156. Editorial Note
Secretary of State George Shultz delivered the commencement address at Stanford University in Stanford, California, on June 12, 1983. In his address, Shultz emphasized the “common responsibility” shared by democracies facing “a new set of challenges”: “American students graduating today have many worries, I am sure. You must be anxious about your careers and your future. Yet there is one category of worries that, I daresay, you do not have. You are not concerned that the threat of imprisonment or torture hangs over you if you say or write or do the ‘wrong’ thing. You have no fear of the policeman’s midnight knock on the door. Considering how few democracies there are in this world, what we have in common with our allies is, therefore, something precious: systems of constitutional, representative government; systems of law that guarantee basic political and civil rights and [Page 621] freedoms; open economic systems that give free rein to individual talent and initiative.
“Most alliances in history have not lasted. The fact that the democracies have been held together by ties of political, economic, and security cooperation for more than three decades, through many profound changes in international conditions, is proof, I believe, that our unity of shared values and common purpose is something special.
“At the same time, the grim lesson of history should warn us that even this great coalition will not survive without conscious effort and political commitment. Those statesmen who were ‘present at the creation’ in the immediate postwar period showed enormous vision and courage. In a new era of history, it is up to all of us to summon the same vision and courage to assure that it survives and flourishes.
“Therefore, it is of enormous importance that our moral unity is today being so effectively translated into political unity. It is important that old divisions within the alliance are narrowing, as shown by the fact that the ministerial meeting I just attended was held in Paris for the first time in 17 years. It is important that the alliance is attractive enough for new countries to want to join—the original 12 now number 16. It is important that the 24 industrial democracies grouped in the OECD have worked out a framework for a consensus on the difficult issue of East-West trade, based on a thoughtful analysis of the balance of interests in economic relations with communist systems.
“Outside the formal alliance framework, British, French, and Italian soldiers now stand alongside our Marines protecting Beirut. Our Atlantic allies, Japan, and other countries around the world are supporting our efforts to promote the withdrawal of all external forces from Lebanon. Britain, France, West Germany, Canada, and the United States are working together as a ‘contact group’ to help reach a negotiated arrangement for the independence of Namibia. And all the diverse Williamsburg summit partners—including Japan—joined in an impressive joint statement on security and arms control.
“Thus, for all our occasional squabbles, the democratic nations have not forgotten the paramount importance of the values and interests we have in common.
“In the economic dimension as well, experience teaches that cooperation is essential. We now live in an interdependent world in which each country’s well-being, primarily its own responsibility is, nevertheless, affected powerfully by the health of the global economy, for which the industrial democracies bear a special responsibility.
“In the 1970s, the plagues of recession, oil shocks, and inflation spread across national boundaries. The impact was not only economic but political. There was great concern that these ills would weaken [Page 622] not only Western economies but the cohesion of Western societies. If democratic governments proved unable to deal effectively with their economic problems, societies would be under continuing strain, social divisions would be aggravated, and we might have faced a demoralizing crisis of democracy. Increasing resort to protectionism, choking off world trade and compounding the recession, could have undermined relations between allies. These political divisions, as well as budgetary pressures, threatened to weaken the common defense.
“The free nations had learned, however, from the experience of the 1930s, when the failure of cooperation gave birth to widespread protectionism, which deepened the Great Depression. This time the free nations began the practice of holding yearly economic summits and intensified their cooperation in many other forums, multilateral and bilateral. So we can hope that the common sense of the body politic will prevail over the drive of special interests for protective treatment.
“As the Williamsburg declaration testifies: ‘The recession has put our societies through a severe test, but they have proved resilient.’ Rather than economic stagnation, we are seeing the impressive capacity of open economies to regain their vitality. Growth with low inflation has resumed in the United States, Japan, West Germany, Britain, and other countries which together account for about three-quarters of the production of the industrialized world. If we have truly wrung inflation out of our system, and if we all maintain discipline in our national policies, the world could be headed for a long period of sustained noninflationary growth. Those are big ‘ifs,’ I know, but our experience should tell us that the job can be done and that we will be much better off as we do it.
“It is essential that we resist protectionism, which could hinder this recovery. The Williamsburg summit partners candidly acknowledged to each other that every country’s record is spotty on this score. But they committed themselves ‘to halt protectionism, and as recovery proceeds to reverse it by dismantling trade barriers.’ New efforts of trade liberalization would be especially beneficial to the developing countries: in 1980, their export earnings of $580 billion amounted to 17 times their net receipts from foreign aid.
“For all our temporary setbacks, the free economies have brought about since 1945 an era of growth and prosperity unprecedented in history. On the Eastern side of the divided Continent of Europe, economic problems are systemic. Inefficiencies are built in; innovation is inhibited; effective economic reforms are excluded because they would weaken the grip of centralized Soviet political control. In contrast, our economic difficulties are largely problems of self-discipline, of better management of fiscal and monetary policy to permit the inherent vitality of the free economic system to show its power. The weakness of Soviet-style economies is structural. We have reason for confidence, for our economic future is in our own hands.[Page 623]
“Unfortunately, the Soviet system is very proficient in another sphere: the accumulation of military power. Therefore, security must remain a priority area of cooperation. If the values and interests we have in common are truly precious to us, then we have a duty to defend them. The summit partners at Williamsburg made very clear that they have learned this lesson. Let me read to you from their joint statement:
“‘As leaders of our seven countries, it is our first duty to defend the freedom and justice on which our democracies are based. To this end, we shall maintain sufficient military strength to deter any attack, to counter any threat, and to ensure the peace. . . . The security of our countries is indivisible and must be approached on a global basis. . . . We have a vision of a world in which the shadow of war has been lifted from all mankind, and we are determined to pursue that vision.’
“In an age of nuclear weapons, maintaining collective security is no easy task. ‘A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.’ That’s a quote from Ronald Reagan. Our challenge is really twofold: we must both defend freedom and preserve the peace. We must seek to advance those moral values to which this nation and its allies are deeply committed. And we must do so in a nuclear age in which a global war would thoroughly destroy those values. As the President pointed out in Los Angeles on March 31, our task is ‘one of the most complex moral challenges faced by any generation.’
“We and our allies have agreed for decades on a twofold strategy for meeting this challenge. First, we are committed to ensuring the military balance, modernizing our forces, and maintaining vigilance. Second, we are prepared for and committed to constructive dialogue with our adversaries, to address the sources of tension, resolve political conflicts, and reduce the burden and danger of armaments.
“We cannot find security in arms alone. We are willing to negotiate differences, but we cannot do so effectively if we are weak or if the Soviet Union believes it can achieve its objectives without any compromise. Therefore, both these tracks—strength and diplomacy—are essential.
“Unfortunately, the democratic nations have tended to neglect their defense responsibilities. Some serious problems have resulted and are now coming home to roost. They underlie many of the current controversies. In the 1970s, the trauma of Vietnam caused the United States to reduce its armed forces and reduce real defense spending, at the same time that the Soviet Union, in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis, was embarked on a relentless buildup in all categories of military power—strategic, conventional, and naval. Once the United States lost its unquestioned strategic superiority over the Soviet Union, NATO’s defense—which relies on the commitment of American strategic power—became much more complicated. Yet NATO conventional forces continue to be inadequate. [Page 624] Ironically, NATO’s success in keeping the peace in Europe for more than three decades leads some to take peace for granted and to forget the crucial role NATO has played in guaranteeing it.
“The unprecedented expansion of Soviet power over the past two decades cannot be ignored or rationalized away. Any president, any administration, would be forced to respond. We have seen too often that an imbalance of power is an invitation to conflict. Therefore, this administration, and our allies, are committed to maintenance of the military balance in Europe and globally.
“Surely the burden of proof is on those who would undo the present military balance, or alter it, or conduct risky experiments with unilateral concessions without genuinely reducing the levels of armaments on both sides.
“At the same time, experience teaches that a balance of power, though necessary, is not sufficient. Our strength is a means to an end; it is the secure foundation for our effort to build a safer, more peaceful, and more hopeful world. On the basis of strength, the cohesion of our alliance, and a clear view of our own objectives, we must never be afraid to negotiate.
“This is our attitude to arms control. As NATO decided in December 1979, for example, we intend to modernize our intermediate-range nuclear forces in Europe to counter the Soviet deployment of over 1,000 nuclear warheads on their new intermediate-range missiles (SS–20s). But we are also willing to eliminate this entire category of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth; and we are prepared, as an interim step, to reduce these forces to any equal, verifiable level.
“If negotiations do not succeed, however, we must be prepared to deploy at the end of this year as decided in 1979. The Soviet Union has no higher priority goal at the moment than to intimidate NATO into canceling its deployments unilaterally, thereby leaving the Soviet Union with its massive monopoly of new missiles and warheads already in place. As the summit partners made unanimously clear at Williamsburg, the alliance cannot, and will not, permit this to happen.
“At Williamsburg and at NATO, we saw an impressive consensus on security and arms control. This is a firm ground for confidence that war will be deterred, that stability will be maintained, and that we will have a chance at least to reach reliable agreements making the world that you inherit a safer place.
“The final lesson I want to leave you with is this: experience teaches us that nothing is foreordained. Nations, like individuals, have choices to make. History is filled with many examples of nations and individuals that made the wrong choices; there are also many examples of foresight, wisdom, and courage.
“Democracies are sometimes slow to awaken to their challenges. But once they are aroused, no force on earth is more powerful than free peoples working together with clear purpose and determination.[Page 625]
“Therefore, I have confidence in the future. You new graduates, with your energy, talent, creativity, represent the promise of that future. Few others are so fortunate. Few others have such a responsibility.
“And now, my congratulations to you, to your parents, and to Stanford, and my very best wishes to all of you.” (Department of State Bulletin, July 1983, pages 63–65)