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America Won't Shrink From Global Role, Cohen Says

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

LONDON, Nov. 19, 1999 – The United States will remain engaged in world affairs, and talk to the contrary is disturbing, dangerous -- and wrong, U.S. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said here Nov. 18.

Cohen arrived in London at the end of a 10-day visit to Brazil, Argentina and Chile to address the Global Crossing Annual Dinner at Claridge's Hotel. His speech to about 240 British government and industry leaders dismissed allegations published in international newspapers that America is surrendering its global leadership and is incapable of honoring its international commitments.

The most dangerous of this recent skepticism implies America's will is flagging, Cohen said. To the contrary, the American people strongly support an active role in international affairs, he said. The United States intends to remain a political and military world leader and is committed to maintaining partnerships with allies and friends, he said.

"From Asia to Africa, from the Middle East to Europe, press, pundits and politicians are asking: 'Will America stay the course?'" he said, recalling the question Winston Churchill posed during World War II. "Some cite recent congressional votes as a withdrawal from international obligations. Others point to 'would-be American leaders' who lure the disenchanted with the 'siren song of isolationism.'"

Three misperceptions are at the heart of these doubts about America's staying power, according to Cohen. First is that the United States has "Superpower Fatigue" caused by a half century of global leadership. Second is that the United States will respond as "reactive soldiers" rather than as a "proactive statesman." Third is that the United States will act alone rather than in partnership with allies and friends.

Skeptics who claim the United States will use overwhelming military force rather than work to prevent conflicts and promote stability are wrong, Cohen said. U.S. engagement in Asia, the Middle East and in Europe, particularly through NATO and the Partnership for Peace, "has brought together foes that once peered at one another through cross hairs," he said.

Cohen labeled the misperceptions disturbing and dangerous because they're false and because they embolden "those eager to exploit any American ambivalence, real or imagined."

America's security strategy is based on shaping a safer world by promoting peace, responding to crises threatening common interests and preparing for an uncertain future, he stressed. Forward-deployed U.S. forces -- 100,000 each in Europe and Asia, and another 23,000 in the Persian Gulf -- are evidence of America's intent to promote security and stability.

"All of these efforts not only deter foes, they deepen friendships that increase trust, confidence and stability, which in turn decrease tension, conflict and instability," Cohen said.

The United States, he said, will persevere in its arms control efforts such as the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, which is helping former Soviet adversaries dismantle their Cold War arsenals of nuclear and chemical weapons. The United States also will continue its campaign to combat terrorism, he added.

The secretary reaffirmed America's resolve to play a leading role in combating the threat of chemical and biological warfare and other weapons of mass destruction.

"We shape the world by stemming the seepage of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons into the global arms bazaar," Cohen stressed. "Notwithstanding the recent Senate vote on the (Comprehensive) Test Ban Treaty, we have no intention of resuming tests of nuclear weapons."

"We will act alone when we must, but we will act with others whenever possible," Cohen said. The idea that the United States seeks to "go it alone" ignores a fundamental tenet of America's security strategy, he noted.

"Close cooperation with our allies and friends is not an afterthought. It is an article of faith, a cornerstone of our global strategy," he said. He pointed to the no-fly patrols flown over Iraq by U.S., British and Gulf allies, to the NATO peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, and to similar efforts in East Timor with Japan, Korea and Australia.

Cohen called on Great Britain and other European allies to devote resources to building an even stronger NATO, capable of meeting the new challenges of the 21st century.

Relations with Russia and China are also on the forefront of America's security agenda. "Our security a decade hence will rest in great measure on how we manage our relations with these two nations today," the secretary said.

America's fate and fortune are linked to its world allies and friends, Cohen continued. "After a century of struggle and sacrifice, Americans know that geography cannot be our security, that there can be no 'splendid isolation of years gone by.'

"America will stay the course because that is our history," he concluded. "America will stay the course because that is our destiny."

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Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen at the Global Crossing Annual Dinner, London,England, Nov. 18, 1999

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