153. Address by Secretary of State Muskie 1

Human Freedom: America’s Vision

We stand for human freedom. It is what unites us as a people. It is what distinguishes us from our adversaries. It is our compass in the world to defend our freedoms at home and to advance human freedom around the world.

There are those who suggest that the freedom of other people is none of our business, that with enough military hardware our freedom can be secure while the freedom of others is stifled, that our purpose in the world is to preserve the status quo.

I say, and I believe you say, that is an invitation to trouble. It is a narrow vision of ourselves and of the world. It would be a foreign policy of reaction.

We must, of course, equip ourselves with the arms to defend our vital interests. But that’s not enough. We must also arm ourselves with the conviction that our values have increasing power in today’s world.

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For if America is not the companion of human progress in the world, if we do not work to shape events in progressive directions, the world will pass us by. If we do not promote freedom in the world, there will be less freedom in the future for Americans.

Today, let me describe to you the kinds of freedom we must promote and the tools we need to promote it.

First is the freedom of nations: the freedom of nations, including our own, to be independent, to be free of outside domination. That has been and is the enduring goal of U.S. foreign policy. But it cannot be our only goal, for America’s national interest, America’s national ideals, require that we support other kinds of freedom in the world.

This Administration is committed to a second kind of freedom: the political freedom of people within nations.

And we are committed to a third goal: the freedom from poverty and human misery, conditions that destroy human lives and create unrest in the world.

A narrower approach, an approach which ignores the hopes and needs of people within nations, cannot succeed. For it would ignore the political stirring of humanity, the current of human freedom that is gaining strength in the world. And when peaceful change is frustrated, violent and radical change can explode in a storm that damages America’s interests and creates opportunities for our adversaries.

So when Soviet troops seek to crush the freedom of an independent nation, we will oppose it.

When an adversary threatens our vital interest in the Persian Gulf, in Europe, in the Caribbean, in Asia or elsewhere, we will oppose them.

When foreign governments allow the seizure of American citizens, as in Iran, we will not give up until they are home safe and free.

And when governments anywhere suppress the freedoms of their own people, when malaria or malnutrition degrade human lives, we will oppose that as well.

We believe, in short, that America can flourish best in a world in which freedom is growing—freedom in all its aspects: national independence, political liberty, and freedom from hunger, poverty, and disease.

To promote these freedoms, we need to maintain a foreign policy that rests on four pillars.

• The first is an unwavering commitment to our security through a strong defense, solid alliances, and unyielding opposition to aggression.

• The second is an unrelenting effort to help resolve the regional disputes that threaten peace.

• The third is our foreign assistance programs which support the security and progress of other nations around the world, while providing us with the influence we need to advance our interests.

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• The fourth is our support for human rights and human dignity.

In each of these four areas, this Administration has been active, and it has achieved results. The world is an unruly place. The headlines will always reflect new crises and new challenges. But I’m tired of hearing the fear merchants who overstate the dangers and undersell America for their own political profit. Let’s listen to the facts and not their fears.

Military Modernization

First, this Administration is devoted heart and soul and sinew to a strong national defense. We have undertaken the most sweeping military modernization program in nearly 20 years.

In the 8 years before President Carter took office, real defense spending after inflation had declined by more than 35%.

Since taking office, this Administration has increased real defense spending every year by 10% overall.

We are modernizing every element of our strategic nuclear forces, with the new MX missile on land, with a new Trident submarine and missile at sea, and with new cruise missiles in the air. We are building a new rapid deployment force and obtaining new basing rights abroad to strengthen our hand in emergencies. We have led our NATO allies in several major initiatives: a new long-term modernization of NATO’s conventional forces, real increases in allied defense spending, and deployment of new missiles in the European theater to meet the Soviet buildup.

Let us be clear. This military modernization program has, and will continue to involve, heavy costs. Our 5-year defense program will put defense spending in fiscal 1985 at a level more than 25% higher than in fiscal 1978. This is a price we must pay to preserve our strength.

In recent weeks, you and I have heard this effort described as inadequate. We have heard the call for a military buying binge. And we have heard demands that we radically alter our fundamental national security objective from a stable military balance to a quest for across-the-board military superiority.

Let there be no mistake. That is a prescription for a dramatic new arms race. For having achieved a position of equivalence, the Soviet Union will not accept military inferiority anymore than we will—no matter what the price to the people of the Soviet Union.

The costs of a new arms race would be staggering. We would have to cut back significantly on vital human services. And most importantly, we would increase the risk of a nuclear nightmare.

The consequence of a new arms race would not be greater security. It would be greater insecurity at home and abroad.

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And there is a further point. In this effort to achieve military superiority, we would destroy the future of arms control. For arms control can only move forward on the basis of genuine equivalence. That is the basis of the preliminary agreement reached with the Soviets by President Ford in Vladivostok in 1974. It is the basis of the SALT II Treaty. It is the basis on which we have agreed with our allies to pursue further arms control, including limits in Europe.

Let us have no illusions. If we abandon the quest for arms control now, if we cast aside the treaty negotiated by three Presidents—two Republicans and one Democrat—the threats we face will be greater. Our knowledge about Soviet military plans will be less certain. Our own defense will be more difficult.

Today America is strong, and we are growing stronger. We have already reversed more than a decade of inattention to our national defense. We are prepared as a nation to spend whatever is needed.

But we must be as hard on overspending on the military as we are on waste in our domestic programs. And we should reject outmoded military doctrines that add danger to an already dangerous world.

Our commitment to the freedom of nations also means that we must be prepared to oppose aggression against the freedom of others.

Every day Afghan people are dying in defense of freedom. Every day the Soviet Union is paying a price for their aggression. Every day the free nations of the world must demonstrate their opposition to this assault on freedom.

Measures like our grain embargo and the Olympic boycott express not only our disapproval; they express the readiness of the American people to sacrifice in the cause of freedom. These sacrifices were necessary. And they have been felt in the Soviet Union.

I am proud of our athletes who did not go to Moscow, and I know you are, too. I am proud of our farmers and our businessmen and workers who have given up exports to send the Soviets a message. And I know you are, too. For the message has been received in an Olympics that was a sham, in declining meat supplies on Soviet shelves, and in the stinging rebuke of world opinion.

The rhetoric of the past few weeks calls for us to be firmer on Soviet aggression but to reverse the grain embargo, to write off the Olympic boycott, to conduct business as usual.

There is a short answer. We cannot fight Soviet aggression more by doing less.

We know, and the American people know, that we cannot oppose aggression abroad without exerting ourselves at home. We know, and the American people know, that security cannot be bought without sac[Page 767]rifice. To suggest otherwise in the hope of gaining partisan advantage is not leadership but expediency.

Achieving Peace

A second element of a foreign policy of freedom is to build peace: to help achieve peaceful, negotiated settlements to dangerous disputes in the world.

You know of President Carter’s patient efforts to bring forth an agreement between Israel and Egypt at Camp David. That agreement was a beginning, not an end. It was the beginning of a long and difficult process that is not yet over. Camp David was one of the finest achievements of this or any other Administration. It has already produced peace between Israel and Egypt. And it provides the only practical process yet devised that can lead to a comprehensive peace.

In a similar fashion, the Panama Canal Treaty, which ended 14 long years of negotiations, healed festering resentments in Latin America and laid the groundwork for sounder relations between the United States and our neighbors in this hemisphere.

To build peace and buttress our strategic position, we have normalized relations with the People’s Republic of China.

President Carter’s unswerving support for a negotiated settlement in Rhodesia helped end a bitter and bloody civil war. It helped bring forth a new nation, Zimbabwe, based on majority rule and minority rights.2 It helped calm a dispute that could have become a broader conflict in Africa. By working toward a settlement, by refusing to lift sanctions against Rhodesia until a fair settlement was insured, we emphasized not only our commitment to peace but our willingness to support abroad the principles of democracy and freedom we espouse at home.

Lloyd McBride3 and the steelworkers stood by the President in that difficult moment. You supported continuing the sanctions until a fair, free election could be held. You can be proud that this union has contributed in an important way to a solution that fostered peace.

There is a lesson in this experience. The same people who call now for a narrow vision of our foreign policies were bitterly opposed to our approach in southern Africa. Had they prevailed, there would not have been a settlement in Rhodesia. The fighting would have raged on. This would have been bad for the people of Zimbabwe, bad for the region, bad for our allies, bad for us, and good only for the Soviets who stood to profit from conflict.

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Foreign Assistance

A third element of a foreign policy of freedom is helping developing nations defend their independence, expand their economies, and dispel poverty.

For a good many years, this union and its members have understood an important fact—that a generous foreign assistance program is not a giveaway but a gateway: a gateway to new markets and new influence for the United States and a gateway to greater world stability.

That fact needs to be better understood by the American people.

American foreign assistance dollars are investments we make in others and in ourselves. These U.S. investments mean security aid to nations whose independence is threatened by outside intervention. These investments mean economic development for poorer nations. They help developing countries buy American equipment to build highways and dams, help hire American experts to strengthen their institutions, help them produce the food and the jobs that increase living standards for their people. And these investments directly benefit our own people.

Seventy cents of every dollar we commit for country-to-country development programs are spent here in the United States. They purchase American goods and American services, from farm equipment to technical training. Those purchases amounted to nearly $2 billion last year alone. Our Agency for International Development has spent over $650 million for goods and services just in California over the past 10 years. Well over another billion dollars last year went to American farmers for grain and other agricultural commodities.

The economic return to the American people goes beyond what is spent here, for our investments in development abroad create new markets for U.S. goods. Every dollar we pay into institutions like the World Bank, for example, generates between $2 and $3 of new growth in our own economy. The activities of these development banks mean 50,000–100,000 new American jobs each year.

In such transactions everyone gains. The United States gains jobs and markets and the capacity to help shape events in constructive ways. Small, struggling nations gain strength against aggression and subversion; they gain economic and social progress. Millions of people gain the beginnings of a better life. And the cause of freedom also gains.

So I would urge you to continue to defend these programs and help defeat attacks and cuts recently suffered in the Congress.4 Together, we must convince the American people that the defense of [Page 769] freedom requires not only a strong military fist but also an extended hand.

Human Rights

Finally, let me emphasize a fourth element of a foreign policy of freedom: support for human rights.

Throughout a long history of struggle and success, the trade union movement in general, and the steelworkers in particular, have supported that cause.

Today, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee from assaults on human rights around the world, the steelworkers once again are showing their concern. Your effort on behalf of the AFL–CIO Cambodia Crisis Campaign, which Lloyd McBride unveiled this week, is a dramatic testament to the power of this great union for good. And it is an eloquent expression of your support for human rights.

Human rights has been a special concern of this Administration.

We stand for the right of people to be free of torture and repression, to choose their leaders, to participate in the decisions that affect their daily lives, to speak and write and travel freely.

There are limits on our capacity to influence affairs in other countries. And we must seek a practical approach that builds the long-term strength of our friends. But the fact that there are obstacles and risks should not keep us from holding up the banner of human rights—and it will not.

Ultimately, our firm support for human rights, for human freedom, will help build a more stable world. It will help remove the causes of violent and convulsive change.

There is, in various places in the world, a strong tide for human rights. We see the evidence for this in Spain, in Greece, in Portugal, in Ghana, in Nigeria, in Ecuador and in Peru, in other nations which have recently embraced and strengthened democracy. America cannot claim sole credit for these developments. But we can take pride that we have encouraged abroad the freedoms we enjoy at home, for they run hand in hand.

I have sketched the outlines of the foreign policy of freedom: a strong emphasis on security, a vigorous quest for peace, concrete development for nations and peoples, and practical support for human rights. This has been our policy for the past 4 years. And despite the difficulties, despite limits to our influence, it is working.

We must not succumb to the voices which say we should now turn back. These voices are pessimistic about the possibilities of freedom in the world. They see change abroad, for the most part, as dangerous for America. They are hostile to it. We see in change not only threats to be met but opportunities to be seized.

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Their voices sound a note of fear, rather than hope, when they speak about the world. They have cried out against our efforts to strengthen the center in Nicaragua and to pursue prudent arms limitation agreements.

Above all, these voices suggest that our defense of freedom should be concentrated almost exclusively in arms.

We do need to revitalize our military. And we are. America can and will do all that is necessary to maintain its military position, to counter aggression, and to deter war.

America is and will remain a global power, second to none. But I believe the American people understand that a foreign policy premised on a renewed arms race is a foreign policy of folly, not wisdom; of weakness, not strength.

I believe the American people will rightly refuse to write a blank check for belligerence. America’s purpose is not a new cold war but a realistic peace based on a solid foundation of deterrence.

We must seek security not only in arms but also in a diplomacy that is generous, that is willing to cope with inevitable change, that is faithful to decent human values. If we do that, we can be in the 1980s not only as strong as steel but as resilient and enduring. We can be not only a fortress of arms but a fortress of hope and freedom as well.

  1. Source: Department of State Bulletin, September 1980, pp. A–C. Muskie delivered his address before the United Steel Workers of America. The opening paragraphs of the speech are omitted in the original.
  2. Zimbabwe achieved independence in April.
  3. President of the United Steel Workers of America.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 151.