GAINESVILLE — The world is growing more dangerous as it becomes more connected, former President Bill Clinton said Thursday, at the University of Florida’s O’Connell Center.
Clinton was careful with his words as he addressed thousands about the war with Iraq and the potential threat in North Korea, but he made it clear he supports American troops and most of President George W. Bush’s decisions.
“Tonight, there will be ample time to debate how we got there and what we should do when it’s over, but as someone who has had the responsibility of ordering men and women in uniform into combat…I think we ought to want those young people and President Bush to know that we’re pulling for them and praying for them, and we want this to be over as soon as possible,” Clinton said. “We hope that this will lead to the disarmament of Iraq (and) the beginning of a new future for the Middle East, including peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.”
Clinton described the Bush administration’s tactics in world politics as “We got the power. We got the juice. We shall do the job.” And while Clinton disagrees with that mentality, he said the United States should never give up its power to act unilaterally when necessary.
He stressed the importance of ridding Iraq and other countries of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. And then he brought the potential of such threats back home.
“If you have enough fission material, about the size of a cookie, you could put it into a bomb like Timothy McVeigh had in Oklahoma City, and you could take out over half of Gainesville,” Clinton said. “I don’t want to see the promise of America that gave me the life of my dreams taken away from you and your generation.”
Taking that threat into consideration means taking care of business sooner than later in North Korea, Clinton said. He called North Korea the most “ironic country on Earth.”
“They can’t grow food, but they grow missiles and bombs,” he said. “They know if they actually (attacked the United States), they would be destroyed.”
He said North Korea is threatening the United States with nuclear weapons because the country has little to offer and is trying to gain attention by negative means.
“I’m too dumb or I’m too ugly, but if I break the cookie jar, they’ll know I’m here,” Clinton said. “That is the psychodynamics of this problem.”
He criticized the Bush administration for looking for multilateral support in a possible North Korean invasion. The problem is, he said, North Korea wants to be explicitly recognized by the United States alone, yet, “It’s the only problem in the world we refuse to handle alone,” he said.
He proposes that Bush draw up a proposal that would have North Korea cease production of nuclear weapons and shut down its weapon-making factories in exchange for food, energy and a non-aggression pact.
Clinton urged the audience to help move the world from a state of interdependence to an integrated community. Clinton said interdependence is what made America vulnerable to the Sept. 11 attacks, but it is important that Americans don’t turn their backs on the rest of the world.
“We can’t kill, jail or occupy all of our adversaries,” he said. “So, we need to share our future with them.”
He said Americans can lead the way by not putting pressing domestic issues on hold. He added that Americans can be world leaders by establishing a foundation of tolerance for other cultures that, hopefully, others will follow.
“Throughout history, one of mankind’s biggest problems is we often find it impossible to think well of ourselves without looking down on others,” he said, adding that instead, we should seek the “common humanity we share on this fleeting globe.”
He cited Gandhi and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as examples of leaders who tried to develop integrated communities.
Clinton said as long as the world remains interdependent, an equilibrium can’t be maintained and people will live in a less secure world.
“We need to keep expanding the world’s ‘them’ into the world’s ‘us,'” he said.