... Our objective must be to exploit the unparalleled opportunity presented by the
cold war's end to work toward transforming this new world into a new world
order, one of governments that are democratic, tolerant, and economically free
at home and committed abroad to settling inevitable differences peacefully,
without the threat or use of force.
Unfortunately, not everyone subscribes to these principles. We continue to see
leaders bent on denying fundamental human rights and seizing territory
regardless of the human cost. No, an international society, one more attuned
the enduring principles that have made this country a beacon of hope for so
many for so long, will not just emerge on its own. It's got to be built.
Two hundred years ago, another departing President warned of the dangers of
what he described as "entangling alliances." His was the right course for a new
nation at that point in history. But what was "entangling" in Washington's day
is now essential. This is why, at Texas A&M a few weeks ago, I spoke of the
folly of isolationism and of the importance, morally, economically, and
strategically, of the United States remaining involved in world affairs. We
must engage ourselves if a new world order, one more compatible with our values
and congenial to our interest, is to emerge. But even more, we must lead.
Leadership, well, it takes many forms. It can be political or diplomatic. It
can be economic or military. It can be moral or spiritual leadership.
Leadership can take any one of these forms, or it can be a combination of
Leadership should not be confused with either unilateralism or universalism.
We need not respond by ourselves to each and every outrage of violence. The
fact that America can act does not mean that it must. A nation's sense of
idealism need not be at odds with its interests, nor does principle displace
No, the United States should not seek to be the world's policeman. There is no
support abroad or at home for us to play this role, nor should there be. We
would exhaust ourselves in the process, wasting precious resources needed to
address those problems at home and abroad that we cannot afford to ignore.
But in the wake of the cold war, in a world where we are the only remaining
superpower, it is the role of the United States to marshal its moral and
material resources to promote a democratic peace. It is our responsibility, it
is our opportunity to lead. There is no one else.
Leadership cannot be simply asserted or demanded. It must be demonstrated.
Leadership requires formulating worthy goals, persuading others of their
virtue, and contributing one's share of the common effort and then some.
Leadership takes time. It takes patience. It takes work.
Some of this work must take place here at home. Congress does have a
constitutional role to play. Leadership therefore also involves working with
the Congress and the American people to provide the essential domestic
underpinning if U.S. military commitments are to be sustainable.
This is what our administration, the Bush administration, has tried to do.
When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, it was the United States that galvanized
the U.N. Security Council to act and then mobilized the successful coalition on
the battlefield. The pattern not exactly the same but similar in Somalia:
First the United States underscored the importance of alleviating the growing
tragedy, and then we organized humanitarian efforts designed to bring hope,
food, and peace.
At times, real leadership requires a willingness to use military force. And
force can be a useful backdrop to diplomacy, a complement to it, or, if need
be, a temporary alternative.
As Commander in Chief, I have made the difficult choice to use military force.
I determined we could not allow Saddam's forces to ravage Kuwait and hold this
critical region at gun point. I thought then, and I think now, that using
military force to implement the resolutions of the U.N. Security Council was in
the interest of the United States and the world community. The need to use
force arose as well in the wake of the Gulf war, when we came to the aid of the
peoples of both northern and southern Iraq. And more recently, as I'm sure you
know, I determined that only the use of force could stem this human tragedy of
The United States should not stand by with so many lives at stake and when a
limited deployment of U.S. forces, buttressed by the forces of other countries
and acting under the full authority of the United Nations, could make an
immediate and dramatic difference, and do so without excessive levels of risk
and cost. Operations Provide Comfort and Southern Watch in Iraq and then
Operation Restore Hope in Somalia all bear witness to the wisdom of selected
use of force for selective purposes.
Sometimes the decision not to use force, to stay our hand, I can tell you, it's
just as difficult as the decision to send our soldiers into battle. The former
Yugoslavia, well, it's been such a situation. There are, we all know, important
humanitarian and strategic interests at stake there. But up to now it's not
been clear that the application of limited amounts of force by the United
States and its traditional friends and allies would have had the desired
effect, given the nature and complexity of that situation.
Our assessment of the situation in the former Yugoslavia could well change if
and as the situation changes. The stakes could grow; the conflict could
threaten to spread. Indeed, we are constantly reassessing our options and are
actively consulting with others about steps that might be taken to contain the
fighting, protect the humanitarian effort, and deny Serbia the fruits of
Military force is never a tool to be used lightly or universally. In some
circumstances it may be essential, in others counterproductive. I know that
many people would like to find some formula, some easy formula to apply, to
tell us with precision when and where to intervene with force. Anyone looking
for scientific certitude is in for a disappointment. In the complex new world
we are entering, there can be no single or simple set of fixed rules for using
force. Inevitably, the question of military intervention requires judgment.
Each and every case is unique. To adopt rigid criteria would guarantee mistakes
involving American interests and American lives. And it would give would-be
troublemakers a blueprint for determining their own actions. It could signal
U.S. friends and allies that our support was not to be counted on.
Similarly, we cannot always decide in advance which interests will require our
using military force to protect them. The relative importance of an interest is
not a guide: Military force may not be the best way of safeguarding something
vital, while using force might be the best way to protect an interest that
qualifies as important but less than vital.
But to warn against a futile quest for a set of hard-and-fast rules to govern
the use of military force is not to say there cannot be some principles to
inform our decisions. Such guidelines can prove useful in sizing and, indeed,
shaping our forces and in helping us to think our way through this key
Using military force makes sense as a policy where the stakes warrant, where
and when force can be effective, where no other policies are likely to prove
effective, where its application can be limited in scope and time, and where
the potential benefits justify the potential costs and sacrifice.
Once we are satisfied that force makes sense, we must act with the maximum
possible support. The United States can and should lead, but we will want to
act in concert, where possible involving the United Nations or other
multinational grouping. The United States can and should contribute to the
common undertaking in a manner commensurate with our wealth, with our strength.
But others should also contribute militarily, be it by providing combat or
support forces, access to facilities or bases, or overflight rights. And
similarly, others should contribute economically. It is unreasonable to expect
the United States to bear the full financial burden of intervention when other
nations have a stake in the outcome.
A desire for international support must not become a prerequisite for acting,
though. Sometimes a great power has to act alone. I made a tough decision -- I
might say, on advice of our outstanding military leaders who are so well known
to everybody here -- to use military force in Panama when American lives and
the security of the Canal appeared to be threatened by outlaws who stole power
in the face of free elections. And similarly, we moved swiftly to safeguard
democracy in the Philippines.
But in every case involving the use of force, it will be essential to have a
clear and achievable mission, a realistic plan for accomplishing the mission,
and criteria no less realistic for withdrawing U.S. forces once the mission is
complete. Only if we keep these principles in mind will the potential sacrifice
be one that can be explained and justified. We must never forget that using
force is not some political abstraction but a real commitment of our fathers
and mothers and sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and
neighbors. You've got to look at it in human terms.
In order even to have the choice, we must have available adequate military
forces tailored for a wide range of contingencies, including peacekeeping.
Indeed, leading the effort toward a new world order will require a modern,
capable military, in some areas necessitating more rather than less defense
spending. As President, I have said that my ability to deploy force on behalf
of U.S. interests abroad was made possible because past Presidents, and I would
single out in particular my predecessor, Ronald Reagan, and past Secretaries of
Defense sustained a strong military. Consistent with this sacred trust, I am
proud to pass on to my successor, President-elect Clinton, a military second to
none. We have the very best.
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