Cohen's Chile Speech Ties Security to Prosperity
By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service
SANTIAGO, Chile, May 28, 1998 A "virtuous circle of security and prosperity" will build a brighter Asia-Pacific region, Defense Secretary William Cohen told members of the Pacific Basin Economic Council during its annual meeting here May 25.
The international council includes nations that border the Pacific Ocean -- from North and South America, Australia and New Zealand to Asia. The group's objective is to strengthen economic stability and growth throughout the region and foster friendly relations among member countries.
"Within the span of our lifetimes, millions the world over -- especially the people of the Pacific Basin and Latin America -- have experienced firsthand the integral link between the freedom of democracy and the freedom of markets," Cohen said.
"Peace and stability are the cornerstones of prosperity. Without them it is hard to imagine the vast investments in productive capacity and supporting infrastructure, much of it across international borders, that have fueled the Pacific Basin's economic growth."
But regional stability requires that borders remain secure, military threats don't unexpectedly emerge and conflicts are resolved peacefully, Cohen said. "The combined efforts of our diplomats and military forces to create security in a region thus leads to greater stability," he said. "And that prosperity strengthens democracy, which reinforces stability and security."
Freedom in the Pacific Basin means less confrontation and more military, political, diplomatic and economic cooperation, Cohen said. "The Asia-Pacific region remains a concentration of powerful states with huge economies and sizable militaries, some nuclear-armed," the secretary said. "It is an area with numerous navigational choke points, sea-lanes that are the economic arteries carrying the lifeblood of many economies."
Recent economic problems and political unrest in the region, particularly in Indonesia, reveal the region's global importance, he said. "This audience needs no reminder that what happens in Indonesia touches the lives of those who live in Seattle or Santiago."
Cohen said one of his first efforts as defense secretary was to develop a new defense strategy for the Asia-Pacific region.
"At the core of our new strategy was a strategic decision that has remained and will remain constant: America's commitment to protecting and promoting our interests in the Asia-Pacific by remaining forward-deployed in the Western Pacific," he said. "This was not simple inertia. We explicitly considered options to reduce our forward-deployed military capability, and we explicitly rejected such options."
The second element of the strategy requires the American military to be able to meet a full spectrum of crises. Examples the secretary gave included humanitarian relief to typhoon victims in Vietnam and earthquake victims in China; potential major conflicts in Korea and Iraq; and peacekeeping missions in Bosnia, where U.S. soldiers work with personnel from Pacific Basin countries such as Malaysia, Chile and Argentina.
"Being able to respond to an uncertain world means having forces that can quickly descend on and dominate any situation," Cohen said. "So the third part of our strategy involves preparing for the future. We are working with our Pacific and hemispheric friends and allies to exploit the revolution in military affairs. We are using the most advanced technologies to build the most advanced forces in history."
At the same time the United States maintains and strengthens its forward presence in the region, it is building stronger bilateral relationships with and between the various countries, Cohen said. "We must continue to ensure that these relationships stand not against anyone but for shared objectives such as trust and transparency, and confidence and cooperation that are the basis of the region's peace and prosperity," he said. "Indeed, transparency between our military institutions, no less than between our financial institutions, makes for more reliable security."
In Latin America, for example, "we have turned a new page in the history of inter-American relations," Cohen said. "With many countries, our soldiers are training and exercising together and learning from each other through military exchanges."
In addition to peace and stability a third Pacific cornerstone is the overlapping network of multilateral channels such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional forum.
"The United States views these multilateral mechanisms as increasingly important," he said. "Given the high stakes involved, security structures, no less than financial structures, must be built on a solid foundation, not shifting sands."
America's active engagement, strong bilateral relations and the growing network of multinational channels will "enable us to endure the gale force winds of change in the region," the secretary said. "We are fortunate that as the Pacific Rim weathers such changes, it is bolstered by responsible, forward-looking nations such as our host, Chile.
"Chile has strengthened democratic control of its armed forces, recognizing that the military indeed has a role in preserving peace and stability but a role under the rule of law. And Chile has been a trailblazer -- setting the standard for openness and trust as the first nation in all of Latin America to publish a defense white paper that outlines its military strategy, budget and policies.
"Today, Chile and all the democratic nations of Latin America are demonstrating their commitment to a prosperous and peaceful future," the secretary said. "Over a broad spectrum of fields, from economics to security, the nations of Latin America are building a hemisphere of hope and of free people with free reign to change, to choose a better destiny."