President Clinton's Final Foreign Policy Address
President Clinton was in Nebraska on December 8, the first time
he has ventured there in his presidency...thus allowing him to
finally say he had visited all 50 states. Nebraska had voted
heavily against him in ''92 and ''96 and 70% currently view him
unfavorably as a person.
Clinton gave what some are calling his valedictory address on
America''s role in the world. Personally, I feel the Clinton
foreign policy has been abysmal. But I will save my final remarks
on this topic for his last week.
In the meantime he is our president and his broad policy themes
will be debated during the coming George W. Bush
administration. Following are some excerpts, which I have
culled from the full text of his speech. He was addressing an
audience at the University of Nebraska - Kearney.
"I still don''t think I''ve persuaded the American people by big
majorities that you really ought to care a lot about foreign policy,
about our relationship to the rest of the world, about what we''re
doing. And the reason is, in an interdependent world, we are all
directly affected by what goes on beyond our borders - sure, in
economics, but in other ways, as well - and by what we decide to
do or not do about it.
"...The train of globalization cannot be reversed. But it has
more than one possible destination. If we want America to stay
on the right track, if we want other people to be on that track and
have the chance to enjoy peace and prosperity, we have no
choice but to try to lead the train.
"We want global trade to keep our economy growing. Nebraska
farmers like it when people open their markets and the most
efficient farmers in the world can sell their food to people who
need to buy it. But it is possible that financial crises abroad
could wreck that system, as farmers here found out when the
Asian financial crisis hit a couple of years ago. Or that alienation
from global capitalism by people who aren''t a part of it will
drive whole countries away. We want global trade to lift
hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, from India to
China to Africa. We know if it happens, it will create a big
market for everything American, from corn to cars to computers.
And it will give all of us new ideas and new innovation and we''ll
all help each other in constructive competition.
"But the gap between rich and poor nations could continue to
widen, and bring more misery, more environmental destruction,
more health problems. More and more young people in poor
countries just checking out of wanting to be part of a global
system, because they think there is nothing in it for them.
[Clinton described his use of a Palm Pilot...]
"But the same technological breakthroughs that put that
computer in the palm of my hand could end up making it
possible to create smaller and smaller chemical or biological or
nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists. And all the things
we''re learning about computers will be learned by people who,
because they belong to organized crime units or narco-traffickers
or terrorists, would like to pierce our secure networks and get
information or spread viruses that wreck our most vital
systems...every opportunity brings with it new responsibilities
because the organized forces of destruction can take advantage of
"William Jennings Bryan said, ''Our destiny is a matter of choice.
It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.'' We
have to continue to achieve America''s destiny. And the point I
want to make is that it cannot be achieved in the 21st century
without American citizens who care about, know about and
understand what is going on beyond our borders and what we''re
supposed to do about it.
[Clinton''s main principles for the global age.]
"First, everything we want to achieve in the world, just about,
depends upon maintaining strong alliances with people who
share our interests and our values; and adapting those alliances to
meet today''s and tomorrow''s challenges. [For example, NATO.]
"America cannot lead if we walk away from our friends and our
"...The 21st century world is going to be about more than great
power politics, which means we can''t just think about East Asia
and Europe. We need a systematic, committed, long-term
relationship with our neighbors in Latin America and the
Caribbean, with South Asia - next to China, the most populous
place on earth - and with Africa, where 800 million people live.
"...Beyond alliances, the second principle is that we have to
build, if we can, constructive relationships with our former
adversaries, Russia and China. One of the big questions that will
define the world for the next 10 years is how will Russia and
China define their greatness in the 21st century? Will they define
it as their ability to dominate their neighbors, or to control their
own people? Or will they define it in a more modern sense, in
their ability to develop their people''s capacity to cooperate with
their neighbors, to compete and win in a global economy and a
"So we should say to (Russia and China) what we''ve been trying
to say for eight years: if you will accept the rules and the
responsibilities of membership in the world community, we want
to make sure you get the full benefits, and be a full partner, not a
junior partner. We also have to say, we have to feel free to speak
firmly and honestly when we think what you do is wrong, by
"We have tried to encourage change by bringing China into
international systems, where there are rules and responsibilities,
from non-proliferation to trade. That''s what I think will happen
with China coming into the World Trade Organization. It is a
statement by them, by agreeing to the conditions of membership,
that they can''t succeed over the long run without opening to the
world. It is s declaration of interdependence.
"The third thing we have to recognize is that local conflicts can
become world-wide headaches if they''re allowed to fester.
Therefore, whenever possible, we should stop them before they
get out of hand. That''s why we''ve worked for peace in the
Balkans, between Greece and Turkey on Cyprus, between India
and Pakistan, Ethiopia and Eritrea. That''s why I''m going back
to Northern Ireland next week. And it''s why we''ve worked so
hard to make America a force for peace in the Middle East, the
home of the world''s three great monotheistic religions, where
God is reminding us every day that we are not in control.
"...The main point I want to make to you is, you should want
your President and your government involved in these things,
and you should support your Congress if they invest some of
your money in the cause of peace and development in these hot
spots in the world.
"And let me say again: this is not inconsistent with saying that
people ought to take the lead in their own backyard. I think most
Americans feel if the Europeans can take the lead in Europe, they
ought to do it; the same thing with the Asians in Asia and the
Africans in Africa.
"What I want you to understand is that we have unique
capabilities and unique confidence-building capacity in so many
parts of the world that if we''re just involved a little bit, we can
make a huge difference.
"And I''ll be gone in a few weeks, and America will have a new
"One other thing I want to say. We ought to pay our U.N. dues
and pay our fair share of peacekeeping operations. Now, nobody
in the world benefits from stability more than we do. Nobody.
Nobody makes more money out of it. Just think about pure,
naked self-interest. Nobody. And when we pay for this
peacekeeping...we get more than our money''s worth out of it.
And when we walk away from our responsibilities, people resent
us. They resent our prosperity, they resent our power and, in the
end, when a whole lot of people resent you, sooner or later they
find some way to manifest it.
"The fourth point I would like to make to you is that this growing
openness of borders and technology is changing our national
security priorities. People, information, ideas and goods move
around more freely and faster than ever before. That makes us
more vulnerable first to the organized forces of destruction,
narco-traffickers, terrorists, organized criminals - they are going
to work more and more together, with growing access to more
and more sophisticated technology.
"...The most important thing is to prevent bad things from
happening. And one of the biggest threats to the future is going
to be cyberterrorism - people fooling with your computer
networks, trying to shut down your phones, erase bank records,
mess up airline schedules, do things to interrupt the fabric of life.
"The last thing I want to say is that the final principle ought to be
we should be for more open trade, but we have to build a global
economy with a more human face. We win in the trade
competition....these 300 trade agreements, from NAFTA to the
World Trade Organization and many others that we negotiated,
300 of them, have given us the longest economic expansion in
history. Over 25 percent of our growth is tied to trade now.
[Ed. I just have to add, the official White House transcript of the
speech had NASA, not NAFTA. Some staffer doesn''t know his
head from his elbow.]
"Here''s the problem: the benefits have not been felt in much of
the rest of the world. 800 million people still go hungry every
day. More than a billion people have no access to clean water.
More than a billion people live on less than a dollar a day. Every
year, 6 million undernourished boys and girls under the age of
five, die. So if the next President and the next Congress want to
spend some of your money to relieve the (debt) burden of the
world''s poorest countries...if they''ll put the money into
education and health care and development, if they want to spend
some money fighting AIDS, if they want to expand a program
that we have done a lot with...I hope you will support that.
"We must not squander the best moment in our history on small-
mindedness. We don''t have to be fearful. We''ve got the
strongest military in the world, and in history, and we''re going to
keep it that way. We don''t have to be cheap. Our economy is
the envy of the world. We don''t have to swim against the
currents of the world. The momentum of history is on our side,
on the side of freedom and openness and competition. And we
don''t have the excuse of ignorance, because we''ve got a 24-hour
global news cycle. So we know what''s going on out there.
"I hope that in the years ahead...America will say, America
chooses to be a part of the world, with a clear head and a strong
heart; to share the risks and the opportunities of the world; to
work with others until ultimately there is a global community of
free nations, working with us, for peace and security, where
everybody counts and everybody has got a chance. If we will do
that, America''s best days, and the world''s finest hours, lie
[Polite applause...followed by a rush to the exits.]
Note: None of the major newspapers carried the text of Clinton''s
speech. So much for his final foreign policy address. He is
slated to make some more specific statements on globalization
during his current trip to the British Isles. If they are of value,
I''ll include them next week.