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The Ingredients for Democracy
Opening remarks by Secretary of Defense William J. Perry , the Defense Ministerial of the Americas, Williamsburg, Va., Tuesday, July 25, 1995

What a thrill to see the 34 flags of all the democracies in our hemisphere being carried and now displayed in front of us.

It was more than 200 years ago, here at Williamsburg, that a group of patriots joined together to establish a new republic. With great passion, they called for freedom, independence, self-government and the rule of law. In short, they called for democracy.

Among these patriots, three visionaries stand out -- George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. It was these Founding Fathers who provided the three crucial ingredients for our democracy to grow and thrive.

First, Jefferson articulated its principles. ... "We hold these truths to be self-evident," he wrote, "that all men are created equal."

Second, George Washington provided the leadership by leading our military forces to secure victory and then by leading our nation as a private citizen elected as our first president.

The third ingredient was a framework for this new democracy, which Madison provided by drafting our Constitution. It secured the principles that Jefferson articulated and established the free society that Washington fought to secure.

Last night, [presidential adviser] Mack McLarty quoted another American patriot, Thomas Paine, who captured the spirit of that time when he said, "We have it in our power to begin our world over again." Those patriots did begin their world over again, and the democracy they founded thrives today. Today, with democracy thriving all over our hemisphere, we, too, have it in our power to begin our world over again in our hemisphere. And we, too, have those three vital ingredients that allow democracy to grow and thrive.

First, we have articulated our principles. At our summit in Miami, our nations agreed to be partners in the causes of free trade, free markets and free people.

Second, we have the leadership. It was represented in Miami by our heads of state. It is represented right here in this room by all of you -- men and women who have it in your power, as you serve to protect the democracy and security of your nations, to help advance mutual security, cooperation and confidence among all of our nations.

For the next two days we will address the third important element for democracy to grow and thrive in our hemisphere. We will begin to sketch out a framework, a framework for our defense establishments to work even more closely together on the challenges and changes we face together. Under your leadership, our partnership can help to secure the causes we have all embraced for our hemisphere -- the causes of free trade, free enterprise and free people.

The end of the Cold War and the surge of democracy in this hemisphere have changed the security picture dramatically. Many of my predecessors as secretary of defense saw this hemisphere as a region of security problems. I see this hemisphere as a region of security partners.

The Cold War ideological battle is over. There is peace, a decline in insurgencies, and bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Historical enemies are now trading partners. All parts of the hemisphere are reaching out to one another. And we have a growing harmony of interests.

So this is a time of reconciliation, renaissance and new relationships built on trust, cooperation and consensus. The defense and military establishments of our nations must play a critical role in advancing our reconciliation, renaissance and new relationships. As we reshape and reform our defense ministries and armed forces to better protect the security of our nations in this new era, we can also work together to advance our common security interests and to strengthen the inter-American security relationship. This will further protect the security of each of our nations.

That is why I am hosting this ministerial, to strengthen our hemispheric defense ties in the spirit of the Miami summit and in the spirit of democracy. In this historic setting, we are making our own history.

This is the first time ever that all the hemispheric defense ministers have met at once. I proposed this ministerial not to solve our security challenges, but to build close working relations so we cap take advantage of our security opportunities, and I urge all of us to seize this opportunity.

But I do want to underscore an important point - that even though I am hosting this event and hosting it in the United States, here at Williamsburg, in the cradle of my country's democracy, this is not a United States event. It is an American event, it is our event. It belongs to all of us.

Indeed, our agenda came out of our discussions over the past year. It was proposed that we focus on three general areas, areas that I believe should be important elements of our post-Cold War security agenda, which we win discuss in our three plenary sessions.

The first area is transparency and confidence-building measures. Our nations' leaders made this a priority at our summit in Miami. We made a commitment to being more open with our defense plans, programs and policies, such as publishing our defense budgets and registering our arms sales and inventories with the U.N. We are also pursuing other ways to reassure one another, such as sending our soldiers to one another's military schools or on training exercises together.

Transparency is an unusual concept when it comes to defense. The art of war involves secrecy and surprise. But the art of peace involves exactly the opposite. A well-known philosopher in the United States, Henry David Thoreau, once wrote, "Between whom there is truth, there is love." Well, truth between nations doesn't always lead to love, but it does lead to trust, and trust leads to peace.

So I would like to use this occasion to demonstrate the commitment by the United States to transparency, first, by announcing a new policy: that whenever the United States sponsors significant multilateral military exercises in the region, we will not do so until we have notified the governments of all 33 democracies in this hemisphere. That is our pledge; there will be no surprises.

The second way I want to demonstrate our commitment to openness is more symbolic. We are going to distribute a copy of my annual report to Congress. This is the U.S. Defense Department's official statement of the plans, programs and policies of our armed forces. It lays out what kind of military forces we are building, why we are building them and how much we plan to spend on them. The United States urges all nations to be more transparent, so that nations do not arm and act for fear of the unknown.

The second area we have put on the agenda is defense cooperation. Our hemisphere is a zone of peace, but we still face sporadic security challenges, both here in the hemisphere and around the world. Most of these challenges are best addressed by nations working together. It can be more efficient that way, and it builds trust and confidence among us.

One of the best examples of our defense cooperation is peacekeeping. Twenty countries from our hemisphere support 15 of the 16 U.N. peace operations in the world today. In our own hemisphere, our forces have served together to keep the peace in El Salvador and Haiti. They are working on removing land mines, which kill and maim children.

Working together, we are preserving stability and, ultimately, security in our region and in the world. In the process, our forces learn from each another, about one another and how to perform better with one another in peacetime operations such as humanitarian and disaster relief. In the future, by accepting the invitation of Canada and Argentina to participate in their peacekeeping centers, we can work together even more effectively.

The third area on our agenda is armed forces in the 21st century democracies. To varying degrees, our defense and military establishments are facing dramatic change as we reduce and reconfigure our forces for the missions we foresee in the next century.

The U.S. armed forces, for instance, have been vastly reducing their size and budgets over the past 10 years, while reorganizing from the bottom up and re-examining their roles and missions. Some of your armed forces are also making fundamental changes in force structure, plans and policies or even changing your basic relationship to your democratic governments.

In this post-Cold War world, we do not advocate abolition of the military. We believe it plays a key role in security. We do recognize the right of every country to determine its own security. However, the time has come to redefine the missions of our militaries to fit this new era of democracy and scarce resources.

We will share ideas and experiences on these changes and how to approach them. For example, we will talk about greater ties between civilian and military institutions and the urgent need for civilian expertise. One way this expertise could be developed is by expanding national security studies at the Inter-American Defense College, so that civilians and military can better understand each others' contributions. We will discuss how the armed forces can sometimes contribute to national development in special areas of acute need and, as we agreed at the Miami summit, to find practical ways to protect human rights.

We have created an ambitious agenda together, but we have ambitious hopes for our hemisphere. Our hopes are for a hemisphere of nations that talk together, work together, trade together and face our mutual security challenges together. All in the spirit of openness, cooperation and democracy.

The great Latin American hero, Jose Marti, said: "It is not enough to come to the defense of freedom with epic and intermittent efforts when it is threatened at moments of crisis. Every moment is critical for the preservation of freedom."

Well, this is a critical moment for our hemisphere. The friends we make and the ideas we share here at Williamsburg can go a long way toward preventing moments of crisis and ensuring the defense of freedom in this hemisphere.

I thank you and I hope you have a productive and effective conference.


Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at