June 4, 2002

 






 

 

 

 

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Former president Bill Clinton has spent the past year on the speaking circuit, preaching the values of globalization and doing a little damage control on his presidency in the press. Rather than run his comments unedited, we have asked prominent Republican (and Clinton-critic) Fife Symington to chime in with another view.

Bill Clinton on globalization, poverty, and the American media

Speech and question-answer session at the University of California, Berkeley, January 29, 2002

"The United States played the major role in rallying the world after World War II. first of all, to organize ourselves for the Cold War, and, secondly, to try to build the institutions of international peace and prosperity for people who embraced freedom. That is, after all, what the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, all these other international institutions, were about.

SYMINGTON: He should congratulate Ronald Reagan for bankrupting the Soviet Union!

When Communism failed, the Berlin Wall fell, and the economy became truly global, America and other wealthy nations reaped very big benefits. But very few people had thought through the full implications of the new world in which we found ourselves: a world characterized not just by a global economy, but by a global information society. When I took the oath of office as president on January the 20th, 1993, there were only 50 sites on the World Wide Web. When I left office, there were over 350 million and rising. Today, they're probably somewhere around 500 million. There's never been anything like it.

For the first time in history in the 1990s, more people lived under governments of their own choosing than not in the world. We saw an explosion of democracy and an explosion of diversity within democracies. We all know now that one of the cruel ironies of September the 11th is that a few hundred Muslims were killed at the World Trade Center, people from every continent. There were children from 80 different ethnic and national groups. So we have become more diverse, and we have become a more democratic world.

America has worked hard and sacrificed much to get where it is today - 'it' didn't just happen by accident...should we feel guilty because we are so successful? The poverty is a direct result of economic and political oppression, i.e. the lack of free political institutions.

America benefited enormously from this, as did other wealthy countries. So we find ourselves in a world where we have torn down walls, collapsed distances, and spread information and technology more widely than ever before. We also were given the chance to promote peace and prosperity and our ideals around the world. But it wasn't the whole story, because half the world was left out of the economic expansion. About half the people on earth live on less than two dollars a day. A billion people live on less than one dollar a day. A billion people go to bed hungry every night, and a billion-and-a-half people never get a clean glass of water. So not surprisingly, they don't think as much of this new world as many of us do because they're not really a part of it.

There are 100 million young people in the world of primary school age that never go to school at all - half the kids in Sub-Saharan Africa, a quarter of the kids in East Asia, a quarter of kids in South Asia. Indeed, one of the most gripping stories that has come out of the post-September the 11th obsession with that part of the world, of Afghanistan and Pakistan and the breeding of terrorists, have been all the stories about the Madrasas in Pakistan, the religious schools, where so many people are indoctrinated, rather than educated.

There was a story of a young boy, who was an otherwise marvelous young boy, who gets up every morning at 4:30 to pray. He's devoted to his parents, can answer any question about the Koran, but doesn't know what two times two is, and believes that America and Israel brought dinosaurs back to earth to kill Muslims. That is a function of the poverty that gripped Pakistan over the last 20 years, and their inability to fund their public schools, and the fact that this boy's parents couldn't afford the money to pay the tuition at what used to be a free public school.

So in a profound sense, September the 11th was the dark side of this new age of globalization and all of its benefits. We have to decide what to do about it. Of course we should do whatever we can to destroy the Al Qaeda network and Mr. Bin Laden. They are the most dangerous terrorist network in the world. We should cooperate with others in the fight against terrorism around the world, in whatever ways are appropriate and possible. Because it's a global threat.

But a law enforcement and military strategy alone is not sufficient to build a world that the young people in this audience will live in and raise their children in, simply because I don't want you to have to substitute the walls that we have torn down for barbed wire. I don't want you to have to wonder every time you get on an airplane. And I don't want the world we live in to change the character of our country, by having people dominated by fear of today, fear of tomorrow and fear of each other. And if you don't want that, then we have to say, 'Okay, what kind of world do we want to live in? How are we going to achieve it?' It seems to me we have to focus on the fight against terror. We have to focus on improving our defenses.

This will not work in oppressive societies - the aid will be diverted. Is he advocating'enlightened' imperialism? The'pax americana' to impose liberal democracies everywhere?

But we also need to build a world where there is more cooperation and less terror. And in order to do that, it seems to me that three things are required. First of all, we've got to spread the benefits and shrink the burdens of the modern world, so there are more people included in what we like. Secondly, we have to work on creating the conditions in countries that breed terrorism that made progress in a different ethic possible.

This is nonsense - we know we are THE world power and we must use if for a good purpose.

We have to advance human rights and freedoms, and actual basic good governments, things that it's so easy to overlook in the grip of the enormous harm that our people have sustained here. And, finally, we have to build a truly global level of consciousness about what our relationships and responsibilities are going to be.

We will always face anarchists/terrorists. no matter how good we are, we will always face envy and resentment - this should never stop us from moving forward.

The people that attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon - they saw them as symbols of corrupt American materialism and power. They saw all the people that died on those airplanes and in those buildings as legitimate targets because they didn't share the truth that they think they own. But I live and work in New York, and my wife represents New York in the Senate, and I was the Commander in Chief of many of those people who died at the Pentagon. I know people who were on those planes; many of you do. And I have a very different view. Those people to me represented the world that I worked for eight years to build, a world where there's more diversity and stronger community, where there's more opportunity, where we keep reaching out. And these different views are the extreme examples of a whole range of differences that basically divide the world in ways that don't make any sense anymore.

American Investment in the Third World
And so what I would like you to think about is what you want the world to be like in 10 years. How do you want to live? What are you prepared to do to achieve that? What are you prepared to have your country do? Let me say something about each of these things.

What should America do to spread the benefits and shrink the burdens of the 21st century world? We ought to do more to create economic empowerment and reduce poverty. And there are clearly proven affordable strategies. I'll just give you a couple. In my last year as president, we had a total bipartisan effort to complete an initiative I started in 1999 to give debt relief to the two dozen poorest countries in the world if, but only if, they put all the money that they save into education, health, or economic development. It passed, and in the year since then we have experience some successes. Uganda doubled primary school enrollment and reduced class sizes. Honduras, in our hemisphere, increased mandatory schooling from six years to nine years, a 50 percent increase. This cost the U.S. peanuts and it made all the difference in the world to them.

We should do more of that.

Misses the BIG point! Free political institutions create economic freedom and lead to prosperity. the right to own private property is vital. Otherwise these changes/ improvements end up as cosmetic.

Second, the United States funded two million micro enterprise loans a year in poor countries, small loans to poor village people - a program pioneered by the great Bangladeshi economist, Mohammed Yunus with the Grameen Bank, a man who long ago should have won the Nobel Prize. We should fund five times that many, maybe 10 times that many. I've been in little villages in Africa where the local village person charged with keeping up with all the micro credit loans would run into the thatched hut and come out and show me his accounts and show me what everybody was doing with their money. It can make a big difference.

Third, a great Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto basically discovered something that was before all of our eyes, which is that poor people actually have quite a lot of wealth in the world. The poorest people have, according to him, $5 trillion worth of assets in their homes and their businesses, but they're totally useless for joining the market economy because they're not in the legal system. If they live in Bombay, they're in a metal shack, they don't have an address, they don't have a verifiable title, they don't have any way to establish value, so they can't borrow any money on it. If they live in a city and they have a small business, chances in most big cities in poor countries are better than 50-50 the business will not be legalized because of the bureaucratic and other hassles it takes to legalize the business. I just saw De Soto's map on Cairo, a very important city to the future, and about eight in 10 businesses are not legalized.

Because if you went there tomorrow and opened bakeries, it would take us almost two years to go through all the legal hurdle to open a little bakery where we're just trying to make and sell bread. So he's going around the world trying to clean all this up, get all these businesses first, and then later homes, in the legal system, so people can actually have collateral for loans, and borrow money and join the market economy. It has enormous potential. They did it in Peru. They had double-digit growth three years in a row.

He's right.

Free trade goes hand in hand with wealth creation.

And America should also buy more products from poor countries. In my last year as president, we had trade opening to Africa, to the Caribbean, to Vietnam and to Jordan. In less than a year, our purchases from some poor African countries had increased by a thousand percent. And it didn't hurt the American economy. And it didn't cost a lot of people their jobs. And we should be spending more money on job training and reap the training anyway, in America, for people that need that, need to be moving up in their income earning potential. This is important, and it will create a world with more partners and fewer terrorists.

The same thing applies to education. in my last year as president, we got $300 million to offer a good meal to children, breakfast or lunch, if, but only if, they came to school. Three hundred million in the poorest countries in the world will feed six million children everyday of the school year. Six million! Needless to say, the enrollments are exploding.

It would seem that we haven't learned much since the 'black death.'

This will only work if countries use the aid correctly - a big problem.

The same thing applies to health care. Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the U.N., has asked us for $10 billion to fight AIDS, TB, malaria and other infectious diseases. Our share of that would be somewhere between $2.2 and $2.4 billion. The Afghan war cost about a billion dollars a month, to give you some idea of what you're comparing - and that's about as inexpensive as a war gets these days for a country like ours.

So that's roughly comparable numbers. And is it worth it? Well, Brazil proved that with medicine and prevention, they could cut the death rate from AIDS in half in three years. Uganda proved that with prevention alone, they could cut the death rate in half in five years. There are now 40 million people with AIDS, and there will be 100 million in 2005. And if you have 100 million, take it from me, some countries are going to fail. And you'll have a lot more young people willing to be terrorists or mercenaries in tribal wars because, what the heck, they're going to die anyway. And we'd spend a lot more money cleaning up those messes than we would spend if we invest in now in this health fund.

The Soviet Union sure didn't bend to our wishes.

Now, the point I want to make to you is we could do america's fair share of economic empowerment of poor people, putting all the poor kids in the world in school, funding the Secretary General's health efforts, and accelerating the effort to turn around climate change. We could do all that, and pay our fair share for more or less what we would spend in a year in Afghanistan in the conflict, and much less than we spend on other things. And I can only tell you, it is a lot cheaper than going to war. And it's also in real dollars terms a lot cheaper than what we spent on the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II. And it's the same basic idea.

Read George Marshall's speeches (somebody ought to just stand up everyday and read George Marshall's speeches to America for the next month or two). We were grievously wounded, and we spent this money to help Germany after what they did. We wanted Japan to come back. We've got to think about this in the way that we want the world to be in 15 or 20 years.

Common humanity vs. religious absolutism

He's beating around the bush! radical Islam presents a huge challenge to the future of western civilization. It can exert devastating power and destruction with modern technology. This is Toynnbee's "challenge and response." We must be unapologetic about our use of power to deal with this threat.

The second thing I want to say is we want to spend more effort trying to help countries solve their own problems and develop basic capacity - freedom, openness, human rights, and actual capacity to govern. I spend a fair amount of time on that now, and I hope I'll be able to do more in the years ahead.

And the final thing I want to say is we have to develop a way of thinking about the world that is more consistent with the way the world is and the way we would like it to be. Bin Laden and this crowd that attacked us and killed all those innocent people - they're like fanatics throughout history. They believe they have the whole truth. And if you share their truth, your life has value, and if you don't, you're a legitimate target. Even if you're just a 6-year-old girl that was going to work with her mother on the morning of September 11th. And that's what they really believe. I mean, you've seen him on television - that's what he believes, he's a serious person. And their view of community is very different. Their view of community is that you've got to think like them and act like them, and if you break the rules there's got to be somebody to whip you back into line, which is why everybody was so happy when Afghanistan was liberated and women took off their burkas and men started shaving. But that's what they believe.

But most of us believe that nobody's got the whole truth. I mean, most people who are deeply religious feel our human limitations all the more, and understand that nobody's got the whole truth. Therefore, life is a journey on which we move toward the truth and we learn something from other people, so everybody ought to be entitled to take this journey. Therefore, most of us believe a community is not everybody who is just alike, but everybody who accepts certain rules. Everyone counts, everyone has a role to play, we all do better when we help each other. So, we have radically different world views.

But I would argue to you, in a world without walls, it is the only sustainable world view. If you take down the walls, no matter how much barbed wire you put up in its place, no matter how many defenses you think you can erect, if the world is dominated by people who believe that their racial, their religious, their tribal, their ethnic differences are the most important fact of life, a huge number of innocent people will perish in this new century.

For eight years we stood by and let 'OBL' take over Afghanistan. I sense the Pres. is feeling defensive about his legacy.

This may sound naïve to all of you, but I can tell you: I've ordered people into battle, I've dropped bombs, I've done all those things that you're supposed to do in the real world, usually to good effect. I'm proud of what we did in Bosnia and Kosovo. And I wish I had been successful in my efforts to get Mr. Bin Laden earlier. But in the in the end, what's going to determine the shape of the 21st century is whether we have an ethic that says, 'I think we like our differences. We like who we are. We like the color of our skin, the way we pursue our faith. We like what's about us that's different. We like our little boxes, we all have to have them to navigate reality.' Bu in the end, most people figure out that these boxes with which we navigate reality, as important as they are, are not as important as our common humanity. And if we don't figure it out, then a whole lot of experience is denied us, and a whole lot of wisdom never comes into our spirits.

He has a very utopian view of the world. The periods of greatest peace throughout history have occurred when one or a few powers were dominant and imposed the peace.

And that's really what's going on here, folks. The world has never truly had to develop an ethic of interdependence rooted in our common humanity. And if we do it, the 21st century will be the most interesting, exciting, peaceful era in history. If we don't we'll spend a lot of time playing catch-up and trying to punish people, and get them to atone for travesties like September the 11th.

So I will say again, I support the current effort against terrorism. But if you want the world that I think you want, you have to both be very vigilant and disciplined, and tough in people that have already set themselves beyond the pale of the world you're trying to build. And then you have to go about trying to build a world where you spread the benefits and shrink the burdens, where you help people who aren't very good at solving their own problems, yet get better at it and understand they have to accommodate human rights and openness. And you have to basically tell people, 'Look, we respect your differences, we'll celebrate them, but only if you acknowledge that our common humanity is more important.' Not very complicated, but that's what I think will determine the whole shape of the new era. Thank you very much.

Questions and Answers
With Dean Orville Schell, UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

DEAN SCHELL: Let's assume for a minute that globalization is the best possible scenario for the world (in any event, it's happening). How do we galvanize our own country to become sufficiently internationally-minded, to really play a role we must play if it's going to succeed?

How many billions did we spend or loan to Argentina through the World Bank? What a failure! Some aid will work fine but in many instances there will be huge practical problems to surmount.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Well, I think, first of all, the American public is now seeing everything, even things they're not consciously seeing through the prism of what we endured on September the 11th. And a lot has been learned. For example, I'm encouraged that the administration wants to spend some money in Afghanistan to help it succeed, because in the early 1980s, we were only too happy to support the mujahedeen when they were fighting the Soviet invasion on the old theory 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend.' And then as soon as that was over, we pulled away from them and paid the consequence. So here's a case where an administration that criticized me for my involvement in a lot of things around the world has now said, 'Wait a minute, we can't just go in there and overturn the Taliban and leave the Afghans to their fate. We have to help them build a future.' So they were able to see this reality in a different way because of what happened on September the 11th and what they had to do about it. And I applaud them for that.

But in aggregate we spend more money than everyone else. This is a statistical game.

We have to do that in other areas as well. Our country spends a smaller percentage of our income of foreign assistance than any other country in the world with an advanced economy. In the Cold War, we justified it because we spent a larger percentage of our income on defense. So we basically said to the Europeans and the Japanese, 'Look, here's the deal - we'll create a defense umbrella and you guys go take care of the problems.' And then most of our foreign aid was tied to some specific other objective we had.

Now, we know what works. We know this debt relief works, we know the micro loans work, we know that there are proven programs which will reverse the AIDS epidemic. It's not like we don't know what works - we're not talking about going out there and just throwing a bunch of your money away. And it is such a small percentage of the overall money we're spending to build the world we want to defend ourselves, I think if we can just get the facts out and tell people that this will help us to avoid further insecurity from terrorism, and it's either that or try to rebuild all the walls of the world, which we're not going to be able to do anyway, and most of us wouldn't want to do. I think that's where you have make the argument in the context of what we have learned since September the 11th, and I think you will have a listening audience.

But the American people also have to have the facts. Most Americans are shocked to know what a tiny percentage of the federal budget foreign assistance is, they're shocked to know that every other advanced country in the world spends a higher percentage of their income than we do on it. And they are shocked to know that you could do as much good as you can do with as little money as you can. Look, this country is around here after more than 225 years because most of the time we do the right thing on the big decisions, if we have time to absorb the reality and we know the facts. We normally do the right thing, that's why we're still here. So I think what we have to do is to get the facts out there and the arguments, and reference it to what people are feeling and knowing since September the 11th. Then I think we'll have good success.

SCHELL: I think the notioin of how you get these ideas deeply embedded in the public consciousness raises the question of the media. How do you view the media? Has it been fulfilling its role in meeting the public's right to know?

He's the expert on the media!

PRESIDENT CLINTON: I don't really want to go where your question is, but I want to say two things. One is, I think the media has done a good job, generally, of educating us since September the 11th about who the Taliban is, that not all Muslims are terrorists, that there is a difference in doctrine and practice, and that it is wrong for us to discriminate against Muslims. I think one of the best things the president did after September 11th was go to a mosque and meet with Muslim leaders, and then break the fast of Ramadan with some Muslims in the White House. So I think that there's been a effort to educate us about what the nature of the terrorist threat is, what their attitudes are. We've learned a lot that we never knew about Afghanistan and about Pakistan and about terrorist networks, generally. We know more than we ever did about problems in Indonesia and the Philippines and other places. So I think, in general, they've actually done quite a good job in bringing us as a people up to speed.

I think that for other issues it is difficult for the media to do a fair and balanced and accurate - and sometimes even truthful job - because of the structure of the modern media. When I was a young man in college, there were three television networks. There was enough competition so that they kept each other honest. And they had enough guaranteed market share so they could hire seasoned people who know a lot to do thoughtful pieces. And I think television, particularly, was a much more, in that sense, balanced and constructive and sort of stable force in our national life. Now, you have CNN plus all these cable channels that are on all the time. By the time the evening news comes on, most news events have been on the television at one of these cables for hours and hours. By the time the newspapers come out the next day, they've been washed over 50 times, and there's this incentive to think you've got to put a little spin this way or that way on it, just so it will be worth absorbing if you're later in the chain.

Plus, there's so much competition to do it so fast. There's very little time. I once had a media executive, who must remain nameless, tell me in the middle of an argument we were having - and he was sympathetic to me - and I said, 'You know, when I was a young man starting out in politics, I had a lot of opposition from the conservative press.' I said, 'Everybody I dealt with really cared that what they said was accurate and fair, and true, and really cared. A lot of you guys don't care anymore, do you?' And he said, 'No, we don't have time to.'

But that's the world we live in. And so I say this out of sympathy. I have a lot of sympathy for people. How would you handle it if you were the news director for one of the cable channels? How would you change your news coverage if you were the news director for one of the network nightly news shows, and half the stories you want to talk about have been on these cable channels for six hours? How would you change the content and the organization of your newspaper under these circumstances? And if you had a cable channel, so you had to depend on a segmented market, would you really want to challenge those viewer's views, or would you just want to reinforce them because all the research shows that to get a segmented market of 800,000 to 900,000 thousand, a million people, which is all you need to keep one of these things going. They want to look at somebody that agrees with them, and tells them what they already think. ...

The media faces a lot more challenges today. It's a much more difficult job than it used to be. And yet we need more reason, more balance, more sustained argument, and less demonization of each other than we have ever needed it at a time when all the commercial pressures and all the political pressures are pushing them into reverse direction. I think there are still some really great newspapers in America. I think the L.A. Times is a great newspaper - I don't always agree with them, and Lord knows, they didn't always agree with me. I think there are lots of other good newspapers in America, but it's hard for them, it's really hard. And you should think about, those of you who are in the journalism school, think what you would do if you had to start tomorrow and you were one of the cable channels, and you didn't want to go broke.




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