The new dimension in foreign affairs

Across this planet let us attack the ills that threaten peace. In the untapped oceans of water and space let us harvest in peace

Address to the United Nations
General Assembly,
October 23, 1970

It was a poet who expressed the profound political truth that the world has become a frail spaceship and that the people of the earth are its passengers. The technology which inspired that concept has also brought with it a degree of global interdependence which differs from the past, not only in degree but in kind.

For our progress mocks us. The more we have succeeded in controlling our environment, the more our environment needs to be controlled. The more means we have devised to improve the quality of human life, the more that quality of life needs protection from the means we have devised.

Along with its vast contribution to our well being, technology has given us the common capability to pollute the earth's oceans and air. It has increased the incentives for nations to assert, and attempt to enforce, territorial claims to the oceans so immoderate as to endanger the ancient right of freedom of the seas. It has brought the ability to tap -or to ravage- the resources of the sea and the ocean floor, to the vast benefit-or to the huge harm-of mankind.

These are examples of problems in which every country has a deep national interest, but which, as a practical matter, are simply not subject to satisfactory resolution by national means. They are matters on which the nations of the world must subsume their narrower interests in a broad and generous concept of the world interest. For without such an approach, we will not find the solutions which both the world interest and the national interests require. Without such an approach, we cannot fully harness the capacity of technology to meet these global challenges.

Thus there has come into being a new dimension in the foreign policy of the United States, not as a matter of choice and deliberate action on our part but as a reflection of the demanding realities of the world in which we live. Foreign policy has, of course, always aimed at serving the nation's security and well being. What is new is the fact that we now face an increasing range of problems which are central to our national well being, but which are, by definition, global problems, or problems which can only be dealt with effectively on a global scale.

In addressing these problems a narrow calculation of national interests is inadequate. For viewed from that perspective, the nations of the world do sometimes have conflicting interests of a real and substantial nature. Of greater import, however,is our shared and trandescent interest in the livability of our common home, the earth. To these problems, and the opportunities they present, that interest must be our guide and the guide of others. The nurturing of that interest has now become a prime task of American leadership.

During the past year, this new dimension of our international activity has been evident at the United Nations, in a number of its associated organizations, in various regional activities, and through frequent bilateral contacts with many nations around the world. It is encouraging that the international community is showing an increasing willingness to grapple with these problems. But the fact remains that the time available for finding a solution to many of them is perilously short. I want to review our attitude toward some of the more salient issues, and the steps that are being taken by the international community to meet those issues.