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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Statement to News Corps Global Forum 2000, World Trade Center
New York, New York, April 24, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
Blue Line

[As Prepared for Delivery]

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Dr. Kissinger, Mr. Murdoch, President Gorbachev, President Wolfensohn, General Powell, Monsieur Trichet, Speaker Gingrich, Dr. Biedenkopf, Secretary General Kato, very distinguished representatives from the media, other distinguished guests and friends, good evening.

I am honored by your invitation to address this very exalted audience in this extremely high place. Some people are makers of things; with us tonight are makers of history from Russia and France, Germany, Japan and the United States.

So I appreciate deeply the chance to address you. The participants in this Global Forum are diverse, brilliant and strong-minded. This is comforting to me, because although you may disagree with some of what I say, I can at least hope you will disagree even more with one another.

Our collective task tonight and continuing tomorrow is to say something original and apt about the United States in the 21st Century.

In many respects, our answers will be shaped by our perspectives. For in assessing America's role, it will matter where you live, where you're from, and what you do. It will hinge, as well, on what aspects of the United States you have in mind.

Certainly, many people overseas respect American principles and admire our actions, but turn up their noses at our culture. They don't like our movies or books, though they may watch and read them. They don't like our homegrown American food, such as pizza and sushi. And of course, they say we are too materialistic. I wish I had a dollar for every time I've heard that.

But in recent years, we have had to confront a more disturbing criticism--that America is a hegemon bent on imposing its will upon an unwilling world. In a sense, this allegation flatters, for it reflects our strength. But it is also false, because it assumes an ambition the American people have never had.

After World War II, Dean Acheson summed up America's mood in three phrases: "Bring the boys home; don't be a Santa Claus; and don't get pushed around." At the time, Americans were weary of war and wary of new commitments. And their primary interest was to reunite families and make the baby boom--boom.

Population issues aside, our attitudes today are not all that different. Our preoccupations are primarily national and local. We are not looking for extra burdens or new challenges abroad. We have no desire to tilt at windmills, or to make new enemies.

If we could return to a time when the oceans protected us from danger--like two vast moats--quite a number of Americans would probably make that choice.

But obviously, we cannot. The sands of the hourglass fall in one direction only. And the time has long since passed when the oceans afforded protection, or when America could hide from the world.

The United States has entered the new century with remarkable assets, including the world's finest armed forces and an economy that rocks.

But these strengths provide no guarantee against future threats. The borders of every nation are vulnerable to economic, technological, demographic and criminal forces that no nation, on its own, can fully control.

America's interests depend, therefore, not on our actions alone, but also on the ability and will of others to curb the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological arms; deter terrorists and criminals; prevent disasters; cool regional disputes; and foster the conditions for sustainable economic growth.

That is why America's policy is to help other nations move up, not down. This is the opposite of hegemony. We want weaker countries to gain strength. And to work with the already strong in every region to help energize the world economy, and lend muscle to the enforcement of global norms.

The special nature of America's role is based on our capacity to lead, not on any unique moral authority or obligation. Every nation has the duty to act in accordance with international standards. And each has an interest in the kind of stable and broadly prosperous world that our allies and we seek.

So let us be clear. Hegemony signifies leadership over others. America leads with others.

For example, with our allies in Europe, we have enlarged NATO and forged partnerships with Europe's other democracies. We have also enhanced our cooperation with the EU and joined in revitalizing the OSCE.

By so doing, we have been erasing without replacing the artificial line gouged across Europe by Stalin's bloody boot; and brought closer the elusive dream of a Europe whole and free. To go forward from here, we must tend carefully the bonds that have made trans-Atlantic unity unshatterable. We must persist in our community-wide effort to help Bosnia, Kosovo and all of Southeast Europe join the continent's democratic mainstream.

And we must encourage Russia to complete the democratic and economic reforms begun under President Gorbachev, carried forward by President Yeltsin and now entering a new phase under President-elect Putin. The success of Russia's transition will help promote a more peaceful world, foster stability in Europe, and reinforce democratic momentum around the globe.

In Asia, with Japan, we have strengthened our alliance--the cornerstone of regional security. And we are working closely with Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing to promote stability on the Korean Peninsula through a dialogue with Pyongyang, backed by firmness and strength.

Our goal is an Asia Pacific where past wounds have healed, present disputes are resolved peacefully, and a future based on convergence and reconciliation is possible. Progress depends on the decisions made by regional leaders, but also on America's continued stabilizing presence and role.

In key corners of the world, including the Middle East, we invest much of our diplomatic capital in pursuit of peace. This serves our interests; it is also right. Obviously, we cannot impose agreements, but American efforts--from Dr. Kissinger's time to President Clinton's--have helped enemies become partners and proven skeptics wrong.

We persist now, despite setbacks, because the regional stakes have never been higher, the logic of peace never clearer, and the opportunity for breakthroughs never more real. Success in the peace process depends on the parties, but it is fair to say that without the United States, the very existence of that process would be in doubt.

Around the world, America's security role differs greatly from that of a generation ago. With our allies, we maintain a powerful deterrent against overt attack. But as memory of the bombing of this very trade center warns us, unconventional threats have created a battlefield populated by civilians, with no front line.

In response, we must re-orient our strategies, understanding that it is no longer enough to play geopolitical chess--the gameboard is not two-dimensional any more.

The players today are not only nations, but a host of non-state actors. And events anywhere can affect outcomes elsewhere, not just eventually but instantaneously.

That is why, in countering unconventional threats, we need more than the help of treaty allies alone. We work with every willing nation, and through regional and global institutions, to halt proliferation, terror and crime.

Credit for the successes--which are often not publicized--belong to the leaders and law enforcement personnel of many nations. Although we know that these perils will persist despite our efforts, we proceed with the conviction that every terrorist bombing prevented, every illicit cargo seized, and every international criminal apprehended will make the world safer and law-abiding citizens more secure.

When the United States acts to protect its security, our clear preference is to do so with broad international support. This makes it more likely we will succeed, and that the costs and risks of taking action will be shared.

But there may be times in the future, as in the past, when the stakes and circumstances are such that America will act in advance of world opinion, rather than merely reflect it. This is part of the definition of leadership. And fair warning to potential adversaries.

Economic cooperation is also an essential part of America's world role, and our policy is to encourage sustainable growth in all regions, through freer trade, improved governance and broader social progress. This helps the United States, because the more engines driving the world economy, the smoother the ride and the further our partners and we will go.

Our efforts are complicated by the growing controversy over globalization. Some praise it; others want to bury it.

Globalization wasn't made in America, nor is it a CIA plot. In truth, it pre-dated even Columbus and Magellan. The world has been shrinking and commerce expanding since the first camel found a rider, the first boat took to sea, and the first wagon began rolling down the Appian Way.

So the direction of change is not new. But the pace has accelerated from snail-like to light-speed. Those able to keep up have done well. Others have not. Some blame organizations such as the World Bank. It would be as accurate to blame the stars.

The World Bank, under Jim Wolfensohn, is doing as much or more to help people fight disease, learn new skills and lift themselves out of poverty as any other institution. The IMF and WTO also perform critical and beneficial economic functions. Those who want to abolish these bodies are wrong. Those who want to improve them should be heard.

For rich and poor nations alike, integration is the best road to higher growth and fewer hardships, more literacy and less hunger. But it is not enough simply to repeat this mantra.

Our strategies must respond to both sides of the globalization equation. We must expand trade, while helping dislocated workers to learn new skills; foster growth, while creating incentives for sound environmental practices; improve technology, while investing more in education and health; enrich ties among the advanced nations, while reaching out and pulling in the rest.

All this amounts to a pretty tall order that we can only fill over time.

As a start, President Clinton has called for more openness and accountability in our international economic institutions, and more effort to ensure that the quest for financial stability not come at the expense of basic human needs.

We are also focused on the importance of sound government. Most national leaders are eager for loans, investments and other fruits of the global economy. But some cry foul or blow smoke whenever the subjects of corruption and repression are raised. They can't have it both ways.

We should be firm in wielding the leverage we have. Our priority should be to help those moving in the direction of compliance with global norms, not dictators or demagogues. Those who abuse power may call this "interference"--but those wanting progress will call it "common sense."

At the same time, we should do all we can to help those who are doing their best to help themselves. This isn't international social work, as some claim. It is an investment in our own security and long-term growth. Nothing could be more pragmatic.

The famed windows of this room look out upon a world of more than six billion people. Of these, one in five live on less than a dollar a day. One of America's explicit goals now, and for many years to come, must be to help lift living standards, especially in the poorest countries.

President Clinton is a leading backer of initiatives to enable such countries to use their resources for education and health by relieving them of old debts.

And I am pleased that Congress is nearing final passage on a bill to lower U.S. tariffs and quotas on products from Central America, the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa. Enactment of this legislation will be a victory for all who believe the healthiest world economy is inclusive and fair.

America's role, then, is not to promote or defend globalization, but rather to join with others in guiding it--so the new economy becomes a march to the top, not a descent to the bottom. We must help those hurt by change; but also reaffirm our belief that an open and competitive world economy is the best route to higher standards of living for people everywhere.

I realize this is capitalist dogma; the kind of thing one might expect to hear in this Trade Center, or in such bastions of mercantilism as London and Amsterdam. But it is also the message we are hearing more and more from Beijing.

Three decades have passed since Dr. Kissinger made like Houdini and slipped off in secret to China.

He encountered there an isolated and totalitarian regime. China remains politically repressive and harsh towards dissent. But economically, it has been evolving rapidly. Consumers and workers have more choices. And China's government has decided to integrate its economy into the world's.

To encourage this, President Clinton is asking Congress to support our agreement to bring China into the WTO by approving Permanent Normal Trade Relations with that country.

This is the right choice for America economically, because the agreement will require China to further open its markets, without mandating any corresponding concessions from us.

It is the right choice strategically, because the agreement will create new incentives for China to play a constructive regional and global role.

And it is the right choice for the Chinese people, because it will reinforce trends towards a more open society, based on the rule of law.

The vote on China trade may be the most significant economic and national security decision Congress will make this year. I hope those who represent us will take a tip from such experts as Dr. Kissinger, General Powell, and Speaker Gingrich, and vote "yes" for a more open China and a more inclusive world economy.

Americans may be proud that our country has helped others become more secure and prosperous. But perhaps even more, we have inspired and assisted millions in gaining and retaining freedom. And after more than two centuries, America's commitment to democracy remains rock solid.

This is not because democratic elections always produce good leaders, or because free people always use their freedom wisely, or because democracy is efficient. In truth, democracy can be maddening and muddled. But as Churchill famously observed, as a system of government, it is far ahead of whatever is in second place.

The 21st Century began with democratic momentum strong. One hundred years ago, the number of countries with a government elected competitively and on the basis of universal suffrage was zero. Today, it is 120.

One reason is the information revolution, which is helping people everywhere gain access to the power knowledge provides; and amplifying the role of vigorous and independent media in creating a freer world. This revolutionary expansion of information and ideas will continue and may well prove the defining characteristic of the new century.

And yet we are not complacent. For around the globe, nations in transition are under stress. Many have not been able to translate democracy's promise into the language of prosperity for their citizens. Some are divided by ethnic strife; others weakened by disease; still others besieged by crime; and a few are plagued by all of the above.

The right response in these nations is not to give up on democracy, but rather to embrace it more fully. The right response for established democracies is to reinforce that message in appropriate ways.

To this end, from Asia to Africa to the Andes, U.S. agencies are training judges, drafting commercial codes, advancing the status of women, bolstering civil society and otherwise helping to assemble the nuts and bolts of freedom.

Our partners include the EU, Japan, and a host of non-governmental and private sector organizations that are committed to a future of greater freedom and more equitable growth.

This year, we are placing top priority on bolstering democracy in key nations such as Colombia, Indonesia, Nigeria and Ukraine. And on efforts to sustain democratic momentum in the Balkans, where Bosnia continues to make progress and Croatia's new government is striding towards its rightful place at Europe's table.

Meanwhile, Serbia's Milosevic has come to resemble Shakespeare's Macbeth, with old "murders sticking on his hands" and his title hanging "loosely about him, like a giant's robe upon a dwarfish thief."

Under such leadership, Serbia can only wallow in the past. But ten days ago, more than a hundred thousand people gathered in Belgrade to demand change. This was a demonstration with true purpose. And a sign that Serbs will not allow themselves to be deprived forever of the right to choose their leaders freely and without fear.

In June, Poland will host an unprecedented meeting of the Community of Democracies, consisting of governments on every continent that have expressed a commitment to the democratic path. America is one of seven co-conveners. And our purpose will be to explore ways to ensure that the democratic tide remains a rising tide around the world.

Some say it is arrogant of the United States to promote democracy and that we are trying to impose our values on others. But how can supporting the right of people to shape their own destiny be an imposition? In any country at any time, dictatorship is an imposition; democracy is a choice.

In the final analysis, America's role in the 21st Century will be shaped by our purposes, which will be grounded in our interests, which will be defined by the voices and votes of our people.

Some fear America will attempt too much. I am concerned that--because of a lack of foreign policy resources--we may be constrained to attempt and able to accomplish too little.

Most Americans are astonished when I tell them we devote a smaller percentage of our wealth to assisting overseas development than any other industrialized country. During the past decade, our rate of investment has declined by half; since the days of Truman and Marshall, by more than ninety percent.

This makes it harder for us to leverage the help of others, and often leaves us with no other choice than to shortchange one urgent need in order to cope with another.

Already this year, Congress has approved a budget resolution that will slash more than ten percent from the President's foreign affairs funding request.

The Senate has lagged in approving emergency funds to help Colombian President Pastrana rescue his country, and therefore ours, from drug criminals.

And Senate appropriators have for months been blocking efforts to pay our share of the costs of desperately-needed UN peace operations in Kosovo, East Timor, the Congo and Sierra Leone.

The debate over adequate funding for foreign policy is not new in our country. It has been joined repeatedly from the time the Continental Congress sent Ben Franklin to Paris, to the proposals for Lend Lease and the Marshall Plan that bracketed World War II, to our more recent support for democratic transitions in Central and Eastern Europe.

In each case, history has looked more kindly on those who argued for our engagement than on those who said America just could not afford to lead.

In this era, we do not pursue our foreign policy goals with a stopwatch around our necks or a scorecard in our hands. Economic integration and democratic growth are shaped less by sudden breakthroughs than by gradual progress, as troublesome barriers are worn down and beneficial habits built up.

America is not renowned for its patience. But through four decades of Cold War, under Administrations of both parties, we did not waver. And our forces have been helping to maintain stability in Asia for almost as long as I have been alive.

America will defend its interests in the new century with vigilance and vigor, but this need not come at the expense of any other country. For it is in our interests to help allies remain united, partners to grow strong, friends to find prosperity, and all to become more integrated into political and economic structures that enable the world to move forward together.

Every nation has flaws; most have histories in which shameful episodes occurred. The United States is no exception. But I believe to the depths of my being in the goodness of America's power. This faith is grounded in my study of history, the experience of my own life, and my knowledge of the American people.

You ask America's role? I say it is to lead, alone when we must, with others when we are able, towards a world more secure, democratic and broadly prosperous than it has ever been.

On our side will be all who yearn to walk in freedom whether or not they are free today; all who believe in tolerance and respect for the rights of others; all who wish to pursue happiness in a climate that gives full rein to their energies and skills; and all who want to raise their children in a world where the defenders of peace and the proponents of law are far-sighted and determined, strong and unafraid.

With such allies, we cannot, nor will we, fail.

Thank you all very much.

[End of Document]
Blue Line

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