Madeleine K Albright

Building a Bipartisan Foreign Policy - Feb. 7, 1997

Madeleine K Albright
February 07, 1997— Houston, Texas
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Mr. Secretary, President Gillis, Ambassador Djerejian, thank you for the introduction and for the Texas hospitality.

This is my first official trip as Secretary of State; and I can't imagine a better destination or more distinguished company.

My original thought was to come here next Thursday, on February 13, but one of my advance people who went to Rice told me that you close the University on the 13th of every month -- due to your celebration of the ancient academic rite of streaking. And, as the first female Secretary of State, I wasn't sure I was quite ready for that!

In a world where many claim to have all the answers, this Institute and this University understand the importance of asking the right questions.

And, in your search for wisdom, you have certainly found the right guide.

James Baker's memoirs were entitled "The Politics of Diplomacy"--and, as his record gives evidence, he was a master of both. He has earned our nation's gratitude, and I am delighted to be a witness to the exciting new work he has initiated here. And I am also glad to learn that former Secretaries of State can get day jobs.

This afternoon, I want to talk with you about some exciting new work of my own. I have just completed my second full week as Secretary of State. Already, I have a reputation for speaking in sound bites. This is not a reputation I have sought. When I speak, I always think I'm sounding like Henry Kissinger; unfortunately, what the audience seems to hear sounds more like David Letterman.

My goal, and it is causing some culture shock back in D.C., is to clear away the fog from Foggy Bottom, a place where the elevator inspection certificates--and I am not making this up--do not refer to elevators, but to "vertical transportation units."

As Secretary, I will do my best to talk about foreign policy not in abstract terms, but in human terms -- and in bipartisan terms -- I consider this vital because in our democracy, we cannot pursue policies abroad that are not understood and supported here at home.

When I was nominated by the President, I said that I would have an obligation to explain to you the "who, what, when, where" and especially the "whys" of the policies we conduct around the world in your name.

Today, I intend to begin that job.

Last Tuesday, in his State of the Union Address, President Clinton said that, "To prepare America for the 21st century, we must master the forces of change in the world and keep American leadership strong and sure for an uncharted time."

Fortunately, thanks to the President's own leadership, and that of his predecessor President George Bush -- Houston's most distinguished adopted son -- I begin work with the wind at my back.

Our nation is respected and at peace. Our alliances are vigorous. Our economy is strong. And from the distant corners of Asia, to the emerging democracies of Central Europe and Africa, to the community of liberty that exists within our own hemisphere, American institutions and ideals are a model for those who have, or who aspire to, freedom.

All this is no accident, and its continuation is by no means inevitable. Democratic progress must be sustained as it was built--by American leadership. And our leadership must be sustained if our interests are to be protected around the world.

That is why our armed forces must remain the best-led, best-trained, best-equipped and most respected in the world. And as President Clinton has pledged, they will.

It is also why we need first-class diplomacy. Force, and the credible possibility of its use, are essential to defend our vital interests and to keep America safe. But force alone can be a blunt instrument, and there are many problems it cannot solve.

To be effective, force and diplomacy must complement and reinforce each other. For there will be many occasions, in many places, where we will rely on diplomacy to protect our interests, and we will expect our diplomats to defend those interests with skill, knowledge and spine.

Unfortunately, in the words of Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, our international operations today are "underfunded and under-staffed." We are the world's richest and most powerful nation, but we are also the number one debtor to the UN and the international financial institutions. We are dead last among the industrialized nations in the percentage of our wealth that we use to promote democracy and growth in the developing world.

And diplomatically, we are steadily and unilaterally disarming ourselves.

Over the past four years, the Department of State has cut more than 2000 employees, closed more than 30 overseas posts and slashed foreign assistance by almost one-third.

This trend is not acceptable. Many of you are students. Someday, one of you may occupy the office I hold and that Secretary Baker held. I hope you do. And I assure you that I will do everything I can in my time to see that you have the necessary diplomatic tools in your time to protect our nation and do your job.

Yesterday, the President submitted his budget request to Congress for the coming fiscal year. That budget, which totals some 1.8 trillion dollars, includes about $20 billion for the entire range of international affairs programs. This would pay for everything from our share of reconstruction in Bosnia to enforcing sanctions against Saddam Hussein to waging war around the world against drug kingpins and organized crime.

Approval of this budget matters, not only to me, or to those who consider themselves foreign policy experts, but to each and every one of us.

For example, if you live in Houston, more than likely your job, or that of a member of your family, is linked to the health of the global economy, whether through investments, or trade, or competition from workers abroad, or from newly-arrived workers here. This region's robust agricultural and energy sectors are particularly affected by overseas prices, policies and politics.

Your family, like most in America, probably has good reason to look ahead with hope. But you are also anxious. For you see crime fueled by drugs that pour across nearby borders. You see advanced technology creating not only new wonders, but new and more deadly arms. On your television screen, you see the consequences of letter bombs and poisonous serums and sudden explosions and ask yourself when and where terrorists may strike next.

Whether you are a student, or parent, or teacher, or worker, you are concerned about the future our young people will face. Will the global marketplace continue to expand and generate new opportunities and new jobs? Will our global environment survive the assault of increasing population and pollution? Will the plague of AIDS and other epidemic disease be brought under control? And will the world continue to move away from the threat of nuclear Armageddon, or will that specter once again loom large, perhaps in some altered and even more dangerous form?

If you are like most Americans, you do not think of the United States as just another country. You want America to be strong and respected. And you want that strength and respect to continue through the final years of this century and into the next.

Considering all this, one thing should be clear. The success or failure of American foreign policy is not only relevant to our lives; it will be a determining factor in the quality of our lives. It will make the difference between a future characterized by peace, rising prosperity and law, and a more uncertain future, in which our economy and security are always at risk, our peace of mind is always under assault, and American leadership is increasingly in doubt.

We are talking here about one percent of the federal budget; but that one percent may determine fifty percent of the history that is written about our era; and it will affect the lives of 100 percent of the American people.

Let me be more specific.

First, foreign policy creates jobs. The Clinton Administration has negotiated more than 200 trade agreements since 1993. Those agreements have helped exports to soar and boosted employment by more than 1.6 million.

For example, earlier today I met with Mexican Foreign Minister Gurria. Our growing trade with Mexico is genuine success story. Last year alone, 125 billion dollars in exports were traded. And with NAFTA now in place, we estimate that this coming year some 2.2 million American workers will produce goods for export to our NAFTA partners.

By passing NAFTA, concluding the Uruguay Round, and forging commitments to free trade in Latin America and Asia, we have helped create a growing global economy with America as its dynamic hub.

This matters a lot down here. Houston is one of America's great ports. Texas is our second leading exporting state. Commerce makes you grow. And there are more direct benefits. For years, Texas grains have been among the leading commodities sold through the Food for Peace Program.

America's economic expansion is no accident. It derives primarily from the genius of our scientists, the enterprise of our businesspeople and the productivity of our factories and farms. But it has been helped along by American diplomats who work to ensure that American business and labor receive fair treatment overseas.

For example, if an American businessman or woman bribes a foreign official in return for a contract, that American is fined or goes to jail. If a European bribes that same foreign official, chances are he will get a tax deduction. We are working hard to create higher standards that apply to all. And we have opened the doors of embassies around the world to U.S. entrepreneurs seeking our help in creating a level playing field for American firms and more opportunities for Americans back home.

Have no doubt, these efforts will continue. For as long as I am Secretary of State, America's diplomatic influence will be harnessed to the task of helping America's economy to grow.

We will also use diplomacy to keep America safe.

The Cold War may be over, but the threat to our security posed by weapons of mass destruction has only been reduced, not ended.

In recent years, with U.S. leadership, much has been accomplished. Russian warheads no longer target our homes. The last missile silos in Ukraine are being planted over with sunflowers, and nuclear weapons have also been removed from Belarus and Kazakstan. North Korea's nuclear weapons program has been frozen. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has been extended. A comprehensive ban on nuclear tests has been approved.

And we are continuing the job begun under President Bush of ensuring that Iraq's capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction is thoroughly and verifiably dismantled.

The President's budget empowers us to build on these steps. It provides the resources we need to seek further reductions in nuclear stockpiles, to help assure the safe handling of nuclear materials, to back international inspections of other countries' nuclear programs, and to implement the agreements we have reached.

The President's budget also reflects America's role as the indispensable nation in promoting international security and peace.

Our largest single program is in support of the peace process in the Middle East. Even here, the price tag does not compare to the cost to us and to our friends if that strategic region should once again erupt in war. The oil crisis caused by fighting there in 1973 threw our economy into a tailspin, caused inflation to soar and resulted in gas lines that stretched for miles.

Today, as a result of courageous leaders in the region, and persistent American diplomacy, the peace process launched by Secretary Baker has been sustained. Israel has signed landmark agreements with Jordan and the Palestinian authorities. And as the recent pact on Hebron illustrates, the movement towards peace continues despite episodes of violence, outbreaks of terrorism and a tragic assassination.

As Secretary of State, I will ensure that America continues to stand with the peacemakers and against the bombthrowers in this strategic region. That is in America's interests; it is consistent with the commitments we have made; it reflects the kind of people we are; and it is right.

Because the United States has unique capabilities and unmatched power, it is natural that others turn to us in time of emergency. We have an unlimited number of opportunities to act. But we do not have unlimited resources, nor unlimited responsibilities. We are not a charity or a fire department. If we are to protect our own interests and maintain our credibility, we have to weigh our commitments carefully, and be selective and disciplined in what we agree to do.

Recognizing this, we have good reason to strengthen other instruments for responding to emergencies and conflicts, and for addressing the conditions that give rise to those conflicts.

These other instruments include the United Nations, regional organizations and international financial institutions. Together, these entities remove from our shoulders the lion's share of the costs of keeping the peace, maintaining sanctions against rogue states, creating new markets, protecting the environment, caring for refugees and addressing other problems around the globe.

Unfortunately, in recent years, we have fallen behind in our payments to these institutions. We owe about $1 billion to the UN and other organizations and almost another $1 billion to the Multilateral Banks.

In his budget, the President requests enough money to repay many of these obligations. The reason is that these debts hurt America. They erode the capacity of these organizations to carry out programs that serve our interests. They undermine the proposals we have made for reform. And, to those around the world who are hostile to our leadership, they are an open invitation to run America down.

The United States can--and should--lead the way in strengthening and reforming international organizations so that they better serve the world community, and American interests. But if we are to succeed, we must also pay our bills. As in poker, if we want a seat at the table, we have to put chips in the pot.

Before closing, I would like to highlight one of the President's top early priorities, which has little to do with money, but much to do with America's standing in the world.

The President has asked the Senate to give its approval to a Convention intended to ban chemical weapons from the face of the Earth. That agreement, known as the Chemical Weapons Convention, or CWC, will enter into force on April 29. Our goal is to ratify the agreement before then so that America will be an original party.

Chemical weapons are inhumane. They kill horribly, massively, indiscriminately and are no more controllable than the wind. That is why the United States decided years ago to eliminate our stockpile of these weapons and to purge from our military doctrine any possibility of their use. Countries that join the CWC will undertake a legal obligation to pursue a similar policy.

The Convention makes it less likely that our armed forces will ever again encounter chemical weapons on the battlefield; less likely that rogue regimes will have access to the materials needed to build chemical arms; and less likely that such arms will fall into the hands of terrorists or others hostile to our interests.

The result will be a safer America and a safer world.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. Senate approval of the Convention is by no means assured. Opponents of the CWC argue that it does not provide full protection, because we do not expect early ratification by the rogue states. We regret that, but the CWC remains very much in our interests.

The CWC establishes the standard that it is wrong to build or possess chemical weapons. That standard will put added pressure on rogue regimes. It will send a message that if a country wants to be part of the international system, and to participate fully in its benefits, it must ratify and comply with the CWC.

What it comes down to is this question. Who should set the rules for the international community? Law-abiding nations? Or the rogues? Are we barred from establishing any rule that the outlaw nations do not first accept? Or does it serve our interests to draw the clearest possible distinction in law between those who observe international standards and those who do not?

Unfortunately, as General Norman Schwarzkopf recently observed, if the foes of the CWC have their way, the United States would draw a line in the sand, put our friends and allies on one side, and then cross over to the other, joining hands with Libya and Iraq.

If the opponents have their way, we would forgo the right to help draft the rules by which the Convention is enforced and the destruction of chemical weapons assured.

We would lose the right to have Americans help administer and conduct inspections within the CWC.

We would risk the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in export sales because the American chemical industry would become subject to trade restrictions imposed upon non-members of the CWC.

Finally, we would lose credibility in negotiating arms reduction agreements generally, because our ability to deliver in the Senate what we have proposed at the bargaining table would be undermined, for reasons that friends and allies around the world would find very difficult to understand.

Make no mistake, the Chemical Weapons Convention is in the best interests of the United States. In fact, the CWC has "made in America" written all over it. It was endorsed by President Reagan, and negotiated under President Bush--very ably negotiated I might add, thanks to his Secretary of State.

Now, and until success is achieved, the President, our new Secretary of Defense, Bill Cohen, and I will be working with every member of the Senate to ensure the timely and favorable consideration of this important Convention.

In closing, let me say that I well understand, as I undertake my new job, that there is no certain formula for ensuring public support for American engagement overseas.

Certainly, frankness helps. Consultations with Congress are essential, and we are working with Congressional leaders of both parties to an unprecedented degree. But we Americans are brutally fair. As President Kennedy observed after the Bay of Pigs, success has a thousand fathers, while defeat is an orphan. Ultimately, we will be judged not by our rhetoric or our rationales, but by our results.

The reality is that Americans have always been ambivalent about activism abroad.

At the end of World War I, an American Army officer, stuck in Europe while the diplomats haggled at Versailles, wrote to his future wife about his yearning to go home:

"None of us care if the Russian government is red or not red, (or) whether the king of Lollipops slaughters his subjects."

Thirty years later, that same man--Harry Truman--would lead America in the final stages of another great war.

In the aftermath of that conflict, it was not enough to say that what we were against had failed. Leaders such as Truman, Marshall and Vandenberg were determined to build a lasting peace. And together with our allies, they forged a set of institutions that would defend freedom, rebuild economies, uphold law and preserve peace.

Today, the greatest danger to America is not some foreign enemy; it is the possibility that we will ignore the example of that generation; that we will succumb to the temptation of isolation; neglect the military and diplomatic resources that keep us strong; and forget the fundamental lesson of this century, which is that problems abroad, if left unattended, will all too often come home to America.

A decade or two from now, we will be known as the neo-isolationists who allowed totalitarianism and fascism to rise again or as the generation that solidified the global triumph of democratic principles.

We will be known as the neo-protectionists whose lack of vision produced financial chaos or as the generation that laid the groundwork for rising prosperity around the world.

We will be known as the world-class ditherers who stood by while the seeds of renewed global conflict were sown or as the generation that took strong measures to deter aggression, control nuclear arms and keep the peace.

There is no certain roadmap to success, either for individuals or for generations.

Ultimately, it is a matter of judgement, a question of choice.

In making that choice, let us remember that there is not a page of American history of which we are proud that was authored by a chronic complainer or prophet of despair. We are doers.

We have a responsibility in our time, as others have had in theirs, not to be prisoners of history, but to shape history.

A responsibility to use and defend our own freedom, and to help others who share our aspirations for liberty, peace and the quiet miracle of a normal life.

To that end, I pledge my own best efforts, and solicit yours.

Thank you very much.

And now I would be pleased to respond to any questions you might have.

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