The ICAS Lectures

No. 2001-1011-KMC

The 9.11.01 Terrorists Attack and U.S. Foreign Policy in the Northeast Asia:   Issues and Prospects:
Kurt M. Campbell

ICAS Fall Symposium & ICAS Dinner
Asia's/Korea's Challenges Ahead
economic, international relations and security issues
October 11, 2001 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM.
U.S. Senate Dirksen Office Building Room 138
Capitol Hill
Washington, D. C.

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

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Biographic Sketch & Links: Kurt M. Campbell

[Editor's note: This speech was transcribed in verbatim. Any error(s) in the text are unintended and are solely the responsibility of the Editor. sjk.]

The 9.11.01 Terrorists Attack and U.S. Foreign Policy in the Northeast Asia:   Issues and Prospects

The Hon. Kurt M. Campbell
Sr. Vice President and Director,
International Security Program, CSIS

Moderator:  Sang Joo Kim

S.J. KIM:  Well, ladies and gentlemen, I'm very pleased to present the Honorable Kurt Campbell. And he needs no further introduction, and the floor is yours. KURT M. CAMPELL:  Sure, thanks. Do you want me to sit or stand? I'll stand, and I'll try to be very brief and give you some initial thoughts and then be happy to take any questions. Nice to see old friends.

My mandate this afternoon is to talk specifically about what are the implications of the terrible tragedy on September 11, not only for U.S. policy in Asia, but for Asia at large. What does it mean for Asia as we go forward?

I had the unfortunate situation that I was actually in Asia when the tragedy occurred. I was flying from Europe on the 11th from Milan. My wife was actually flying back with our baby daughter. She got about two hours from Washington, D.C., and actually her plane was diverted back to Milan. She landed with just barely enough fuel. I was traveling across the globe to both China and Japan, and it was an incredibly interesting situation for me to be in both places in the immediate aftermath of the crisis because sort of the range of emotions was so apparent. First in China, some initial sadness, obviously a great tragedy for the United States, but right behind the scenes was a general sense that, "Well, you know, you had it coming." A sense that the United States perhaps was too aggressive, was the hegemonic power in the world and was acting in ways that would cause problems, both for itself and the region, and for global power in general. I must tell you, as an American, as you're watching scenes unfold on television of this horror in New York, it's really the last thing that you want to hear.

And then in Tokyo for a couple of days, I think the most interesting thing from my perspective was Japanese friends obviously saddened by what had transpired, but almost awkward about the situation, really not knowing how to talk about it. The one thing I heard over and over again from Japanese friends, however, was the plea that American commentators stop using the, sort of the opening phrase, "The worst attack against the United States since Pearl Harbor." It made our Japanese friends cringe to be reminded of sort of these two bookends of 1941 and 2001.

I think - let me just go through quickly. I only have five quick things to say, and then I'll sort of open it up to questions. The first thing that struck all of our friends in Asia, basically, no matter whether you were Korean or Japanese or Chinese, was:  How in the world could this have happened? The United States is a super power, it was reputed to have these incredible intelligence capabilities, a tremendous sense of coordination with the Federal Bureau of Investigations. This was such a super power. How could something like this have occurred? And in fact, at the time, again it's impossible to imagine. A little bit like the Pearl Harbor analogy. In retrospect, obviously it's just an attack on Pearl Harbor, but at the time, there was tremendous fear about whether there would be further attacks against the U.S. Mainland. The same thing obviously occurred on September 11. After the second plane crashed into the building, and then reports of one in the fields of Pennsylvania - the sense was, "My God. What's going to happen? When are the next ones?" And so a real sense of not only shock that this happened, how could it happen? But also again, immediately throughout the region:  "Are we next? Are we vulnerable in the same way that the United States is?" And I think the initial consequence was a lot of attempts to shut down business, to heighten security, to try to take whatever steps necessary to prevent such an attack in the United States.

I think what we saw and what we've seen subsequently, today is the one-month anniversary, is a series of - for lack of a better descriptive - cascading concerns that animate both publicly and privately. And that's the most important issue. Privately. Asian sentiment about what are the implications of September 11? First of all, we've seen a tremendous amount of writing and commentary that suggests that September 11 represents a rupture in American life; that it is defining in the sense that after that date, our lives will be completely different. Now, I think it's easy to overstate that. However, I think the reality is, for most Americans - not people in Washington who sort of specialize in international relations theory or as they think about what are the implications for America and the world - most of America believes that September 11 really was a defining new era in American life. Now, the question of whether that can be sustained, what it means for our domestic life, what it means for our civil liberties, what it means for global growth - all those questions are yet to be answered.

But I think what most Americans are feeling is that, yes, it is a change, a fundamental change. We just don't know how it's going to change our lives. I talked to a woman last week after a call-in show who said, "I know that the world has changed, and I know that we're in the middle of a terrible, long campaign against international terrorism. How am I supposed to behave in a global war?" Right? And those are some of the questions that Americans are asking themselves.

I think the first kinds of questions that were asked in Asia immediately after the attack are:   "What is the United States going to ask from us as part of implementing and developing a strategy against international terrorism?" And I think even though the initial rhetorical support from almost every country in Asia was very strong, privately there was a lot of worry about what specifically that the United States would expect as part of this global coalition. And I think the country that was most worried about that was Japan. Clearly, one of the things that animated a lot of the decisions that have been made since in terms of much more far-reaching legislation and implementation of Japanese self-defense forces in cooperation with the United States, was a fear of repeating the circumstances after the Gulf War, where, as you all recall, Japan was seen to be late and not very supportive in terms of their overall commitment to allied forces as part of the Gulf campaign; providing money but only under duress. And so, clearly, in Japan there was a sense of needing to do more and do it quickly - I think surprising everyone. I think I know Japan fairly well. I would have never imagined that Koizumi would have been - take your pick:  brave, foolhardy, or successful - in his efforts to try to get this more ambitious program through.

I'll say at the same time that what's also clear is, at the same time there's quite a bit of happiness and a sense of gratification in Washington, there's anxiety in Seoul, P'yongyang and Beijing. There's a sense that the traditional - at least over the last 60 years - constraints on Japan's military are being taken off both because of external pressures and realities, and because of internal dynamics, and they're not exactly sure what's happening in Japan. And so probably if I were to make one recommendation - I'm out of government now - it is a much greater need for a dialogue of the kind that we've seen over the last several years between the United States and Korea - excuse me - between Japan and Korea. I was extraordinarily relieved in the period between 1995 and 2000 to see a dramatic improvement in relations between Seoul and Tokyo. The most recent thing I've seen in the last year and a half is not the lack of dialogue with North Korea, although that is unfortunate. What's most worrisome is the dramatic decline for a variety of reasons, most specifically the cause of Japan, the decline in relations between Japan and South Korea.

The other country that was interesting in terms of its support was, of course, China. They were quickly out front stating their support, expressing their sadness for the loss of life in the tragedy in the United States. Although I'm certain that Chinese expressions of sadness and regret were heartfelt, I think those who believe that this is somehow a new defining period in Sino-U.S. relations are probably exaggerating just a little bit. The reality is that there are two powerful great societies in the world today that are most threatened by radical Islamic fundamentalism:  the United States and China - something not very well known to Americans; obviously well known much more to our Asian friends. Over the last several years, some of the most dangerous terrorism that we've seen has been bomb attacks against buses and other sorts of things in urban areas in China conducted by the Wei Wu Er in the western part of China. Those attacks have been quite intense, and so clearly I think, for a variety of reasons, both again, sort of global recognition of this tragedy, but also some self-interest reasons, cause China to sort of join with us more aggressively over the last month.

What's interesting is that before September 10, there was a sense of almost inevitable competition and rivalry between Beijing and Washington. That's been replaced by a new sort of sense of possibility that China and the United States can work more closely together. If Beijing is careful and subtle as it does its business with Washington, it really can accomplish a lot of things over the next couple of years. I doubt, and I have questions whether Beijing has that sort of ability to subtly engage with the United States during this delicate time, but we shall see. What I mean, of course, is that as long as China is assisting, I think we'll be very grateful, particularly in terms of intelligence sharing and other sort of assessments of what's going on. Remember, they have a border with Afghanistan, not widely understood or recognized. The fact is, however, that if China comes in and says, "Gee, we're happy to help but we're going to need some assistance form you on Taiwan," that will not be well received at all in the United States.

So, the first layer of issues of "What will they ask?" -- and you've seen the responses in the region to be fairly interesting. The country that's most out in front has been Australia, very clearly invoking the specific Australian's specifications about coming to one country's defense in a crisis. Australian forces will likely be involved very shortly in certain operations in Afghanistan. They have very good special forces. They've worked closely with the United States.

Japan obviously has provided some logistic support and behind-the-scenes support. And other countries in Asia primarily have offered general support and condemnation of the acts of terrorism themselves. A lot of caution in Southeast Asia about the military campaign in Afghanistan, and I'll conclude with that as we go forward.

The second issue of concern is the economic impact. Now, obviously, rhetorically, when the United States says, "Look, these attacks were not just against the United States. They're against all of the world, against all of us." I mean, obviously that's a powerful rhetorical line and clearly there were people from other - citizens from other countries killed in the attack, but the most important thing - or another important thing to keep in mind is that with this lack of confidence, this sort of dramatic reduction in purchases by American workers and civilians, what you've seen is a substantial follow-on effect, particularly in Asia. All Asian countries essentially seeking to export their way to prosperity in the last five to ten years are now going to see a situation where the American market shrinks dramatically. That's going to have profound consequences. We've already seen it in Taiwan and Singapore, South Korea, virtually all of the countries of Southeast Asia as well.

And I think then the final sort of cascading worry is a fundamental issue that - I'd say again, before September 11, there was finally a sense in Asia that Americans recognized that Asia was important and that this was really where our future was going to be. There were concerns about sort of the ultimate direction of policy and policy-making, but overall they were pleased with the intensity of support and interest in Asia as a whole. That's completely and utterly changed now. And so suddenly Asian friends are confronted with the potential reality that, "Oh, my God! We may not get the same kind of attention. We may be relegated to the back channels where we were through most of the late 1980s and 1990s, when the primary focus was on Europe." And that's what they're really worried about, except for this time, perhaps replaced by a focus on this sort of narrow issue - the pursuit and the fighting of international terrorism.

The last point I would make is that although we in the United States and others think of the primary arena for conflict and cooperation as in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa - clearly those are areas where Al Quada, Hezbollah, Hamas, other Islamic fundamentalist organizations that have been prepared to wage attacks both against Israel and the United States, particularly Al Quada. The reality is that one of the most growing, fertile fields for Al Quada as an organization and Islamic fundamentalism at large is actually Southeast Asia. It's not well appreciated how much growth there has been in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Indeed, one of the only ways that we have been able to understand the magnitude of Al Quda operations and some of the complex connections when it comes to military operations like the Kenya-Tanzania bombing, like the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 is the fact that we cracked two cells. Not "we," but the Philippines cracked two cells in the Philippines, and of course the Philippines do not have the same kinds of civil protections in the United States, and a couple of these Al Quada cell members were really tortured horribly, but as a consequence they revealed a tremendous amount about their organizations.

And the financial interconnections in Southeast Asia, the growing operational dynamics of these organizations is huge. I was yesterday at the swearing-in of my closest friend at the State Department, or one of my closest friends, Skip Boyce, who's going to Indonesia as Ambassador. Six months ago it looked like a great assignment. You know, as an interesting counterpoint, I'll just conclude with this. He started his diplomatic career, his first assignment was as a young foreign service officer in 1979 in Iran. And he was actually a hostage there in his first tour of duty. Now, probably his last tour as an Ambassador, I think the worrisome thing is, the last thing he'd like to see is this as sort of a book-end tour. People are very anxious about the security of American civilians and diplomatic personnel in Southeast Asia.

All-told, I think that although the focus of primary military actions and diplomacy is going to be in South Asia and the Middle East for the time being, I think that the challenges that I've laid out economically, diplomatically, strategically will be inordinately difficult for our Asian friends. And I'll just conclude with - fundamentally, the country that I think is likely to bear the biggest burden in terms of the reduction of interest is going to be Korea. Obviously, the President was going to go there after the trip to APEC in Shanghai. There's clearly been a stalling of progress in dynamics and dialogue with North Korea. I think that although the United States and South Korea are close allies, I think the relationship between President Kim, his administration, and the Bush administration probably could be a bit better. And so all-told, this is really likely, over the next six to twelve months, to be a period of inactivity when it comes to American policy on the Korean peninsula. And probably the most important thing for Asian friends to do will be to remind Americans that although this issue is absolutely critical, that the agenda that existed before is also important to the maintenance of peace and stability and the pursuit of American power and prestige in Asia.

Thank you.

(QUESTION:  Inaudible for transcription)

CAMPBELL:  I think what's going to be interesting - I think the agenda for most Asian friends is going to be the absolute necessity of American - return to American growth and stability. You know, we used to talk about - you've all heard the term "The Perfect Storm." It's a wonderful book written a couple of years ago by Sebastian Junger about a terrible storm that hit the east coast in the early 1990s. Horrible winds, seas. And it was called "The Perfect Storm" because of this incredible constellation of environmental effects that together acted to create this horrible, horrible disaster. What we are seeing in a sense, added with catalyst effect, by the terrible tragedy of September 11 is the economic version of a perfect storm in which we're seeing a dramatic slowdown in Japan, a huge slowdown - I mean a continuing slowdown in Japan, massive slowdown in the United States, and a lack of strategic growth in Europe as a whole. And so there really is no sense of an engine that's pulling the global economy forward. The countries that are likely to have the biggest burden here are likely to be in Latin America and Asia - probably in reverse order. And the countries that are really going to be hurt are going to be countries like South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong. It's really worrisome. And I think you're already seeing that in first and second quarters with both Singapore and Taiwan. Their growth rate's down, comparatively, 6% and 8% from a period last year. I am worried to see the figures for the third and fourth quarters in the United States. Obviously we'll have negative growth. The question is going to be how long it's sustained and what are the implications over the long term. So I think that you'll hear a lot of leaders saying the United States has to get back sort of on the horse and start spending again. The problem, if I could just say it, it seems to me - again, I think our President and this administration has done an admirable job. The problem is that there's a mixed message coming from Washington right now that I don't think we've completely accepted or appreciated. One message is that everything has changed, right? Everything has changed. Our world has changed and we have to accept that. And the second message is:  hey, we've got to get back to normal. Right? At least in terms of our spending patterns and the way we live. I think there is a contradiction there. It's actually not a shallow contradiction. It is a rather profound one that we have yet to fully realize the potential.

(QUESTION:  Some of the most powerful people in the world ....... Very powerful connections, wealth and so forth - as lot of them ....... When you go on the Internet, they're going to ............. Some of these so-called terrorists have families in those .... countries that are totally innocent ....... Some of their family members. ...... Philippines ........ like you said, they tortured those people. We can't have .......... .... Where Bin Laden might find out that if he did call his step-mother ...... or did call his sister who left the U.S., these people ...... disappeared or captured ....... Is that going to ......... might have mass destructive weapons .........)

CAMPBELL:  Let me just say on the first part of the question:  I have to tell you, I've thought about the same thing as well. I mean, it's one of those things that you really can't talk about, 'cause we're civilized, we're democratic. But the reality is, a large number of the Bin Laden family and a lot of the senior lieutenants, their families live in Switzerland and elsewhere. Now, many of them have decried and criticized the actions of Osama. However, it is also true that these people that they consider to be - that they hold the dearest, the most dearest to them. And so I certainly would feel very vulnerable if I were they. And I wouldn't ever condone such a thing, but as sort of a practical, sort of sitting back and exploring it, I would probably agree.

The second issue that, I don't think that what is stopping these folks from using weapons of mass destruction is somehow how we respond. Unfortunately, I think these guys would be prepared to use every single thing at their disposal. If they have it, they're going to use it. I personally think, you know, what I am fascinated about the press generally is that in an environment that has generally been pretty aggressive in getting the news out, I think what will be interesting is looking in retrospect at this anthrax case. I have never seen the press be as careful as it has been on a story. In fact, if anything, on this side - too little. But it could be in all a big coincidence. Come on! I mean, this is so obviously somehow involved in this overall tragedy. I worry greatly. I think that the reality is that there in all likelihood will be a major attack against the United States in the not too distant future. How we respond to that as a nation is - I mean, we all feel the same. You know, I had a caller - I was on a show with Australia, and they were asking, "Gee, aren't you worried about what's going on in Pakistan?" Hell, I'm much more worried about what's going on in Washington, DC right now. It's sort of concentric circles of worry. I can take a couple more questions.

QUESTION:  Are you expecting any changes ......... United States presence (?) in Korea?

CAMPBELL:  No. If anything - if you look at the quadrennial defense review, it looks like it's maybe modest changes but overall continuity on the Korean Peninsula, I think. Again, also the quadrennial defense review is a general document. It is not a specific document. One would never say that this crisis came along at a - let me say it a different way. I think the Department of Defense was having a very rough time of it. I think that the first several months of the Bush administration had not gone as anyone had anticipated, and morale was low. I think inability to implement some of the goals that they had laid out - I think the quadrennial defense review which was sort of released last week with little fanfare did not of the things that the proponents suggested that it would do. I think overall, we're likely to see continuity - more of the same.

QUESTION:  ..... maybe for the next six months to a year or so, we're going to sort of take it easy ...... rest as far as ........ policy ........ and also worrisome.

CAMPBELL:  And unfortunate.

QUESTION:  Do you see any signs within the administration of ........ concentrated ..... and elsewhere ......... to keep these things going even though our focus on ........... Do you think those forces are in retreat?

CAMPBELL:  Okay. It's a complex question, as you know. First of all, I think there is a large group that still argues that we need to keep the primacy of our other priorities in Asia as a whole engagement, and Jim Kelly, other very active members in the administration as a whole. So I think that message will be heard. I think the other question about whether they are prepared to really think about a serious engagement strategy with North Korea - I don't see it right now, and I don't think there was much chance of it before September 11. I think those chances have gone down significantly. I think - what I worry about, and again, we might disagree - I think Kim Jong Il.... has played his hand, his cards very badly over the last 12 months. In many respects, it reminds me a lot of Syria in which the constant caution, the lack of strategic move, the inability to appreciate the terrible situation that he's left President Kim in the south in. I understand all the reasons for it, and I understand the rupture in political relations with the United States had everyone - gave everyone cause for concern in North Korea. The reality is that I think you could replay this and say that a major opportunity has probably been lost. I'm not the first to say that. I won't be the last. But we'll have to probably try to pick up the pieces in a new administration in South Korea with a more battle-tested, battle-hardened Bush administration, more realist administration out doing business. Once they've cut their deal about they sort of engage international terrorism, and that might mean more cooperation with countries like Sudan and Pakistan, like Iran - there probably will be less sort of daintiness when it comes to the potential necessity to engage North Korea.

QUESTION:  What do you think is the future of sunshine policy, per se?

CAMPBELL:  I would defer to others, but I think right now - I think there are a lot of clouds in the sky.

KIM:  Thank you very much.


This page last updated 11/23/2001 jdb

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