Jimmy Carter photo

Address at a Luncheon of the Foreign Policy Association in New York City

June 23, 1976

For the past seventeen months, as a candidate for President, I have talked and listened to the American people.

It has been an unforgettable experience and an invaluable education. Insofar as my political campaign has been successful, it is because I have learned from our people, and have accurately reflected their concerns, their frustrations, and their desires.

In the area of foreign policy, our people are troubled, confused and sometimes angry. There has been too much emphasis on transient spectaculars and too little on substance. We are deeply concerned, not only by such obvious tragedies as the war in Vietnam, but by the more subtle erosion in the focus and the morality of our foreign policy.

Under the Nixon-Ford Administration, there has evolved a kind of secretive "Lone Ranger" foreign policy—a one-man policy of international adventure. This is not an appropriate policy for America.

We have sometimes tried to play other nations one against another instead of organizing free nations to share world responsibility in collective action. We have made highly publicized efforts to woo the major communist powers while neglecting our natural friends and allies. A foreign policy based on secrecy inherently has had to be closely guarded and amoral, and we have had to forego openness, consultation and a constant adherence to fundamental principles and high moral standards.

We have often sought dramatic and surprising, immediate results instead of long-term solutions to major problems which required careful planning in consultation with other nations.

We must be strong in our internal resolve in order to be strong leaders abroad. This is not possible when Congress and the American people are kept in the dark. We simply must have an international policy of democratic leadership, and we must stop trying to play a lonely game of power politics. We must evolve and consummate our foreign policy openly and frankly. There must be bipartisan harmony and collaboration between the President and the Congress, and we must reestablish a spirit of common purpose among democratic nations.

What we seek is for our nation to have a foreign policy that reflects the decency and generosity and common sense of our own people.

We had such a policy more than a hundred years ago and, in our own lifetimes, in the years following the Second World War.

The United Nations, The Marshall Plan, The Bretton Woods Agreement, NATO, Point Four, The OECD, The Japanese Peace Treaty—these were among the historic achievements of a foreign policy directed by courageous Presidents, endorsed by bipartisan majorities in Congress, and supported by the American people.

The world since that time has become profoundly different, and the pace of change is accelerating.

There are one hundred new nations and two billion more people.

East-West tensions may be less acute, but the East-West rivalry has become global in scope.

Problems between the developed and developing nations have grown more serious, and in some regions have come to intersect dangerously with the East-West rivalry.

Economic nationalism complicates international relations, and unchecked inflation may again threaten our mutual well-being.

Finally, such global dilemmas as food shortages, overpopulation and poverty call for a common response, in spite of national and philosophical differences.

It is imperative, therefore, that the United States summon the leadership that can enable the democratic societies of the world once again to lead the way in creating a more just and more stable world order.

In recent weeks, I have made speeches on the subject of nuclear proliferation and also on the Middle East. In the months ahead, I will speak out on other subjects of international concern.

Today I would like to speak about our alliances, and ways they can be improved to serve our national interests and the interests of others who seek peace and stability in the world.

We need to consider how—in addition to alliances that were formed in years past for essentially military purposes—we might develop broader arrangements for dealing with such problems as the arms race and world poverty and the allocation of resources.

The time has come for us to seek a partnership between North America, Western Europe and Japan. Our three regions share economic, political and security concerns that make it logical that we should seek ever-increasing unity and understanding.

I have traveled in Japan and Western Europe in recent years and talked to leaders there. These countries already have a significant world impact, and they are prepared to play even larger global roles in shaping a new international order.

There are those who say that democracy is dying, that we live in the twilight of an era, and that the destiny of modem man is to witness the waning of freedom.

In Japan, Western Europe, Canada, some countries in Latin America, Israel, and among many other people, I have found not a decline of democracy but a dynamic commitment to its principles.

I might add that I can testify personally to the vigor of the democratic process in our own country.

In addition to cooperation between North America, Japan and Western Europe, there is an equal need for increased unity and consultation between ourselves and such democratic societies as Israel, Australia, New Zealand, and other nations, such as those in this hemisphere, that share our democratic values, as well as many of our political and economic concerns.

There must be more frequent consultations on many levels. We should have periodic summit conferences and occasional meetings of the leaders of all the industrial democracies, as well as frequent cabinet level meetings. In addition, as we do away with one-man diplomacy, we must once again use our entire foreign policy apparatus to reestablish continuing contacts at all levels. Summits are no substitute for the habit of cooperating closely at the working level.

In consultations, both form and substance are important. There is a fundamental difference between informing governments after the fact and actually including them in the process of joint policy making. Our policy makers have in recent years far too often ignored this basic difference. I need only cite the "Nixon Shocks" and the abrupt actions taken by former Treasury Secretary Connally.

We heed to recognize also that in recent years our Western European allies have been deeply concerned, and justly so, by our unilateral dealings with the Soviet Union. To the maximum extent possible, our dealings with the communist powers should reflect the combined view of the democracies and thereby avoid suspicions by our allies that we may be disregarding their interests.

We seek not a condominium of the powerful but a community of the free.

There are at least three areas in which the democratic nations can benefit from closer and more creative relations.

First, there are our economic and political affairs.

In the realm of economics, our basic purpose must be to keep open the international system in which the exchange of goods, capital, and ideas among nations can continue to expand.

Increased coordination among the industrialized democracies can help avoid the repetition of such episodes as the inflation of 1972—73 and the more recent recessions. Both were made more severe by an excess of expansionist zeal and then of deflationary reaction in North America, Japan and Europe.

Though each country must make its own economic decisions, we need to know more about one another's interests and intentions. We must avoid unilateral acts, and we must try not to work at cross-purposes in the pursuit of the same ends. We need not agree on all matters, but we should agree to discuss all matters.

We should continue our efforts to reduce trade barriers among the industrial countries, as one way to combat inflation. The current Tokyo round of multilateral trade negotiations should be pursued to a successful conclusion.

But we must do more. The International Monetary System should be renovated so that it can serve us well for the next quarter of a century. Last January, at a meeting of the leading financial officials, agreement was reached on a new system, based on greater flexibility of exchange rates. There is no prospect of any early return to fixed exchange rates—divergencies in economic experience among nations are too great for that. But we still have much to learn regarding the effective operation of a system of fluctuating exchange rates. We must take steps to avoid large and erratic fluctuations, without impeding the basic monetary adjustments that will be necessary among nations for some years to come. It will be useful to strengthen the role of the International Monetary Fund as a center for observation and guidance of the world economy, keeping track of the interactions among national economies and making recommendations to governments on how best to keep the world economy functioning smoothly.

Beyond economic and political cooperation, we have much to learn from one another. I have been repeatedly impressed by the achievements of the Japanese and the Europeans in their domestic affairs. The Japanese, for example, have one of the lowest unemployment rates and the lowest crime rate of any industrialized nation, and they also seem to suffer less than other urbanized peoples from the modem problem of rootlessness and alienation.

Similarly, we can learn from the European nations about health care, urban planning and mass transportation.

There are many ways that creative alliances can work for a better world. Let us mention just one more, the area of human rights. Many of us have protested the violation of human rights in Russia, and justly so. But such violations are not limited to any one country or one ideology. There are other countries that violate human rights in one way or another—by torture, by political persecution, and by racial or religious discrimination.

We and our allies, in a creative partnership, can take the lead in establishing and promoting basic global standards of human rights. We respect the independence of all nations, but by our example, by our utterances, and by the various forms of economic and political persuasion available to us, we can quite surely lessen the injustice in this world.

We must certainly try.

Let me make one other point in the political realm. Democratic processes may in some countries bring to power parties or leaders whose ideologies are not shared by most Americans.

We may not welcome these changes; we will certainly not encourage them. But we must respect the results of democratic elections and the right of countries to make their own free choice if we are to remain faithful to our own basic ideals. We must learn to live with diversity, and we can continue to cooperate, so long as such political parties respect the democratic process, uphold existing international commitments, and are not subservient to external political direction. The democratic concert of nations should exclude only those who exclude themselves by the rejection of democracy itself.

Our people have now learned the folly of our trying to inject our power into the internal affairs of other nations. It is time that our government learned that lesson too.

While it is too early to appraise the ultimate result erf the weekend's elections in Italy, and though the outcome is a source of some relief since the Communist Party failed to obtain the plurality, it is clear that Italian political problems have been caused by the underlying social malaise of the country. Coping with this continuing malaise will require not only a major act of will on the part of Italian political leadership, but patient and significant assistance from Italy's Western European neighbors, as well as from the United States. We must give our most alert and sympathetic consideration to such needed assistance.

The second area of increased cooperation among the democracies is that of mutual security. Here, however, we must recognize that the Atlantic and Pacific regions have quite different needs and different political sensitivities.

Since the United States is both an Atlantic and a. Pacific power, our commitments to the security of Western Europe and of Japan are inseparable from our own security. Without these commitments, and our firm dedication to them, the political fabric of Atlantic and Pacific cooperation would be seriously weakened, and world peace endangered.

As we look to the Pacific region, we see a number of changes and opportunities. Because of potential Sino-Soviet conflict, Russian and Chinese forces are not jointly deployed as our potential adversaries, but confront one another along their common border. Moreover, our withdrawal from the mainland of Southeast Asia has made possible improving relationships between us and the People's Republic of China.

With regard to our primary Pacific ally, Japan, we will maintain our existing security arrangements, so long as that continues to be the wish of the Japanese people and government.

I believe it will be possible to withdraw our ground forces from South Korea on a phased basis over a time span to be determined after consultation with both South Korea and Japan. At the same time, it should be made clear to the South Korean Government that its internal oppression is repugnant to our people, and undermines the support for our commitment there.

We face a more immediate problem in the Atlantic sector of our defense.

The Soviet Union has in recent years strengthened its forces in Central Europe. The Warsaw Pact forces facing NATO today are substantially composed of Soviet combat troops, and these troops have been modernized and reinforced. In the event of war, they are postured for an all-out conflict of short duration and great intensity.

NATO's ground combat forces are largely European. The U.S. provides about one-fifth of the combat element, as well as the strategic umbrella, and without this American commitment, Western Europe could not defend itself successfully.

In recent years, new military technology has been developed by both sides, including precision-guided munitions that are changing the nature of land warfare.

Unfortunately, NATO's arsenal suffers from a lack of standardization, which needlessly increases the cost of NATO, and its strategy too often seems wedded to past plans and concepts. We must not allow our alliance to become an anachronism.

There is, in short, a pressing need for us and our allies to undertake a review of NATO's forces and its strategies in light of the changing military environment.

A comprehensive program to develop, procure, and equip NATO with the more accurate air defense and anti-tank weapons made possible by new technology is needed to increase NATO's defensive power. Agreement on stockpiles and on the prospective length of any potential conflict is necessary. We should also review the structure of NATO reserve forces so they can be committed to combat sooner.

In all of this a major European and joint effort will be required. Our people will not support unilateral American contributions in what must be a truly mutual defense effort.

Even as we review our military posture, we must spare no effort to bring about a reduction of the forces that confront one another in Central Europe.

It is to be hoped that the stalemated mutual force reduction talks in Vienna will soon produce results so that the forces of both sides can be reduced in a manner that impairs the security of neither. The requirement of balanced reductions complicates negotiations, but it is an important requirement for the maintenance of security in Europe.

Similarly, in the SALT talks, we must seek significant nuclear disarmament that safeguards the basic interests of both sides.

Let me say something I have often said in recent months. East-West relations will be both cooperative and competitive for a long time to come. We want the competition to be peaceful, and we want the cooperation to increase. But we will never seek accommodation at the expense of our own national interests or the interests of our allies.

Our potential adversaries are intelligent people. They respect strength; they respect constancy; they respect candor. They will understand our commitment to our allies. They will listen even more carefully if we and our allies speak with a common resolve.

We must remember, too, that a genuine spirit of cooperation between the democracies and the Soviet Union should extend beyond a negative cessation of hostilities and reach toward joint efforts in dealing with such world problems as agricultural development and the population crisis.

The great challenge we Americans confront is to demonstrate to the Soviet Union that our good will is as great as our strength until, despite all the obstacles, our two nations can achieve new attitudes and new trust, and until, in time, the terrible burden of the arms race can be lifted from our peoples.

One realistic step would be to recognize that thus far, while we have had certain progress on a bilateral basis, we have continued to confront each other by proxy in various trouble spots. These indirect challenges may be potentially more dangerous than face to face disagreements, and at best they make mockery of the very concept of détente. If we want genuine progress, it must be at every level.

Our democracies must also work together more closely in a joint effort to help the hundreds of millions of people on this planet who are living in poverty and despair.

We have all seen the growth of North-South tensions in world affairs, tensions that are often based on legitimate economic grievances. We have seen in the Middle East the juncture of East-West and North-South conflicts and the resultant threat to world peace.

The democratic nations must respond to the challenge of human needs on three levels.

First, by widening the opportunities for genuine North-South consultations. The developing nations must not only be the objects of policy, but must participate in shaping it. Without wider consultations we will have sharper confrontations. A good start has been made with the Conference in International Economic Cooperation which should be strengthened and widened.

Secondly, by assisting those nations that are in direct need.

There are many ways the democracies can unite to help shape a more stable and just world order. We can work to lower trade barriers and make a major effort to provide increased support to the international agencies that now make capital available to the Third World.

This will require help from Europe, Japan, North America, and the wealthier members of OPEC for the World Bank's soft-loan affiliate, the International Development Association. The wealthier countries should also support such specialized funds as the new International Fund for Agricultural Development, which will put resources from the oil exporting and developed countries to work in increasing food production in poor countries. We might also seek to institutionalize, under the World Bank, a "World Development Budget," in order to rationalize and coordinate these and other similar efforts.

It is also time for the Soviet Union, which donates only about one-tenth of one percent of its GNP to foreign aid—and mostly for political ends—to act more generously toward global economic development.

I might add, on the subject of foreign aid, that while we are a generous nation we are not a foolish nation, and our people will expect recipient nations to undertake needed reforms to promote their own development. Moreover, all nations must recognize that the North-South relationship is not made easier by one-sided self-righteousness, by the exercise of automatic majorities in world bodies, nor by intolerance for the views or the very existence of other nations.

Third, we and our allies must work together to limit the flow of arms into the developing world.

The North-South conflict is in part a security problem. As long as the more powerful nations exploit the less powerful, they will be repaid by terrorism, hatred, and potential violence. Insofar as our policies are selfish, or cynical, or shortsighted, there will inevitably be a day of reckoning.

I am particularly concerned by our nation's role as the world's leading arms salesman. We sold or gave away billions of dollars of arms last year, mostly to developing nations. For example, we are now beginning to export advanced arms to Kenya and Zaire, thereby both fueling the East-West arms race in Africa even while supplanting our own allies—Britain and France— in their relations with these African states. Sometimes we try to justify this unsavory business on the cynical ground that by rationing out the means of violence we can somehow control the world's violence.

The fact is that we cannot have it both ways. Can we be both the world's leading champion of peace and the world's leading supplier of the weapons of war? If I become President, I will work with our allies, some of whom are also selling arms, and also seek to work with the Soviets, to increase the emphasis on peace and to reduce the commerce in weapons of war.

The challenge we and our allies face with regard to the developing nations is a great one, a constant one, and an exciting one. It is exciting because it calls for so much creativity at so many levels by so many nations and individuals.

I have suggested steps which we and our allies might take toward a more stable and more just world order. I do not pretend to have all the answers. I hope you will help me find them.

What I do have is a strong sense that this country is drifting and must have new leadership and new direction. The time has come for a new thrust of creativity in foreign policy equal to that of the years following the Second World War. The old international institutions no longer suffice. The time has come for a new architectural effort, with creative initiative by our own nation, with growing cooperation among the industrial democracies as its cornerstone, and with peace and justice its constant goal.

We are in a time of challenge and opportunity. If the values we cherish are to be preserved—the ideals of liberty and dignity and opportunity for all—we shall have to work in the closest collaboration with like-minded nations, seeking, through the strength that follows from collective action, to build an international system that reflects the principles and standards of our national heritage.

The primary purpose of our foreign policy is to create and maintain a world environment within which our great experiment in freedom can survive and flourish.

Ours would be a chilled and lonely world without the other democracies of Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and this hemisphere with whom we share great common purposes. There is a special relationship among us based not necessarily on a common heritage but on our partnership in great enterprises. Our present limits are not those of natural resources but of ideas and inspirations.

Our first great need is to restore the morale and spirit of the American people.

It is time once again for the world to feel the forward movement and the effervescence of a dynamic and confident United States of America.

Jimmy Carter, Address at a Luncheon of the Foreign Policy Association in New York City Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/347620

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