70. Paper Prepared by the Policy Planning Staff1

[Omitted here is the Table of Contents.]


For a generation our nation’s foreign policy has reflected a strong and outward looking America. In this tradition, and building upon the achievements of previous Administrations, we have over the past year formulated our policies on the critical issues that will shape the remainder of our lives, and those of the next generation.

1. The Complex International Agenda

As we look ahead to the 1980’s our nation faces complex international challenges:

—The strategic arms race with the Soviet Union increases superpower tension and the risk of nuclear war.

—The widening use of nuclear energy, necessary to the economic well-being of many nations, threatens at the same time to promote the spread of nuclear weapons.

—Long standing regional disputes pose the constant threat of regional wars, endangering world peace.

—Growing inventories of conventional weapons aggravate regional tensions and waste scarce economic resources.

—Economic recovery in the industrial nations is not rapid enough; economic development in the third world is a global concern; and both require the strengthening of international economic cooperation.

—Fostering human rights in our own society and abroad is necessary to a just international order and a measure of the vitality of our most basic values as a nation.

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The United States approaches these challenges with extraordinary human and physical resources. Our unparalleled strength has its roots deep in the character and nature of our country:

—The inherent strength and resiliency of our society;

—Our deep-seated respect for the rights and potential of the individual regardless of circumstances of birth;

—Our economic power and resources;

—A superior technological and industrial base;

—A military capability second to none;

—A tradition of inventive diplomacy and a willingness to assume the responsibilities of leadership.

Our strengths as a nation are amplified by our long-standing alliances with other nations. We confront our challenges together.

Together, we also face a new pattern of international relations in the late 1970’s. For close to three decades, the Cold War dominated our view of the world; today, we must deal with a pluralistic international setting of several major dimensions:

—First are our ties to the democratic, industrial nations of Western Europe, Canada, and Japan. These ties serve the central political, economic, and military interests of the United States. They have proven their durability and their continuing value. The cohesion and strength of these relationships remain an essential precondition to progress in our other relations.

—There is the evolving East-West relationship, marked by continuing competitive elements, and yet promising in its opportunities for cooperation.

—Relations between the industrial societies and the developing nations now touch every major issue before us. Increasingly, nations both North and South recognize the need to seek common ground.

—Modern technology, while it has brought great benefits, has also created a new set of challenges which are global in scope and in the necessary dimensions of their resolution, developing and allocating scarce resources, protecting the world environment, confronting the dangers of nuclear proliferation, encouraging the free flow of information, applying medical and agricultural knowledge to the enhancement of human life.

—The widening pattern of international associations, the economic, political, technical and cultural bodies—public and private—plays an increasingly important role in facilitating the cooperative efforts necessary to deal effectively with international problems.

These elements interact to create a new pattern of international life and new demands for diplomatic skill and creativity. Shifting coali[Page 339]tions among nations are coming together around particular interests, often cutting across ideological, regional and political lines. From the core relationship with our historical allies and friends, we are able, on an increasing number of issues, to join together with nations we have not worked closely with in the past. This is especially true with the developing world. Moreover, when the nations of the communist world seek constructive solutions to common problems, we and others are ready to join with them. We seek the most inclusive coalitions that can be effective in meeting the particular challenges before us.

We are also operating on the assumption that no animosity is so deep that there is not some common ground. For instance, we find ourselves associated with the Soviet Union on certain issues, such as the Law of the Seas, even as we stand in opposition on other issues. At the same time, we recognize that our alliances can never be so total that disagreements on some issues are precluded.

We recognize that diverse and equally valid American goals may themselves come into conflict, particularly over the short term. Thus, our interest in secure energy supplies can conflict with our interest in preventing nuclear proliferation, for nuclear energy without adequate safeguards can be used to develop nuclear weapons. Our commitment to human rights may sometimes clash with our desire to maintain close ties to countries whose cooperation we need on security or economic issues.

The pursuit of our basic principles must therefore be flexible and pragmatic, for balances inevitably must be struck. Both our principles and their pragmatic pursuit are traditional American strengths. As we reassert the international vitality of our national ideals, we must remain practical in recognizing the limits to our power and the conflicting demands which our ideals may make upon our policies. America has been most successful in the world when it has maintained this sense of practical idealism.

The changing nature of international cooperation and competition, our diverse interests in the world, the absence of armed conflicts involving American force, all contribute to move American foreign policy beyond the generalized doctrines of times past. Our policies do not lend themselves to simple doctrinal explanations. We must therefore take special care to work closely with the Congress, to open our policies to broad public discussion and to encourage alternative points of view within the Administration itself. All voices must be heard: America’s foreign policy cannot be sustained without the understanding and support of the American people.

2. Agenda for 1978

The decisions which the Administration, Congress and American people face in 1978 will be made, in large measure, within the context of [Page 340] the goals we set for ourselves during 1977. In important respects, our choices in 1978 will shape the character of America’s role in world affairs for years to come:

—We will persist in continuing long term efforts to promote human rights, to check nuclear weapons proliferation and to restrain the growth in conventional arms traffic.

—Ratification of the Panama Canal Treaties will secure our future interests in the Canal and set the pattern for a healthy new relationship between big powers and smaller countries, a relationship of clear mutual benefit and respect.

—We will continue during the coming months to pursue a strategic arms limitation agreement with the Soviet Union that will strengthen our security as well as that of our allies, and reduce the risks and tensions that accompany an uncontrolled nuclear weapons race. We will at the same time press for a comprehensive ban on nuclear testing.

—Diplomacy for peace in the Middle East, southern Africa, and the Horn of Africa will continue, in the hope that these particularly dangerous regional disputes can be resolved.

—An effective American energy program must be enacted.

—We will pursue a more open trading system that serves the economies of all nations.

—Through a more effective foreign aid program, we will seek to encourage the growth and well-being of developing societies. Their economic progress will promote our own.

We have always responded well as a nation to immediate challenges. Today, more than ever, we face another critical test: whether we can rally for the long haul, whether we can make the short-term sacrifices sometimes necessary to secure our future interests.

We have emerged from our national ordeal in Vietnam. In 1978, a strong America has the opportunity to show that we have the confidence to play a positive role of world leadership. This positive American role is essential if the world is to come to grips with the problems that could otherwise engulf it.

The choices we face touch every American. While the immediate interests of our citizens are diverse, over the longer run each of us shares an interest in a foreign policy that serves three goals: to be true to our values, to seek peace, and to enhance the well-being of our people and the peoples of all nations. The body of this report addresses each of these fundamental objectives.


American values provide the base of our policy. Our concern for the welfare of others coincides with our own national interest:

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—to do what we can to alleviate injustice and tension before they erupt into violence;

—to help reduce the threat of war and the high cost of military establishments;

—to contribute to the global economic growth and equity on which our own national prosperity depends.

Human Rights:

The human rights policy of this Administration most clearly represents the application of our values to the practical decisions of foreign policy.

Our concern is for those human rights which have been recognized internationally—in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,2 and other UN covenants and conventions; in the American Convention on Human Rights;3 and in the final act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. [Page 342] These documents codify the right to be free from torture or arbitrary arrest; the right to political freedom; and basic economic rights and opportunities. Our focus on these human rights is not an attempt to impose the American political system on others. These rights can be enjoyed under various political systems and in differing manner. They are rights to which all are entitled.

It is easy to be for all these rights in our rhetoric. Indeed no civilized nation has ever declared itself against them. It is more complex to take the human rights dimension into account in the major foreign policy decisions we take. We are trying to do that. That is how we view our obligations to American law and tradition.

Human rights concerns have been integrated into all levels of our dealings with foreign governments—from Presidential exchanges to the discussions of working level officials. It is clear to all governments that we consider how they treat their own people as an important factor in all our dealings with them.

We have affirmed our commitment to formal international standards—by finally signing the UN covenants on economic, social, and cultural rights and on civil and political rights4 and by signing the American Convention on Human Rights. We are working to improve the human rights machinery of the UN and the Organization of American States, and to secure better implementation of the human rights provisions of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. These multilateral efforts are important since they emphasize that America is not preaching to the rest of the world, but adding its voice to all the others who are working to improve the plight of individuals.

Words must be supported with actions. Proposals for American assistance—loans or grants through our aid program; our position on loans in the international development banks; military assistance or even sales—are carefully reviewed from a human rights point of view. This is a time-consuming process, since we analyze the human rights situation in the country concerned, who will benefit from the assistance, and how we can effectively assist the cause of human rights and the lot of the neediest.

We have modified aid allocations on human rights grounds and we are working to ensure that our bilateral programs meet the basic human needs of the poor for food, shelter, health care, and education. We oppose loans in the international development banks to countries with serious human rights problems, unless the loans are aimed at satisfying basic human needs. We have accepted the fact that our relations with certain countries may be strained as a result of our attention to human rights. As human rights conditions improve, these strains should be eased.

It may be of interest to record some of the actual dilemmas we face, for example, in linking human rights and foreign assistance. We often ask ourselves: should we oppose a loan which could promote the economic condition of poor people, in hopes of influencing their governments to permit a greater exercise of political rights? Would withholding security aid in a particular situation stimulate a siege mentality, leading to an even harsher crackdown on dissident elements, or would its practical effect be to promote human rights? How can we best show recognition of the progress a society is making, and thus reinforce that process, even if the general human rights situation remains unacceptable?

These and other hard questions require case-by-case analysis. Some observers will find our choices inconsistent. This is because tactics should be adaptable, although our goals are not. We will take those actions we believe will be most effective in each country, and which are consistent with statutory provisions designed to promote respect for internationally recognized human rights.

We must also keep our human rights concerns in balance with other national interests. We often must determine how best to respond to the needs of individuals living under authoritarian regimes, while still retaining the necessary cooperation of their governments on security or economic matters that are vital to us. Even in striking this balance however, our broad goal remains the same: economic and security [Page 343] policies, as well as policy on “human rights”, are guided by a concern with the impact of all we do on the welfare of individuals.

We are embarked on a long term endeavor. Progress must be measured over the long run. This Administration will probably not see the full results—successful or not—of our efforts in this field. Nor can we claim credit for many decisions made by sovereign foreign governments. But we have contributed to an international climate in which tangible progress was made in 1977:

—Thousands of prisoners have been freed.

—Some political systems have become a little more open. States of siege have ended and elections have been scheduled in a number of countries.

—International human rights commissions have been permitted to visit countries formerly closed to them.

The world was not transformed by such events. But many individuals were better off at the end of 1977 than at its beginning.

This is a sound beginning, but our experience has shown us that there are sometimes even better ways to proceed:

—In this first year we have most often reacted to human rights violations by reducing or ending economic or military assistance programs. We wish to increasingly emphasize positive actions to help governments which are trying to improve the lot of their own people. We are working to find ways to use our assistance affirmatively, to promote human rights, rather than in ways which are primarily punitive.

—We must work even more closely with international organizations and foreign leaders to find the most constructive ways to advance human rights in cultures and political traditions different from our own.

In our dealings with other nations and people we must recognize human rights problems of our own. The President’s plans for welfare reform, urban renewal, more jobs for disadvantaged youth, are all part of a commitment constantly to improve our own human rights performance.

In sum, there has been a perceptible change in the international view of what the United States stands for in the world. Our most durable source of strength is the symbol of individual liberty and opportunity that we represent to others.

[Omitted here are sections III. Peace and IV. Individual Economic Well-Being.]


One year ago, we decided to give new priority to several complex longer-term issues that are becoming increasingly important to our na[Page 344]tional interests: issues such as human rights, energy, trade, nuclear non-proliferation, and conventional arms sales.

We realized, but perhaps did not adequately explain to the American people, that progress on these issues would be slow, and that by raising some of them we would complicate certain of our bilateral relations.

We decided that these global problems had to be addressed at once, because it is clear that we cannot approach the key issues in our foreign policy seriatim. For example, we cannot so concentrate our energy on the political diplomacy of international peace, essential as it is, that we discover, too late, that poverty and injustice within nations makes peace among nations impossible.

The relationship between energy and nuclear proliferation illustrates this point. We can use the connection between the two issues to find progress on both: while seeking through cooperative international efforts to fire a safer nuclear fuel cycle, we can use progress on development of non-nuclear energy sources to reinforce our arguments against the development of unsafe nuclear facilities. Conversely, we emphasize also that the dangers of nuclear proliferation make the development of non-nuclear and safe nuclear power all the more important.

Our reluctance to set one or two rigid conceptual doctrines—to pretend that the complexities of a mature American foreign policy can be summarized in one or two catch phrases—is a matter of conscious choice. We will apply ourselves with more vigor to the necessity of explaining this reordering of our strategies and inter-related priorities in the coming year.

Some lessons that we can draw, in the light of the last year’s experience, include:

—We recognize that since we are more deeply engaged than ever in long-term efforts, results may come slowly: in many areas, we do not expect dramatic developments in the first year or two. We do expect to be judged on whether measured progress is being achieved, however—and on how much will have been achieved by the end of President Carter’s first term in office.

—The fact is that, without a single over-arching concept, we will have to build a national consensus behind American foreign policy on new premises and new approaches: if there is a lag in public perception of our design, it is partly because many people still think in terms of bipolar diplomacy, when relations with the Soviet Union dwarfed all other concerns. Now, however, we must operate on a broad range of issues in a pluralistic world, in which relations with the Soviet Union are central but not all encompassing.

—In discussing and debating our policies, we will ask also that the press and public be willing to wrestle with complexity and eschew the comfort of simple slogans and a belief in quick solutions.

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—Clear priorities need not be precluded by multiple goals. Certain issues—because of their urgency, their importance, or both—must and do receive our most serious attention. As indicated above, we place at the top of our agenda for 1978 the following issues:

• Approval of the Panama Canal treaties;

• Achievement of a sound SALT treaty, and other arms control measures;

• Peace-making in the Middle East and southern Africa;

• International economic recovery and development, including progress at the multilateral trade negotiations and a strong American aid program;

• Energy and nuclear non-proliferation; and

• Promoting human rights.

—Abroad, we will continue to work especially closely with our alliance friends in addressing these challenges.

—At home, in almost every case, progress in 1978 will be heavily dependent on positive Congressional action, and close cooperation between the legislative and executive branches. We welcome the role and responsibility of the Congress. As we share power in an open and constitutional way with the Congress, we also share responsibility with the members of both Houses to address pressing issues in an expeditious and constructive fashion.

—Finally, a practical approach requires an understanding that our actions need continuing examination and correction: when circumstances change (as they did in the Middle East in late 1977), or when we discover that we are making mistakes (as we may have done in early months, in pressing certain nations to address too many of our concerns at once), it is wiser to change tactics than to insist on the perfection of our approach.

In almost every case of American involvement in foreign crises, we view our role as that of a facilitator, a provider of good offices. On occasion, we may advance ideas or drafts, but our overriding desire is to get the parties together to discuss the key issues in a meaningful way. This has been true in the Middle East, in southern Africa, in the Eastern Mediterranean, in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere.

By commiting our economic, diplomatic and moral resources, the chances for the successful resolution of disputes are improved. But the solutions themselves will depend almost always on the good will and ingenuity of the parties themselves. For solutions that they have themselves designed and adopted are the solutions that are most likely to endure.

On economic and other global issues, we can help to form coalitions of nations working together to resolve the problems that no single nation can meet alone.

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We can do all this, however, only if we are willing to show leadership through example as well as strength. Only through our own constructive domestic and foreign policies—whether on energy or the Panama Canal—can we inspire and presume to encourage other nations to act with us for the common good.

As President Carter said at the United Nations last October,5

“However wealthy and powerful the United States may be—however capable of leadership—this power is increasingly relative, the leadership increasingly is in need of being shared.

“No nation has a monopoly of vision, of creativity, or of ideas. Bringing these together from many nations is our common responsibility and our common challenge. For only in these ways can the idea of a peaceful global community grow and prosper.”

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Policy and Planning Staff—Office of the Director, Records of Anthony Lake, 1977–1981: Lot 82D298, Box 1, 3/2/78 2 Copies of Report on 1977 prepared but not released. No classification marking. According to a February 24 memorandum from Christopher to Lake, Lake drafted the paper. Christopher, commenting on an earlier version of the paper, recommended that Lake rework the format, send it to the bureaus to obtain updated comments, and then forward it to Vance. He continued: “At that point, I would hope that, with an appropriately hedged cover sheet, it would become a public document. But even if it does not, it will have served an important purpose.” (National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Deputy Secretary, Records of Warren Christopher, 1977–1980: Lot 81D113, Box 8, Memoranda from WC to Bureaus—1978) Attached to the version of the paper printed here is a cover page indicating that Vance had requested the paper and that the Bureau of Public Affairs planned to issue it. Notations in an unknown hand on the cover page read: “Please return to S/P—L Rowe” and “3/2 final 12:30 p.m. S/P.” An additional notation indicates that the paper was not published.
  2. See footnote 17, Document 29.
  3. See footnote 8, Document 33.
  4. See footnote 9, Document 9.
  5. See Document 56.