Return to Contents Page


As we enter the new millennium, we are blessed to be citizens of a country enjoying record prosperity, with no deep divisions at home, no overriding external threats abroad, and history's most powerful military ready to defend our interests around the world. Americans of earlier eras may have hoped one day to live in a nation that could claim just one of these blessings. Probably few expected to experience them all; fewer still all at once.

Our success is cause for pride in what we've done, and gratitude for what we have inherited. But the most important matter is what we now make of this moment. Some may be tempted to believe that open markets and societies will inevitably spread in an era of expanding global trade and communications, or assume that our wealth and power alone will protect us from the troubles of the outside world. But that approach falls for the old myth of an "outside" world, and ignores the defining features of our age: the rise of interdependence. More than ever, prosperity and security in America depend on prosperity and security around the globe. In this age, America can advance its interests and ideals only by leading efforts to meet common challenges. We must deploy America's financial, diplomatic and military resources to stand up for peace and security, promote global prosperity, and advance democracy and human rights around the world.

This demands strengthening our alliances with Europe and Asia, and adapting them to meet emerging challenges. Our alliances in Europe and Asia are stronger because they are organized to advance a permanent set of shared interests, rather than to defeat a single threat. We must continue working with our allies towards a peaceful, democratic, undivided Europe, with NATO as a deterrent to new conflict and a magnet for new democracies. In Asia, we must build on strategic alliance with Japan to define new approaches to post-Cold War threats. And, we must enhance cooperation with South Korea as we encourage North Korea's emergence from isolation and continue to diminish the missile threat.

Just as we strengthen our alliances, we must build principled, constructive, clear-eyed relations with our former adversaries Russia and China. We must be mindful of threats to peace while also maximizing chances that both Russia and China move toward greater internal openness, stability and prosperity, seizing on the desire of both countries to participate in the global economy and global institutions, insisting that both accept the obligations as well as the benefits of integration. With Russia, that means continuing our work to reduce the nuclear danger, to assure strategic stability, and to define its future role in Europe, while supporting the emergence of democratic institutions and the rule of law. With China, that means continuing to press for adherence to nonproliferation standards and peaceful dialogue with Taiwan, while holding Chinese leaders to the conditions of entry into the WTO, which offer the best hope of internal reform.

To protect the peace and promote security, we must work to resolve conflicts before they escalate and harm vital U.S. interests. In the 1990s, the United States has been actively engaged in seeking peace in the Middle East, in the Balkans, between Greece and Turkey, between India and Pakistan, in Northern Ireland, between Peru and Ecuador, and Eritrea and Ethiopia. These efforts, undertaken in partnership with friends and allies, help to avert wider conflicts that might endanger global stability, ease humanitarian catastrophes, while adding moral authority to America's might in the world. American overwhelming power and influence is far less likely to breed resentment if it is used to advance the cause of peace.

We also must identify and address new national security challenges, accentuated by new technology and open borders. We have identified a new security agenda that addresses contemporary threats such as the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, terrorism, and international crime. New efforts must continue to build on initiatives such as the extension of the Nonproliferation Treaty, the containment of nations seeking to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction, increased antiterrorism cooperation, stepped up efforts to combat trafficking in drugs, arms, and human- beings, and our first-ever national strategy for cybersecurity. Our new security agenda recognizes that in a global age, threats to America do not simply come from determined enemies and deadly weapons. Our efforts to curb global warming through the Kyoto protocol are vital to protect America from a future of rising sea levels and economic disruption. Our leadership in the international fight against infectious diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, is critical to defeat a threat that kills massively, crosses frontiers and destabilizes whole regions.

Finally, there can be no security where there is no hope of prosperity. We must continue to promote the spread of global markets in ways that advance economic growth, honor our values, and help alleviate economic disparity. We must build on the creation of the WTO, and of NAFTA, on the passage of PNTR for China, on extending trade preferences to nations in Africa and the Caribbean Basin, and on the nearly 300 trade agreements we have signed that have contributed to the longest U.S. economic expansion in history. At the same time, we must understand that trade, by itself, is not enough to lift the most desperate nations out of poverty or prevent the world from becoming bitterly divided between haves and have nots. That's why we have led in promoting the HIPC initiative to provide deeper debt reduction for countries with unsustainable debt burdens, and placed global development issues at the forefront of the international agenda.

More than 50 years ago, Harry Truman said: "We are in a position now of making the world safe for democracy, if we don't crawl in a shell and act selfish and foolish." He believed that in the wake of our triumph in World War II, America had the ability and a responsibility to shape world events, so that we would not be shaped by them. Truman was right, and the historical forces he saw then have only intensified since the Cold War.

The ability to assure global security, shared prosperity and freedom is beyond the power of any one nation. But the actions of many nations often follow from the actions of one. America today has power and authority never seen before in the history of the world. We must continue use it, in partnership with those who share our values, to seize the opportunities and meet the challenges of a global age.


William J. Clinton

Return to Contents Page