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10th Anniversary of the Center for Democracy

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Anthony Lake
Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Remarks on the Occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the Center for Democracy

Washington, DC
September 26, 1995

[Acknowledgments:] President Chamorro; Senator Lugar; Representative Livingston; Allen Weinstein, directors, staff, friends and honorees of the Center for Democracy: I am delighted to be with you to celebrate a decade of success. In this august hall, where so many great Americans are immortalized, I feel especially humbled, as I begin remarks about this Administration's support for democracy, by the presence of one figure who always kept government officials on their toes. Will Rogers is someone all public servants should keep in mind, if only for his quip: "I don't make jokes -- I just watch government and report the facts."

Ten years ago, a band of optimists, a number of whom are in this room, helped the Center for Democracy get off the ground. 1985 was a tough time to be an optimist about the global prospects for democracy. Communism held sway over the Soviet Union. The nations of central and eastern Europe were still captive. Nearly a quarter of the countries in our own hemisphere were ruled by repressive regimes. In the Philippines and South Korea, and from Senegal to South Africa, freedom's voice was muzzled.

In just ten years, we have been witnesses to and actors in one of history's greatest revolutions -- a democratic revolution. On every continent, democracy and free markets are on the march. You know and I know that this revolution was not inevitable -- and that the march is not over. To get here, it took the courage and commitment of brave men and women on the front lines of freedom. It took the dedication and resources of the world's democracies. It took the tireless efforts of non-governmental organizations like this one. And, above all, it took American leadership. Leadership from President Ronald Reagan... and President George Bush... and now, President Bill Clinton.

Tonight, I want to speak with you about the vital need for America to continue leading the fight for democracy and open markets around the world... and the need to revitalize the bipartisan consensus that sustained American leadership for fifty years. It's ironic that, in the wake of democracy's greatest triumphs, the consensus has frayed. Politics here in Washington threaten to drown out the clear, consistent voice our nation has sounded on foreign policy. Our divisions could deny us the resources our country needs to lead. Internationalists in both parties are battling those -- in both parties -- who have failed to learn the lessons of this bloody century. It is a battle we cannot afford to lose.

I am convinced that most Americans -- whatever their political persuasion -- understand the need for American leadership. They know that enlarging the community of democracies is in our profound self interest. And they realize that, on issue after issue, if we Americans don''t get the job done, no one else will.

So my central message tonight is this: as we debate our foreign policy course for a new century and new challenges, we need to make sure the terms of the debate are not "whether" we should support reform in the former Soviet Union -- but "how" best to promote it. Not "whether" -- in our own hemisphere -- we want democracy to take hold in Haiti -- but "how" to make sure that it does. Not "whether" democracy and free markets are good for the American people, but "how" best to support and sustain them. Not "whether" America should continue to lead -- but "how" it should lead.

The World War II generation of American leaders understood this very well. The giants of that era -- Truman, Marshall, Acheson, Vandenberg and others... Democrats and Republicans alike -- refused to repeat the mistakes of a previous generation. They would not turn America's back on the world, as we did after World War I, and leave a vacuum to be filled by the forces of fear and tyranny. The internationalist consensus they built helped forge the institutions that nurtured and defended fragile democracies -- like the Marshall Plan, NATO and the World Bank. It provided the resources to fight -- and to win -- the Cold War. It helped us keep faith with those in every corner of the world who looked to America for help and inspiration.

We led the struggle for democracy because the larger the pool of democracies, the greater our own security and prosperity. Democracies, we know, are less likely to make war on us or on other nations. They tend not to abuse the rights of their people. They make for more reliable trading partners. And each new democracy is a potential ally in the struggle against the challenges of our time -- containing ethnic and religious conflict; reducing the nuclear threat; combating terrorism and organized crime; overcoming environmental degradation.

Supporting, spreading and sustaining democracy also happens to be the right thing to do. We know from our own experience that democracy and free markets -- for all their imperfections -- are the best means to the ends to which people all over the world aspire: security, freedom and prosperity. These goals are not abstractions. As we have seen all over the world -- from Russia to Haiti to South Africa to Poland -- people are willing to fight -- and to die -- for them because they make their every day lives better and more worth living.

I am proud that this Administration has been faithful to the legacy of leading for democracy. In every place around the world where the roots of democracy are taking hold in once barren soil, America is there to nurture and defend change. And the American people are benefiting from our leadership.

Every American is literally safer than at any time since the end of World War II because of our support for democracy and our work with reformers in Russia and Ukraine and the other states of the former Soviet Union. Russian missiles no longer target our cities or citizens... we've dismantled thousands of warheads and delivery systems... and with the help of farsighted legislation written by Senators Lugar and Nunn, we're safeguarding nuclear materials so they don't fall into the wrong hands. We convinced Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan to give up the nuclear weapons left on their land when the Soviet Union collapsed. By pulling back from the nuclear brink, we have been able to cut spending for strategic weapons by up to $20 billion a year -- savings we can shift to other priorities like conventional military readiness or paying down the deficit.

Because we helped give democracy a second chance in Haiti, our own people need no longer fear a flood of illegal migrants. I just returned from Port au Prince. A year after our intervention, people walk the streets of the capital free of fear. They can speak their minds and vote. They can see a future for themselves at home -- instead of here in America. In the month before we forced the military rulers to step down, 16,000 terrified Haitians fled their country for our shores and elsewhere in the Americas. Today, the refugee flow is practically zero. The elections in Haiti were not perfect and the success of democracy is not assured, but we have come a very long way in one year. And both the Haitian people and Americans are better off for our leadership.

Americans are much less likely to have to fight another war on the bloodiest battleground of the century because we're helping the nations of Central Europe consolidate democracy, find lasting security, and build strong economies. We've devoted more than $200 million there to support democratic institutions -- like NGO's and a free press. We've extended NATO's hand eastward through the Partnership for Peace and the sure prospect of NATO expansion. Our financial aid, technical support and debt relief have speeded Central Europe's transformation to free markets -- markets that will absorb more and more of our products and create good jobs here in America.

And the American people are more protected against transnational threats like overpopulation, AIDS, drug smuggling and environmental decay because we're working with democrats in developing countries around the world to contain them. The small fraction of our modest international relations budget that we devote to Africa, for example, goes to combat these problems and to avert future disasters whose cost -- in terms of lives lost and resources spent -- would be exponentially greater. And it is helping to build on the terrific progress toward development and democracy that so many nations in Africa have already made.

As we work to support democracy in our own hemisphere, in Europe, in Africa and around the world, American leadership is also helping those who are taking risks for peace -- from the Middle East to Northern Ireland. The American people should be proud that we are serving as an honest broker to age-old disputes... and that days and months and years of determined diplomacy have brought former adversaries together in peace. Because of their courage and our engagement, Israelis and Arabs are beginning to work with each other, not fight against one another. The people of Belfast are getting on with their lives without fearing bombs and violence. Now, diplomatic determination combined with military muscle has allowed the people of Sarajevo to walk the streets of their city safe from savage shelling. And last week in Haiti I saw people leaving what the President the quiet miracle of a normal life.

None of these breakthroughs came easily or automatically. Each was the product of American leadership -- steady, pragmatic, sometimes out-of-the-headlines leadership. They happened because we kept our military strong. They happened because the President made the necessary investments -- in energy and resources.

I realize that making the case to this audience for American leadership... for our continued efforts to spread democracy and support peacemakers... is a little like telling a AFL-CIO meeting that unions are a good thing. But all of us believers have a little preaching to do. We need to spread the gospel that when our nation leads abroad, we're not only helping other people -- we're making a real difference in the day to day lives of people here at home. And we need to remind the American people that, as I said a few moments ago, if America doesn''t lead, the job often won't get done.

Right now, that message is more important than ever. Congress is debating our international affairs budget. The outcome of that debate, and others like it in the next year or two, will set our foreign policy course for years to come. It will determine whether we continue to reach out to the world... or we retreat.

So this is the moment for internationalists of both parties to rally to the cause of American leadership. To maintain our modest foreign assistance -- assistance we use to build democracy, to help those taking risks for peace, to keep nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands. To protect the State Department's budget -- and give our diplomats the tools they need to succeed in the daily struggle for peace in places like Bosnia and the Middle East. To preserve the tools of public diplomacy including international broadcasting. To defend the President's freedom to organize the government and conduct foreign policy -- so he can secure good deals for America like the agreement with North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program. To safeguard our ability to work with the United Nations and to build the coalitions that spread the risk and cost of leadership -- coalitions that got results in Haiti and may be getting them now in Bosnia.

This isn''t about Democrats or Republicans. It's about renewing bipartisan support for American leadership... it's about bringing to the table the resources that are the sinews of peace...it's about continuing to make good on our nation's unique ability to be a force for democracy and progress around the world.

Today, we honor an institution that has devoted itself to those very propositions. The highest tribute we can pay to its success is to rededicate ourselves to the cause of American engagement. America must continue to lead because that's the best way to insure that people around the world know the benefits of democracy... that our people can go about their lives free from the fear of nuclear annihilation... that our sons and daughters won't be called to far away places to fight when peace could have been had...that our borders won't be under assault from people fleeing tyranny... that markets around the world will be open to our products... that the blessing of peace and prosperity remain a reality for every American.

So let's dedicate ourselves tonight to debating diplomatic and other tactics with vigor and passion -- because tactics matter. But whether we're Democrats or Republicans or -- liberals, conservatives or moderates -- let's also come together again around the fundamental purpose of American foreign policy: building a more democratic world, not only for the benefit of others, but for our own democracy and its people. And let's pledge that while we debate the details of our policies, as we should, we also renew our devotion to American engagement and leadership in the global democratic revolution.

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