Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman
CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875, February 11, 2003

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For IMMEDIATE Release

The Pathology of Success:
Hyde's Remarks at Hearing with Secretary Powell

(WASHINGTON) -- Opening remarks of U.S. Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-IL) during a Wednesday House International Relations Committee hearing featuring testimony from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell:

Mr. Secretary, Welcome to the Committee on International Relations. On behalf of my colleagues, thank you for your dedicated service to our country.

We are eager to hear your testimony, but before that, I would like to offer a few thoughts. I would then ask the distinguished Ranking Democratic Member, Mr. Lantos, to offer remarks of his own.

We meet at a time of great peril and great opportunity. The peril is obvious: aggressive regimes -- armed with weapons of mass destruction, uncontrolled by any domestic political constraints, and linked to international terrorist networks in a shadow world of malice where the murder of innocents is considered a noble vocation. These threaten the very possibility of order in world affairs. In Iraq, the world’s fifty-eight-year experiment with collective security is being put to the supreme test. If Iraq is permitted to defy twelve years of United Nations resolutions demanding its disarmament, then that fifty-eight-year experiment in collective security will be, for all intents and purposes, over. In enforcing the will of the UN as expressed most recently in Resolution 1441, the United States and its allies are upholding the minimum conditions for world order. Let us hope that Iraqi disarmament can be enforced with the united support of the Security Council. But let us make certain that effective and decisive enforcement takes place -- by what the President has called a "coalition of the willing," if necessary.

This peril also contains, in my view, a great opportunity. The opportunity is to recast the politics of a turbulent region of the world, so that opportunities for real stability are created. What we often call "stability" in the Middle East has been, for the past half-century, the most volatile instability. The world cannot live with this instability much longer. It threatens world peace. It threatens the global economy. And, as the bitter lesson of 9-11 taught us, the instability of the Middle East can now reach around the globe and directly threaten the security of the people of the United States.

America is often said to be a "hyperpower," yet our actions are repeatedly frustrated by an endless train of objections and obstacles. America has fought distant wars to defend whole continents from a succession of aggressors, but the beneficiaries of the safety we have ensured often devote their energies to impeding our efforts to help others. We shoulder burdensome responsibilities for the benefit of the entire globe, but too often we must do so alone.

Americans are rightly puzzled by this and by what appears to many to be ingratitude, and even hostility, on the part of friends and allies. We see our own motives as noble and believe this fact to be self-evident. We are not an imperial power coldly focused on the subjugation of others or on securing some narrow advantage for ourselves. Instead, we are frequently moved to action by the plight of others, often losing sight of our own self-interest in our zeal to make the world right. None can doubt that, for over half a century, we have employed our power in the service of making the world safe, peaceful, and prosperous to the extent of our ability to do so.

It is true that we are not motivated by altruism alone. We cannot be, for we have a responsibility for our own welfare that cannot be delegated to others, not even the UN. But altruism has always been woven into the policies of our republic. Given the nature of our fundamental principals and beliefs, it cannot be otherwise.

How is it then that we do so much for so many others and yet have to plead for support? Why is it always so difficult to enlist others in causes from which all benefit? Why do we carry global responsibilities, yet others feel no need to assume a share of the collective burden?

While it may be tempting to resent our allies and others for what appears as cynical and perverse behavior, the truth is that this puzzle is one of our own making. It is in fact the product of our very success in remaking the world. It is the defining trait of what may be termed "The Pathology of Success."

Great success often prompts a corresponding envy in others, and our occasional humbling is a rich and guilty pleasure often indulged in by friends and foes alike. That is the principal reason Castro is celebrated by a spectrum of leaders stretching from Third World dictators to our NATO allies. The former take heart from the fact that he has defied the power of the United States and survived. For the latter, cultivating ties with our declared enemy has long been an easy and risk-free way for them to demonstrate their independence from us, even as we remain pledged to their defense.

Dependence can also evoke a corrosive resentment that can slumber in the deepest layers, even with friends. This is especially true among those whose ambitions are not matched by their capabilities and who are reminded of their less-than-central role in the world by what they believe is our failure to sufficiently consult with them regarding our own decisions.

Ultimately, however, these explanations do not adequately describe the phenomenon.

The fundamental problem is simply this: Given our strength, the urgency of our many concerns, and our willingness to proceed alone, if necessary, we have liberated others from the responsibility of defending their own interests, to say nothing of any responsibility for the collective interests of the West. Many would watch the night descend on others in far-away countries of which they know little without any feeling that perhaps they should do something to halt it and that not doing so might be a perilous option. Far from assisting, they might even devote their energies to preventing others from doing something.

The vast extent of our success has created the equivalent of a moral hazard, the dangers of which we are encountering with increasing frequency.

The clearest example of this in the international system is Europe. In the 1,500 years following the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe was a warring continent, where suspicion and betrayal were forces of nature, and peace but an uncertain interlude between conflicts. This world was upended by the United States. In the aftermath of World War II, with Europe devastated and still smoldering from ancient hatreds, the United States assumed a dominant role in all aspects, reviving prostrate economies with unprecedented aid, shoring up weak democracies, insisting on ever-closer cooperation between former enemies, establishing the institutions by which a unity of purpose came into being, weaving the whole into a community.

And embracing it all, the United States provided an absolute guarantee of safety. Problems shrank to the scale of daily life; dangers evaporated into abstract metaphors. Sheltered by American power, the hostilities of the untamed world beyond became remote, and then imaginary.

This unearned inheritance did not require any of the beneficiaries to assume any risk, take on oppressive burdens, acknowledge their debt, or do anything other than focus on a pursuit of self-interest. They remained safe regardless of what they did or did not do. The natural state of the world was transformed from one ruled by fear and competition to one of safety and peace. And, like Nature, it required no effort on the part of man to bring it into being. Instead of hard choices of war and peace, it was more akin to selecting from an a la carte menu, guided only by one’s tastes and momentary preferences. It was a profoundly false view of the world, but can we fault those who were raised in this cocoon of our making?

We may blame others for their short-sightedness, but it is we who have distorted their perceptions of reality. It is we who have created a beneficent, but artificial, environment so secure that its beneficiaries believe it to be self-sustaining. They feel neither need nor obligation to do anything to defend their interests, to secure those of the West, to ensure order rather than disorder in the world beyond their garden.

Seen from this perspective, the United States becomes not the protector of the West in Iraq and elsewhere, but its tormentor, its power not the source of security but of disorder, a blundering and myopic Goliath whose misguided efforts are threatening to all. If only the U.S. were to desist, they say, we would once again be serene. The image is so inverted that one can almost hear the distant musical strains of the "The World Turned Upside Down."

To a lesser degree, a similar situation prevails in East Asia, where the conquest, oppression, fear, and war of the past have given way to a prosperous, cooperative, secure system of free states, one which I am pleased to say is populated by an increasing number of democracies. The United States played a direct hand in bringing about many of these historic changes, but its most profound contribution was to create and defend a nurturing and secure environment in which this transformation could take place. And we have defended it with tens of thousands of American dead and uncounted billions in treasure.

But here again, we see the dangerous abdication of responsibility that has arisen out of the artificial environment we have established. All problems have become America’s responsibility, while others, even those with more immediate interests than ours, stand on the sidelines offering passive encouragement or vocal abuse.

We see the absurdity of this situation in the current crisis regarding North Korea. Somehow, this problem is judged by both ourselves and others to be ours, and almost ours alone.

It is not seen as a challenge to be met by the countries of East Asia, which watch to see the course we will take in order to tack to the prevailing winds. It is not assumed to be that of the rest of the world, which distractedly wonders why the U.S. has not yet resolved this far-away problem. Nor is it that of China, whose influence in Pyongyang is paramount and without whose assistance the regime would quickly collapse.

It is not even that of South Korea, which we liberated at great cost in young lives and have defended from conquest for over half a century, but where we are now openly accused of being the unwelcome source of that peninsula’s misfortunes.

The familiarity of these problems, however, obscures a deeper danger. We have entered a new and more threatening century, one in which the civilized world will be under increasing assault from the forces of terror and dismemberment. These forces cannot be dissuaded by reason or by the paying of tribute. We are certain to discover that our ability to hold back the rising tide of disorder is finite and that we cannot by ourselves alone defend the West from those who even now are plotting our destruction. Others must now take up their long-ignored responsibility and assume their place in the line, not only for their own sake but for us all.

We cannot wait for disaster to awaken them from their dreams of summer. Instead, we must expose them to the dangers of a rough reality, for only with the ensuing abrasions is there hope that their comforting illusions can be worn away. The alarm has already begun to sound, but, as yet, it remains unheard.

Justice demands that I make an exception to my reproach, and that exception is Britain. Our ties are deep. Britain remains the mother country even for those Americans whose ancestors never touched British soil. We are joined not merely by common interests, but by a shared recognition that, if our world is to be preserved, we have no option but to accept our duty. For Britain, the term "ally" is simply insufficient. We are, in truth, partners. In saying this, I do not mean to fail to express my admiration of the dozens of countries who have bravely offered their support.

We have made much of the world a welcoming one for all the wondrous things to which mankind has aspired over the centuries. But we have also established it on a perilous foundation, one that permits its citizens a fatal irresponsibility.

The fault is ours, not theirs. It is we who have mistakenly allowed others to learn a false and dangerous lesson. To believe that the peace and safety of the West, the product of centuries of effort, will maintain itself, that order need not be wrested from the storms and chaos that surround us, to believe that our world is not a fragile thing, is to risk everything. We have in fact made our world safe in the disastrous belief that others need not share a part of the collective burden, that there is no burden to be borne at all.

We may, in fact, be risking everything. Let me quote the warning by the philosopher, Ortega y Gasset: If you want to make use of the advantages of civilization, but are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done…Just a slip, and when you look around, everything has vanished into air.

It is one of the paradoxes of our time that the American people, who have never dreamed dreams of empire, should find themselves given a unique responsibility for the course of world history. As you said so eloquently during your recent speech at Davos, Mr. Secretary, Americans did not go into the world in the 20th Century for self-aggrandizement, but rather for the liberation of others -- asking of those others only a small piece of ground in which to bury our dead, who gave their lives for the freedom of men and women they never knew or met. Now, in these first, determinative years of the 21st Century, we are being challenged to such large tasks again. We did not ask to be so challenged, but we dare not let the challenge go unanswered.

That is why we are grateful for your time this morning, Secretary Powell: because there are many things to discuss, as we consider how our actions in the next weeks and months can create the conditions for a new Middle East, and for a new and more humane method of managing world affairs so that freedom’s cause may flourish.