Statement of Chairman Henry J. Hyde
House International Relations Committee
March 7, 2001
We are honored today to have before us our new Secretary of State, Colin Powell, for the first of what we hope will be many
appearances before our Committee. Mr. Secretary, I know I speak for all Members in extending to you our congratulations on
your appointment and our wishes for your success. All of us are very eager to hear from you, but before recognizing you, I
would like to exercise my prerogative as Chairman to offer a few thoughts. I will then recognize the distinguished Ranking
Democratic Member, Mr. Lantos, to offer some remarks of his own.
As a new century opens, the United States finds itself at a unique moment, not only in its own history, but in that of the world
as well. We stand at the pinnacle of power: in virtually every area – military, economic, technological, cultural, political – we
enjoy a primacy that is unprecedented and virtually unchallenged. Our potential at times seems unlimited, to some perhaps
When I ponder the world and America’s role in it, there is indeed much to be thankful for, many accomplishments to take
pride in, and much that inspires hope. But as pleasant as these thoughts may be, I confess that I also see much that
concerns me. The source of that concern is not the long list of problems we daily confront around the globe nor even the
possibility of some larger challenge in the near future that we cannot handle. These possibilities, of course, must command
the attention of anyone who seriously contemplates America’s place in the world, but I am confident that our resources are
sufficient to handle the likely obstacles and dangers.
The concern I speak of is of the longer-term, specifically how well we will use the enormous power we currently possess to
secure the future for our country and the generations to come. The wealth of opportunities we currently possess are not
permanent; the luxury of choice may be a passing one. To believe that we shall always be above the fray, untouched and
untouchable by the forces of destruction still at work in this world, is a dangerous illusion. Our current summer may yet prove
The principal problem, the one that concerns me the most, is that we have no long-term strategy, no practical plan for
shaping the future.
Nearly a decade has passed since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and without question the world is a vastly better place
because of it. But the fall of that empire took with it the central organizing principle of our foreign policy for the last
half-century. Now I have read and heard many learned discourses and debates on what the new U.S. agenda should be, but
I confess that I have yet to see a compelling path identified that shows us how we should use the power we currently
possess to bring into being the world we want.
Instead of a firm course, I see drift. Instead of shaping the evolution of events in pursuit of long-term objectives, we have
been busy responding to problems as they arise, guided by an agenda that has been more thrust upon us by circumstances
than one we have ourselves constructed for our own purposes.
That is not to say that many remarkable things have not been accomplished in the past decade – the dismantling of the
Soviet empire and the liberation of the eastern half of Europe; the expansion of NATO; the passage of the North American
Free Trade Agreement; the continued spread of democracy; the resolute defense of our allies and the containment of our
enemies around the world.
But these and other successes are no substitute for a long-term vision. Not only do we risk leaving the future to chance, we
gamble with what we have come to take for granted. Let me illustrate my point with a couple of examples.
I believe we are watching the beginnings of an unraveling of the Atlantic relationship. By the Atlantic relationship, I mean
something more than just NATO. I mean the entire complex of connections between North America and Europe, the close
identity of interests, that we and our allies have constructed out of the ashes of World War II. This relationship is the very
foundation of the post-war international system, the irreplaceable center on which the stability of the globe depends. It is from
this core that the democratic and economic revolution now transforming the world has spread.
That relationship is fraying. Slowly, quietly, it is being hollowed out, even as the responsible officials solemnly reaffirm their
commitment. There is no crisis to compel action, but I fear that should a crisis come, it will be too late.
Closer to home, there is Mexico. Our two countries have kept each other at arm’s length for virtually our entire histories, and
both countries are the poorer for it. But we cannot escape the fate that geography has decreed for us; there is no other
country on the planet which has the potential to affect us so broadly, so immediately. We are in the process of transforming
each other. Mexico is currently undergoing the most hopeful revolution in its long history, the success or failure of which will
have a profound impact on the United States. They cannot be allowed to fail.
Now, the President is to be congratulated for his understanding and recognition of Mexico’s importance, signified by his use
of the term "a special relationship" to characterize our ties, a designation hitherto reserved only for our closest allies. But
when I look more closely at how we actually intend to assist Mexico’s entry into the ranks of the developed world, I have
trouble identifying any guiding strategy on our part.
As for Asia, that giant continent veers between great hope and great chaos. China’s rise to a world status commensurate
with the immense resources of its people is a certainty. That rise, and the aspirations which must accompany it, cannot but
impact the system we and our allies have brought forth and maintained in East Asia since World War II. Our hope is that
democracy will, in time, tame this potential challenge, but there is no guarantee that we will win that race, and we may be
faced with difficult decisions much more quickly than our planners have assumed. In Asia, one can point to many areas of
progress, and many areas of concern, and I have no doubt that your attention will be sorely taxed by the current and future
problems that region will unfailingly produce. But again I ask: what is our long-term strategy toward this region? How do our
goals there fit into our global objectives?
A similar inquiry can be constructed for every region: the Middle East, South Asia, Latin America, Africa. And there are a long
list of other concerns: terrorism, the many assaults on human rights, the stability of the international financial system, the
trade in weapons and narcotics and on and on, as many as one would care to list. There are far more than enough to
overwhelm our attention and to keep us and our successors busy indefinitely. So I say again: what concerns me most is that,
in the crush of the present, there is little or no evidence of the development of a long-term strategy, no identification of a
clear destination toward which we should be heading. Instead, for all of our undoubted power, we often seem to be at the
mercy of the currents, carried downstream toward an uncertain destination instead of moving toward one of our own
choosing. And while our attention is transfixed on the latest crisis that CNN has decided must be dealt with, the underlying
structures are shifting, and historic opportunities fading.
Despite our power, we must resist the temptation of believing we can fix every problem, indulge in every wish. Part of our
strategy must be to decide what we cannot do, what we choose not to do, and to ensure that others take up their
I raise this issue not because I have a ready solution to offer, but because I fear that no one else does, either. But a practical,
long-term vision is sorely needed; it is a prerequisite that we dare not postpone until some more convenient time. I say this
not as a Republican; indeed, there is no hope of success unless it is broadly bipartisan. We need consensus in this body
and in this city, as well as the support of the American people.
So, even as we revel in our good fortune, my great hope is that we will use this gift of time to plan for the future, unhurried,
uncoerced, but mindful of the task at hand, aware that our opportunity to do so is a mortal one. Our choice is clear: We can
endeavor to shape the future or simply allow it to shape us.
A century ago, Britain stood majestically at the height of her power; within forty years, the knife was at her throat, and she
survived only because the United States was there to rescue her. But, Mr. Secretary, as you are well aware, there is no one
to rescue us. That is why we must think long and hard about how we can use the opportunities that Providence and the
labors of two centuries have provided us to so shape the world that the need for rescue never occurs.
Despite this concern, I greet the future with soaring hope. I believe our new president and secretary of state bring qualities of
leadership to this critical endeavor, and I have confidence that we will prevail.