Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Address at the State Department's Foreign Policy Conference for Educators.

June 19, 1967

Secretary Rusk, ladies and gentlemen:

I welcome the chance to share with you this morning a few reflections on American foreign policy, as I have shared my thoughts in recent weeks with representatives of labor and business, and with other leaders of our society.

During the past weekend at Camp David--where I met and talked with America's good friend, Prime Minister Harold Holt of Australia--I thought of the General Assembly debate of the Middle East that opens today in New York.

But I thought also of the events of the past year in other continents in the world. I thought of the future--both in the Middle East, and in other areas of American interest in the world and in places that concern all of us.

So this morning I want to give you my estimate of the prospects for peace, and the hopes for progress, in these various regions of the world.

I shall speak first of our own hemisphere, then of Europe, the Soviet Union, Africa and Asia, and lastly of the two areas that concern us most at this hour--Vietnam and the Middle East.

Let me begin with the Americas.

Last April I met with my fellow American Presidents in Punta del Este. It was an encouraging experience for me, as I believe it was for the other leaders of Latin America. For they made, there at Punta del Este, the historic decision to move toward the economic integration of Latin America.

In my judgment, their decision is 'as important as any that they have taken since they became independent more than a century and a half ago.

The men I met with know that the needs of their 220 million people require them to modernize their economies and expand their trade. I promised that I would ask our people to cooperate in those efforts, and in giving new force to our great common enterprise, which we take great pride in, the Alliance for Progress.

One meeting of chiefs of state, of course, cannot transform a continent. But where leaders are willing to face their problems candidly, and where they are ready to join in meeting them responsibly, there can be only hope for the future.

The nations of the developed world-and I am speaking now principally of the Atlantic Alliance and Japan--have in this past year, I think, made good progress in meeting their common problems and their common responsibilities.

I have met with a number of statesmen-Prime Minister Lester Pearson in Canada just a few days ago, and the leaders of Europe in Bonn shortly before that. We discussed many of the issues that we face together.

We are consulting to good effect on how to limit the spread of nuclear weapons.

We have completed the Kennedy Round of tariff negotiations, in a healthy spirit of partnership, and we are examining together the vital question of monetary reform.

We have reorganized the integrated NATO defense, with its new headquarters in Belgium.

We have reached agreement on the crucial question of maintaining allied military strength in Germany.

Finally, we have worked together-although not yet with sufficient resources-to help the less developed countries deal with their problems of hunger and overpopulation.

We have not, by any means, settled all the issues that face us, either among ourselves or with other nations. But there is less cause to lament what has not been done than to take heart from what has been done.

You know of my personal interest in improving relations between the Western World and the nations of Eastern Europe. I believe the patient course we are pursuing toward those nations is vital to the security of our Nation.

Through cultural exchanges and civil air agreements--through consular and outer space treaties--through what we hope will soon become a treaty for the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, and also, if they will join us, an agreement on antiballistic missiles, we have tried hard to enlarge, and have made great progress in improving, the arena of common action with the Soviet Union.

Our purpose is to narrow our differences where they can be narrowed, and thus to help secure peace in the world for the future generations. It will be a long, slow task, we realize. There will be setbacks and discouragements. But it is, we think, the only rational policy for them and for us.

In Africa, as in Asia, we have encouraged the nations of the region in their efforts to join in cooperative attacks on the problems that each of them faces: economic stagnation, poverty, hunger, disease, and ignorance. Under Secretary Nicholas Katzenbach just reported to me last week on his recent extended trip throughout Africa. He described to me the many problems and the many opportunities that exist in that continent.

Africa is moving rapidly from the colonial past toward freedom and dignity. She is in the long and difficult travail of building nations. Her proud people are determined to make a new Africa, according to their own lights.

They are now creating institutions for .political and economic cooperation. They have set great tasks for themselves--whose accomplishments will require years of struggle and sacrifice.

We very much want that struggle to succeed, and we want to be responsive to the efforts that they are making on their own behalf.

I can give personal testimony to the new spirit that is abroad in Africa, from Under Secretary Katzenbach's report, and then in Asia, from my own travels and experience there. In Asia my experience demonstrated to me a new spirit of confidence in that area of the world. Everywhere I traveled last autumn, from the conference in Manila to other countries of the region, I found the conviction that Asians can work with Asians to create better conditions of life in every country. Fear has now given way to hope in millions of hearts.

Asia's immense human problems remain, of course. Not all countries have moved ahead as rapidly as Thailand, Korea, and the Republic of China. But most of them are now on a promising track, and Japan is taking a welcome role in helping her fellow Asians toward much more rapid development.

A free Indonesia--the world's fifth largest nation, a land of more than 100 million people--is now struggling to rebuild, to reconstruct and reform its national life. This will require the understanding and the support of the entire international community.

We maintain our dialogue with the authorities in Peking, in preparation for the day when they will be ready to live at peace with the rest of the world.

I regret that this morning I cannot report any major progress toward peace in Vietnam.

I can promise you that we have tried every possible way to bring about either discussions between the opposing sides, or a practical deescalation of the violence itself.

Thus far there has been no serious response from the other side.

We are ready--and we have long been ready--to engage in a mutual deescalation of the fighting. But we cannot stop only half the war, nor can we abandon our commitment to the people of South Vietnam as long as the enemy attacks and fights on. And so long as North Vietnam attempts to seize South Vietnam by force, we must, and we will, block its efforts--so that the people of South Vietnam can determine their own future in peace.

We would very much like to see the day come--and come soon--when we can cooperate with all the nations of the region, including North Vietnam, in healing the wounds of a war that has continued, we think, for far too long. When the aggression ends, then that day will follow.

Now, finally, let me turn to the Middle East--and to the tumultuous events of the past months.

Those events have proved the wisdom of five great principles of peace in the region.

The first and the greatest principle is that every nation in the area has a fundamental right to live, and to have this right respected by its neighbors.

For the people of the Middle East, the path to hope does not lie in threats to end the life of any nation. Such threats have become a burden to the peace, not only of that region but a burden to the peace of the entire world.

In the same way, no nation would be true to the United Nations Charter, or to its own true interests, if it should permit military success to blind it to the fact that its neighbors have rights and its neighbors have interests of their own. Each nation, therefore, must accept the right of others to live.

Second, this last month, I think, shows us another basic requirement for settlement. It is a human requirement: justice for the refugees.

A new conflict has brought new homelessness. The nations of the Middle East must at last address themselves to the plight of those who have been displaced by wars. In the past, both sides have resisted the best efforts of outside mediators to restore the victims of conflict to their homes, or to find them other proper places to live and work. There will be no peace for any party in the Middle East unless this problem is attacked with new energy by all, and certainly, primarily by those who are immediately concerned.

A third lesson from this last month is that maritime rights must be respected. Our Nation has long been committed to free maritime passage through international waterways, and we, along with other nations, were taking the necessary steps to implement this principle when hostilities exploded. If a single act of folly was more responsible for this explosion than any other, I think it was the arbitrary and dangerous announced decision that the Straits of Titan would be closed. The right of innocent maritime passage must be preserved for all nations.

Fourth, this last conflict has demonstrated the danger of the Middle Eastern arms race of the last 12 years. Here the responsibility must rest not only on those in the area--but upon the larger states outside the area. We believe that scarce resources could be used much better for technical and economic development. We have always opposed this arms race, and our own military shipments to the area have consequently been severely limited.

Now the waste and futility of the arms race must be apparent to all the peoples of the world. And now there is another moment of choice. The United States of America, for its part, will use every resource of diplomacy, and every counsel of reason and prudence, to try to find a better course.

As a beginning, I should like to propose that the United Nations immediately call upon all of its members to report all shipments of all military arms into this area, and to keep those shipments on file for all the peoples of the world to observe.

Fifth, the crisis underlines the importance of respect for political independence and territorial integrity of all the states of the area. We reaffirmed that principle at the height of this crisis. We reaffirm it again today on behalf of all.

This principle can be effective in the Middle East only on the basis of peace between the parties. The nations of the region have had only fragile and violated truce lines for 20 years. What they now need are recognized boundaries and other arrangements that will give them security against terror, destruction, and war. Further, there just must be adequate recognition of the special interest of three great religions in the holy places of Jerusalem.

These five principles are not new, but we do think they are fundamental. Taken together, they point the way from uncertain armistice to durable peace. We believe there must be progress toward all of them if there is to be progress toward any.

There are some who have urged, as a single, simple solution, an immediate return to the situation as it was on June 4. As our distinguished and able Ambassador, Mr. Arthur Goldberg, has already said, this is not a prescription for peace, but for renewed hostilities.

Certainly troops must be withdrawn, but there must also be recognized rights of national life, progress in solving the refugee problem, freedom of innocent maritime passage, limitation of the arms race, and respect for political independence and territorial integrity.

But who will make this peace where all others have failed for 20 years or more?

Clearly the parties to the conflict must be the parties to the peace. Sooner or later it is they who must make a settlement in the area. It is hard to see how it is possible for nations to live together in peace if they cannot learn to reason together.

But we must still ask, who can help them? Some say it should be the United Nations; some call for the use of other parties. We have been first in our support of effective peacekeeping in the United Nations, and we also recognize the great values to come from mediation.

We are ready this morning to see any method tried, and we believe that none should be excluded altogether. Perhaps all of them will be useful and all will be needed.

So, I issue an appeal to all to adopt no rigid view on these matters. I offer assurance to all that this Government of ours, the Government of the United States, will do its part for peace in every forum, at every level, at every hour.

Yet there is no escape from this fact: The main responsibility for the peace of the region depends upon its own peoples and its own leaders of that region. What will be truly decisive in the Middle East will be what is said and what is done by those who live in the Middle East.

They can seek another arms race, if they have not profited from the experience of this one, if they want to. But they will seek it at a terrible cost to their own people-and to their very long-neglected human needs. They can live on a diet of hate-though only at the cost of hatred in return. Or they can move toward peace with one another.

The world this morning is watching, watching for the peace of the world, because that is really what is at stake. It will look for patience and justice, it will look for humility and moral courage. It will look for signs of movement from prejudice and the emotional chaos of conflict to the gradual, slow shaping steps that lead to learning to live together and learning to help mold and shape peace in the area and in the world.

The Middle East is rich in history, rich in its people and its resources. It has no need to live in permanent civil war. It has the power to build its own life, as one of the prosperous regions of the world in which we live.

If the nations of the Middle East will turn toward the works of peace, they can count with confidence upon the friendship, and the help, of all the people of the United States of America.

In a climate of peace, we here will do our full share to help with a solution for the refugees. We here will do our full share in support of regional cooperation. We here will do our share, and do more, to see that the peaceful promise of nuclear energy is applied to the critical problems of desalting water and helping to make the deserts bloom.

Our country is committed--and we here reiterate that commitment today--to a peace that is based on five principles:

--first, the recognized right of national life;

--second, justice for the refugees;

--third, innocent maritime passage;

--fourth, limits on the wasteful and destructive arms race; and

--fifth, political independence and territorial integrity for all.

This is a time not for malice, but for magnanimity; not for propaganda, but for patience; not for vituperation, but for vision.

On the basis of peace, we offer our help to the people of the Middle East. That land, known to every one of us since childhood as the birthplace of great religions and learning, can flourish once again in our time. We here in the United States shall do all in our power to help make it so.

Thank you and good morning.

Note: The President spoke at 9:31 a.m. in the West Auditorium at the Department of State building in Washington. In his opening words he referred to Dean Rusk, Secretary of State.

On June 28, 1967, the White House issued a statement on the status of Jerusalem, the text of which follows:

The President said on June 19 that in our view "there must be adequate recognition of the special interest of three great religions in the holy places of Jerusalem." On this principle he assumes that before any unilateral action is taken on the status of Jerusalem there will be appropriate consultation with religious leaders and others who are deeply concerned. Jerusalem is holy to Christians, to Jews, and to Moslems. It is one of the great continuing tragedies of history that a city which is so much the center of man's highest values has also been, over and over, a center of conflict. Repeatedly the passionate beliefs of one element have led to exclusion or unfairness for others. It has been so, unfortunately, in the last 20 years. Men of all religions will agree that we must now do better. The world must find an answer that is fair and recognized to be fair. That could not be achieved by hasty unilateral action, and the President is confident that the wisdom and good judgment of those now in control of Jerusalem will prevent any such action.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Address at the State Department's Foreign Policy Conference for Educators. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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