Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
The Western Hemisphere Symposium
Tuesday, April 15, 1997
When he won the Nobel Prize for poetry in 1971, Pablo Neruda
wrote "All paths lead to the same goal: To convey to others what
we are." And this symposium really is all about what we are as a
And the best way I can think to convey this view in
words is by describing an unusual map that hangs in the corridor
of the Pentagon not very far from my office.
I must tell you I was astonished the first moment I walked
by and saw it for the first time.
It's a map of the Western
Hemisphere, but to me, it seemed to be upside down.
America is on top.
North America is on the bottom.
lies to the right and the Atlantic to the left.
On closer inspection, I found that the map was in fact, hung
The names of the countries, the cities, the
mountains, the rivers, they were all where they belonged.
Indeed, the map is a wholly accurate portrayal in a much deeper
sense, for it conveys a whole new way to look at our hemisphere
It's a map that shows a new reality.
One which embodies a
different perspective far different from that of the past.
Instead of disunity, distrust and discord, our nations see a
growing integration and harmony of interests.
We see security
partners, not security problems.
We see governments chosen by
the ballot, not by the bullet.
We see nations sending envoys,
not convoys, seeking broader pursuits, and not border disputes.
We see an explosion of commerce and trade, and not of conflict
And in the palm of this new serenity, we see the
chains of poverty giving way to the chance of prosperity.
In short, we see a hemisphere of hope and of free people
with free reign to choose a better destiny.
It's a region in
which the north-south divides are erased and the United States is
committed to developing strong diplomatic, economic and security
partnerships with and among our neighbors.
We have a lot to be proud of as a region.
And I believe the
Western Hemisphere has a lot to teach the world as the world
reaches for the kind of progress we have made.
And one of the
simplest but most profound lessons that we can teach is that
openness on defense matters with neighboring nations builds
confidence and security, which in turn, serves peace.
This principle of openness was accepted by the nations
represented at the first Defense Ministerial of the Americas at
It was advanced in Santiago at the OAS Conference
on Confidence and Security-Building measures.
It was reiterated
at the second Defense Ministerial at Bariloche.
So in the spirit
of Williamsburg, Santiago and Bariloche, let me convey to you how
the United States sees the world today from a security point of
We see a world in which our children are growing up free of
Cold War, communist expansionism, and nuclear catastrophe.
they now face a world of new problems that are harder define and
harder to handle, such as that of ethnic rivalries that are
fueling the civil wars in southeast Europe.
Of what is to become
the nuclear scientist in the former Soviet Union.
Of what we are
going to do about the mass killings in central Africa.
religious extremism leading to extreme violence in the Middle
East and elsewhere.
And yes, of the scourge of illegal
narcotics, both the supply and the demand, which feed habits of
crime and corruption, endanger our streets and poison our
And of course, compounding all of these problems are the
more traditional concerns of regional aggression by rogue regimes
that threaten peace in places such as the murky waters of the
Persian Gulf and the cold, barren hills of the DMZ in Korea,
where I was just a few days ago.
And moreover, our adversaries
may be tempted to use unconventional or asymmetrical means in
order to achieve their goals, such as that of terrorism, weapons
of mass destruction, information warfare, or even environmental
But while on one side of this world coin is the danger of
disorder, it's clear that on the other side is that of enormous
It's a better world where some of the most vibrant
financial districts are found not only in places such as Tokyo
and New York, but also in Warsaw, Budapest, Santiago, Sao Paulo,
and Mexico City.
Where the Western Hemisphere is the home to
some of the fastest growing market economies and determined new
democracies that, like a lighthouse on a rocky shore, have
weathered nature's most turbulent storms.
Where more and more,
nations with mutual interests are pursuing them mutually through
new trade agreements, security partnerships and military
operations in the cause of peace and safety and humanity.
What we do see as the role of the United States in this
world in the future? A former vice presidential candidate in the
United States asked on a nationally televised debate two
He said "Who am I? And why am I here?" And that
produced some measure of ridicule and laughter.
But they're very
important questions for us as individuals.
important questions for us as nations.
What kind of a United
States, what kind of nation, do we want to be among nations? Do
we wish to be the world's solitary superpower or just one power
among many? What are the cost and the risks and the benefits of
Well, the Department of Defense is asking these existential
questions right now in a process called the Quadrennial Defense
Review, the QDR.
The QDR is asking what kind of military forces
do we need to guard against the very real dangers of today and
the uncertain ones of tomorrow.
And how can we build the full
range of defense we want under the current fiscal constraints,
including trying to balance the federal budget by the year 2002.
How we're doing the QDR is more important than what we're
And how we're doing it may be useful to our Latin
American partners as you reassess and reconfigure your national
defenses and security realities.
The QDR is being led by highly experienced Defense
Department officials, civilian professionals, working side by
side with our uniformed military leadership and staff.
yesterday afternoon, General Clark traveled to Washington to meet
with other commanders in chief from all over the globe to sit
with the services chiefs, myself, the Deputy Secretary of Defense
and others to examine our policies -- policies about where we're
going, what kind of a nation are we to be, what kind of a force
structure are we going to have, how many people we're going to
have in our military, what is the strategy.
All of these questions are now being examined with these
civilian professionals sitting side by side with our military
And this teamwork is critical because no
strategy, no policy, no proposals are worth the paper they're
printed on if they're not politically realistic -- and that's
where civilian leadership comes into play.
Or if they're not
militarily realistic -- and that requires the judgment of our
professional military, of people with their vast knowledge and
Now come May 15th, I'm going to present our findings and
recommendations to the Congress and begin to work with the
members to develop, hopefully, a non-partisan approach to our
defense needs; to bring the two political parties together to
transcend any sense of partisanship about our national security
I'm also going to present a report to the national
news media, which is going to analyze it and inform the American
And in the spirit of openness with our security
partners, I'm going to present a copy of this QDR report to all
of my democratic counterparts in the hemisphere.
I can assure you that this report is likely to touch off a
very lively debate over the future of America's defense forces.
And I can also tell you it would be much easier to conduct this
QDR process in the closed corridors of power without all the
sound and fury of public participation.
But the democratic
experience tells us that when the smoke clears, the final
decisions will be like tempered steel -- much stronger and more
enduring -- because they will ultimately reflect the will of the
people, whom the U.S. military serves to protect and defend.
I must tell you also, we have a lot of work to do in the
next several weeks before I file that report on May 15th.
have already mapped out the basic contours of our defense
strategy for the future that is anchoring all of our efforts.
And I can tell you today that our approach to the Western
Hemisphere is to continue to advance our security engagement with
our partners in Latin American and the Caribbean.
That means that we're going to continue to support the
growth of democracy.
It means we will seek to build cooperative
security relationships and partnerships.
We will promote
multilateral openness, trust and cooperation.
And we're going to
encourage defense reform founded on civilian control of the
military and human rights.
In short, we are going to continue to advance the security
principles that were accepted at Williamsburg.
For in the two
years since we met there, these principles have proven not only
practical, but increasingly woven into the very programs and
policies of all of our nations.
The people of El Salvador and Nicaragua have elected two
successive governments while their militaries have remained
committed to upholding democratic principles and ideals.
Guatemala has begun the process of incorporating all of its
citizens into the democratic process with the signing of the
peace accord this past December.
And when a coup was attempted
in Paraguay, its neighbors rose to the occasion and pressured the
plotters to stand down, and thus preserved a democratic nation in
One of the most important guarantees in a democracy is the
protection of human rights.
And we see a growing commitment in
the region to protect individual life and liberty.
human rights conferences have been well attended successes.
the United States Army School of the Americas has transformed its
curriculum to accurately reflect democratic values and respect
for human rights.
Now are all shared in this hemisphere.
Another foundation of democracy is the military under
constitutional civilian leadership.
And we see the region's
efforts to build this concept into their systems of government.
But to have effective civilian leaders, they need expertise and
experience in defense matters.
Now as Secretary of Defense, I
must tell you I am blessed with a very knowledgeable and
visionary staff who lead the Defense Department and who work
closely with our military leadership and staff.
And I meet with
these leaders, civilian and military, on a daily basis.
team not only makes for a strong defense policy and the wise use
of our military power, it also well serves the Commander in
Chief, the President of the United States, President Clinton, and
is held accountable to the public.
The system of civilian-controlled military has worked for
the United States ever since George Washington hung up his
uniform and became President Washington.
And so we would like
to share more than two centuries of our experience with other
And that's why the United States, in response to a
regional request, has been closely working with our Latin
American and Caribbean partners to create and oversee the
Hemispheric Center for Defense Studies at the National Defense
University in Washington.
Starting in November, the Center is going to offer practical
lectures and coursework in several areas, such as how to plan
for and manage defense resources; how to formulate defense
policy; the role of armed forces in a democracy; and the dynamics
of a civilian-military relationship.
There is a broader advantage to establishing this center.
With 8 of the 14 members of the consultative committee overseeing
the Center coming from Latin America and the Caribbean nations,
it provides another venue for dialogue and idea sharing among our
As they embrace democracy within, we see the nations of the
region committed to ensure peace and stability throughout the
Several of our nations participated in the UN mission
in Haiti to give peace a chance to endure in a restored
Peru and Ecuador met this week in Brasilia to begin
resolving a 55 year old border dispute.
And four of our nations,
Argentina, Brazil, Chile and the United States, as well Peru and
Ecuador, have peacekeeping forces serving on the border right now
to ensure that peace endures.
This mission serves as a model not
only for our hemisphere, but for the world as well.
To keep tensions from brewing in the first place, we see the
region's commitment to undertake confidence and security building
Argentina and Chile have resolved a long-standing
Columbia and Venezuela are exchanging
information about cross border guerrilla activity.
nations are carrying out their agreement at Santiago to share
military budgets, policies and doctrines.
The United States applauds the OAS for its leadership in
hosting the Conference on Confidence and Security Building
In international relations, as in human relations,
frankness is the foundation of friendship.
You [may] recall the words of Secretary Perry at
Williamsburg when he said "The art of war involves secrecy and
But the art of peace involves exactly the opposite:
openness and honesty." The simplest gestures by a nation can
go a long way toward reassuring neighbors that its actions and
intentions are peaceful.
Gestures such as distributing reports
on national defense philosophies, as Brazil has done, or
distributing annual defense reports and budgets, as the United
States began at Williamsburg and will continue to do.
We also see the region's commitment to tackle mutual
security problems together.
We have been conducting cooperative
operations against drug traffickers supporting host nation
governments, such as the seven-nation LASER STRIKE operation.
And Panama has proposed establishing and playing host to a new
multinational counterdrug center.
Our militaries are training
together to serve humanitarian disaster relief operations and
they're sharing information about how to protect the environment.
And the United States is opening its doors to providing
technology transfers so that our militaries can help fight the
narcotic scourge, conduct other multilateral operations together
and build these military to military relations, which I think are
so critically important.
And so we're seeing an increasing commitment by our nations
to building a better world outside of our hemisphere.
Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, all have contributed to peace operations
as diverse as those in Africa, Iraq and Croatia.
new peacekeeping center is going to be a valuable resource for
the region to train future peace keepers.
Meanwhile, some 31 nations in our hemisphere have signed the
Chemical Weapons Convention.
Twelve of the signatories have gone
on to support the extra step of ratifying this treaty.
take a moment just to talk about that as a matter of great
importance to our country and a matter of great debate in the
United States Congress.
The Chemical Weapons Convention represents, in my judgment,
the best opportunity we have today to protect our nations, our
citizens, our military forces from lethal, chemical agents.
United States has already abandoned the manufacture, the
stockpiling and the use of these weapons and we're destroying our
Many people perhaps in my own country are not
even aware of this.
It was President Reagan who said enough,
we are going to eliminate all of our chemical weapons.
that action under the Reagan Administration leadership.
will destroy all of our chemical stockpiles by the year 2004.
And that was an act of great leadership on his part.
Now we have a situation, of course, where President Clinton
is pressing the United States Senate to ratify the treaty before
it goes into effect on April 29.
If all the nations of our
hemisphere sign and ratify this treaty, we not only can make it
stronger, we can help make our half of the world free of chemical
Our hemisphere's contribution to world peace, stability and
safety is the mark of global leadership for the 21st century.
And finally, we see the region's commitment to advance these
principles and practices together by planning for the next
Defense Ministerial of the Americas in Cartagena, Columbia.
What you will see is the United States intensifying its
focus on building strong partnerships with the nations of this
hemisphere in an entire spectrum of areas, from diplomacy to
trade, to environmental protection as well as to security.
You're going to see President Clinton visit Mexico, Costa
Rica and Barbados next month, and then in October, he's going to
go to Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela.
His goal is to advance
our friendships as well as our trade and economic integration as
we head to the next summit of the Americas in Santiago in 1998.
You will also see the Clinton Administration working to
build on the successes of NAFTA and MERCOSUR to help create a
Free Trade Area of the Americas by the year 2005, as we committed
to do at the Summit of the Americas in Miami.
You'll also see somebody else traveling very extensively
throughout the hemisphere -- President Clinton's personal envoy,
Mack McLarty, who's going to be traveling to the capitals and
conference rooms throughout the region.
I met with him recently
at the Pentagon and I must tell you how impressed I was with his
He is so optimistic about what he hopes to achieve
in his meetings with each of you.
He brings a great deal of
energy and imagination to his plans to focus on working with our
And you're also going to see someone else.
You're going to
see me visiting Latin America and the Caribbean.
committed to advancing the DMA process and to building stronger
partnerships with and among my counterparts in this hemisphere.
My predecessor, Secretary Perry, whom I have always regarded
as one of the finest public servants the United States has ever
had, he was instrumental in changing the nature and the dynamics
of our regional security relationships.
And you're going to find
me building upon his legacy.
I began this rather brief presentation, at least by
Senatorial standards, with a quote from Pablo Neruda, who said
that all paths lead to the same goal: To convey to others what
we are. But Neruda said something more.
He said. We must pass
through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order
to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our
clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song.
But in this dance or
in this song, there are fulfilled the most ancient rites of our
conscience in the awareness of being human and of believing in a
Well, our nations have passed through enough solitude,
enough difficulty, isolation and silence.
We've come to a place
where we can fulfill our common destiny.
It's a chronicle of
destiny that was foretold by our heroes Bolivar, St. Martin, de
Miranda, O'Higgins, Juarez and Washington.
It's a chronicle of
free people living in dignity, optimism and peace.
United States is proud to be a part of this chronicle.
Thank you very much.