REMARKS AS DELIVERED BY VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE TO THE DEFENSE MINISTERIAL OFTHE AMERICAS IN COLONIAL WILLIAMSBURG, VA.
"It is my pleasure to be here, and I would like to begin by thanking my friend
Mack McLarty for his very generous words of introduction. We've had an
opportunity to work closely together in the White House and in the
Administration, and it is always a pleasure to work with him. He and I worked
very closely on the Summit of the Americas, and this feels like old home week
to be here with him at this gathering.
I would like to also thank Mayor Trist McConnell and all the individuals
representing Williamsburg, Virginia for the fantastic hospitality they have
extended to this group. Williamsburg is perhaps the finest place in the entire
country to host a gathering just like this one. The people of Williamsburg
have extended themselves greatly to accommodate the needs of this gathering,
and we're very, very grateful to them.
To all of the delegations present, it is my honor to have this chance to
address you, and I would like to thank each of you individually for your
willingness to come and to be a part of this historic gathering.
I was thinking when Mack McLarty was speaking in such grand terms about the
office of the Vice President of the time when I was asked to go on a television
show here in the United States called "The David Letterman Show" and present a
Top Ten List of the best things about being Vice President. And I recall
thinking of this great seal here, and Reason Number Five on the list was that
if you look at that seal and close your left eye it says, President of the
United States of America.
It helps to keep things in perspective.
It is fitting that we should gather in this historic setting of Williamsburg,
for here, amid these cobbled streets and among these ancient buildings, as we
come together to assess the future of freedom in our hemisphere, we can also
recall our shared colonial pasts. At every corner and every street, at every
inn and tavern, we can hear the echoes of the struggles that gave birth to
democracy in my country, and we're reminded of the freedoms that we now join to
celebrate and to sustain.
Here in this city some of the world's boldest and most resonant words on behalf
of independence and freedom have been heard. Nearby at the House of Burgesses
the American Patriot and Revolutionary Patrick Henry first gave voice to one of
our nation's earliest and most eloquent calls for liberty. And here in
Williamsburg in 1776, outraged by the tyranny of a distant monarch, Virginia
declared itself to be an independent Commonwealth. "Sic Semper Tyrannis," "Thus always to tyrants," -- became the motto of Virginia and was emblazoned on
its flags and seals. And it remains so today.
It was also here that a young provincial legislator named Thomas Jefferson
presented a pamphlet called "A Summary of the Rights of British America" in
which he wrote the radical -- revolutionary -- notion that people had a right
to govern themselves. Above all, he wrote -- and I quote -- "The God who gave
us life gave us liberty at the same time." These ideas became the inalienable
rights that Jefferson himself wrote into the American Declaration of
Independence. They gave moral force to our revolution, and they have nurtured
our democracy for more than two centuries.
We here today represent nations who share the experiences of colonialism, of a
struggle for independence, of a striving to build democracy. Though we have
traveled different paths, we have sought a common destination.
Many of our nations believe that our paths finally converged at the Summit of
the Americas in Miami last December. The "Spirit of Miami" incorporated a new
sense of community into the historic notion of hemispheric identity. It
recognized that we are a community of nations bound by the principle that
government derives its authority from the consent of the governed; that our
citizens have legal and human rights; that governments must protect; that we
have a common interest in using the creative forces of the free market to
promote economic development and trade and that mutual respect and cooperation
should be the cornerstone for our relations with one another.
Indeed, the "Spirit of Miami" affirms that as a community of democracies we are
becoming interdependent, not only in economic terms but also more broadly in a
social and political sense. This interdependency compels us to think anew
about the meaning of security in this hemisphere.
In the past many of us have thought about security only in terms of our own
national defense, but new circumstances challenge us to look more deeply at the
concept of security. In short, these new times demand new thinking.
This meeting is designed to stimulate our thinking about these things and to
give us all an opportunity to learn from one another, to begin discussions in a
cooperative manner on a range of issues, the sum of which may help us better
understand what our needs and expectations for security really are. I am
convinced that security in our hemisphere can be enhanced by the consolidation
of democracy, by prosperity and cooperation, indeed by the very sense that
found expression in the "Spirit of Miami".
Today that spirit is taking hold across our lands from Point Barrow to Tiera
Del Fuego. Every country here is led by a democratically elected government.
Equally impressive, with rare interruptions the nations of our hemisphere have
been at peace with one another throughout this century. Indeed, the Latin
American and Caribbean nations, of all regions, spend the least on military
budgets and have the fewest uniformed personnel per capita.
Can we develop a framework for hemispheric security that will assure the
integrity of our borders, reduce the potential for conflict, increase
cooperation and develop means for the fair and speedy resolution of problems?
These are the questions that are being addressed, and I think the answer is
yes. And let us begin by acknowledging the eternal and most fundamental issue
of national security, the defense of our borders.
The citizens of our nations have given all of us here a special responsibility
for the preservation and protection of our nations respectively. We must all
recognize that threats to our security certainly did not end with the demise of
communism. We have a responsibility to maintain disciplined, effective forces
that are trained, equipped and ready to execute national defense missions. But
you also share with your elected leaders the requirement to uphold the
well-being of the citizens within your borders.
One of the most difficult challenges for any democracy is the balancing of
individual freedom with demands for societal stability. We have known
throughout our own history that this balance was the most critical of all. In
our case, we viewed this balance as a two-way compact that governments reliably
serve the needs of the people but also derive their legitimacy and their
ultimate authority from the consent of the people -- of the governed.
Well, today, as Miami has made so clear, all our nations are joining in this
dynamic experiment. Throughout the hemisphere legitimacy and stability grow
from the will of our citizens. As Abraham Lincoln, one of my country's
greatest Presidents, said, it is "ballots, not bullets," that must guide our
nation's path. That is why the role of the military, and its fidelity to the
people and fidelity to the leaders of the people -- the freely elected
democratic leaders of the people -- is so critically important as we move
forward on this democratic path.
At the Managua OAS General Assembly in 1993 our nations all affirmed that
armed forces must be subordinate to legitimately constituted civilian
authority. We can find in the "Spirit of Miami" an implicit reaffirmation of
this fundamental premise of democracy. To make the Managua resolution
effective, civilian leaders must ensure that political and judicial
institutions have sufficient resources and character and are able to meet their
responsibilities. To do anything less is to invite the kind of instability
that threatens the fabric of society. Equally important, civilian and military
leaders must work together to ensure that military institutions are ready to
fulfill their responsibilities. These relationships must be recognized if the
armed forces of any nation are to perform the functions implied in the
traditional definition of security.
But we must all be encouraged and challenged to look beyond the traditional
concept of security to new missions related to our new circumstances and new
realities, missions performed not with swords drawn but with swords sheathed in
the service of peace and freedom.
These missions bring with them an expanded assessment of what really
constitutes national security; namely, a recognition that the security of our
own countries depends not on the weakness of our neighbors but on the efforts
to promote mutually beneficial prosperity for all of our nations in this
Let us briefly summarize, then, some, but certainly not all, of the new roles
our militaries in the region may perform.
The most striking impact of hemispheric stability is that professional military
and civilian security resources have been freed up to participate in
international peacekeeping. Twenty nations in our hemisphere are supporting
fifteen of the sixteen United Nations peacekeeping operations around the world
with over ten thousand peacekeepers from our hemisphere in such distant places
as Bosnia and the Sinai. In our own hemisphere they have performed vital roles
in promoting peace in Central America and recently in Haiti. Here again, we
are witnessing a major rethinking of what constitutes national security as our
nations recognize the interrelationship between democracy and long-term
This said, I know that peacekeeping sometimes prompts a concern that is shared
by many of the defense ministers here today; that in our cooperation on common
humanitarian efforts we not lose sight of deeply felt beliefs in this
hemisphere for sovereignty, nonintervention and territorial integrity.
I understand the historical basis for this concern and believe strongly that,
working together, we can reduce fears that peacekeeping will ever be abused.
Our vision remains one of independent and sovereign states voluntarily
contributing to specific missions in specific circumstances. There must be a
strong international consensus that a serious threat to international stability
and security exists, and the characteristic requirements for engaging in a
peacekeeping operation must also exist before it is ever undertaken.
Now, there is a second role. The scourge of narcotics trafficking continues to
pockmark our hemisphere. As General McCaffrey, who works on this problem every
day, has noted, narco-trafficking is a cancer. If it is left to metastasize as cancer does -- it will foment violence, it will undermine democracy, it will
create corruption throughout society, it will create a disease in the
communities of the nations represented here.
Each of our nations is paying a dreadful price because of this sickness. In my
country alone, the cost of drug abuse is now estimated at over $67 billion per
year, more than we spend each year on the United States Army.
Even as we meet, our nations are working together to disrupt the drug
trafficking that abuses our citizens and poisons our children. We have forced
the cartels to change their methods, their infrastructure and their shipment
routes. Though our armed forces cannot be expected to be on the front lines of
this struggle, they can -- in voice and in deed -- join their brave colleagues
in the fight against drugs.
For example, we can applaud the work of those like President Samper and Defense
Minister Botero in Colombia who are standing up to traffickers, often at
tremendous personal risk demonstrating tremendous personal courage. And we are
in the United States, as are you here, doing our part. Last year the Southern
and Atlantic Commands spent over $600 million to support regional counterdrug
operations in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Our message is clear. Our hemisphere is ready to stand up to the cartels.
Drug traffickers shall not prevail. They will be defeated.
Let me mention a third role. No review of the challenges we face would be
complete if it did not include the very real and grave threats to our shared
ecosystems. Let there be no doubt: Our peoples cannot share fully in mutual
prosperity when our planet's health adversely affects the health of humankind.
In the end, we cannot expect to be responsible stewards of freedom if we are
not also responsible stewards of our hemisphere's air, land and water.
In my own country the armed forces are doing their part. Indeed, many of our
military installations now contain some of the most unaltered ecosystems in the
nation and are addressing the cleanup of some of the worst environmental
problems in my country. And we are spending, indeed, scores of billions to
clean up after years of the Cold War.
All of us can, and must, do more. Democracy requires both civic responsibility
and individual accountability. There is no doubt in my mind that in the next
century, our hemisphere's militaries can become models for responsible
But our challenge is not simply to manage the lands and waters we use for
military purposes. Our broader challenge is to recognize that the sustainable
development of democracy requires that we also sustain the development of the
resources which nourish our freedoms.
Today our armed forces, with their special skills and discipline, have a unique
role in shaping this vision. How can we employ the information collection
resources, the ability to respond quickly, to move people and material, to
communicate under difficult circumstances -- how can we use these extraordinary
capabilities to protect the environment on whose security, I argue, our people
will depend even more in the next century? This is a challenge that I hope
your conference will take seriously. One that, indeed, you must take
seriously, in my view, if we are to make the next century one of peace and
security and prosperity for our people.
Well, the dialogue that you are initiating here in this historic meeting on
strengthening military cooperation, confidence- and security-building measures
and the armed forces of the 21st century, this historic dialogue is essential
to the realization of a new framework for security in our hemisphere.
The armed forces can bring to the dialogue, and to democratic society, the
strengths of courage, discipline and dedication to the will of our citizens.
These are not easy challenges. They require a broad understanding that a
nation's security really does rest on indivisible political, economic and
Our nation's defense policies must address these larger issues as well as
specific military concerns if we are to succeed in effectively supporting the
hemisphere's shared goals of representative democracy, human rights and shared
I believe we truly are off to a great start, and today we can start planning to
do more; more cooperation, more openness, more modernization, more
confidence-building, more understanding and trust and shared good will, more
sharing of experience on how to reduce tensions and to enhance our democracies
and our freedoms.
It is that shared mission that brings us together today in Williamsburg. You
possess the ideas and the vision to help propel us to a future of democratic
security and prosperity. You have been tested, both by success and by failure,
and, above all, each of you, in your own way, has helped to awaken your fellow
citizens to a new day of freedom. While each of our countries will pursue its
own democratic course where and when our interests intersect -- as they do here
today -- we can and should pursue them together.
Well, in closing, I have spoken today of Thomas Jefferson, and I feel certain
that he would be proud that his legacy is alive and well in this room. There
were shared values in that day, shared by Thomas Jefferson and George
Washington and Simon Bolivar, who -- every citizen of the United States is
proud to know -- once carried a picture of George Washington in his breast
These shared values are even stronger in 1995 than they were two hundred years
ago. In those days as a young man, Jefferson spent several years in
Williamsburg, both as a student and as a legislator. Reflecting on his years
in this city, Thomas Jefferson once said, "I have heard in Williamsburg more
good sense, more rational and philosophical conversations than in all my life
besides." Well, like Jefferson's time, may your own time here in Williamsburg
be stimulating, productive. May you hear good sense, rational and
philosophical conversation and come away in the experience having felt that
this is indeed an extraordinary enterprise in which we are all engaged. All of
the citizens of our hemisphere have great expectations of those of you gathered
here in Williamsburg.
On behalf of President Clinton, I would like to say that I am proud that the
United States has the honor of hosting this conference, and we are grateful to
each of you for the opportunity
you have given us to be your hosts. I'm proud that we do so here at the
historic confluence of the James and York Rivers, in this ancient cradle of the
United States democracy, and I'm very proud that we gather today in common
cause on the cusp of a new century, present at the creation of a new
hemispheric community of democracies.
Thank you very much."