Lee H. Hamilton is president and director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and director of The Center on Congress at Indiana University. Hamilton represented Indiana’s 9th congressional district for 34 years beginning January 1965. He served as chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired the Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran, the Joint Economic Committee, and the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress. As a member of the House Standards of Official Conduct Committee Hamilton was a primary draftsman of several House ethics reforms.
Since leaving the House, Hamilton has served on several commissions including serving as Vice-Chair of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the 9/11 Commission), co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, the National Commission on the War Powers of the President and the Congress, and the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States. He is currently a member of the FBI Director’s Advisory Board, the Defense Secretary’s National Security Study Group, and the US Department of Homeland Security Task Force on Preventing the Entry of Weapons of Mass Effect on American Soil.
Question: What should America be doing?
Transcript:I think the United States wants to use its power in a way that will understand the cry for dignity in the world today; the cry for progress, for a better life. And the United States ought to try to say to the world, “We’re on your side. We can’t solve all of your problems. We would like to help.” Let me give you a very specific example. We think the madras schools in Pakistan are very bad. They teach hostility of Americans. They don’t teach the basics of education. So we have a program in effect now to help develop alternative educational systems in Pakistan. It’s a small program. It’s not gonna solve all the problems in Pakistan for sure; but the signal is right. “We’re on your side. We want to try to help you.” You see I think people around the world basically want the same things. They want a decent life for themselves. They want to be able to have healthcare and education. They want to be able to marry the person of their choice, and they want to have a decent retirement. All the things that we talk about all the time in America, I think it’s wanted by everybody in the world. So America has to be on the side of decency and on willingness to help; but it also has to recognize that we can’t do it all; that we can only say, “We can be on your side.” I’ll tell you an analogy. Every American politician is approached regularly by somebody who asks him or her to do something that is utterly impossible to do. I don’t know any successful American politician who says to that person, “I can’t help you.” What do you say? You say, “I understand your problem. I’d like to try to be helpful. I’m on your side.” It may be simplistic, but I don’t think it is. That’s what America has to do in the world. “We can’t solve all your problems, but we want for you the same thing we want for ourselves – a decent life – and we want to help.”