THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Palo Alto, California) ________________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release May 1, 1998
As Prepared for Delivery
REMARKS BY SAMUEL R. BERGER ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY AFFAIRS THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION WASHINGTON, D.C. MAY 1, 1998 "The Price of American Leadership"
Some Congressional actions bear upon our nation's most immediate needs. Others touch off broader debates about how we view the world and our country's role within it. In the weeks ahead, Congress faces a choice on an issue that does both. It can send the message that there still is a strong bipartisan foundation for an active U.S. role in the world -- as it did last night with the overwhelming vote to admit Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to NATO.
It can reaffirm our vision of an America committed to its obligations, confident in its power, courageously leading the world. Or that vision can begin to blur -- a victim of complacency and of fear.
In the emergency supplemental that passed yesterday, Congress left out two critical parts of the President's original request -- satisfaction of our long overdue debt to the United Nations; and payment of our share of support to the International Monetary Fund. Each constitutes a necessary investment in our national security -- and each will pay off, many times over.
But these two items are only the more visible tip of a profound debate that must concern all Americans -- whether we will remain engaged abroad and maintain our leadership in the world, or turn our back and retreat within our national borders.
The outcome is by no means certain. Americans, willing to assume global responsibility when their safety is at stake, are equally prone to turn inward once that safety appears to have been assured.
World War I, World War II, the Cold War -- in each instance, an existential threat to our vital interests and our fundamental values constituted a clarion call to action. And in each instance, we responded brilliantly.
In the wake of the Cold War, we are not presented with a single, overriding threat. Instead, we face a range of threats -- dangerous, but diffuse. Some believe the time therefore has come once again to "tend to our own business." The argument presents itself in different shades, but at its core is the perception of the world essentially as a burden -- as something to be dealt with only if necessary, ignored whenever possible.
This view is premised on the belief that the foundations of our wealth and security are exclusively home-grown, that there is little to gain from foreign engagement and much to surrender -- in resources expended, sovereignty diluted, jobs or even lives lost.
That view, in my judgment, suffers from two basic fallacies -- first, that we can isolate ourselves from the world, and second that we should. Globalization -- the process of accelerating economic, technological, cultural and political integration -- is not a choice. It is a growing fact.
It is bringing citizens from all continents closer together -- allowing them to share ideas, goods and information at the tap of a keyboard.
It is a fact that will proceed inexorably, with or without our approval. It is a fact that we ignore at our peril. Our workers and businesses will suffer if foreign markets either collapse or lock us out; terrorists and drug traffickers ignore national boundaries even if we don't; and the highest domestic environmental standards won't protect us if we can't get others on board, for their carelessness threatens us as much as our own.
In short, our citizens have a direct stake in the prosperity and stability of other nations -- in their open markets, in their ability to combat international crime, in their clean waters and clean air.
Let's be clear: the alternative to engagement is not withdrawal from the world; that is an impossibility. The alternative is a passive submission to powerful forces of change -- all the more ironic at a time when our capacity to shape them is as great as it has ever been.
In short, we cannot isolate ourselves from the world. But just as important, we should not want to. Of course, military strength remains a prerequisite of American power. Without American power, American security is vulnerable, American interests are at risk, and American diplomacy is undercut. Yet more than ever before, our strength also grows out of our involvement in the world. Our engagement not only can fend off an existential threat -- it reduces the likelihood of such a threat emerging in the first place. That's what the international community is doing in Iraq, seeking to disarm Saddam Hussein before he threatens the region again.
And our engagement not only protects our safety -- it enhances our prosperity. That's what our aggressive trade policy has achieved -- opening markets to American products and services throughout the world.
The bottom line is this: our nation's economic performance is unrivaled, our military might is unmatched, our political influence is unsurpassed, very much because of -- not in spite of -- our engagement in the world.
We have moved from a zero-sum game in which the Soviet Union's gain was our loss to a logic of interdependence in which our interests often are served by the strength of former adversaries -- not by their weakness; in which our prosperity is advanced by the vitality of our economic partners -- not by their frailty.
The strategy put in motion by President Clinton flows from this fundamental understanding.
We seek to create and strengthen a broad system of international arrangements built around our core values and interests -- democracy, open markets, free enterprise, peace and stability.
Our military alliances, global arms control regimes, market opening trade agreements, support for economic and political reform in emerging nations, partnership with a democratic Russia, strategic dialogue with China, involvement in regional disputes like the Middle East or Irish peace processes, efforts to reach out to and expand trade with Latin America and Africa -- all grow out of this logic. These arrangements may take the form of international institutions, multilateral treaties, or even bilateral agreements, but in each instance the objectives are the same:
First, to promote American interests and values by entangling nations in a web of mutually reinforcing arrangements that maximize both the benefits of compliance and the costs of transgression. Membership in an expanded NATO requires adherence to basic democratic principles: the rule of law and civilian control of the military.
Joining the WTO requires tearing down trade barriers, reducing tariffs, eliminating quotas. Benefiting from IMF loans entails dismantling protected and subsidized sectors that have created domestic sanctuaries impenetrable by foreign competitors.
Continued participation in the Organization of American States involves adherence to democratic principles of government.
Our second objective is to leverage our power and influence, wherever possible, through the multiplier of collective action. Our contributions to international institutions add up to only a fraction of their total resources -- for example, every dollar we provide to the IMF is matched by $5 provided by others.
Yet our contributions enable us to lead these critical institutions and put us in a position to accomplish goals that make a difference for all Americans.
United Nations forces keep the peace in areas vital to our interests, from the Balkans to the Persian Gulf, from Haiti to the Middle East. The International Atomic Energy Agency protects our citizens from the dangers of nuclear proliferation. The World Health Organization defends us from the spread of infectious disease. This is a small sample of the goals that we either could not pursue alone or would have to pursue alone -- but more expensively and far less effectively.
Our third objective is to preserve America's role as a balance wheel for stability.
No other nation has the muscle, the diplomatic skill, or the trust to mediate disputes, nudge opposing sides to the negotiating table or, when appropriate, help enforce the terms of an agreement. Israelis and Palestinians finalize their agreement on the White House lawn. Bosnians huddle at Dayton. Haiti's dictators yield to our military threat. The parties in Northern Ireland look to America for help in their courageous quest.
Not all roads lead to Washington, nor should they.
But when important American interests and values are at stake, we need the ability and stature to be a decisive impetus for peace and security -- whether through diplomacy, economic incentives or force.
Our nation faces a profoundly important choice. We can continue on the course charted by the President, working with others to seize the opportunities of the global era while seeking to avoid its perils, maintaining our strength to act on our own when we must, or we can seek refuge in an illusory withdrawal.
We can seek to steer change to our advantage -- or be engulfed by it.
This choice presents itself starkly in the decisions on whether to grant the President fast track authority to negotiate trade agreements or to fully fund our international affairs budget.
And it presents itself starkly in the two specific requests now before the Congress -- to pay our share of support to the IMF and to pay our overdue UN bills.
Nowhere is globalization more apparent, nor its effects more direct, than in the economy. Trade is twice as important in our domestic economy now as it was when I entered the work force. It has fueled one-third of the sustained growth we have enjoyed these past five years. Today, exports support 12 million American jobs that pay on average 15 percent more than others. An economic downturn among our trading partners can have serious consequences for our workers, our farmers, our businesses, our stockholders. Conversely, by shoring up our partners, encouraging structural reform, tearing down trade barriers, we boost our own economic fortunes.
The IMF plays a central role in steering the global economy in the right direction. The Fund works with countries at risk to shape effective reform programs that strengthen financial systems, increase market access, improve transparency, and reduce corruption and overly incestuous relations between banks, governments and industry. In times of crisis, as we experienced in Mexico or Russia and now are experiencing in Asia, the IMF provides critical assistance that can restore financial stability. And it takes the heat for the tough decisions that governments need to make -- and sometimes want to blame on others.
All of this is in America's fundamental interest -- and can be preserved if we agree to pool our contribution with that of other IMF members.
Think for a moment about the cost of not having a strong and effective IMF. The countries in Asia are our customers -- if they can't buy, we can't sell. They are our competitors -- if their currencies depreciate, they undercut the competitiveness of our own goods. And they are our security partners -- their instability could bring crisis to a region where we have both critical national security interests and 100,000 U.S. troops to protect them.
More generally, by undermining the IMF we weaken the only multilateral institution capable of inducing the reforms that will make recovery self-sustaining.
In sum, even if the IMF were to cost us something, it would be well worth the deal. But in fact, because the IMF acts as a sort of international credit union, our contribution to the Fund has not cost the American taxpayer a single cent.
What we have been able to achieve economically through the IMF, we have been able to achieve on so many other fronts through the United Nations.
The benefits to the American people are tangible, measured in efforts to prevent the diversion of nuclear materials, increase the safety of nuclear plants, and promote the safe disposal of nuclear waste, humanitarian programs that reflect our deepest values, like caring for refugees, vaccinating children, sheltering the needy, international standards that make the skies safer for travelers and food safer for consumers. All this -- and more -- comes at an annual price tag of roughly $4 per American -- about the price of a happy meal at McDonald's, and a fraction of what it would have cost us to achieve these goals on our own.
Some say that the UN is badly in need of reform and that we should not pay our dues until that occurs. It is. Working with Congress, we have helped the UN achieve more reform over the past half decade than in the 45 years that preceded it.
Last year, we developed a three-year plan with broad bipartisan support to encourage continued reform while finally paying our debts. Unfortunately, last fall and then again this week, a small group of representatives chose to link passage of this plan to unrelated legislation on international family planning.
As a result, we risk the single best chance to put our UN debts behind us -- and to put the UN on the right path for the 21st century.
Again, do not think only in terms of the cost of paying our debt to the UN -- think in terms of the cost of not paying it. It will harm collective efforts to deal with emerging threats that cut across borders -- from terrorists to organized criminals, drug traffickers, and environmental damage.
It will be a body blow to our international credibility, hobbling our diplomats in ways large and small, undermining our central message that nations need to live up to their commitments. And, by next January, it may even lead to the loss of our voting rights in the UN General Assembly -- an institution born on our soil out of the vision of Americans like Roosevelt, Truman and Acheson.
Beyond these fundamental interests, there also is a basic moral principle: America pays it debts. We should pay the UN what we owe.
By acting now to support the IMF and pay our dues to the United Nations, Congress can reassert its determination to preserve America's leadership in the world. It can send the message that our nation is confident; it will master the forces of globalization -- not be mastered by them. And we can continue to build on the past five years' list of accomplishments -- in Haiti, Bosnia, Russia, China and elsewhere.
Will the United States survive and thrive if Congress chooses the alternative course? Of course. Our people are far too resilient and far too resolute for it to be otherwise.
But we risk awaking to a different America in a different world. And neither America nor the world will be able to figure out how we frittered away so rich an inheritance, how we renounced so commanding a position, how we squandered such bountiful opportunities.
So let's not weaken our own hand. Let's make the wise investment in American leadership that will help keep our nation at the pinnacle of our power as we enter the 21st century.
# # #