If you have just a brief comment on that, we can take then.
If you need the microphone, they'll give it to you.
MARTHA OLCOTT: Martha Olcott at Carnegie Endowment.
It's impossible to sit silent in the whole discussion on Central Asia. I suppose in hearing Secretary Koh's presentation….
CAROTHERS: There're a lot of late-term appointments that come in administrations where people suddenly find themselves in much higher positions --
KOH: So many people are leaving, I might make it --
OLCOTT: I'm not being critical. I want to promote him rather than demote him.
I suppose from listening to your presentation on Central Asia, what I find really confusing - as someone who's spent 25 years traveling to the region - is what the criteria is for a long-term engagement. I mean, I see in Central Asia what Tom describes, a situation in which institutional development was proceeding at a point where the timing for intervention was optimal and that has now passed. And because of a clash in priorities, which, you know, has been talked about by all three speakers - a clash in foreign policy priorities in which strong pursuit of democratization could have had implications for energy development, we just backed away in that area.
And I suppose I would really be interested in hearing how you determine whether something is just a place-keeping exercise - what I would say a lot of our democracy assistance is now, that if there should ever be regimes that saw this as powerful, saw this as persuasive, saw this as - saw democratization as something they wanted to pursue, there are enough NGOs on the ground that they might be there, from something that was really creating the grassroots support of the democratization movement.
I mean, I can't see how our assistance today is more than place-keeping, how our assistance today is creating grassroots support potentially in the next decade even, or two decades, for basic institutional change in these societies.
CAROTHERS: I'm going to go to Penn's question as well, and then one other, and then we're getting a little bit more time, but I want to get some more questions out on the table and give you a chance at it.
PENN KEMBLE: I think Central Asia's important, but we wouldn't want to finish a discussion about the Clinton administration's record on democracy without barely mentioning the former Yugoslavia, which, for a period of some 10 years was perhaps the central issue tormenting American presidents and secretaries of state. And while, Serbia and Yugoslavia are not today full democracies, I think one could fairly say that a very important threshold has been overcome.
And this was overcome through the application of a purposed and determined strategy of seeking to forge an alliance among disparate forces in Serbia principally, and to see that there was a free and fair election and to help them mount a campaign which enabled them to win.
And I think, if we lived in Biblical times, this would almost be a candidate for a miracle, you know, but here we go through a whole bunch of discussion and, to my recollection, haven't even mentioned it.
And I think it's an illustration of the point that Harold was trying to make - that in this administration, we have employed support for democracy as a strategic tool and used it in a place where many people denied that it could fulfill the role that we envisioned for it.
You know, Tom, you're described as somebody who has a two-cheers-for-democracy view and I think, looking over your writings, that might be a bit effusive. I see in this pamphlet.…
...that you have prepared that you say, "The direct effects of U.S. policies on the success or failure of democracy in most countries are usually fairly limited." I think the experience in the former Yugoslavia should lead you to revisit that statement, and I think that the Clinton administration has shown, in that instance, how in fact democracy can be used as a key tool of our national strategy.
JOHN FOX: John Fox of the Open Society Institute. If you'd talk to Madeleine Albright to Harold Koh, to many others, to Jim O'Brien and the administration, and particularly Capitol Hill when it was pushing democracy in the Balkans before any of these people existed in the Clinton administration and forcing resources down the throat of AID and the State Department.
But I think then, the point of the Serbian case is how very exceptional it is and how bleak, I would say, the landscape is going forward. The fact that it took Madeleine Albright - first had to wrestle to the floor Dick Holbrooke, a so-called realist, had to go to war with Yugoslavia, had to do a few other things, to run out - I mean, we just kind of ran out of policies to try on Serbia and bring democratization, and tried post-Kosovo war.
And it was done exceptionally well, I would say. But that's actually one of the few cases we can say that the U.S. government actually put policy, personnel, program, resources together, drove it from the high levels all the way down to requiring implementing partners to give material assistance to democrats in country, which is still a rather alien concept to our democratization instruments, give them the tools to do the job.
But how many other cases can we point to like that in the last eight years? The reluctance to do that on a variety of other fronts we're fighting right now - on the Belarus case. It is, you know, six inches a month. The same organizations, the same agencies refuse to learn the lesson, refuse to apply the lessons. There are such institutional impediments within the democratization world, I would say, both in State and in the NGO community, to doing this effectively. It's depressing. And you could put together six or eight countries on a hit list per year and do this much more effectively. There're organizations that try to do that. But I think the net faimly is very commendable in this regard, but it's not the dominant part of our democracy apparatus at the moment.
I think what stands out is that how rare this kind of case is, in fact, and how very far we have to go.
And looking at the language and the writings of the, let's call them national interest foreign policy makers that are peopling the new administration so far, I just don't see it coming.
KOH: Well, let me pull together these three comments...
CAROTHERS: This will be your closing remarks.
KOH: ... Which brings to mind two famous stories. The first is of the Korean mother -- I say Korean so as not to implicate other ethnic groups that have similar qualities - who gives her son two neckties, and her son goes upstairs and puts on one necktie and then comes down, and she says, "What's wrong with the other one?"
We've got to make choices, and when you make choices, you establish priorities, and when you establish those priorities, let's hope that those things are done well and they'll become a model for how other things ought to be done.
The second story, of course, which is the slogan that my brother the doctor keeps on his wall is, "When you're up to your ear in alligators, it's hard to remember that your objective was to drain the swamp."
The urgent drives out the important in government. Reaction drives out proactive measures. When there's a crisis, humanitarian relief comes first. Human rights violations and stopping of atrocities comes second, and the democracy-promotion agenda, the long-term institution-building, comes third.
And it takes a while to learn how to govern. I really can't emphasize that. It takes a while to learn how to govern and people are coming in and out of the government. The learning curve is going up. And what that means is that is why we cannot leave an agenda that's important to be changed every four years depending on how the chads fall.
Tom says in regards to Central Asia, that Madeleine Albright got to Central Asia too late. Well, the fact of the matter is it's early enough for Colin Powell to give some attention to this issue and to back up Madeleine Albright's message and put more resources into it because, as I pointed out in my now-forgotten initial remarks.…
…I said that in our task of globalizing democracy - we're doing well. Institutionally, I think democracy-promotion is beginning, networking is beginning. What do we do now? We have to prioritize and we have to bipartisanize.
And the fact of the matter is that I think that the key notion here is, as John pointed out, you are a critical player when you have strong regional institutions, as in Europe, when you have a strong common commitment, when you have strong partnerships working together, when you have clear understandings of the violations of the rules, when you have horizontal and vertical coordination on these questions - policy, programs, public diplomacy. It's incredible what democracies can do together to promote democracy and promote human rights.
And the real tragedy is it's not done everywhere. And then the question is: okay, we've learned something. Our tool kit is a lot stronger now. Let's not pretend that this is something that only Madeleine Albright and Bill Clinton and Harold Koh cared about because everybody in this room cares about it. And that's where the agenda - the priority-setting and use of the tools, the understandings that we've developed - have to be maintained over the long term and supported by our Congress and driven from the top by our president because that's why we're Americans.
We don't want government of the people, by the people, for the people to perish from this earth.
CAROTHERS: Thank you. I think we ought to go to Elliott for just one final remark.
ABRAMS: I'd only say, to repeat my now-forgotten opening remark - the opening remark that I just hope the new administration will find someone of the distinction of Harold Koh to serve in this position. One of the great things that this administration did for this cause was, in fact, to persuade him to take on this responsibility.
CAROTHERS: I'd like to second those remarks. A lot of people have said to me in the last month as people have speculated about who your successor is that the Clinton people put the bar too high.
And I think that's a testament to what you've done and who you are. So it's in that spirit that we invited you today and we appreciated your remarks and please join me in thanking Harold Koh.
[APPLAUSE AND END OF EVENT.]
Federal News Service