US Chair Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry oped on New Directions for Foreign Relations, 13 January 2009
New directions for foreign relations, John F. Kerry, The Boston Globe, 13 January 2009.
AS SENATOR Hillary Clinton appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today for confirmation hearings as secretary of state, the foreign policy agenda of the US government is confronting many challenges. We are engaged in wars in different stages in Afghanistan and Iraq. Global climate change represents a potential catastrophe. The danger from the spread of nuclear weapons and technology remains significant.
Yet it would be wrong to infer that we cannot triumph over the torrent of troubles afflicting the world today. After eight years of unilateral decision-making on the world stage and log rolling and partisan paralysis at home, we have an opportunity to reshape the way the United States does business with the world. We can resolve these issues by reasserting our moral leadership and restoring the world's trust in us through multilateral problem-solving rooted in diplomacy.
The Defense Department has fulfilled the enormous burdens placed upon our men and women overseas with honor and professionalism. But the road to reestablishing American leadership and improving the lives of our citizens and the rest of the world also runs through the State Department and the Congress. As incoming chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, I am determined to push an agenda that recognizes a new reality, returns civilian functions to civilians, and enhances the ability of US diplomats to play the leading role in solving these problems through effective foreign assistance and diplomacy.
We live under the constant threat of catastrophic terrorism. In recent weeks, we have heard chilling warnings about the prospect of nuclear terrorism. No issue is more urgent than dealing with nuclear proliferation. And none cries out louder for international cooperation. We need to signal the world that the United States is again ready to lead the way toward a world free of nuclear weapons. The ultimate goal may be far in the future, but now is the time to begin the journey with two dramatic steps.
First, I will urge the Obama administration to embrace the goal of reducing our strategic nuclear arsenals to 1,000 deployed warheads and work to persuade the Russians to do the same. That number is more than enough to keep us and our allies safe, but it will tell the world that we are determined to fulfill our responsibilities to eventually eliminate these doomsday weapons. In conjunction, it is essential that the new administration immediately open serious discussions with the Russians on extending or replacing the landmark Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires in less than a year.
Second, I will begin working to build the necessary bipartisan support for US ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which would impose a worldwide ban on nuclear testing under the watch of a far-reaching verification regime. Winning approval of two-thirds of the Senate will be a long and difficult process. It will require the unyielding support of the Obama administration and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. But success would be the single greatest arms control accomplishment for the new Senate and it would reestablish America's traditional leadership role on nonproliferation.
Just as we must work diligently to prevent a nuclear attack, the same leadership must be applied to avert a potential disaster of equal magnitude - global climate change. For eight years, the United States has been the world's laggard on this vital issue, and the global community craves new and aggressive leadership. We need to send a strong and certain message that we are ready to lead the effort to combat climate change through action at home and active engagement with other countries to develop a comprehensive new treaty.
In two months, negotiators will meet for the next round of discussions on a pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The essential elements of that treaty must be defined by the next Conference of Parties in Copenhagen this December. The time is short and the task is tremendous. The Senate has a vital role to play in defining the scope of the treaty to meet this urgent challenge.
And just as we must work with allies and other progressive nations to meet these challenges, we need the assistance of the international community to achieve stability in the Middle East and find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Strengthening our alliances through leadership and cooperation will help when it comes to persuading Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions and to deliver the political and economic stability we seek in Afghanistan and across South Asia.
The common element in this formula for a new foreign policy is replacing military solutions and unilateral action with diplomacy and multi-national consensus. Clinton's work on the Armed Services Committee, her lifetime of public service, and her global stature have prepared her well to help pave this new road for American leadership.
Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Source: The Boston Globe, www.boston.com.