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Military Paves Way for New Era, President Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 1998 – A strong military and diplomacy are flip sides of the same coin, President Clinton said Jan. 29 in a speech amplifying his State of the Union national security remarks.

Preceding his speech at the National Defense University here, Clinton met with Defense Secretary William S. Cohen, Deputy Secretary John Hamre, members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the unified commanders in chief.

Clinton said this is a time of tremendous promise for the world. "Superpower conflict has ended," he said. "Democracy is on the march. Revolutions in technology and communications have literally brought the world to our doorstep. Americans are more secure and prosperous than ever. And we have a rare opportunity and a profound responsibility to build a new era of peace and cooperation in the world."

But even as this opportunity presents itself, dangers remain and new ones emerge, he said. The spread of weapons of mass destruction, growth in ethnic and religious conflict, and threats of regional conflicts are some of the challenges facing the world today. He cited terrorists, rogue states and international drug cartels as the new enemies of the United States.

U.S. leadership in this new era is more important than ever, he told the students of the National War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. "That doesn't mean we can go it alone or respond to every crisis," Clinton said. "We have to be clear where our national interests are at stake."

The United States is helping build a new network of like-minded nations to counter the new threats. "We are helping to write the international rules of the road for the 21st century, protecting those who've joined the family of nations and isolating those who do not," he said.

U.S. military power complements U.S. diplomatic efforts, Clinton said. "Our diplomacy is effective precisely because it is backed by the finest military in the world," he said.

The U.S. military is seeing missions change, and it is adapting, the president said. Clinton gave a quick rundown of the military situation around the world.

In Latin America, U.S. leadership is promoting regional confidence and spurring military cooperation. U.S. and Latin American service members serve together as peacekeepers and to stem the flow of drugs. The U.S. military is working with its Latin American counterparts to promote healthy civil-military relations and respect for human rights.

In Europe, Clinton pointed to the success of NATO intervention in Bosnia. "[Our armed forces] have helped new democracies to restructure their own defenses," he said. "They have participated in dozens of joint exercises with new partners. They stopped a brutal war in Bosnia, and they're helping to heal its scars." Clinton reaffirmed he will ask the Senate for their advice and consent on including Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic to NATO.

In the Asia-Pacific region, U.S. troops stand with allies to combat instability. He said the United States is deepening the relationship with China, has persuaded North Korea to drop its nuclear weapons program and is working to secure peace on the Korean peninsula. "Our troops make it clear that America is committed to remaining a Pacific power," he said.

The United States also has vital interests in the Persian Gulf region. "[The region] is home to two-thirds of the world's oil resources and some of its most hostile regimes," Clinton said. "Since Desert Storm, America has worked steadily and persistently to contain the threat [Iraqi president] Saddam Hussein poses. ... We know Saddam has used weapons of mass destruction before. We again say he should comply with the UNSCOM [inspection] regime and the will of the United Nations. But regardless, we are determined to deny him the capacity to use weapons of mass destruction again."

Clinton again called for the Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty forbidding testing of nuclear weapons. He also called on the Russian parliament to approve the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, so the United States and Russia can negotiate a START III drawdown.

The president said the American people must understand the sacrifices men and women make to serve in the U.S. military. "It is not easy to wear the uniform and it is never a completely safe proposition," Clinton said. "As president, the hardest decision I ever have to make is to put our troops in harm's way. Force can never be the first answer; but sometimes, still, it is the only answer. We must, and we will, always do everything we can to protect our forces. ... But we must be strong and tough and mature as a nation to recognize that even the best-prepared, best-equipped force will suffer losses in action."

He said the nation's obligation to service members is to do all possible to help them succeed in their missions, to include providing the resources they need to get the job done.

"This week I will submit to Congress my defense budget request for the coming fiscal year -- a budget that is fully consistent with the Quadrennial Defense Review," he said. Readiness remains his first priority; Clinton said he will ask for additional funds for the Bosnia mission so overall readiness will not be affected. He reiterated the call for Congress to close more unnnecessary bases.

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