|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks Upon Receipt of the Dwight David Eisenhower Award, 101st Annual Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 21, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
[Text as Prepared for Delivery]
"Waging Peace in the 21st Century"
Thank you very much, Mr. Commander-in-Chief, for that introduction and for the opportunity to be here with you tonight. Officers and members of the VFW and Auxiliary; Chaplain Vogler; Miss America Heather French; honored guests and friends, good evening. I am very pleased to participate in the VFW's 101st Convention, and want to thank you very, very much for the Dwight David Eisenhower award.
In my earlier life, I served on several organizational boards and often presented prizes to other people. So I hope the Chaplain will forgive me when I say that although it is assuredly more blessed to give, there are times when receiving is a lot more fun.
And for me, that is especially true when the award comes with a $15,000 honorarium, which I am pleased to donate to the Armed Forces Retirement Home Foundation; and when the award is named for one of America's greatest leaders and presented on behalf of those who risked their lives in our nation's wars.
As you may know, I spent some time when I was very young in a bomb shelter in London, trying to keep safe from Hitler's bombs. The Nazis had conquered my native Czechoslovakia and were attacking the land in which my family had sought refuge.
Our world was in flames and we were uncertain what the future would hold. It's no wonder that we kept our ears glued to the radio. And through the darkness, we were sustained by the inspiring words of leaders such as Churchill and Eisenhower, and by the heroism of allied troops.
I was just a little girl, but in my heart, even then, I came to admire those brave enough to fight for freedom, and I fell in love with Americans in uniform.
If not for you, and many like you, I would not be here tonight. And liberty's torch, which now burns in the world so brightly, would long ago have flickered and gone out.
So I salute you--and would do so with 21 guns if the State Department had guns--for the magnificent contributions you have made.
I also congratulate you for the valuable services you continue to provide to our young people, veterans and communities; and for the lift you give to our nation's spirit by reminding us daily of what it means to be an American. As Secretary of State and a very proud citizen, I wish you many more decades of success.
This convention is a wonderful occasion for bringing veterans together. But it is more than that. It is also a time to remember those who are not here; the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for us.
And I hope that, in this, the fiftieth year since the outbreak of fighting in Korea, we will vow that in honoring American veterans, there must never again be a "forgotten war."
In this, the 25th year since America's departure from Vietnam, we must vow never again to enter a conflict without the means and the will to win.
And in this, the first year of the 21st Century, we must vow to find further answers about our countrymen still unaccounted for from 20th Century wars. Whether those answers are in Pyongyang or Hanoi, Russia or Laos, we must continue this quest as a matter of duty, a question of honor, and a mission of highest national priority.
This evening, here in Milwaukee, we look out upon a world in which our nation is respected and at peace. Our alliances are vigorous. Our economy is prosperous. And from the distant corners of Asia to our own hemisphere, the democratic values we cherish are more widely observed than ever before. For the first time in history, more than half the world's people live under elected governments.
All of 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 citizens are to be secure, our interests protected, and our values advanced.
We know that in this new era of unprecedented opportunity and promise, we also face new dangers, such as the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological arms; the spread of crime, pollution and disease; and the consummation of a devil's marriage between technology and terror.
For America to lead in such a dynamic environment requires a willingness to think anew about traditional concepts of national security. We must recognize that threats to America may come not only from nations, but also from extremist groups plotting to attack us by unconventional means.
And we must understand that the strategic map has changed, because distance today means so little. If unopposed, serious dangers can incubate and come to affect our citizens and shores from even the most remote corners of the globe.
After World War II, some Americans felt we could rely solely on the atomic bomb for our security. But we quickly learned that strong conventional forces had to be maintained; NATO had to be forged; and nations threatened by our enemies had to be helped. We learned, as well, that assistance in rebuilding a war-torn world, promoting democracy, and spurring development must be part of any comprehensive national security strategy.
Much has changed since that time. But the need for a comprehensive approach to the protection of our interests and values has not.
Our armed forces must remain what they are--the best-led, best-trained, best-equipped and most respected in the world. And as Secretary of Defense Cohen has made clear: America's potential adversaries must understand that whichever party wins the election; whichever party controls Congress; our country will stay united behind our military; and our armed forces will remain the world's most powerful force for freedom.
But as any military leader will tell you, strong armed forces are not enough. We also need first-rate diplomacy. For there are many occasions, in many places, where we rely on diplomacy first to protect our interests, and prevent situations from arising that put our armed forces in harm's way.
President Eisenhower had a good name for combining strong diplomacy with the possible use of force. He called it "waging peace." And that is what America has done under Republican and Democratic administrations alike since this complex new era dawned a decade ago.
Under President Bush, America began nuclear reductions with Russia, pushed Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, revived the Middle East Peace Process, initiated a humanitarian intervention in Somalia, and formally warned Milosevic not to use force to repress the people of Kosovo.
Under President Clinton and Vice-President Gore, America has moved forward with a global strategy to further reduce the nuclear danger, adapt our alliances, move far closer to Arab-Israeli peace, contain the Iraqi military, promote democratic transitions, and respond to terror and other 21st Century threats.
For example, when President Clinton took office, the possibility that control would be lost over nuclear weapons in the former Soviet Union was both urgent and real.
With bipartisan support, the Administration gained the removal of nuclear arms from three former Soviet Republics; helped deactivate thousands of nuclear warheads; and purchased more than 60 tons of highly-enriched uranium that could have fallen into the hands of terrorists.
In 1993, skeptics were saying that our Cold War-era alliances in Europe and Asia would no longer be relevant and might not survive. But these pacts are cornerstones of global security. So the Administration led in expanding and reinvigorating NATO and modernizing our alliance with Japan.
Eight years ago, a dangerous nuclear weapons program was underway in North Korea and the possibility of conflict was on the rise. Today, the prospects for stability are on the rise.
In keeping with a policy review conducted by former Defense Secretary Perry, the Administration is engaged in direct talks with Pyongyang to see that international concerns about missile and nuclear-related activities are met. And we have been firm in backing our diplomacy with the deterrence our armed forces provide.
When President Clinton took office, war was raging in the Balkans, where a UN peace operation was failing, and atrocities were being committed on a daily basis. Many argued that America should look the other way and hope the fighting would simply burn itself out.
But history warns us that in this region there is no natural firebreak to conflict. So when diplomatic options were exhausted, the Clinton-Gore Administration called for NATO airstrikes to end the war in Bosnia. And when Milosevic launched a campaign of terror in Kosovo, our Alliance stopped him.
This was not simply a humanitarian intervention. President Clinton made good on President Bush's pledge to the people of Kosovo, and thereby reminded the world that America meets its obligations.
NATO proved it could act with unity and resolve to defend European stability.
And together, we reinforced the principle that massive violations of human rights by their very nature cannot be ignored; they must be opposed.
Of course, NATO's actions in Kosovo were not without risk. If one had subjected them to a rigid checklist designed to prevent us from ever using force except under ideal conditions, the allied campaign would probably never have been launched.
But President Clinton had to respond to a real world situation, not a textbook case. He had to weigh the risks of acting against the costs of doing nothing. He made the right choice, and America did the right thing in Kosovo.
Mindful of the well-being of our troops, no allied lives were lost in the fighting. The Alliance held; ethnic cleansing was reversed; atrocities halted; refugees returned; and recovery begun.
Moreover, we forged a Pact with regional leaders to transform all of Southeast Europe from an area of chronic instability into a full partner in the new Europe. That is good for America's future. And it is what waging peace is all about.
We also stand up for stability and law when we oppose the forces of international terror.
Well-financed terrorist leaders have vowed to kill Americans worldwide. The reason is that our nation is the world's strongest supporter of democracy and human rights.
As the tragic bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 showed, the terrorists' goal is to scare us into abandoning our allies, friends and responsibilities. Fat chance. America's finest planted the flag at Iwo Jima and plunged into Hell at Omaha Beach. We will not be intimidated.
But to defeat terror, here again, we need the full range of foreign policy tools.
Our diplomats work hard to persuade other governments to deny terrorists any place to run or hide. Our experts have trained personnel from more than 90 countries in counter-terrorism techniques. Our law enforcement teams strive to identify and nab terrorists before they can commit their cowardly crimes.
And our armed forces are prepared, when necessary, to help prevent and punish terrorist attacks.
Those who practice terror should have no illusions. Old Glory will continue to fly wherever we have interests to defend. We will meet our commitments. We will strive to protect our people. And we will fight terror on every front, with every tool, every day.
Of course, there are many other dimensions to American leadership on behalf of security and law.
For example, the President played a personal role in helping the people of Northern Ireland end generations of violence.
We are working with regional leaders and the UN to resolve conflicts in Africa.
We have sacrificed many a night's sleep helping Israelis and Palestinians inch their way towards the vital goal of a comprehensive peace.
And we have taken steps to protect Americans from the emerging threat posed by long-range ballistic missiles. To this end, we are developing national and theater missile defense technologies, with deployment decisions to be based on the best interests of the United States and of the men and women in uniform we have stationed overseas.
And we work with our allies and others every day in order to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the missiles that can deliver them.
Most of the efforts I have discussed this evening remain works in progress. Protecting America's national security is a 24 hour/7 day a week mission that has no completion date.
Like President Clinton, the next President, whether Republican or Democrat, will need the support of our citizens to keep America strong, respected and safe. And that support must be backed by resources, both for our military and for our diplomats.
The VFW is on record in favor of a strong budget for national defense and for our intelligence agencies. I applaud that.
But as I have stressed throughout these remarks, America needs a full arsenal if our national security is to be protected. And diplomacy is often our first line of defense.
For example, by implementing the Framework we negotiated to freeze North Korea's nuclear weapons program, we reduce the risk of conflict on a peninsula where 37,000 of our fighting men and women are deployed.
By paying our share of the costs of building peace in Bosnia and Kosovo, we bring closer the day our troops in the Balkans can come home.
By supporting UN peacekeeping operations, we serve the interests and values we cherish at a cost and risk far less than if we had to intervene ourselves.
By working with others to counter terror, halt drugs, defeat crime and combat AIDS, we help make Americans everywhere more secure.
Many people assume that most of these international operations are paid for out of our defense budget, but they are not. Others believe that such programs consume ten or twenty percent of our federal budget.
The truth is that these initiatives are a bargain. We allocate only about one penny out of every federal dollar for everything from nonproliferation to providing security at our overseas posts. That's one percent.
Unfortunately, Congress is trying to slash even this meager budget across the board. This would hurt America, and make it much harder for the next President to exercise influence on our behalf around the world.
This is not a partisan issue. It is a patriotic issue. I urge Congress, and I urge the VFW, to support our international operations and programs. And I ask your help in seeing that our diplomats receive the resources they need to do their jobs. For they, like our men and women in uniform, serve America and often go in harm's way.
I know, because I have seen their dedication to our country. I have seen them laboring under difficult and dangerous conditions. I have seen them risk their lives to aid others and advance the cause of peace. And I had the sad honor, two summers ago, of accompanying some of these heroes back from an embassy in Africa on the final leg of their final journey home.
America needs a strong defense AND a strong foreign policy. Both are essential to our national security. Both must be backed by resources. And both should enjoy the full support of Congress and the American people.
Back in Washington, when I am tired, all I need to do to revive myself is look out the window. From my office, I am able to see the National Capitol Mall, including the memorials to Lincoln and Jefferson, the Washington Monument, the white stone markers of Arlington, the Korean Memorial, and the silent, etched, eloquent black of the Vietnam Wall.
And I pray that the next Secretary of State will be able to add to that list a memorial--at long last--to the greatest generation, the veterans of World War II.
It is said that time conquers everything. But the principles of liberty and the legacy of sacrifice celebrated by these examples of remembrance have neither withered nor worn. From Valley Forge to the skies over Kosovo, waging war or waging peace, America has led because America has a purpose. And that purpose is freedom.
I began my remarks tonight with the story of my own personal debt to this country. That story has been repeated in millions of variations over two centuries in the lives not only of immigrants, but of those overseas who have been liberated or sheltered by American soldiers, empowered by American assistance or inspired by American ideals.
For our nation, there are no final frontiers. We are doers. Whatever dangers the future may hold, we will meet them. With the memory alive in our hearts of past sacrifice, we will defend our freedom. Together, we will honor our flag, meet our responsibilities and live up to our principles.
To these missions, I pledge my own best efforts this evening, not only for as long as I am Secretary of State, but for as long as I live.
And I know that I can count on the support of each of you, the heroes of our past; the guardians of our present; the builders of our future; the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Thank you all, very much, and may God bless the United States throughout the new century and from sea to shining sea.
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