Yet, this is also a period of great promise. Globalization is bringing citizens from all continents closer together, allowing them to share ideas, goods and information at the tap of a keyboard. Many nations around the world have embraced America’s core values of representative governance, free market economics and respect for fundamental human rights and the rule of law, creating new opportunities to promote peace, prosperity and greater cooperation among nations. Former adversaries now cooperate with us. The dynamism of the global economy is transforming commerce, culture, communications and global relations, creating new jobs and economic opportunity for millions of Americans.
The Imperative of Engagement
Our strategic approach recognizes that we must lead abroad if we are to be secure at home, but we cannot lead abroad unless we are strong at home. We must be prepared and willing to use all appropriate instruments of national power to influence the actions of other states and non-state actors. Today’s complex security environment demands that all our instruments of national power be effectively integrated to achieve our security objectives. We must have the demonstrated will and capabilities to continue to exert global leadership and remain the preferred security partner for the community of states that share our interests. We have seen in the past that the international community is often reluctant to act forcefully without American leadership. In many instances, the United States is the only nation capable of providing the necessary leadership and capabilities for an international response to shared challenges. American leadership and engagement in the world are vital for our security, and our nation and the world are safer and more prosperous as a result.
The alternative to engagement is not withdrawal from the world; it is passive submission to powerful forces of change—all the more ironic at a time when our capacity to shape them is as great as it has ever been. Three-quarters of a century ago, the United States helped to squander Allied victory in World War I by embracing isolationism. After World War II, and in the face of a new totalitarian threat, America accepted the challenge to lead. We remained engaged overseas and worked with our allies to create international structures—from the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, NATO and other defense arrangements, to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank—that enabled us to strengthen our security and prosperity and win the Cold War. By exerting our leadership abroad we have deterred aggression, fostered the resolution of conflicts, strengthened democracies, opened foreign markets and tackled global problems such as protecting the environment. U.S. leadership has been crucial to the success of negotiations that produced a wide range of treaties that have made the world safer and more secure by limiting, reducing, preventing the spread of, or eliminating weapons of mass destruction and other dangerous weapons. Without our leadership and engagement, threats would multiply and our opportunities would narrow.
Underpinning our international leadership is the power of our democratic ideals and values. In designing our strategy, we recognize that the spread of democracy supports American values and enhances both our security and prosperity. Democratic governments are more likely to cooperate with each other against common threats, encourage free trade, and promote sustainable economic development. They are less likely to wage war or abuse the rights of their people. Hence, the trend toward democracy and free markets throughout the world advances American interests. The United States will support this trend by remaining actively engaged in the world. This is the strategy to take us into the next century.
Implementing the Strategy
Our global leadership efforts will continue to be guided by President Clinton’s strategic priorities: to foster regional efforts led by the community of democratic nations to promote peace and prosperity in key regions of the world, to increase cooperation in confronting new security threats that defy borders and unilateral solutions, to strengthen the military, diplomatic and law enforcement tools necessary to meet these challenges and to create more jobs and opportunities for Americans through a more open and competitive economic system that also benefits others around the world. Our strategy is tempered by recognition that there are limits to America’s involvement in the world. We must be selective in the use of our capabilities and the choices we make always must be guided by advancing our objectives of a more secure, prosperous and free America.
We must always be prepared to act alone when that is our most advantageous course. But many of our security objectives are best achieved—or can only be achieved—through our alliances and other formal security structures, or as a leader of an ad hoc coalition formed around a specific objective. Durable relationships with allies and friendly nations are vital to our security. A central thrust of our strategy is to strengthen and adapt the security relationships we have with key nations around the world and create new relationships and structures when necessary. Examples include NATO enlargement, the Partnership for Peace, the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council, the African Crisis Response Initiative, the regional security dialogue in the ASEAN Regional Forum and the hemispheric security initiatives adopted at the Summit of the Americas. At other times we harness our diplomatic, economic, military and information strengths to shape a favorable international environment outside of formal structures. This approach has borne fruit in areas as diverse as the elimination of nuclear weapons from Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus, our comprehensive assistance package for Russia and other Newly Independent States (NIS), the advancement of peace in Northern Ireland, and support for the transformation of South Africa.
Protecting our citizens and critical infrastructures at home is an intrinsic and essential element of our security strategy. The dividing line between domestic and foreign policy is increasingly blurred. Globalization enables other states, terrorists, criminals, drug traffickers and others to challenge the safety of our citizens and the security of our borders in new ways. The security challenges wrought by globalization demand close cooperation across all levels of government—federal, state and local—and across a wide range of agencies, including the Departments of Defense and State, the Intelligence Community, law enforcement, emergency services, medical care providers and others. Protecting our critical infrastructure requires new partnerships between government and industry. Forging these new structures and relationships will be challenging, but must be done if we are to ensure our safety at home and avoid vulnerabilities that those wishing us ill might try to exploit in order to erode our resolve to protect our interests abroad.
Engagement abroad rightly depends on the willingness of the American people and the Congress to bear the costs of defending U.S. interests—in dollars, energy and, when there is no alternative, the risk of losing American lives. We must, therefore, foster the broad public understanding and bipartisan congressional support necessary to sustain our international engagement, always recognizing that some decisions that face popular opposition must ultimately be judged by whether they advance the interests of the American people in the long run.