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NSC 50th Anniversary Symposium

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Office of the Press Secretary
(Palm Beach, Florida)

For Immediate Release October 31, 1997



(As Prepared for Delivery)

I'm delighted to welcome this impressive gathering and to thank you for helping us celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Security Council.

This, of course is also the 50th anniversary of the Department of Defense, the CIA and the Air Force. DoD held a full-honor ceremony with honor guard, bands and a 19-gun salute. The CIA had a week-long celebration and one of the largest tents ever assembled. The Air Force had a forty-foot long birthday cake. I think it is only appropriate that the NSC commemorate the occasion in a more modest and reflective manner. We have tried to be creative in marking this milestone. After many years of effort, we minted an NSC medallion. And with Hollywood s help, in recent months, National Security Advisors have penetrated popular culture from the conniving self-promoter in the movie "Cont act" to the arrogant egghead who is one of the first to be killed by the terrorists in "Air Force One" to the twisted zealot in "Murder at 1600" who tries to force the President to resign to the self-important drone who is rendered irrel evant by his daredevil staffer in "The Peacemaker." I don t know who was the role model for these characters, but I would point out that each of these movies was in process before I assumed this job.

As you turn the pages of the last fifty years of American foreign policy, from the Korean War to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the opening to China to Camp David, the Helsinki Final Act to the Madrid NATO enlargement summit, Desert Storm to the Dayton Accords, the NSC has been at the heart of debate, decision and action. I m very proud to continue the course that has been blazed so well by an extraordinary group of statesmen. With each new day I hold this job, my admiration for the patience and persistence of my predecessors grows.

Of course, much has changed over the past 50 years in the world in which we live and the way we do our job. Today, I want to talk to you about both as we work to advance our security and our leadership on the threshold of t he 21st century.

Over the last five decades, determined American engagement shaped in part by many of the people in this room built the institutions and sustained the investments that strengthened our security, advanced democracy and ultimately won the Cold War. Today, because of the bipartisan and sustained assault that broke through the East-West barrier, a world of opportunity has opened before us a world where democracy, free markets and peace are embraced with increasing resolution by a growing portion of the world.

But let us have no illusions: This new state of affairs also has brought new challenges for the custodians of foreign policy. In the absence of a unifying enemy abroad, many Americans and the press that sustains public understanding want to focus on problems at home. Decisions that once were measured through the prism of the Soviet threat -- from where and when we intervene to the creation of security alliances to whether and to whom we give foreign assistance -- must now be weighed in a more complex calculus. And the response time indeed, the debate time for decisions of state rapidly is accelerating in an age when even decision makers sometimes learn of key developments at the same moment as the public, from CNN.

In this more complex environment, some long for an overarching axiom that would capture, in one embracive phrase, the essence of America s interests abroad, that would provide the single lodestar for our engagement. Others, with the best of intentions, would define all our relationships abroad around some single value: religious freedom or nonproliferation, arms control or economics.

We must be clear and rigorous about defining America s interests. But let us also be clear that as the world s greatest power, those interests are

wide-ranging, sometimes in tension and occasionally at odds. As we define and pursue our interests in this new world environment, let us not substitute doctrine for values, slogan for judgment or metaphor for analysis. Foreign policy is not the business of writing a blanket prescription. It s the business of making the smartest choices to achieve the strongest results.

Our policy must respond to the complexity of the world we face. Our first obligation, is to try to understand clearly what has changed and what has not; and then, to chart the course that best advances, overall, our values and our interests. Half a century ago, the stewards of America s foreign policy were "present at the creation" of a durable international order. Today, we must pioneer its durable transformation -- making sure that America remains the world s strongest force for peace, prosperity and freedom.

The touchstones of our policy have not and will not change: ensuring that America s diplomacy and military are the best in the world, bar none, even in a budgetary environment that has become increasingly difficult and where the competition for resources is fiercer than ever. As far as I can tell, the passage of time has not repealed either the laws of gravity or the laws of aggression, human nature, or self-aggrandizing nationalism, as the actions of Saddam Hussein this week prove once again. We are working closely with the other members of the UN Security Council to ensure that UN resolutions are fully respected.

America will always be prepared to defend its interests with others when we can and alone when we must. America must always be willing to lead the community of free nations. But these enduring truths must be adapted to new times. And today, our time increasingly is defined by the forces of global integration. Integration is not new in itself, but the pace of change today moves almost exponentially.

The very creation of the NSC was part of America s growing realization that foreign engagement to prevent war mattered. In the wake of the most devastating conflict of all time, we knew our security could no longer be protected by a policy of isolation. We knew that America had a unique ability, and responsibility, to lead.

Today, the United States looks out at the world from the pinnacle of our power. Our economy is booming. Our military is unrivaled. Yet even more than in 1947, America s well-being is tied to the rest of the world. Of all the changes that have sparked this new reality, let me mention three:

One, the fact that no great power is our enemy, but several states with the greatest ability to help or harm our interests are in the midst of profound transitions whose outcomes are not yet known;

Two, the rise of the global economy, which brings us new opportunities for growth, but also makes us more dependent on the prosperity and security of others; and

Three, revolutions in technology and communications that shrink the distance between nations and extend the reach of the values that America holds most dear but which ironically also feed counter-forces of disintegration and destruction terrorists, drug traffickers and organized criminals that disregard national borders.

What must we do to protect our security within this new environment?

First, we must adjust the way we view balances of power. During the Cold War, our interests lay in weakening a single enemy and aligning the forces that opposed it. To be sure, history can repeat itself, but it is not preordained to do so. The march of freedom in recent years is striking but it is not yet secure. We must seize this moment of relative peace to lock in its gains. At this stage, America could be far more threatened by Russia's weakness or China's isolation than from either one's stability and success.

America has led in building a network of institutions and arrangements to consolidate democracy s progress and to fight against its threats. And as nations draw closer, peace grows stronger as each develops a vested interest in helping the other succeed.

In Europe, we are helping the newly free nations develop their market

democracies; forging a constructive partnership with a democratic Russia; and adapting NATO to take on new challenges with new members, new partners and new relationships with Russia and Ukraine.

In the Asia Pacific, we are modernizing our alliance with Japan for the 21st century; working to open markets throughout the region and promote prosperity through the move toward a free trade area; and focusing sharply on the real dangers to peace on the Korean peninsula the Cold War s last armed frontier.

This week s summit between America and China was a milestone. It demonstrated that America could pursue a policy of engagement with integrity advancing our interests without compromising our values. China is home to one-fourth the world's people. We cannot simply turn our backs. By broadening areas of cooperation, such as stopping the spread of nuclear weapons or trying to promote peace in Korea while candidly but respectfully discussing our differences in areas like human rights, publicly and privately, we are charting a course that will define our relations with much of the world for the next generation.

In our own hemisphere, in just the last 15 years, a quiet revolution of democracy and free markets has dramatically transformed Latin America's landscape raising new prospects for partnership between the United States and our neighbors. The bonds of hemispheric cooperation were laid at the Summit of the Americas in Miami; solidified through the Mexican peso crisis and our collective response to Haiti; most recently enhanced in the President's visit to Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina and will grow even stronger in Santiago this spring as we build on our efforts to make the Americas a mainstay of freedom and prosperity.

We are also reaching out to post-colonial, democratic, market-oriented Africa to help those nations become full partners in the 21st century world. President Clinton will travel there next year.

Our second challenge is to harness the force of the whirlwind global economy maximizing its benefits but mitigating its burdens.

In 1947, trade accounted for ten cents on the dollar of our GDP. Tod ay, it accounts for forty percent; and exports support more than 12 million American jobs. Back then, tremors in foreign financial markets were generally contained within national borders. But as we saw this week, when traders, buyers and investors move billions of dollars around the globe every day, shock waves in Bangkok stock markets are felt as far away as Bonn and Buenos Aires within hours.

The increasing openness of the global economy that has been achieved in recent years through NAFTA, GATT, and hundreds of other trade agreements since 1993, and the internal reforms of nations from Chile to Poland, unquestionably boosts prosperity. But it also creates dislocation sometimes increasing the gap between the haves and have-nots, even as wealth rises overall. The risk is more than social. People who feel only the burdens of globalization will be quick to reject the values of openness it promotes. Ultimately, the backlash can become so strong that democracy itself is endangered.

That is why, even as we pursue a strategy of promoting open markets, we must also work to preserve the social contract on which public cohesion depends.

It would be disastrous for America to try to escape the global economy. We are just 4 percent of the world s population. If we want to maintain our standard of living and continue creating good new jobs, we must keep reaching out to the 96 percent of the world that lives beyond our borders. Over the past four years, more than a third of our growth has been driven by overseas trade. And behind those statistics are thousands of new high-paying jobs for Americans. That is why the fast track authority the President is seeking is so important. The House vote November 7th will be a defining moment.

All of you know the economic arguments for fast track. But it is not just an issue of economics. It s an issue of American engagement in this new world in short, an issue of national security. Like it or not, the rest of the world views fast track as a reflection of whether America intends to live up to our legacy of leadership, or cede the terrain to others.

When this bill comes up in the House on Friday, it truly will be a vote heard round the world.

Consider what could happen if we don t have fast track. American lea dership is not divisible. If we fail to lead on trade, our influence will suffer in other areas important to our security. It will send a signal to emerging markets that America is walking away undermining the developing trend toward free market policies and democracy. It will weaken our relationship with Latin America, as they turn, by our own default, to Europe and Asia damaging our cooperation on issues ranging from drug trafficking to immigration. And in Asia, where America is viewed as a crucial balance wheel of stability, it will call our engagement into doubt with serious repercussions on our interests.

With the strongest, most competitive economy in the world today, what does America have to fear? We can walk down the path of leadership we have held to for 50 years the path that led to half a century of unparalleled prosperity and peace. Or we can walk down the path of isolation shrinking back, turning inward, ceding our leadership to others with the knowledge that isolation in an interdependent world is, more than ever, a path that leads to America's decline. That s the fast track choice we face. It s that stark and that important.

Economic integration and growth in other countries not only advance our prosperity; they also advance peace and stability. It s no accident that in Latin America, for example, the resurgence of economic growth and democracy have developed in tandem. But to secure the roots of often fragile democracies, leaders from Africa to Europe to the Americas are facing a common challenge: The more they can show that democracy delivers, the more likely that democracy will endure.

Even as governments break down barriers to trade, they must equip their people with the education, training and tools to succeed in the global economy. This is true in America, where the rising tide of trade does not lift all the boats the same, and where we must work to ensure that the benefits and burdens of globalization are shared fairly for example, by educating our children and our workforce to join the new economy. And it s true in the developing world as well, where growth without greater equity does not provide the solid foundation in which democracy can endure.

The third 21st century challenge I want to touch on today is our interest in supporting the powerful trends that are bringing nations together, while forging coalitions to fight the threats that actually intensify as the world grows closer.

In 1947, the first TVs were being introduced into American homes. To day, you can tune-in to CNN in more than 200 countries around the world. Then , we still spoke (and sometimes listened) on party lines. Today, with satellites, modems and faxes, millions of voices, images and texts flash around the world every day. Then, the first electronic digital computer was one-year old, weighed 30 tons and occupied an entire 40-by-40 foot room. Today, college students have lap-tops and kids are learning to explore the World Wide Web before they can cross the street.

Undoubtedly, these developments enrich our lives. But the very same technology and openness also can be exploited by organized criminals plotting together from disparate parts of the globe, drug traffickers conspiring to launder their gains or terrorists trying to build lethal weapons with blueprints retrieved off the Internet. These forces do not recognize boundaries or respect na tional sovereignty. Indeed, they possess the resources once reserved only for nation-states. Taken together, they have the power to sabotage nations, as in Colombia. They have the corrupting wealth to eat away at the very foundations of fragile democracies until they crumble. And they have the potential to alter fundamentally our own sense of personal safety and well-being in ways that ultimately could challenge our freedom.

We must see these threats as among the most serious national security challenges of our time. We are greatly strengthening law enforcement and intelligence cooperation with our partners. We are opening FBI offices around the world. Wesekunduve launched intensive international efforts to deprive these outlaws of their ill-gotten gains, to deny safe haven to terrorists, and to shut down the gray markets that sell weapons and false documents. We reached half-way around the world to capture Mir Amal Kansi, accused of murdering CIA employees in Virginia, and Ramsi Yousef, now on trial for the World Trade Center bombing. We've sanctioned states that sponsor terrorism and worked to get our allies to strengthen their support.

We re also strengthening collective action against the spread of dangerous weapons through arms control regimes like the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Nonproliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; toughening the mechanisms to control the spread of technologies, equipment and material; and designing regional approaches to reduce incentives for proliferation.

And, overall, we re making investments today that will reduce danger tomorrow whether helping develop new energy supplies in the Caspian, protecting our critical infrastructure against the threat of cyber-terrorism or taking out an insurance policy on the future with a sensible, sound response to the very real threat of climate change.

The world is different than it was 50 years ago when the NSC was established. Certainly the texture of government and the tools of diplomacy have changed. But the mission is the same: to meet the obligations of American leadership. That means ensuring we have the resources we need to get the job done right. It means ensuring this moment of opportunity isn t squandered by partisan bickering. It means ensuring that even as Congress plays a greater foreign policy role, we resist the trend toward one-issue legislation that threatens to isolate America from its allies instead of securing our place at the core of a new international consensus. I m hopeful that if we work together, we can restore the bipartisan consensus on America s global leadership that has kept our nation strong for 50 years.

The half-century mark is a time for looking back, for taking stock and setting your sights ahead. And as private citizens and public servants, you feel more than ever the sacred charge to leave for future generations an even better world than you enjoyed.

In the preface of his memoirs, Dean Acheson noted, "History is lived forwards but it is written in retrospect. We know the end before we consider the beginning and we can never wholly recapture what it was like to know the beginning only." Today, thanks in part to many in this room, we stand at the beginning of an era more hopeful than any we have ever known before. Fifty years from now, we want our children and theirs to look back on this time and be able to say we laid the basis for a world that is more free, secure, prosperous and healthy than ever in which our interests and ideals are protected, and where America and Americans can thrive.

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