Text: "Investing in American Leadership" Farewell Address by Secretary of State Warren Christopher Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government Boston, Massachusetts January 15, 1997
This is the third straight year I have had the opportunity to speak with you and I also want to thank you for welcoming me so warmly again. A few years ago, I promised myself I would keep on coming up to Boston every January until the Patriots made it to the Super Bowl. Now that I've kept my promise, I'm ready to go home. But before I do, I want to reflect on the record of those last four years, and to focus on the investments we must make to sustain American leadership and engagement in the world.
When our administration took office in 1993, we faced an array of challenges that required urgent attention. Russia's democracy was in crisis; its economy was near collapse. The nuclear arsenal of the former Soviet Union was scattered among four new countries with few safeguards. The war in Bosnia was at the peak of its brutality and threatening to spread. North Korea was developing nuclear weapons. The Middle East peace process was stalemated; negotiations were stymied. Repression in Haiti was pushing refugees to our shores. NAFTA's passage was in serious doubt, threatening our relations with the entire hemisphere.
Step by step, over the last four years, we have resolved these pressing questions and built an enduring basis for our engagement in a more secure and prosperous world. Indeed, it was in this period, with our leadership, that the world of the 21st century began to take shape: It is a world where no great power views any other as an immediate threat; a world where the institutions we built after World War II are being adapted to meet new challenges; a world where open societies and open markets have a competitive advantage; a world where America remains the indispensable nation.
A new and distinctive element of our strategy has been the priority we have attached to addressing emerging global issues like proliferation, terrorism, international crime, drug trafficking, and damage to the environment. These transnational issues cannot be adequately addressed by traditional country-to-country diplomacy, or even on a regional basis. Global problems require global solutions.
We began in 1993 by appointing an Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs to focus on many of these issues. I believe the progress we have made since will be seen as a principal legacy of the Clinton presidency and, I hope, of my term as Secretary.
A central part of our global strategy has been to ensure that weapons of mass destruction do not threaten the American people. That is why we worked so hard to extend indefinitely the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and to secure the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It is why we have a program in place to keep nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union from falling in the hands of terrorists or rogue states. It is why we acted to freeze and eventually eliminate the North Korean nuclear program. It is why we have been determined to shut down Iraq's biological weapons program and it is why, over the next several months, the President will press hard for ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Just as important, we are confronting the new security threats that have emerged with such clarity since the Cold War ended. We have put the fight against terror, drugs and crime at the top of the agenda of the G-7 and the United Nations. As a result, law enforcement cooperation among nations is stronger than ever, major terrorists have been caught and many acts of terror have been prevented.
I have also made it a personal priority to integrate environmental issues into every aspect of our diplomacy. In my travels, I have been startled by the bursting, overcrowded cities I have seen in many parts of the world ... great cities like Sao Paulo and Mexico City, Jakarta and Manila and Cairo ... cities where overpopulation and pollution threaten the health and welfare of nations and regions. In the Middle East, I've seen how the shortage of water is a source of conflict. In the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union, I've been struck by the ruinous impact of pollution on public health, on life expectancy, and on the prospect for economic recovery. A few years ago, these issues were barely on our screen. Now, they are in the mainstream of our diplomacy and I believe they will become even more central in the next century.
Another lasting legacy of the President's first term will be the record we forged in advancing our economic interests. Thanks to the Uruguay Round and NAFTA, tariffs on U.S. exports are lower than ever before. Thanks to over 200 new market opening agreements, we have created 1.6 million American jobs. Thanks to the free trade commitments we forged in our hemisphere and across the Pacific, we have an opportunity to become the hub of a dynamic, open marketplace that stretches from Chile to Canada, from Australia to Korea. We must not squander that chance.
In every region in the world, our leadership has been decisive in advancing our interests and ideals.
Across the Atlantic, we are on the verge of building a stable, democratic and undivided Europe. American leadership ended the war in Bosnia and it is winning the peace. We have led the reinvigoration and transformation of NATO. All of Europe's new democracies have joined the Partnership for Peace and this year NATO will invite several to begin negotiations to join the Alliance. At critical moments, we stood by democracy in Russia and we have opened the door for its integration, including a new charter with NATO.
Asia, too, is entering the next century prosperous, at peace, and with new structures of cooperation designed to keep it that way. Again, our leadership has been vital. We have provided stability by maintaining our military presence, strengthening our cornerstone alliance with Japan, and standing with South Korea against provocations from the North. We have provided vision by leading APEC to embrace open trade. We have worked with China to advance the vital interests we share, even as we address our serious differences on issues like human rights.
In the Middle East, we are closer to realizing our goal of a comprehensive peace. Our diplomacy was vital in helping Israel reach agreements with the Palestinians and a peace treaty with Jordan. We helped open a new dimension of the peace process by galvanizing the economic summits at Casablanca, Amman and Cairo and encouraging important steps toward normalized relations between Israel and its Arab neighbors. While peace has faced many severe tests in recent months, the achievements are enduring and we are determined to move forward.
The agreement on Hebron and other issues reached last night is an extraordinary achievement. It demonstrates that there is a powerful logic to peace -- an imperative powerful enough to overcome the setbacks and hesitations of recent months.
The protocol on Hebron and the U.S.-drafted Note for the Record are a clear roadmap for the future. They set forth commitments and a time frame for both Israel and the Palestinians to implement the agreements they have already reached. The Note also fixes a time for the commencement of negotiations on final status issues.
Now that the parties have taken this difficult step, they must not step back in fatigue. They must use this new momentum to move ahead to build the peace that is in the common interest of Israelis and Palestinians alike. And we must remember that we were able to help the parties reach their agreement because of our leadership and engagement and because we have had the resources to support those who took risks for peace.
In the Western Hemisphere, we have seen a dramatic movement toward open societies and open markets - in a region that is the fastest growing market for U.S. exports in the world. When the hemisphere's democratic trend was threatened by the dictatorship of thugs in Haiti, it was America's decisive action that restored legitimate government. When free markets were threatened by the financial crisis in Mexico, it took our leadership to restore confidence.
In Africa, we have been engaged on a continent that has now reached a crossroads -- a point at which sound policies and steady international engagement can make the difference between war and peace, poverty and growth. That is why we have made a vigorous effort to encourage democracy, resolve conflicts and promote trade and investment. It is why we are working to create an African Crisis Response Force that would enable countries in the region to respond to emergencies with their own troops, but with financial and logistical support from the United States and our allies.
In all these areas, the record we have forged is itself the best argument for a principled and robust policy of American engagement in the world. Because of our military and economic might, because we are trusted to uphold universal values, there are times when only America can lead. We must lead not because the exercise of leadership is an end in itself, but because it is necessary to advance the interests and ideals of our great nation.
This is the central lesson of our era. Because the United States led, a century that was never safe for democracy is ending with peace and freedom ascendant. The end of the Cold War has only strengthened the imperative of American leadership. As President Clinton has said: "This is the greatest age of human possibility in history and that gives us special opportunities, but it also imposes special responsibilities."
The need for American leadership is rarely questioned in our country. Yet today, our ability to lead is in question. Let me explain: No one in public life will stand up and say, "we can afford to retreat; we can ignore our commitments; we can build a wall around America." Members of Congress do not call me to say: "Close some embassies, lower the flag and bring our diplomats home by Christmas."
On the contrary, Congress calls to protest whenever we reluctantly decide that we must close a mission because Congress cut back our funding. What is more, while cutting our budget, Congress regularly calls on us to increase our global engagement by enlarging NATO, supporting the independence of Russia's neighbors, promoting investment in Africa, and protecting workers' rights in Asia, to name just a few examples.
Of course Congress is right to say we should do all these things. But our foreign policy will not be sustained by rhetoric or good intentions. Talk is cheap. Leadership is not.
Leadership in foreign policy requires resources: Enough to keep our embassies open and our people trained. Enough to maintain constructive relations with the world's great powers. Enough to multiply our leverage through international institutions. Enough to provide targeted aid to struggling democracies that can one day emerge as allies and export markets. Enough to meet new threats like terrorism and international crime.
The biggest crisis facing our foreign policy today is whether we will spend what we must - to have an effective foreign policy. Since 1985 our spending on international affairs has been slashed by 50% in real terms. Fifty percent. Our budget for foreign affairs is now just over one percent of the overall federal budget.
The amazing thing is these cuts have not been accompanied by any serious congressional debate. They have not been motivated by any reassessment of our interests in the world. As I said, everyone is for U.S. leadership in principle. Some people just think we can have it without paying the price. As a result, we are endangered by a new form of isolationism that demands American leadership but deprives America of the capacity to lead.
One casualty of inadequate resources will be the principle of universality in our representation abroad -- the principle that there should be a U.S. mission in virtually every country. Budget cuts have forced us to close over two dozen consulates and several embassies. If the hemorrhaging continues, we will have no option but to close more facilities.
In an unpredictable world, we need a voice in every nation. In the last few years, we have seen over and over again how vital our presence can be, often at unexpected times in unexpected places. Over 170 nations, from Albania to Zambia, had an equal say in extending the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and approving the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty - and an equal need to be persuaded by on-the-spot American diplomacy. We could not have negotiated the Dayton peace agreement if we had not had embassies in each of the former Yugoslav republics. We needed people on the ground in every Balkan capital to gather information, to conduct negotiations, to spotlight atrocities, to prepare the way for our troops and, not least, to symbolize our commitment.
Likewise, we almost certainly could not have convinced Belarus, Kazakstan and Ukraine to give up nuclear weapons if we had not decided to open embassies in each of the New Independent States when the Soviet Union broke up. And yet, if we faced a situation like the break-up of the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia, I doubt if we could afford to open the necessary new facilities.
Budget cuts have also forced the people who serve our country abroad to work under intolerable conditions. Our diplomats in Beijing work with obsolete technology in decaying buildings. At our embassy in Angola, which is a focal point of talks to end that country's civil war, our people work out of a makeshift trailer park. Our embassy in Tajikistan is run out of a Soviet-era hotel; utilities go off for days at a time and our diplomats have to carry jugs of water up the stairs. These are the people we call on when Americans get into trouble, when our companies need help to crack new markets, when we need to track down terrorists and drug lords.
One of the principal tools of our diplomacy is foreign assistance. These programs give us the leverage our diplomacy needs to be effective. They help us prevent conflict and catastrophe. As crisis after crisis has shown, the cost of prevention is never as great as the price of neglect. We have already spent nearly as much money dealing with the short-term crisis in Rwanda and Burundi alone as we were able to spend last year to promote development and peace in all of Africa.
Our assistance programs have declined by 37% in real dollars in the last ten years. Half of our bilateral aid now supports the Middle East peace process. These funds advance a vital interest and must be fully preserved. But aid to Israel, Egypt and Jordan will inevitably come under pressure, possibly irresistible pressure, if our other assistance programs continue to be decimated and this imbalance grows.
Our diplomats also help America compete in the global economy. Indeed, in the last four years, we have achieved a major cultural change in our embassies. They are now aggressively supporting American companies in winning and carrying out contracts abroad. American business leaders have told me how much they have been helped by this aspect of our "America's Desk" effort. But now I am hearing another message. They say that our ambassadors are striving mightily, but that personnel cuts have left them stretched too thin to do what they want to do to help.
Another casualty has been our support for international institutions, including the international financial institutions and the United Nations. For 50 years, the United States has led in the United Nations because it is a valuable tool for advancing our interests. Now we face stark alternatives. We can continue to meet global challenges through the United Nations, where we share the burden with over 180 nations. Or, we can meet them alone, forcing our soldiers to take all the risks and our taxpayers to foot all the bills. That is our choice.
In part because of U.S. arrears, the United Nations is hobbled in doing tasks of great importance to our interests - in peacekeeping, in refugee operations, in human rights, in world health, to take only a few examples. By failing to pay our dues, we also compromise our ability to shape a smaller, leaner United Nations.
But our campaign for reform has begun to make progress. The United Nations has a new Secretary-General, a leader with the ability and conviction to make the United Nations an effective institution for the next century. The United Nations must do its part. But now so must we. It is time to pay our dues and our debts. It is time to recognize that we cannot reform and retreat at the same time.
More broadly speaking, it is time to recognize that we have a vital national interest in adequately funding our international efforts. Just as we need to preserve our military readiness by maintaining forces and bases around the world, we need to preserve our diplomatic readiness by supporting the people and programs that help keep our soldiers out of war. In a world of real dangers, the failure to maintain diplomatic readiness will inevitably shift the burden of leadership to our military. The cost will be measured in lost opportunities and lost lives.
Our Defense Department has wisely designed a strategy to cope with two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts, while our Defense Department has a two-crisis capability, the State Department is in danger of having a no-crisis budget.
We cannot respond to a crisis in one part of the world without taking funds from valuable programs in other regions. To support our deployment in Haiti, for example, we had to cut aid to Turkey. To monitor the cease-fire in Northern Iraq, we had to shortchange the peace process in Guatemala. If a new crisis occurred today, we would have to make a choice: which long-term interest - probably an already underfunded long-term interest - should be sacrificed to meet the short-term need?
I call on the Congress to reassess the erosion of our diplomatic readiness and to support, on a bipartisan basis, the President's international affairs budget. This is a challenge that must be met if we are to maintain our strength in the next century.
As I leave this office, I have many reasons to be optimistic about the future. I know that time and again - from Haiti, to Bosnia, to Mexico to Russia to China - President Clinton has made the tough decisions that leadership requires and I know he will continue to make them. I know that Ambassador Albright, too, will be an eloquent and effective advocate for America's tradition of global engagement. I know that with any reasonable support, the men and women of our Foreign and Civil Service will keep on advancing our interests in every part of the world, despite the hardship and danger they accept and endure.
I am optimistic because I know the American people stand with us. I have seen it as I have traveled around the country: Americans are proud we are the world's leading nation and they know leadership carries responsibilities. They see the evidence that isolationists miss: that the security of our nation depends on the readiness of our diplomats as our first line of defense; that the safety of our streets depends on our fight against drugs and terror abroad; that our jobs at home depend on the health of the global economy.
I am optimistic because my own career has spanned an inspiring period in the history of America's involvement in the world. Unless we're all in for a big surprise, I will be the last Secretary of State who served in World War II. My memories of that time, and my experience of the last 50 years, teach me to have confidence in the choices Americans will make.
After I left law school in 1949, I went to work for Justice William O. Douglas. As I was ending my year with him, I asked him for advice. He responded: Get out in the stream of history and swim as fast as you can. I got out of it a bit further than I ever imagined I would, but let me tell you what I saw along the way.
I saw a whole generation of leaders of both parties who recognized our interest in helping Germany and Japan rebuild so they could become our strong allies and trading partners. I saw the American people make the investments that paid off in half a century of peace and prosperity and in freedom's victory in the Cold War. Now as Secretary of State, I have seen former political prisoners like Havel and Mandela lead their countries as presidents. I've seen former adversary states on their way to become our allies. I've seen once impoverished countries become our leading export markets. All over the world, people credit the United States for helping to achieve this transformation and they look to us to continue to lead.
Today, as before, alliances mean peace; engagement means greater security; leadership brings friends to our side. And your generation has an even greater opportunity than mine: You have the key that unlocks the door to another American century. But you also have a responsibility to make the investments my generation made, the investments leadership demands, the investments that will make this an even safer, freer, better world.