Assistant to the President for National
Remarks to the Fletcher School of Law and
April 25, 1996
"Laying the Foundations for a New American Century"
As we near the end of the Clinton Administration's first term, I want to talk about the key
foreign policy challenges America will face over the next four years. Political leaders may change
with elections, but America's interests do not. The way these challenges are met -- or ignored --
will affect the lives of each and every American and our prospects for the century ahead.
Consider the world that we live in today. Halfway between the end of the Cold War and
the dawn of a new century, our nation is at peace. Our economy is strong. The tide of market
democracy is rising around the world, bringing freedom and the hope of prosperity to more
people than ever before and new opportunities for us. Yet this promising new era is not risk-free.
Old threats like aggression by rogue states have taken on new and dangerous dimensions. A host
of modern threats -- from terrorism to the spread of weapons of mass destruction -- ignores
national borders and undermines our security.
In this new world of possibility -- but also peril -- America's global leadership is more
important than ever. That great scholar of diplomacy Woody Allen once remarked that 80
percent of life is just showing up. For better or worse, simply "showing up" is not enough in
foreign policy. To lead effectively, our nation must do two things at once. First is the business of
managing crises as they arise. Whether dealing with an outbreak of violence in Liberia, trying to
promote a Middle East cease-fire, or responding to a global 911 like the Kobe earthquake,
managing crises is fast-paced, high-profile work. Its rewards -- or its failures -- are readily visible,
and frequently found in the headlines.
It is all too easy, and sometimes all too tempting, to let emergencies dictate the agenda.
But leadership in foreign policy means more than responding to the crisis of the day. That brings
me to the second crucial aspect of leadership: anticipating problems we will face down the road...
making the investments that will pay greater benefits -- or prevent greater costs -- in the future...
and laying the groundwork for the world we want to pass on to our children. Even as we deal
with day-to-day events, we must also focus on long-term, strategic goals. We must use our
strength to build for the future -- anchoring the foundations and constructing the frameworks that
will make a real difference in Americans' daily lives.
This audience knows that foreign policy challenges don't arise in neat four year cycles.
Every Administration inherits problems it must manage; ours was no different. Three of the most
urgent were Haiti, Bosnia, and Somalia.
Today in Haiti, the dictators are gone, the desperate flow of refugees has ended, and the
first-ever democratic transfer of power took place this year. The last of the U.S. peacekeepers
came home last week, as promised.
In Bosnia, the four-year slaughter has ceased, as American troops and their IFOR partners
help give the Bosnian people a chance to make good on the peace they have chosen. But the
breathing room that our troops are providing must be filled with the oxygen of economic
reconstruction assistance. The sooner the Bosnian people recover the blessings of a normal life,
the better the chances our troops will leave behind an enduring, just peace.
Our ability to deal effectively with Haiti and Bosnia was strengthened by the lessons we
learned in Somalia -- lessons about the importance in peacekeeping operations of a clear military
mission, firm deadlines, and an exit strategy. In Somalia, though we saved many lives, we failed
to set a clear military mission soon enough. We were correcting this when the Rangers were
killed in Mogadishu. President Clinton refused to heed the calls for an immediate, damaging
withdrawal and helped complete our mission honorably and without further loss of American life.
I am proud that our Administration led the world's response to these three problems. But
in managing these emergencies, we have also tried to keep our sights on the importance of acts of
construction on the core security issues that affect the daily lives of American citizens. And I
believe we are laying the foundation for a post-Cold War world in which 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 that foundation.
Just last week, the President returned from Asia where we have been laying the
groundwork for a Pacific at peace at a time of profound regional change. We signed a new
Security Charter with Japan that strengthens our alliance for the 21st century. And we joined
with Korea in launching a major initiative that we hope will lead to a permanent peace between
North and South and eventually erase the Cold War's last remaining frontier.
We know that Asia will only continue to grow and generate jobs and opportunities for its
people and our own if peace prevails. That same logic holds true around the world -- from the
Middle East to Northern Ireland. If we want to build a future of real prosperity and security -- if
we want people to realize their full potential -- peace is the prerequisite. Without it, none of the
long term "construction projects" we're engaged in will be possible.
Since the President's trip to Asia and our efforts at peace in the Middle East have seized
recent headlines, I would like to focus on three other "construction projects" for the next four
years: building an undivided, democratic Europe; building a stronger shield against the forces of
destruction; and building a new global trading system.
Building an Undivided Europe
History has taught us that when Europe is in turmoil, America suffers, and when Europe is
peaceful and prosperous, America can thrive as well. Today, with the Cold War over, a peaceful,
democratic, undivided Europe is within reach -- but it will not take shape by itself. As President
Clinton said in Brussels two years ago, "it is...time for us to join in building the new security for
the 21st century.... The new security must seek to bind a broader Europe together with a strong
fabric woven of military cooperation, prosperous market economies, and vital democracies."
We have worked hard to lay the groundwork and strengthen the institutions that will turn
that vision into reality. First, we have reinforced our ties with our long-time allies in Europe --
not only through common action in Bosnia, but in common efforts to improve our peoples' lives:
promoting freer trade, protecting the environment, and fighting crime and disease.
We have also worked to make possible Europe's integration. We have helped the nations
of Central Europe and the former Soviet Union to strengthen the lifeblood of democracy: fair
elections, a free media, and an independent judiciary. We have helped them to rebuild their
shattered economies by providing assistance, technical support, and debt relief -- supporting
Central Europe's integration into the European Union and the OECD and sharing our expertise,
from training commercial bankers in Slovakia to helping Russia revamp its tax code.
These efforts are paying off. Many Central European nations are moving from aid to
trade. Some -- like Poland and the Czech Republic -- are among Europe's fastest growing
economies. Today, America is Russia's largest private investor, and our total trade with Russia
has grown 65 percent in the last three years. More trade and investment in Europe's new
democracies with their millions of new consumers means more jobs and higher wages at home.
We are also deepening security cooperation with all who share our values and our vision
of peace. A key part of this process is NATO's enlargement. NATO can do for Europe's east
what it did 50 years ago for Europe's west: prevent a return to local rivalries; strengthen
democracy against future threats; and provide the conditions for fragile market economies to
Two years ago, the United States laid a cornerstone of the new Europe by initiating the
Partnership for Peace. From the Black Sea waters of Romania to the bayous of Louisiana,
Partners and allies are building bridges of cooperation. For some countries, the Partnership will
be the path to NATO membership. For others, it will be an active link to the Alliance. For all, it
is a powerful incentive to deepen democracy, establish civilian control of the military, and be
responsible members of the global community.
Already, we are seeing results. Right now in Bosnia, soldiers from at least 13 Partner
states are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with NATO troops. One of those Partners, Hungary, is
the major staging ground for America's contribution to the NATO force.
Over the next four years, we must lock in these gains for the 21st century. This means
moving NATO enlargement forward on the same steady, transparent track we have followed
since the start. NATO membership brings rights and essential responsibilities. Calls to move
more quickly risk setting back rather than accelerating the process that our nation has done so
much to create, by compromising the consensus within the Alliance on bringing in new members.
But those nations that are ready to add to NATO's strength must not be kept in limbo. Delaying
enlargement would destroy the momentum that we have built and dispirit the new democracies
that have worked so hard to reform.
As enlargement moves forward, we must also work to make the NATO-Russia
relationship a full-fledged partnership. Our teamwork in the Contact Group and between our
troops in Bosnia has shown that such a partnership is both possible and productive. It is a
harbinger of the undivided Europe that lies before us, if we all have the vision and determination
to achieve it.
Building a Stronger Shield Against the Forces of Destruction
Just as the fall of the Iron Curtain revealed a window of opportunity in Europe, so it
cleared the way to build a safer, more secure world by stepping back from the nuclear precipice,
and reducing the chance that rogue states or terrorists could acquire nuclear weapons.
Of course, maintaining a strong defense must always be our first priority. Today, at
George Washington University, Secretary Perry is highlighting the importance of our missile
defense program in reducing the risk of a nuclear, chemical, or biological attack from rogue
nations. This program maintains the missile defenses that we currently have to protect our troops
in the field and focuses on getting better defenses into the field as soon as possible. At the same
time, it will give us the capability to protect against a rogue missile threat to our nation, if such a
threat should arise.
But we are doing all we can to make sure that it never does. Rather than simply focus on
what one analyst called "the last 15 minutes of the problem" -- the time it takes for a distant
warhead to reach America's shores -- we have worked hard in the here and now to reduce the
chance of attack.
Our strategy has two interconnected aims: first, decreasing and dismantling existing
weapons, and second, preventing weapons of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands.
This is complex and painstaking work. It is also often unheralded. People rarely notice when a
crisis is prevented. But few achievements have a greater impact on the safety of our citizens.
Today, because of our steady engagement with Russia and the new independent states,
America's cities and families are no longer targeted by Russia's missiles. Kazakstan has given up
the nuclear weapons left on its soil, and Ukraine and Belarus are doing the same. Together,
START I and START II -- which we hope the Russian Duma will soon approve -- will slash by
two-thirds the nuclear arsenals that we and the former Soviet Union held at the height of the Cold
War. And from Moscow to Almaty, scientists who once built nuclear weapons aimed at
American cities are now working with us to dismantle them safely and securely.
On another front, after a difficult period of determined diplomacy, the North Korean
nuclear program has been frozen and will ultimately be reversed. Our global diplomacy also
helped secure the indefinite and unconditional extension of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
-- the cornerstone of global efforts against the spread of nuclear weapons. And we are working
more closely than ever with our friends and allies to combat nuclear smuggling.
We made important progress last week in Moscow, first at the Nuclear Summit and then
in President Clinton's meeting with President Yeltsin, to improve the security of nuclear materials,
make safer the civilian use of nuclear power, distinguish between antiballistic missile systems that
are limited by the ABM Treaty and theater missile defenses, which are not, and achieve signature
this September of a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.
But if we want to ward off future threats, we must build on this solid foundation. Treaties
and agreements are only as good as their implementation, and when a lump of plutonium the size
of a soda can is enough to make an atomic bomb, we better do all we can to implement them.
We must fulfill our arms control agenda -- strengthening the Biological Weapons
Convention, concluding and signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and ratifying the
Chemical Weapons Convention. Even as I speak, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is
meeting to consider ratification of the CWC, which will reduce the threat of chemical weapons
proliferation and use, including by terrorists. We are urging the Senate to approve this important
treaty without delay.
We must also complete the global ban on the production of fissile material, strengthen
safeguards on existing nuclear material, fully implement the Agreed Framework with North
Korea, and strive to persuade China to be a full partner in international nonproliferation efforts.
Nuclear smuggling is just one of a growing network of threats that prey on open societies
-- from terrorism to drug trafficking to organized crime. Today, groups that once operated in
only one country or region, or engaged in only one type of criminal activity, are becoming global
and diversified. Left unchecked, these transnational syndicates of crime distort free economies,
derail fragile democracies, and tear at the fabric of our societies.
No nation is immune to such threats, and none can defeat them alone. That is why we
have worked so hard to forge a shield of international cooperation -- from helping train and equip
customs officials around the world to fight smuggling in drugs, guns, and nuclear materials to
opening FBI offices in Hungary and Russia to working more closely than ever with other nations.
Our strategy is paying off. We've foiled terrorist attacks on New York City and American
jumbo jets. We've extradited and arrested more terrorists than all previous Administrations
combined. With Colombian officials, we've cracked down on the cartels that control the world's
cocaine market and put the kingpins behind bars, although the organizations they created survive.
Just as we've worked with our friends abroad, we've also done our part at home --
increasing resources, training, and personnel for law enforcement; giving our nation's new Drug
Czar a strong mandate to fight narcotics; and now, with yesterday's anti-terrorism legislation,
providing law enforcement important new tools to track down, crack down, and shut down
But more must be done. Last year at the United Nations, President Clinton called on the
global community to join in common cause against these common threats. Now we must turn our
goals into action -- starting by identifying the banking safe havens where criminal cartels stash
their illegal gains, working with other nations to outlaw such activities, and considering sanctions
against recalcitrant nations. We must break up these international criminal conglomerates that
have grown so big they threaten even governments and emerging democracies.
If we do these things, we can look forward to a world in which the forces of destruction
are on the defensive -- more likely to be deterred, to be caught, and to be punished. If a disaster
strikes five years from now, we don't want to look back and say we didn't do all we could to
The two "construction projects" I've discussed so far -- building an undivided Europe, and
forging a stronger shield against the forces of destruction -- have an obvious impact on the
security of the American people. But we define "national security" in terms of people's daily lives
-- and that means not just the military security of our nation, but our citizens' economic well-
being as well. In an era where goods and ideas are traded all over the world and where millions of
dollars can flash across the planet at the stroke of a computer key, it is clear that our economic
welfare is tied to the rest of the world.
That is why we have worked so hard to build a new global trading system. Through
painstaking negotiation and hard-headed persuasion, we are opening markets to American goods
and services and creating new opportunities for American companies and workers. Now, with
regional efforts like NAFTA, APEC and the Summit of the Americas, global accords such as the
Uruguay Round, and tough bilateral negotiations like the U.S.-Japan auto agreements, barriers are
coming down and our exports are going up -- creating more than one million good, high-paying
jobs in just the last three years.
You can see the results of our strategy in the progress we've made in Japan. There is
more hard work ahead, but in the last three years, our two nations have signed 21 separate trade
agreements, covering everything from medical supplies to computers. Our exports in those
sectors are up about 85 percent -- meaning more jobs and better pay for American workers, and
lower prices and greater choice for Japanese consumers.
We also created America's first National Export Strategy, helping our firms walk through
the doors we opened with trade agreements. Ron Brown symbolized the commitment we put into
this project -- mobilizing leaders at every level of government to fight for American business.
With our support, American firms have won more than $57 billion in foreign business contracts
since November 1993.
To sustain this performance and strengthen prosperity into the 21st century, our nation
must enforce existing trade agreements, including the more than 180 agreements concluded by the
Clinton Administration. We must transform our vision for free trade in the Americas into
concrete results, including by expansion of NAFTA to Chile. And we must build on our blueprint
for free trade in the Asia-Pacific region -- the fastest-growing market in the world.
Even as we lay the foundation for the new century -- dealing with today's crises, and
building tomorrow's framework for stability, security and prosperity -- the tools we rely on are
the same as ever: Diplomacy where we can; force where we must. Working with others where
we can; and alone when we have to. Keeping our military strong while adapting our alliances to
new demands. And maintaining constructive relations with the world's great powers -- those
nations that have the greatest ability to help or hinder us in our efforts.
Just as we rely on time-proven tools, so we are fulfilling a timeless mission. In many
regions, the roots of the democratic society -- pluralism, tolerance, liberty -- are not yet firm.
Now, as before, our special role in the world is to safeguard and strengthen the community of
democracies and open markets.
Enlargement of democracy is central to all of the challenges I have mentioned today. A
democratic Europe is more likely to remain at peace, and to be a strong partner in diplomacy,
security, and trade. Democratic nations are less likely to go to war against one another -- and
more likely to join us in promoting arms control, fighting proliferation, and combating the forces
of destruction. And democracy undergirds the open markets that promote prosperity because the
rule of law helps guarantee that contracts are respected just as the searchlight of free media helps
But all of these tools, and all of these goals, demand resources. Yes, leadership has a
price. But wouldn't you rather invest in an undivided Europe, in arms control, in open markets
today, than suffer the cost of future Bosnias, nuclear terrorism, and stagnating wages tomorrow?
Isn''t it smarter to help put the United Nations on sound financial
footing, and strengthen rather
weaken its peacekeeping capacities, than to face the same dilemma every time a global crisis
strikes: Must we act by ourselves or not act at all? Doesn''t it make
more sense to provide the
foreign assistance that helps other nations to help themselves than to wait until they fall apart --
and then face pressures to intervene at a much higher cost in resources, risk, and human lives?
At the end of the day, our security and prosperity, and our outlook for the future, depend
on our ability to shape the post-Cold War world. Previous generations spent trillions of dollars to
protect America's security during the Cold War. We have a responsibility to make sure that their
victory isn''t frittered away by short-sighted, nickel-and-dime policies.
Over the next four years, we have a chance to pave the way to a bright new century -- in
which Central Europe, where two world wars began, becomes an anchor of stability in an
undivided, democratic Europe, in which we work with our allies and friends in the Asia-Pacific
region to sustain our security and build a future of growing prosperity, in which the dark cloud of
nuclear destruction gives way to the sunshine of peace, in which open societies flourish, linked
and invigorated by open markets, in which our children and children everywhere can make the
most of their talents and dreams. That is America's challenge on the eve of the millennium.
America can -- and must -- meet it. I think we will.
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