14. Editorial Note

Secretary of State-designate Cyrus R. Vance testified on January 11, 1977, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which was holding an open hearing in order to consider Vance’s nomination. The previous afternoon, Vance had attended a closed, “get-acquainted” informal meeting with Committee members. Senator John Sparkman (D-Alabama) chaired the January 11 hearing and began the proceedings by summarizing Vance’s professional career. He then called on Senators Jacob Javits (R-New York) and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-New York) to offer statements in support of the Vance nomination. Following their statements, Sparkman directed Senator Frank Church (D-Idaho) to question Vance. Church stated:

“Mr. Vance, we have just come through an election campaign in which there was a lively debate on foreign policy matters. I think as a result of the election there is the expectation that the new President will be initiating changes in American foreign policy.

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“I wonder if you might headline for the committee what you think some of those changes may be, and what your own view may be respecting that.”

Vance responded:

“Thank you very much, Senator Church. I would be very happy to do that.

“First, let me start by briefly sketching what I would consider to be the fundamental policy principles which one could expect to guide the development of foreign policy during the next administration.

“Let me say that in doing this I run the risk of vastly oversimplifying the problem. But with that caveat at the outset, let me try.

“The first principle is the maintenance of peace. This depends upon healthy alliances, American strength, creative efforts to facilitate the resolution of regional disputes, as, for example, the problems of the Middle East. In this connection I think we must remember that American strength and leadership abroad proceed first from a strong America at home—strong in our economy, strong in our cohesiveness, strong in our confidence and our commitment to fundamental values.

“The second principle is a public confidence in our foreign policy requires confidence in how those policies are made. This, in my judgment, has at the heart of it a close and cooperative relationship between the executive branch and the legislative branch. I do not believe that we can develop or properly implement American foreign policy without the closest cooperation between these two branches of the Government.

“I pledge myself and this administration to this end.

“Next, I believe that we must have openness, and toward that end all that can properly be disclosed in open sessions should be disclosed in open sessions. There will obviously be times when things cannot be, but the guiding principle will be that we will try and be as much open as possible. I know that the President-elect intends to communicate openly with the American people through the process of fireside chats in discussing foreign policy as well as domestic policy.

“I intend to meet once a month with the press, if not more often because of special circumstances, and hold a press conference to discuss with them whatever questions they may have.

“The third principle is the need for clear, easily understood, substantive priorities that will contribute to building the world that we want to live in. I have four particularly in mind.

“First is a strengthening of cooperation among our allies. This is central to everything else.

“Second, East-West relations are critical because they affect the question of world peace. In my judgment we should pursue the lessening of tensions with the Soviet Union in an active and aggressive [Page 62]way, particularly in the area of the reduction and control of nuclear weapons.

“Further, I believe that we should seek a clearer understanding between the U.S. and the Soviet Union on the meaning of détente so that we understand better how each of us perceives the process to operate. I think this is possible and can be done. In saying this, I do not believe that we will not continue to have political competition. I think indeed that we will have political competition with the Soviet Union. But I do think it is important to have a better understanding of what the ground rules are and what we can expect of each other.

“Let me note that I do not think that the preoccupation with these vitally important issues should so dominate our foreign policy that we neglect other critical issues which are growing increasingly important.

“Let me turn to them.

“These I consider to be of cardinal importance: I believe we must keep our eyes fixed on long-term objectives as well as on immediate political crises. These long-term objectives include control of nuclear arms and nuclear proliferation, economic development and the dignity of the developing world, energy, food, population, environment, and conventional arms transfers.

“These are the global issues which will determine how the next generation lives, and even whether it lives.

“I note, as all of you know better than I, that foreign policy is increasingly intertwined with economic policy. These sets of intertwined issues in my judgment are going to be some of the most important and complex issues with which we will be dealing in the years ahead. Indeed, I believe as we look over the next 5 to 10 years, we may find that these issues will be replacing many of the security issues which have so dominated the foreign policy agenda in the last 10 to 20 years as the most important issues with which we have to deal.

“Finally, we must have policies based upon fundamental values. In particular, we must stand for human rights. Without being interventionist I believe we can make this concern a major focus of our foreign policy calculations.

“I apologize for the condensation of these many and complex problems. But perhaps this will serve as a basis from which to start our discussion.”

After Senator Clifford Case (R-New Jersey) offered brief comments, Church returned to Vance’s point concerning a U.S. foreign policy based on fundamental values:

“This came up time and time again during the foreign policy debates during the recent national campaign. I for one am very happy that you have listed this as a point of departure for your own policy be[Page 63]cause I think that our foreign policy should reflect our values as a country. If we are going to mean anything to the world, we have to be true to ourselves.

“I would hope that this will translate into some refusal on the part of the administration to continue to extend military and economic aid to regimes that are systematically engaged in the repression of human rights, at least in the absence of overriding considerations of national security that might require us to adopt a different policy. Do I understand that by placing greater emphasis upon these fundamental values we can expect that your administration of the State Department will take into greater account the kinds of governments we are supplying aid to in the future?

“Mr. Vance. Yes; you can.

“Matters of human rights will be given a greater emphasis with respect to those decisions. But I think it is important to make the point that you did; namely, that there are cases in which the security aspects are of overriding importance and that that has to be borne in mind.

“Senator Church. Of course.

“I can think of many countries to which we have given large amounts of aid under previous administrations that have had little or no impact upon the national security of the United States. I am encouraged by your statement that more attention will be given in the future to the nature and the character of the governments which we support with our aid programs.”

Church then directed the questioning to a discussion of covert operations:

“Mr. Vance, the other side of the coin in the matter of human rights and fundamental values has to do with the methods that we use. Everyone knows today that under both Democratic and Republican Presidents in our recent past we have intervened through covert operations in many countries with a will, indeed with a zeal. Now these covert operations were unconnected with the gathering of central intelligence information, but were secret undertakings in foreign lands to manipulate political events in ways thought to be advantageous to the United States.

“Our methods were justified on the grounds that we must use them because the Russians do. They have embraced all of the black arts of covert operations—bribery, false propaganda, physical coercion, abduction, indeed even attempted assassination of foreign leaders.

“I don’t know how we can be true to our own values as a country and continue to believe that it is our right to use such methods; though again, I recognize that in extremity a nation must do what is needed to assure its own survival. But we are not discussing cases of extremity, [Page 64]and the habit of the past has been to intervene in these ways in the affairs of other lands, even when the objective was purely technical.

“Now I would like your own view on this. If method is the essence of whether or not we do adhere to our professed values as a nation, what are your views and what will be your policy as Secretary of State when it comes to decisions with respect to secret interventions in the affairs of other lands?

“Mr. Vance. I am very happy to give my views on this.

“Let me say by way of background that these kinds of covert actions have been going on for a long time. They were going on when I was in the Government, and I was part of the oversight committee at one point in connection with them. So I have thought long and carefully about the subject.

“I have come to the conclusion that covert actions—and I distinguish between covert collection of intelligence on the one part and covert actions against other countries, and I am talking about the latter—I am convinced that covert action against other countries should be carried out only in the most extraordinary circumstances. I believe that procedures should be established so that if there is a proposal to carry out a covert action, that it first has to be passed upon by a committee of the senior Cabinet officers, to include the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Adviser, and importantly in my judgment, the Attorney General of the United States.

“I feel very strongly that the Attorney General of the United States should participate in the decisionmaking process by which the decision is arrived at which goes to the President of the United States. I think then that the President of the United States should personally approve in writing saying that he believes this to be vital to the national security and so endorse the carrying forward of this extraordinary circumstance.

“I then feel that notice should be given in advance to the appropriate committee or committees of the Congress so that they can provide their views to the President if they disagree with the proposal.

“I do not believe that the Congress should have a veto in that regard because I think that splits the responsibility. But I think that it is very likely that if the congressional committee said to the President, ’We want to come in to see you as we have great concern for what is being proposed here,’ this would have great weight with any President as to whether he would then go forward with the operation.

“Finally, I believe there should be an adequate monitoring system so that once a covert action is approved, one keeps on top of it to determine what is happening, how it is proceeding, and whether it should be terminated.

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“Unfortunately, experience in the past has shown that these develop a life of their own. Once started they are hard to turn back.” ( Vance Nomination; Hearing Before the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, Ninety-Fifth Congress, First Session, on the Nomination of Hon. Cyrus R. Vance to be Secretary of State, January 11, 1977, pages 1, 4–6, 7–8)

On January 14, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 15–0 to approve Vance as Secretary of State. President Carter formally appointed him on January 21.