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U.S. Department of State
96/03/12: The UN and U.S. Foreign Policy (Amb. Albright)
As prepared for delivery
AMBASSADOR MADELEINE K. ALBRIGHT
PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF THE U.S. TO THE UNITED
THE UNITED STATES AIR FORCE ACADEMY
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO
MARCH 12, 1996
I am delighted to be here to address the Air Force
Academy Assembly, and students of this historic
academy. The assembly provides a terrific
opportunity for the sharing of ideas among current
and future policymakers and among those preparing for
military and civilian careers in America and around
This evening, I would like to discuss the United
Nations system within the context of American foreign
policy, and with an eye towards past lessons, present
realities and future challenges.
The class that will enter the Air Force Academy
this fall will graduate in the year 2000. That class
will bring down the curtain on a century in which the
bewildering duality of human character has been on
The century began in peace amidst astonishing
technological change. Amazing new contraptions--the
telephone, the electric light, the horseless carriage
and--of course--the airplane, were bringing the world
closer together. The genius of these inventions
seemed to push back the very limits of human
potential. And there was an upsurge in confidence
that nations and peoples would henceforth live in
Unhappily, all this was prelude to two World Wars,
the Holocaust, several genocides and the bloodiest
century in human history.
Since 1900, we have utterly transformed the daily
environment in which we live. We can transplant
hearts and split the atom. We have machines that can
shell peanuts, switch channels, brush teeth and track
missiles--albeit not simultaneously. We have
reinvented the world, but we have not mastered the
art of human relations. As a result, we cannot be
sure that the century to come will be less bloody or
dangerous than the one almost past.
It is true, of course, that the Cold War is over.
Nuclear weapons no longer target our homes. And the
leading powers of the world, although not always in
agreement, are at peace.
But time is not a portrait; it is an action film.
And the future security of the United States, and of
the values we cherish, is far from assured.
Today's threats include the spread of nuclear and
other advanced arms, the rise of international
criminal cartels, the poisoning of our environment,
the mobility of epidemic disease, the persistence of
ethnic conflict and--as we have seen too often in
recent days--the deadly and cowardly threat of terror.
If we are to respond effectively to this variety of
threats, we will need to make use of every available
foreign policy tool.
As President John Kennedy said here at this Academy
a generation ago:
there are no purely political...or purely military
decisions; every problem is a mixture of both...
(that is why) we do not have a separate military
policy, and a separate diplomatic policy, and a
separate disarmament policy, and a separate
foreign aid policy, all unrelated to each other.
They are all bound together in the policy of the
United States. Our goal is a coherent, overall
national security policy that truly serves the
best interests of our country.
Now, there are some in America who would deny the
very need for an activist foreign policy. There are
others who acknowledge that need, but who would deny
us the resources required to exercise leadership.
Today, the trend towards isolationism in America is
stronger than it has been in 70 years. This trend
must be rejected.
To borrow a soundbite from this political season,
we must do to isolationism what some would have us do
to the tax code--drive a stake through it, kill it,
bury it and be sure it does not rise again.
The history of this century tells us why. After
World War I, America withdrew from the world. We
shunned responsibility and cowered from risk. Our
allies did the same. The result in the Pacific, and
in the heart of Europe, was the rise of great evil.
And before that evil was defeated, tens of millions
It was not enough to say, after World War II, that
the enemy had been vanquished--that what we were
against had failed. The generation of Truman,
Eisenhower and Marshall were determined to build a
lasting peace. And together, they designed a
framework of principle and power that defended
freedom, rebuilt economies, upheld law, and exposed
Communism for the false and flawed ideology that it
Today, under President Clinton, we are called upon
to develop a new framework--to protect our citizens
both from old and emerging threats and to reinforce
principles that will carry us safely into the next
That framework begins with the armed forces of the
United States. Force, and its potential for use in a
good cause, is the best friend a President or a
diplomat could possibly have.
As we have seen in recent years in the Persian
Gulf, Haiti and the Balkans, the U.S. military is the
most potent instrument for international order and
law in the world today. And it is keeping America
That is why our armed forces must remain modern,
mobile, ready and strong. And as President Clinton
has pledged--and this Academy helps guarantee--they
America must also maintain vigorous alliances--and
In recent years, some have said that, in the
absence of a powerful Cold War adversary, the United
States and Europe would inevitably drift apart. That
has not happened.
The NATO operation in Bosnia illustrates the
continued vibrancy of the trans-Atlantic alliance.
And the Partnership for Peace has extended
cooperation on European security matters to the new
democratic states. Although serious obstacles
remain, we have within our grasp the most elusive
dream of the twentieth century--a fully democratic
Europe, fully at peace.
In Asia, where approximately 100,000 American
troops are deployed, we are reinvigorating our core
We are working especially with Japan and South
Korea to implement the Framework agreement freezing
North Korean development of nuclear arms. We are
supporting Japan's bid to become a permanent member
of the UN Security Council. And we have made it
clear to China that any attempt to resolve its
differences with Taiwan through the use of force
would have grave consequences.
A third element in our foreign policy framework is
creative diplomacy in support of peace. Here, our
goal is to build an environment in which threats to
our security and that of our allies are diminished,
and the likelihood of American forces being sent into
combat is reduced.
Obviously, we cannot negotiate a peace in someone
else's behalf, but we can give others the confidence
they need to pursue peace.
For example, the United States has long played a
central role in the Middle East. Now, we are
determined that the peace process should go forward
despite the recent terrorist bombings. Israelis and
Palestinians alike responded to these acts of
cowardice with outrage. And the vast majority on
both sides still want peace.
This is a classic battle between past and future.
The terrorists would like the world to start spinning
backwards so they can re-write history. The goal of
the peacemakers is more modest. They want only that
their children, Arab and Jew, should have what
President Clinton has called "the quiet miracle of a
Tomorrow, the President will be in Egypt, where he
will join Prime Minister Peres, President Mubarak and
other world leaders. Their presence in the region
should demonstrate that, in this moment of tragedy,
Israel is not alone. Terrorism is not dividing those
devoted to peace; it is uniting them. And out of
that unity will come the strength to defeat
terrorism, not without sacrifice, but without doubt.
Another region of historic conflict is the Balkans.
Here, after years of bloodshed, the killing has
stopped and reconstruction has begun. This is due,
in large measure, to American diplomacy backed by
U.S. and allied air power. NATO air strikes brought
the Bosnian Serbs to the negotiating table. The
threat of prolonged UN sanctions kept them there.
And our commitment to help implement the peace
encouraged all the parties to accept peace.
The President's decision to send U.S. troops to
enforce the Dayton Agreement was among the most
difficult he has made. Certainly, it was not the
political thing to do. But, as Republican Senators
Dole, McCain, Lugar and others have so courageously
agreed, it was the right thing to do.
The tensions in the Balkans affect us because they
have no natural boundaries. If hostilites resume,
they could engulf the whole region, dividing our
allies, and creating an opportunity for rogue states,
such as Iran, to expand their influence.
Our troops are in Bosnia not to fight a war, but to
maintain the peace. Their job is to separate armies,
monitor the ceasefire and secure transferred
territory, while civilian authorities help the
Bosnian people to rebuild their lives. We have
worked closely with General Shalikashvili and the
Joint Chiefs to develop achievable military
objectives. Our plan is to the give the parties the
time they need to solidify peace, while still
enabling our troops to return home around the end of
The problems in the Middle East and Balkans have
their counterparts in many other regions of the
world. And because of our power, governments and
factions struggling for recognition will often turn
to us for help. In one sense, that is gratifying,
but it also leads to difficult, damned-if-you-do,
The opportunities to help shape a more peaceful
world are limitless, but our resources are not. In
choosing where and when to act ourselves, we must be
selective, not reflexive. We must be guided by our
interests, and we must bear in mind not only the
lives we might save through our intervention, but the
American lives we put at risk.
This brings us to a fourth essential element in our
foreign policy framework, and a major focus of the
Academy Assembly's discussions here this week, and
that is the United Nations.
The UN performs many indispensable functions, from
establishing airplane safety standards to feeding
children, but its most conspicuous role--and the
primary reason it was established--is to help nations
The Clinton Administration has continued efforts,
begun under President Bush, to improve and reform UN
peacekeeping because we know that the better able the
UN is to contain or end conflict, the less likely it
is that we will have to send our own armed forces
As former Secretary of State Baker has said, for
America, UN peacekeeping is a "pretty good buy."
It can separate rivals in strategic parts of the
world, such as the Middle East and Persian Gulf.
It can assist democratic transitions as it has done
successfully in Namibia, Cambodia, El Salvador,
Mozambique and Haiti.
It can provide a useful window on events in places
such as Georgia and Tajikistan, where Russian troops
are deployed and new states are struggling to assert
And it can save lives, ease suffering and lower the
global tide of refugees, as it has done in Africa and
During the Cold War, most UN peacekeeping missions
were limited to separating rival forces, with their
consent, until permanent peace agreements could be
forged. Today's more complex operations include a
menu of functions from humanitarian relief to
disarming troops to repatriating refugees to laying
the groundwork for national reconstruction.
There is a limit, however, to how ambitious these
new peacekeeping mandates should be. The challenge
of keeping a peace is far simpler than that of
creating a secure environment in the midst of
ongoing conflict. In Somalia and Bosnia, the
Security Council sent forces equipped for
peacekeeping on missions that demanded much more. We
are determined not to make that mistake again.
So, at our insistence, the Council has adopted
rigorous guidelines for determining when to begin a
peace operation. We are insisting on good answers to
questions about cost, size, risk, mandate, and exit
strategy before a mission is started or renewed.
Effective peacekeeping requires something more than
a cookie cutter approach. We cannot assume that what
has worked in one place will work in another.
That is why, in Haiti, we began with a U.S.-led
coalition that later handed responsibility over to
the UN. In Bosnia, NATO and the UN are each assigned
separate, but essential, tasks. In Burundi, where an
outbreak of genocidal violence is feared, we are
focused now on preventive diplomacy. And in Liberia,
a regional force, accompanied by UN monitors, is
trying to keep a fragile peace process alive.
We are also working to make the UN more
Five years ago, the UN's peacekeeping office
consisted of a handful of people--mostly
civilians--working nine to five. Today, a 24 hour
situation center links UN headquarters to the field
and a host of military officers are on hand. A
Mission Planning Service helps assure that lessons
learned from past missions are incorporated in future
plans. And special units focused on training,
civilian police, de-mining, logistics and financial
management all contribute to an integrated whole.
The goal of these efforts is to design peacekeeping
operations that don't go on forever, don't cost too
much, don't risk lives unnecessarily and do give
peoples wracked by conflict a chance to get back on
The results are encouraging.
Over the past year, UN troops were withdrawn from
Somalia in an operation that reflected near perfect
coordination between UN Headquarters and a task force
led by the U.S.
The new mission in Angola was successfully deployed.
The UN Mission to Haiti helped that country, for
the first time in its history, to achieve a peaceful
and fully democratic transfer of power.
And preparations for the UN operation in eastern
Slavonia are going well.
Peacekeeping is one tool provided by the UN to
bolster international security and law; another is
international economic sanctions.
Since the end of the Persian Gulf war, strict
economic and weapons sanctions have been in place
against Iraq. Our purpose has been to prevent that
country from once again developing weapons of mass
destruction or threatening its neighbors with
We do not wish to hurt the Iraqi people, but Saddam
Hussein has still not formally accepted the chance we
have offered to sell oil to buy humanitarian
supplies. He continues to squander Iraq's money
building palaces for his cronies. He continues to
demonstrate ruthless brutality towards those who
oppose him--even within his own family. And he
continues to evade full compliance with the
Resolutions of the UN Security Council.
Until last summer, Iraq denied outright the
existence of a biological warfare program. Because
the UN refused to accept that lie, Iraq finally
confessed to producing more than 500,000 liters of
anthrax and botulinin toxin--enough poison to kill
everyone on Earth.
Before the Persian Gulf war, the Iraqis had placed
much of this material in artillery shells, ready to
use. The danger to American forces and to our allies
could not have been more real. And that danger will
remain real until we have hard evidence that this
material and the capacity to produce it have been
So the burden of proof is not on us; it is on Iraq.
Iraq must demonstrate through actions, not words,
that its intentions are now peaceful and that it
respects the law of nations. After years of deceit,
that proof will not come easy.
Saddam Hussein's complaints about the unfairness of
all this remind me of the story about the schoolboy
who came home with his face damaged and his clothes
torn. When his mother asked him how the fight
started, he said: "It started when the other guy hit
From our perspective near millennium's end, we can
look back at centuries of arrangements developed to
deter aggression and prevent war. Before the UN,
there was the League of Nations; before that the
Congress of Vienna; before that the Treaty of
Westphalia; before that medieval nonagression pacts;
and before that the Peloponnesian League.
No perfect mechanism has been found. We have
little reason to believe it ever will. Certainly,
neither UN peacekeeping nor UN sanctions provide a
But, the UN does give us military and diplomatic
options we would not otherwise have. It helps us to
influence events without assuming the full burden of
costs and risks. And it lends the weight of law and
world opinion to causes and principles we support.
That is why the Clinton Administration is asking
Congress to appropriate the money we owe to the UN
for past bills. And it is why we will continue to
place a high priority on our leadership there.
Force, strong alliances, active diplomacy and
viable international institutions all contribute to
American security. But the final element in our
foreign policy framework is even more fundamental.
To protect American interests in the coming years and
into the next century, we must remain true to
Some suggest that it is softheaded for the United
States to take the morality of things into account
when conducting foreign policy. I believe a foreign
policy devoid of moral considerations can never
fairly represent the American people. It is because
we have kept faith with our principles that, in most
parts of the world, American leadership remains not
only necessary, but welcome. And central to our
principles is a commitment to democracy.
The great lesson of this century is that democracy
is a parent to peace. Free nations make good
neighbors. Compared to dictatorships, they are far
less likely to commit acts of aggression, support
terrorists, spawn international crime or generate
waves of refugees.
But building democracy requires more than
distributing copies of the U.S. Constitution. The
leaders of new democracies in Central Europe and
elsewhere face challenges that dictators willfully
The new democratic leaders are accountable and must
respond to public expectations. They must transform
economies distorted by decades of centralized
planning or graft. They must practice austerity in a
setting where long-suppressed hopes have been
unleashed. And they must teach factions that have
for years fought each other the satisfaction of
out-thinking, out-debating and out-polling each other.
Democracy is not an import; it must find its roots
internally. But we can help to nourish those roots
by opening the doors to economic integration,
granting technical assistance, providing election
monitors and backing efforts to build democratic
Not all of these tools work quickly, but none
should be discounted. Remember that, for half a
century, we refused to recognize the Soviet conquest
of the Baltics. For decades, we pled the cause of
emigration for Soviet Jews. Throughout the Cold War,
Radio Free Europe sowed the seeds of democratic hope
on hard ground. And despite the resistance of some,
the west ultimately joined the developing world in
isolating South Africa's racist regime.
There were times when these efforts seemed almost
quixotic. We could not stop the tanks that entered
Budapest in 1956 or Prague 12 years later. We could
not save the victims of apartheid. But over the past
decade, almost two billion people, on five
continents, in more than five dozen countries, have
moved towards more open economic and political
Today, a global network exists helping new
democracies to succeed. America belongs at the head
of this movement. For freedom is perhaps the
clearest expression of national purpose and policy
ever adopted--and it is America's purpose.
A year ago last summer, at a military cemetery in
France, President Clinton paid his respects to those
who gave their lives on the beaches of Normandy.
Like the others who fought for us in World War II,
the heroes of D-Day were, he said, "the fathers we
never knew, the uncles we never met, the friends who
never returned, the heroes we can never repay."
Our generation may never be fully worthy of their
sacrifice, but it is certain that to be worthy at
all, we cannot turn inward or stand still. To do so,
would be to dissipate the heritage of freedom and to
ignore the lessons of the past.
At the end of his remarks in Normandy, President
Clinton spoke of the "pathfinders", the paratroopers
who were the first to hit the beach, where deep in
the darkness, they lit beacons for the airborne
assault that would follow. Addressing those brave
veterans directly, the President then said that:
Now, near the dawn of a new century, the job of
lighting those beacons falls to our hands. To
you who brought us here, I promise we will be the
new pathfinders, for we are the children of your
There are those who suggest that America's
challenges at home justify turning away from
But as the lives lost at Normandy suggest, there is
no more local an issue than whether our young men and
women will once again be forced to fight big wars
because we failed to prevent small ones.
There are few more salient economic issues than
whether we will have to resume a military buildup
because we have tempted others with weakness or
because nuclear weapons have fallen into the wrong
And there are few questions more vital for our
children than whether we will bequeath to them a
world that is relatively stable, or one that is
brutal, anarchic and violent.
Today, near the end of one century, and on the
threshold of the next, we, too, have a responsibility
to be pathfinders.
We, too, have a responsibility not to be imprisoned
by history, but to shape it. To accept the risks of
leadership. To defend freedom. And to build a
framework of principle and power that will protect
our citizens and the values we cherish to the year
2000 and beyond.
Thank you very much. (###)
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