Remarks at a Freedom House breakfast

Thank you very much. I'm honored to be introduced by someone who writes so powerfully about the past and is working so effectively to shape the future. The Secretary of State and I have tried to encourage both those activities by keeping Win Lord busy at the State Department.

I'm honored to be here with all of you and to be here at Freedom House. For more than 50 years, Freedom House has been a voice for tolerance for human dignity. People all over the world are better off because of your work. And I'm very grateful that Freedom House has rallied this diverse and dynamic group. It's not every day that the Carnegie Endowment, the Progressive Policy Institute, the Heritage Foundation, and the American Foreign Policy Council share the same masthead. I feel that I should try out a whole list of issues and try to get check-off here - [laughter] - before the meeting goes any further.

It does prove that there is a strong, dynamic center in our country that supports America's continued leadership in the world. We have all worked for that. And I want to publicly thank the Secretary of State and Tony Lake, the others in our foreign policy team, my Counselor, Mr. McLarty, up here who's been especially active on our behalf in Latin America. And I want to thank all of you who have supported that continued endeavor.

You know, in 1991 I sought the Presidency because I believed it was essential to restore the American dream for all Americans and to reassert America's leadership in the post-cold-war world. As we move from the industrial to the information age, from the cold war world to the global village, we have an extraordinary opportunity to advance our values at home and around the world. But we face some stiff challenges in doing so as well.

We know that at home we have the responsibility to create opportunity for all of our citizens to make the most of their own lives, to strengthen their families and their communities. We know that abroad we have the responsibility to advance freedom and democracy, to advance prosperity and the preservation of our planet. We know that the forces of integration and economic progress also contain the seeds of disruption and of greater inequality. We know that families, communities, and nations are vulnerable to the organized forces of disintegration and the winner-take-all mentality in politics and economics. We know all this, and therefore, we have an even heavier responsibility to advance our values and our interests.

Freedom House, in my view, deserves extraordinary praise for your sense of timing of this meeting. I wonder if Adrian Karatnycky and his colleague knew that in the days prior to this discussion the United States would have the opportunity to demonstrate so vividly once again the proposition this conference seeks to advance, that American leadership and bipartisan support for that leadership is absolutely essential as a source of our strength at home and our success abroad. We must stand for democracy and freedom. We must stand for opportunity and responsibility in a world where the dividing line between domestic and foreign policy is increasingly blurred.

Our personal, family, and national security is affected by our policy on terrorism at home and abroad. Our personal, family, and national prosperity is affected by our policy on market economics at home and abroad. Our personal, family, and national future is affected by our policies on the environment at home and abroad. The common good at home is simply not separate from our efforts to advance the common good around the world. They must be one in the same if we are to be truly secure in the world of the 21st century.

We see the benefits of American leadership and the progress now being made in Bosnia. In recent weeks, our military muscle through NATO, our determined diplomacy throughout the region, have brought the parties closer to a settlement than at any time since this terrible war began 4 years ago. Yesterday, we helped to produce an agreement on a Bosnia-wide cease-fire. Now, the parties will come to the United States to pursue their peace talks mediated by our negotiating team and our European and Russian counterparts.

We have a long way to go, and there's no guarantee of success. But we will use every ounce of our influence to help the parties make a peace that preserves Bosnia as a single democratic state, and protects the rights of all citizens, regardless of their ethnic group.

If and when peace comes, the international community's responsibility will not end. After all the bloodshed, the hatred, the loss of the last years, peace will surely be fragile. The international community must help to secure it. The only organization that can meet that responsibility strongly and effectively is NATO. And as NATO's leader, the United States must do its part and send in troops to join those of our allies under NATO command with clear rules of engagement. If we fail, the consequences for Bosnia and for the future of NATO would be severe. We must not fail.

The United States will not be sending our forces into combat in Bosnia. We will not send them into a peace that cannot be maintained, but we must use our power to secure that peace. I have pledged to consult with Congress before authorizing our participation in such an action. These consultations have already begun.

I believe Congress understands the importance of this moment and of American leadership. I'm glad to see Chairman Livingston here at the head table today. As I have said consistently for 2 years, we want and welcome congressional support. But in Bosnia as elsewhere, if the United States does not lead, the job will not be done.

We also saw the benefits of America's leadership last week at the White House where leaders from all over the Middle East gathered to support the agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. For nearly a half-century now, Democratic and Republican administrations have worked to facilitate the cause of peace in the Middle East. The credit here belongs to the peacemakers. But we should all be proud that at critical moments along the way, our efforts helped to make the difference between failure and success.

It was almost exactly a year ago that the United States led the international effort to remove Haiti's military regime and give the people of Haiti a real chance at democracy. We've succeeded because we've backed diplomacy with sanctions and, ultimately, with force. We've succeeded because we understood that standing up for democracy in our own hemisphere was right for the Haitian people and right for America.

American efforts in Bosnia, the Middle East, and Haiti and elsewhere have required investments of time and energy and resources. They've required persistent diplomacy and the measured use of the world's strongest military. They have required both determination and flexibility in our efforts to work as leaders and to work with other nations. And sometimes, they've called on us to make decisions that were, of necessity, unpopular in the short run, knowing that the payoff would not come in days or weeks but in months or years. Sometimes, they have been difficult for many Americans to understand because they have to be made, as many decisions did right after World War II, without the benefit of some over-arching framework, the kind of framework the bipolar cold war world provided for so many years.

To use the popular analogy of the present day, there seems to be no mainframe explanation for the PC world in which we're living. We have to drop the abstractions and dogma and pursue, based on trial and error and persistent experimentation, a policy that advances our values of freedom and democracy, peace, and security.

We must continue to bear the responsibility of the world's leadership. That is what you came here to do, and that's what I want to discuss today. It is more than a happy coincidence that the birth of bipartisan support for America's leadership in the world coincides with the founding of this organization by Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie in 1941 when, for the first time, Americans, both Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives and moderates, understood our special obligation to lead in the world.

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