The New American Role

How is America to conduct itself in a world so different? How should we define the form and content of American participation in the 1970s?

In the era of American predominance we resorted to American prescriptions as well as resources. In the new era our friends are revitalized and increasingly self-reliant, while the American domestic consensus has been strained by twenty-five years of global responsibilities. Failure to draw upon the growth of others would have stifled them and exhausted ourselves. Partnership that was always theoretically desirable is now physically and psychologically imperative.

In the era of overwhelming U.S. military strength we and our allies could rely on the doctrine of massive retaliation. In the new era growing Soviet power has altered the military equation. Failure to adapt to this change could lead to confrontations which pose an agonizing choice between paralysis and holocaust. Strength that served the cause of peace during a period of relative superiority needs new definitions to keep the peace during a period of relative equality.

In the era of Communist solidarity we pursued an undifferentiated negotiating approach toward Communist countries. In the new era we see a multipolar Communism marked by a variety of attitudes toward the rest of the world. Failure to respond to this diversity would have ignored new opportunities for improving relations. Negotiation with different Communist countries on specific issues carries more promise.

Finally, in the new era unprecedented challenges beckon nations to set aside doctrine and focus on a common agenda. A new global partnership could promote habits of working for the world's interests instead of narrow national interests.

We in this generation have before us an historic opportunity to turn the transformations of the last twenty-five years into new avenues for peace, and to realize the creative possibilities of a pluralistic world. We must begin with We vision of the world we seek, to infuse our actions with a sense of direction. We need a vision, so that crises do not consume our energies and tactics do not dominate our policies.

America has always had a belief in a purpose larger than itself. Two centuries ago our mission was to be a unique exemplar of free government. Two decades ago it was to take up worldwide burdens of securing the common defense, economic recovery, and political stability.

Today we must work with other nations to build an enduring structure of peace. We seek a new and stable framework of international relationships which reflects the contributions and reconciles the aspirations of nations; which is cemented by the shared goal of coexistence and the shared practice of accommodation; which liberates countries and continents to realize their destinies free from the threat of war; which promotes social justice and human dignity.

Our participation remains crucial. Because of the abundance of our resources and the stretch of our technology, America's impact on the world remains enormous, whether by our action or by our inaction. Our awareness of the world is too keen, and our concern for peace too deep, for us to remove the measure of stability which we have provided for the past twenty-five years.

But we need the resources and concepts of others so that they will build this structure with us. For it will not endure unless other nations sense that it is also of their making. Their growth in the past decades enables other nations to do more, and peace in the coming decades will require all nations to do some.

With others we will strive for something that America and the world have not experienced in this century, a full generation of peace.

The first step, of course, is to still the sound of war. We are moving toward that goal. Beyond that, we are focusing on something that men alive today can achieve for themselves and their children, on a span of peace we can realize here and now. This will be our ultimate test.

Thus the core of our new foreign policy is a partnership that reflects the basic theme of the international structure we seek. Its necessary adjuncts are strength to secure our interests and negotiation to reconcile them with the interests of others. Its fullest extension encompasses adversaries as well as friends.

It will take many years to shape the new American role. The transition from the past is underway but far from completed. During this period the task of maintaining a balance abroad and at home will test the capacity of American leadership and the understanding of the American people.

Adjustments in our policies surely will be required, but our experience in 1970 confirmed the basic soundness of our approach.

We have set a new direction. We are on course.