Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs
Remarks to the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy
Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
October 8, 1996
--AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY--
I am pleased to have the honor of delivering this year's Oscar Iden Lecture. Together,
this Institute and Georgetown's School of Foreign Service have helped shape the minds
of countless American policy-makers and leaders, including President Clinton.
I welcome this opportunity to talk with a roomful of those who have chosen
to enter the foreign policy racket. So before I begin my remarks on peace in
Northern Ireland, let me offer some thoughts on the key foreign policy challenges
that our nation faces. Even in the throes of a presidential election, we must
remember that America's interests do not change every four years. Our
responsibility is to look beyond the election cycle and focus on the challenges
ahead -- no matter who is President come January. The good news is that we live
at a time of great opportunity. Our nation is at peace. Our economy is strong.
Our most deeply held ideals are ascendant, as more countries and peoples than
ever before enjoy the benefits of open societies and open markets. These
positive developments didn't happen overnight, or over one Administration.
They represent the hard-won victory of decades of American leadership and
engagement around the world.
Yet this new era is not without peril. We face a host of threats -- from
rogue states, from terrorism and organized crime, from the spread of weapons
of mass destruction -- that have grown more deadly in a world grown closer.
In this new world of possibility -- but also of risk -- the need for America's
global leadership is undiminished. Indeed, if the last century -- let alone
the last four years -- teaches us anything, it is that only by leading abroad
can we hope to stay prosperous and secure at home. To lead, our nation must
do two things at once.
First, whether an outbreak of violence in the Middle East or a global
911 such as a hurricane, earthquake or famine, we must effectively manage
crises as they arise. This is fast-paced, high-profile work, its impact
readily visible and frequently found in the headlines.
These challenges defy easy solutions and neat four-year cycles. Every
Administration inherits its share of problems; ours was no different.
Are they resolved? No, they're not. Foreign policy issues are very seldom
finally resolved. Hard work remains to be done in almost every case.
Some are not likely to be settled in our lifetimes, much less in the
next four years. But we've made much progress. Judge for yourself --
not from argument, but from facts. Simple facts:
In 1993, in Haiti there were a repressive dictatorship and refugees
coming to our shores. Now, there is democracy -- and the flow of refugees has ceased.
Then, war in Bosnia. Now, peace and peaceful elections.
Then, a dangerous nuclear program in North Korea. Now, it's frozen
under international supervision.
Then, Russia's missiles targeted American cities and citizens. Now,
their detargetting has eliminated the risk to us of an accidental launch.
Then, 3,400 nuclear warheads in Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakstan. Now,
all but 20 of those warheads have been removed, and they should be out
by the end of the year.
Then, Israel was in a state of war with Jordan. Now, they have signed
a peace agreement and Israel is working -- with difficulty -- to implement
an agreement with the Palestinians.
But even as we make progress on these issues we can't let the immediate,
no matter how important, dictate our agenda at the expense of the
fundamental. Adrenaline can carry you only so far in foreign policy.
Even as we respond to today's crises, we must work to avert tomorrow's
by focusing on long-term strategic goals. That brings me to the
second crucial aspect of leadership: making the investments that
will pay greater benefits -- or prevent greater costs -- in the
future. We must use our strength to secure the foundations and
build the frameworks that will make a real difference not just
in our lives but in those of our children.
I believe that we have come a long way in laying the basis for a
post-Cold War world where our interests are protected and our
people prosper. Over the next four years, whoever leads this
country will have a chance and a responsibility to build on a
number of "construction projects" for the future. For each, over
the past few years, we have already constructed the foundation
and, in some cases, much of the framework. For example:
A revitalized NATO is keeping the peace in Bosnia. Now NATO is
moving forward with the processes of enlargement and adaptation
while forging a new relationship with Russia. We can create the
free, prosperous and undivided Europe that the President has
been working to build.
We have made the world safer by cutting its nuclear arsenals,
securing the indefinite extension of the Non Proliferation
Treaty and winning approval of the Comprehensive Test Ban
Treaty. Now we must bring the CTBT into force as soon as
possible, win Senate ratification of the Chemical Weapons
Convention and work with Russia to ratify START II. We can
reduce the danger of weapons of mass destruction even further.
We are taking the fight to terrorists and criminals abroad
and at home with greater international cooperation and tougher
laws. Now we must secure a global commitment to zero tolerance
for terrorism and lawless behavior. While we cannot end terrorism,
we can defeat terrorists.
We've concluded more than 200 trade agreements from NAFTA and the
Uruguay Round of GATT to APEC and a Free Trade Area of the Americas.
These efforts have opened more markets than ever before to our
products... thus created more than one million new jobs in America...
and made the United States the world's number one exporter again.
Now, we must extend the reach of free and fair trade even further,
throughout this Hemisphere and beyond. We can create the global,
open trading system for the 21st Century.
We've promoted democracy from the former Soviet Union to the
Americas, where every country but Cuba is a democracy. Now, we
must continue to lead the global move away from repression and
toward freedom. We can further enlarge the community of democratic
We have stood with those taking risks for peace, from the Middle
East to Bosnia to Northern Ireland. Now, we must stand up to those
who would reverse these gains. We can -- and we must -- continue
to lead the way in bringing seemingly intractable conflicts to
resolution. For often, peace is a prerequisite to long-term progress.
Today, I want to talk with you about one of those areas where we
are advancing our interests and ideals by helping those who want
to heal themselves. Northern Ireland, especially in the wake of
yesterday's despicable attack, is once again at a decisive moment.
Just outside of Belfast, on a lush 300-acre estate of green slopes
and classical buildings, talks are now under way on Northern Ireland's
future. There, on the grounds of Stormont Castle, representatives
from nine political parties have been sitting down around a table
with the British and Irish governments to work out a sustainable
settlement to Europe's most enduring civil strife. The opening
of the Stormont talks on June 10 was in itself a significant
achievement. Now they face a tough agenda. Led by former Senator
George Mitchell and his two co-chairmen from Canada and Finland,
they must agree on how to end a violent conflict -- including how
to handle the weapons that have helped to fuel it. And they must
devise a workable government for Northern Ireland as well as
develop relations both between North and South and between the
United Kingdom and Ireland.
The hand of history weighs heavily on their efforts. Since the
partition of Ireland in 1921, the unionist and mainly Protestant
majority and the large nationalist and mainly Catholic minority have
been unable to reach a political consensus on how they should be
governed and by whom. From the beginning of "the Troubles" more
than 25 years ago, both sides lived under the shadow of violence and
terror. Only when the cease-fires were reached two years ago did the
people of Northern Ireland begin to enjoy a more normal life --
one without bomb alerts, package searches, and armed patrols on
Despite a historical climate of fear and mistrust, and despite
yesterday's outrageous act of terrorism, I believe that there
are signs of hope and progress. Start with Stormont Castle --
the seat of Northern Ireland's government before 1972. Once the
embodiment of a sadly divided society, Stormont today is becoming
the symbol of a new commitment to dialogue and reconciliation.
At Stormont, the British and Irish governments are working
together on issues that have divided them for decades. They
and the political parties made important decisions on rules and
procedures during the first session of the talks, which lasted
until late July. After a difficult summer, these parties have
demonstrated their commitment to the talks by returning to the
table on September 9.
But the greatest proof and hope that Northern Ireland's future
can be different than its past comes from the people themselves.
Put simply, they want peace. I had the privilege of accompanying
President Clinton on his historic trip to Belfast and Londonderry
almost one year ago -- the first time a sitting U.S. President has
ever visited Northern Ireland. While the hundreds of thousands of
men, women and children who filled the streets and squares were
cheering the President of the United States, they were also
cheering their dream of lasting peace. They were giving voice
to their hope for a day of real reconciliation...a day when they
will all live in neighborhoods without walls...a day when the
two vibrant traditions of Northern Ireland will flourish together.
That hope found its fullest expression in the 17-month cease-fire
that President Clinton played a key role in achieving -- the
longest in the history of "the Troubles." Hundreds of lives
were spared. We don't know who they are. They don't know who
they are. We will never know their names or neighborhoods, much
less their political loyalties or religious affiliations. But
for all that, they are alive today. And so is the hope for a
lasting peace. Even with the breach of the cease-fire by the
IRA last February, and the renewed sectarian strife over the
summer, there has been no return to full-scale violence in the
streets of Belfast and Derry -- and there must not be.
None of this is to argue away the tremendous difficulties that lie
ahead. The President and the American people remain deeply outraged
by the IRA's breach of the cease-fire, its vicious bomb attacks
in London and Manchester, and its continuing attempts to maim
and kill innocent civilians. We were dismayed by the bitterness
of this summer's marching season, by the rekindling of old hatreds
and old fears on both sides. And yesterday's bombing of British
Army barracks in Lisburn, claimed by a splinter republican group
calling itself the Continuity Army Council, deserves the strongest
possible condemnation by civilized men and women everywhere.
Those responsible must be brought to justice.
But make no mistake. The vast majority of the people of Northern
Ireland want peace.
Now it falls to their leaders to heed the call of their people and
tip the balance between history and hope. The road to lasting
peace is never short or straight. But the way ahead is clear.
It leads through Stormont Castle.
All the parties who join the talks have a right to expect them
to be meaningful and comprehensive. The people have a right to
expect their representatives to negotiate with tenacity and good
faith -- both essential to reaching an agreement as soon as
possible that will benefit the whole community. And they have
a right to expect that the pursuit of peace will make a concrete
difference in their lives, building confidence and improving
their social and economic fortunes. We will do what we can to
help the talks reach that goal. That includes encouraging
American businesses to pursue the opportunities that a Northern
Ireland at peace has to offer -- an effort that continues today
at a conference in Pittsburgh for American, British and Irish
The talks are up and running as I speak. And now they must
succeed. Of course, they will succeed most fully if all the
parties -- including Sinn Fein -- are sitting at the same
table. That is the firm belief of the British and Irish
governments. It is also the firm belief of the United States.
It can only happen after the IRA restores its cease-fire.
Those who would re-impose the hard days of the past can have
no legitimate role in deciding Northern Ireland's future.
We all admire the brave resolve of the loyalist leaders in
maintaining the loyalist cease-fire in the face of provocations.
We join all who care about Northern Ireland's future in calling
on the loyalists not to be provoked into a futile and deadly
spiral of violence by yesterday's attack. It is inspiring
that the loyalists and their leaders, who once shunned the
political process, now have proved so courageous and steady
in pursuing peace. If they can uphold a cease-fire and remain
open to dialogue, surely the IRA can do no less. And surely
the mainstream parties can find broader inspiration in their
example. The only true solution to the conflict lies in
painstaking negotiation, in breaking down barriers and
building up ties, and in working together to create a
better life that all the citizens of Northern Ireland
The British and Irish governments deserve great credit for all
they have done to bring these talks about. So does Senator
Mitchell for the way he has conducted them. So do the party
leaders who support them, including John Hume who has fought
so hard for peace over the years. We must hope and pray that
the incidents last summer and -- yes -- the outrage of yesterday
will provide a shock of recognition that the ways of the past
provide no way forward. They must be rejected. If Stormont
fails, the absence of a peace process could fundamentally alter
the psychology of the moment, add weight to the dead hand of
history, and give violence its victory.
President Clinton remains firmly committed to helping Northern
Ireland claim its future rather than return to its past. Let
me make clear that our aim is to help the people reach a just
and lasting peace of their own choosing, not to impose our own
solution. We are neither in favor of a united Ireland nor
opposed to the idea. But we are determined to continue
supporting the people of Northern Ireland and the British
and Irish governments as they take risks for the peace that
they themselves must build.
While the months and years ahead will be filled with tough
choices and hard bargains, I believe -- we must all believe --
that the dream of peace in Northern Ireland can be made real.
In Belfast, I saw that dream in the faces of the crowd gathered
for the Christmas-tree lighting. I heard it in the words of
the policeman who told me, in simple but moving terms, of his
joy at being able to mix with his fellow citizens without fear
at the end of his day's work. And I felt it in the silent
longing of those gathered on the floor of Mackie's Plant,
as two children of two different traditions spoke with one
voice about their shared hopes.
The United States will continue to do what it can to help make
that dream come true. But the weight of that responsibility
rests most heavily on those men and women assembled at Stormont
Castle. If guided by what President Lincoln once called
"the better angels of our nature," these leaders can meet
the challenge of peace posed to them by their people. History
will judge them harshly if they fail. For only by meeting that
challenge of peace can they ensure that the future of Northern
Ireland shines brighter than its past -- as brightly as the
faces that I saw that day around the Christmas tree at Belfast.
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