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Sunday, April 30, 2000

Pre-emptive Engagement


Democratic Presidential Nominee Al Gore

Speech to the International Press Institute, Boston MA

Department of State, International Information Programs

"While old threats persist, there are new things under the sun—new forces arising that now or soon will challenge our international order, raising issues of peace and war," says Vice President Al Gore. In what is perhaps the best-known foreign policy speech of his campaign, Gore told the International Press Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 30, 2000, that "a realistic reading of the world today demands reinvigorated international and regional institutions...and American leadership--to protect our interests and uphold our values." Following are excerpts of the address. (The full text is available on the Gore/Lieberman website.


For all of my career, I have believed that America has a responsibility to lead in the world. That's why I was one of only a few Democrats in the United States Senate to vote in support of the use of force…

We are now in a new era. …We should neither bemoan nor naively idealize this new reality. We should deal with it.

We must now view what could be called the classic security agenda—the question of war and peace among sovereign states—in light of these new realities. But we must also recognize that there is a New Security Agenda, which I discussed at the United Nations Security Council in January—a set of threats that affect us all and that transcend political borders; a set of challenges equal in magnitude to the challenges of the past.

Today, at the dawn of the 21st century, we need a foreign policy that addresses the classic security threats—and understands the new ones as well. …We need to pursue a policy of "forward engagement"—addressing problems early in their development before they become crises; addressing them as close to the source of the problem as possible; and having the forces and resources to deal with those threats …

We need a new security agenda for the Global Age based on forward engagement.


…we are defending the idea of freedom itself.

That is why America must have a military capability that is second to none.…. It is crucial to our security in this era of rogue states and international terror. ….I look forward to the day when Serbia and Iraq will be free from the grip of Milosevic and Saddam and the terrors they have wrought on their own people.

….we are on the threshold of manufacturing and deploying the next generation of military weapons….

If I am entrusted with the Presidency, I will lead the effort to ensure that America has the new generation of weapons we need.


During the Cold War, we worked to contain these two powers (Russia and China) and limit their reach. Our task in the 21st century is not making them weak—but instead to encourage forces of reform.

That is why we have worked hard these past seven years to help Russia make a transition to a market-based democracy. We have helped Russia privatize its economy and build a civil society marked by free elections and an active press. We have brought Russia into a working relationship with NATO through the Permanent Joint Council and the Partnership for Peace program. We have been able to work with Russian forces successfully inside a NATO framework in the Balkans.

We have helped safeguard Russian nuclear material against the danger of theft. We have made it possible for thousands of Russia's nuclear scientists and weapons experts to find peaceful pursuits. And we have helped Russia to reduce its nuclear arsenal by nearly 5,000 warheads.

This work has not been without difficulty, or controversy. We strongly disagree with Russia's course in Chechnya. Russia must intensify its own work to stop the flow of dangerous technologies that irresponsible groups and rogue states can use to create weapons of mass destruction. Russia must still take decisive steps to combat corruption and achieve reform. But a new Cold War is not the right path to progress. Engaging Russia is the right thing to do. That's why I took on the task of leading our effort to work with Russia—not because it was politically popular, but because it was right for America's security, and right for the spread of democracy around the world.

For these same reasons, we must also follow a policy toward China that is focussed on results, not rhetoric.

Make no mistake: we have strong disagreements with China over human rights and religious freedom, and over Chinese treatment of Tibet. These issues cannot—and must not—be ignored or marginalized. They must constantly be pursued. Human rights and human dignity speak to the deepest bonds we share, across all borders and nationalities. America has to prod China to make progress in all these areas—and as President, that's exactly what I'll do.

We also have concerns over tensions building between China and Taiwan. We need to maintain our commitment to the One China policy, but urge China and Taiwan to intensify their dialogue and to resolve their problems by peaceful means. The Administration is honoring its obligation to make defensive weapons available to Taiwan. But I am deeply concerned that those in the Congress who are pushing the Taiwan Security Enhancement Act are blind to its consequences: a sharp deterioration in the security of the region.

It is wrong to isolate and demonize China—to build a wall when we need to build a bridge.

As all of you know, I have friends and supporters who disagree with me on the best way to bring change and reform to China. I understand their views. They are justifiably impatient with the pace of change in China. I am, too. But the question is not whether we should be dealing with China. The question is whether we can afford not to.

Can we really abandon the kind of frank and open exchange that allows us to raise our differences in the first place? Can we really isolate a nation with 1.2 billion people and a nuclear arsenal? Can we really turn our backs on one of the most dynamic economies on the planet?

I strongly support Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China....I support China's membership in the World Trade Organization—to make China abide by the same rules of international trade that we follow today.

We have to engage China—even as we challenge China on key areas of difference. It is in America's clear national security interest to do so. It is in America's vital economic interest to do so. And in the long run, I believe it is the only way to bring freedom and reform to the people of China.


While the old threats persist, there are new things under the sun—new forces arising that now or soon will challenge our international order, raising issues of peace and war: a New Security Agenda.

Because of the historically unprecedented power of the technologies now widely available around the world, mistakes that were once tolerable can now have consequences beyond our calculation. Threats that were once local can have an impact that is regional and global. Damage that might once have been temporary and limited can now be permanent and catastrophic.

A rogue state or terrorist group with biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons—or the technical skill to disrupt our computer networks—can bring destruction far out of proportion to its size.

New pandemics and new mutations of disease can devastate entire societies—with impacts threatening to destabilize entire regions.

The disruption of the world's ecological systems—from the rise of global warming and the consequent damage to our climate balance, to the loss of living species and the depletion of ocean fisheries and forest habitats—continues at a frightening rate. Practically every day, it becomes clearer to us that we must act now to protect our Earth, while preserving and creating jobs for our people.

And at the very same time that these threats are developing, the traditional nation-state itself is changing—as power moves upwards and downwards, to everything from supra-national organizations and coalitions all the way down to feuding clans. Susceptible to tyrants willing to exploit ethnic and religious rivalries, the weakest of these states have either imploded into civil war or threatened to lash out across their borders.

To meet these challenges requires cooperation on a scale not seen before. A realistic reading of the world today demands reinvigorated international and regional institutions. It demands that we confront threats before they spiral out of the control. And it requires American leadership—to protect our interests and uphold our values.


…I believe that now we have a profound responsibility to open the gates of opportunity for all the world's people so that they can become stakeholders in the kind of society we would like to build at large in the world and at home. …

We need to give the poorest countries a hand up—through passage of legislation such as the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act and the Caribbean Basin Initiative. We need more economic engagement and expanded trade with all the Americas. And we must assist the poorest nations through debt relief. I called for this process last year in Davos. We have begun it. We need to pursue and intensify it.