December 6, 1825: Message Regarding the Congress of American Nations

President John Quincy Adams delivered the following speech on December 6, 1825.

To the Senate of the United States:

In the message to both Houses of Congress at the commencement of the session it was mentioned that the Governments of the Republics of Colombia, of Mexico, and of Central America had severally invited the Government of the United States to be represented at the Congress of American nations to be assembled at Panama to deliberate upon objects of peculiar concernment to this hemisphere, and that this invitation had been accepted.

Although this measure was deemed to be within the constitutional competency of the Executive, I have not thought proper to take any step in it before ascertaining that my opinion of its expediency will concur with that of both branches of the Legislature, first, by the decision of the Senate upon the nominations to be laid before them, and, secondly, by the sanction of both Houses to the appropriations, without which it can not be carried into effect.

A report from the Secretary of State and copies of the correspondence with the South American Governments on this subject since the invitation given by them are herewith transmitted to the Senate. They will disclose the objects of importance which are expected to form a subject of discussion at this meeting, in which interests of high importance to this Union are involved. It will be seen that the United States neither intend nor are expected to take part in any deliberations of a belligerent character; that the motive of their attendance is neither to contract alliances nor to engage in any undertaking or project importing hostility to any other nation.

But the Southern American nations, in the infancy of their independence, often find themselves in positions with reference to other countries with the principles applicable to which, derivable from the state of independence itself, they have not been familiarized by experience. The result of this has been that sometimes in their intercourse with the United States they have manifested dispositions to reserve a right of granting special favors and privileges to the Spanish nation as the price of their recognition. At others they have actually established duties and impositions operating unfavorably to the United States to the advantage of other European powers, and sometimes they have appeared to consider that they might interchange among themselves mutual concessions of exclusive favor, to which neither European powers nor the United States should be admitted. In most of these cases their regulations unfavorable to us have yielded to friendly expostulation and remonstrance. But it is believed to be of infinite moment that the principles of a liberal commercial intercourse should be exhibited to them, and urged with disinterested and friendly persuasion upon them when all assembled for the avowed purpose of consulting together upon the establishment of such principles as may have an important bearing upon their future welfare.

The consentaneous adoption of principles of maritime neutrality, and favorable to the navigation of peace, and commerce in time of war, will also form a subject of consideration to this Congress. The doctrine that free ships make free goods and the restrictions of reason upon the extent of blockades may be established by general agreement with far more ease, and perhaps with less danger, by the general engagement to adhere to them concerted at such a meeting, than by partial treaties or conventions with each of the nations separately. An agreement between all the parties represented at the meeting that each will guard by its own means against the establishment of any future European colony within its borders may be found advisable. This was more than two years since announced by my predecessor to the world as a principle resulting from the emancipation of both the American continents. It may be so developed to the new southern nations that they will all feel it as an essential appendage to their independence.

There is yet another subject upon which, without entering into any treaty, the moral influence of the United States may perhaps be exerted with beneficial consequences at such a meeting–the advancement of religious liberty. Some of the southern nations are even yet so far under the dominion of prejudice that they have incorporated with their political constitutions an exclusive church, without toleration of any other than the dominant sect. The abandonment of this last badge of religious bigotry and oppression may be pressed more effectually by the united exertions of those who concur in the principles of freedom of conscience upon those who are yet to be convinced of their justice and wisdom than by the solitary efforts of a minister to any one of the separate Governments.

The indirect influence which the United States may exercise upon any projects or purposes originating in the war in which the southern Republics are still engaged, which might seriously affect the interests of this Union, and the good offices by which the United States may ultimately contribute to bring that war to a speedier termination, though among the motives which have convinced me of the propriety of complying with this invitation, are so far contingent and eventual that it would be improper to dwell upon them more at large.

In fine, a decisive inducement with me for acceding to the measure is to show by this token of respect to the southern Republics the interest that we take in their welfare and our disposition to comply with their wishes. Having been the first to recognize their independence, and sympathized with them so far as was compatible with our neutral duties in all their struggles and sufferings to acquire it, we have laid the foundation of our future intercourse with them in the broadest principles of reciprocity and the most cordial feelings of fraternal friendship. To extend those principles to all our commercial relations with them and to hand down that friendship to future ages is congenial to the highest policy of the Union, as it will be to that of all those nations and their posterity. In the confidence that these sentiments will meet the approbation of the Senate, I nominate Richard C. Anderson, of Kentucky, and John Sergeant, of Pennsylvania, to be envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary to the assembly of American nations at Panama, and William B. Rochester, of New York, to be secretary to the mission.

Central America, 1981–1993

The following is article is part of the United States Department of State’s “Milestones in the History of U.S. Foreign Relations” series. It is reproduced here under the public domain.

Following his electoral victory in November 1980, President Ronald Reagan amplified the concerns expressed by President Carter and Congress about foreign support of Central American leftist guerrilla forces. In February 1981, a month after the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) launched a major offensive against the Salvadoran military, the Department of State issued a White Paper stating that Cuba and other Communist countries had played a central role in the political unification, military direction, and arming of the Salvadoran insurgents. Secretary of State Alexander Haigaccused the Sandinista government of exporting terrorism to El Salvador and in April 1981, Reagan terminated economic assistance to Nicaragua citing its involvement in supporting Salvadoran rebels. After several failed diplomatic attempts to dissuade Managua from supporting FMLN activities, Reagan opted to support a clandestine guerrilla force to quash the Sandinista training and arming of Salvadoran guerillas. These “Contras,” as in “counterrevolutionaries,” were primarily ex-Nicaraguan National Guard members who had gathered in Honduran territory. The Contras launched their first major attack against the Sandinistas in March 1982. In response, the Sandinistas undertook a dramatic build-up of military manpower assisted by Soviet and Cuban advisers and weaponry, mostly from the Soviet bloc.

Supporters of the Nicaraguan Contra rebels outside a protest against the Contras at Hurlburt Field, Florida. (Department of Defense)

Reagan’s efforts to strengthen the Contras met with opposition from a divided Congress and resistance in Nicaragua. Concerns about the ultimate goals of the Contras and the possibility of direct U.S. military involvement prompted Representative Edward Boland, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, to sponsor legislation in December 1982 that prohibited the use of U.S. funds for the purpose of overthrowing the Sandinista government. The bill, signed into law by Reagan later that December, allowed assistance to the Contras for other purposes. Reagan continued to advocate increases in support for the Contras. He addressed a joint session of Congress in April 1983 asserting that the Sandinista government presented a threat to Central America and U.S. national security. American military exercises off the Nicaraguan coast and the invasion of Grenada in October 1983 demonstrated Reagan’s commitment to countering Communist threats in the region. Consequently, the Sandinistas decided to participate in the Contadora peace negotiations that had begun in January 1983 at the initiative of Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama. Claiming success in rolling back Communism in Grenada, Reagan gained congressional increases of up to $100 million in non-military aid to the Contras. In October 1984, however, Congress ended the support after learning about the mining of Nicaraguan harbors and the destruction of an oil facility. In November 1984 Reagan’s re-election and Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega’s elevation to president in a controversial national election set the tone for additional confrontation.

Reagan redoubled his commitment to the Contras in his second term. In his 1985 State of the Union address he called them “freedom-fighters” who were risking their lives to “defy Soviet-supported aggression.” In June 1985 Congress agreed to $27 million in humanitarian aid for the Contras, but no military support. Sandinista victories against the Contra fighters, heavy Presidential lobbying, and an incursion into Honduran territory by Nicaraguan forces helped to sway Congress into approving $100 million for the Contras, with seventy percent allocated for military aid to be delivered in October 1986. However, the Iran-Contra scandal broke the next month. The Tower Commission reported that White House staff members had been using extralegal funds raised from arms sales to Iran and foreign donors to arm the Contras prior to October 1986.

Following the deaths of hundreds of thousands and a decade of economic devastation, peace initiatives eventually gained traction in Central America. Numerous efforts to establish a peace plan by regional leaders, the United Nations, and the Organization of American States had continued in the wake of the 1983 Contadora initiative. In August 1987, Central American leaders signed a peace accord at Esquipulas, Guatemala that had been shaped and promoted primarily by Costa Rican President Óscar Arias. The plan focused on democratization and regional security, backed with a system of verification. Meeting in Costa Rica in January 1988, Central American leaders cemented their commitment to implement the Guatemala peace accord. Nicaraguan President Ortega entered into negotiations with the Contras and the United States began to shift aid to humanitarian purposes. Nicaragua implemented the accord and held internationally supervised elections in 1990. Violeta Chamorro, former member of the revolutionary Provisional Government and widow of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, the journalist and hero of the opposition who had been slain in 1978, was elected president and the Contras disbanded. The civil war in El Salvador lasted until 1991, when the FMLN reached a peace accord with the Salvadoran Government under United Nations supervision. In Guatemala, fighting between leftist groups and the military continued into the mid-1990s.

Washington continued to perceive threats in Central America after the end of the Cold War. On December 20, 1989, President George H.W. Bush dispatched over twenty thousand troops to invade Panama and arrest its head of state, Manuel Noriega. Noriega had nullified a presidential election won by opposition candidate Guillermo Endara that May. In addition, Bush had become opposed to Noriega’s continued leadership of Panama due to Noriega’s connections with drug smuggling and money laundering, as well as the declining security situation around the Panama Canal. In the months leading up to the invasion, the Bush administration implemented economic sanctions and increased local troop levels. The Panamanian legislature declared that a state of war existed with the United States on December 15 due to the escalating tension between the two countries. A U.S. serviceman was killed in Panama the following day; this and other events, including the harassment of a U.S. officer and his wife, precipitated U.S. action. Code-named Operation Just Cause, the fighting lasted for five days. After taking refuge in the Vatican Embassy, Noriega eventually surrendered to U.S. authorities and Endara regained his presidency. Noriega was tried in a United States court and convicted on charges of drug trafficking, money laundering, and racketeering.

Crisis in the South Atlantic: The Reagan Administration and the Anglo-Argentine War of 1982

The following is article is part of the United States Department of State’s “Milestones in the History of U.S. Foreign Relations” series. It is reproduced here under the public domain.

Early on the morning of April 2, 1982, Argentine military forces landed on the Falkland Islands (Spanish: Islas Malvinas) in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Argentina had maintained a claim to the islands dating to its independence from Spain in 1816; beginning in 1833, however, the United Kingdom had established a presence on the islands and developed them as a British colony. The issue of the islands’ future sovereignty had been the subject of intermittent and inconclusive negotiations between the two countries since the 1960s. Within hours of the invasion, the Argentines overwhelmed the small British garrison, forcing its surrender. In subsequent days, the military junta led by General Leopoldo Galtieri formalized Argentine control over the territory (as well as over other British South Atlantic possessions in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands) and expelled the British administration. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher condemned the landings as an act of aggression against the wishes of the islands’ inhabitants who, she argued, favored overwhelmingly continued association with the United Kingdom. She ordered the deployment of a naval task force to the region.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of England is welcomed by Secretary of State Alexander Haig upon arrival for a visit to the United States. (Department of Defense)

Amidst a situation that initially struck some U.S. policy makers as an anachronistic “Gilbert and Sullivan battle,” this crisis presented the Ronald Reagan administration with a formidable foreign policy dilemma. Although the United States had proclaimed its neutrality on the question of the islands’ sovereignty since the mid-nineteenth century, the clash between Argentina and the United Kingdom created conflicts among Reagan’s foreign policy team. Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick did not want to alienate the Argentines, regarded by the administration as key partners in halting the perceived expansion of Soviet-directed communist influence in the Western Hemisphere. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger argued strongly to support the British. The United Kingdom was one of Washington’s closest allies and Weinberger feared the administration’s failure to vigorously support the Thatcher government would tacitly condone the Argentines’ actions and encourage other countries to employ similarly aggressive methods. Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig, Jr., argued that Cuba and the Soviet Union stood poised to exploit the crisis and expand their influence in South America if the United States failed to prevent an escalation of hostilities. In such an environment, he advocated an even-handed “honest broker” approach toward both sides.

Containing the crisis and preserving Washington’s relationships with both governments hinged upon the conclusion of a negotiated settlement. Having failed to persuade Galtieri to refrain from landing on the islands, after much internal debate, Reagan dispatched Haig to the United Kingdom and Argentina for talks with Thatcher and Galtieri on April 7. The backdrop to Haig’s mission was ominous: in addition to an increasingly bellicose war of words between the Argentine and British governments, Britain’s mounting military buildup in the region raised the possibility of actual hostilities.

Haig shuttled between London and Buenos Aires for two rounds of intensive discussions over the next fortnight, but failed to broker a peaceful solution. Supported by most Britons, Thatcher insisted on a return to the status quo ante. Any other result would, she believed, imply moral equivalence between the British and Argentine positions, validate Argentina’s aggression, and diminish the islanders’ right to self-determination. Moreover, Thatcher stipulated that no negotiation over sovereignty could occur until Argentine forces withdrew. The Argentine Junta held its own suspicions about U.S. impartiality, refused to make concessions that might prejudice its claims to sovereignty over the islands, and viewed the dispute as a matter national honor. A series of detailed proposals and counterproposals failed to break the diplomatic impasse. Following a successful British operation to retake South Georgia and with growing indications of the Thatcher government’s readiness to seek a military solution, Argentina officially rejected Haig’s final peace proposal on April 29.

The following day, after a meeting of the National Security Council, Haig announced the breakdown of negotiations, administration support for the British position, and the suspension of military and economic aid to Argentina. On May 5, Weinberger met with British Defense Secretary John Nott to finalize arrangements for the fulfillment of British requests for military materiel as part of a broad range of political, diplomatic, and military measures undertaken by the United States in support of the Thatcher government.

Despite this public tilt toward the British position, the Reagan administration continued its efforts to control the conflict and to mitigate the fighting’s impact upon U.S. interests. Indeed, most Latin American countries viewed U.S. support for Britain as a betrayal of the hemispheric solidarity embodied in the 1947 Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (the Rio Treaty). In addition to offering broad support for peace initiatives undertaken by the Peruvian president and U.N. General Secretary Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, the administration pressed the belligerents to draw down their military engagement. Ambassador-at-Large General Vernon Walters met secretly with the Argentine Junta, while Reagan attempted to personally intercede with Prime Minister Thatcher. Over the course of two tense telephone conversations in late May, Reagan failed to persuade Thatcher to refrain from “scoring total victory” in the South Atlantic in order to avoid toppling the Junta.

British victory in the field brought an end to the 1982 Falklands/Malvinas crisis. Following a three-week ground campaign, British forces re-captured the islands’ capital, Port Stanley, on June 14, forcing the surrender of all Argentine troops. Three days later, Galtieri resigned as Argentine president, the first step in the eventual return of civilian government to Argentina.

The Panama Canal and the Torrijos-Carter Treaties

The following is article is part of the United States Department of State’s “Milestones in the History of U.S. Foreign Relations” series. It is reproduced here under the public domain.

One of President Jimmy Carter’s greatest accomplishments was negotiating the Torrijos-Carter Treaties, which were ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1978. These treaties gave the nation of Panama eventual control of the Panama Canal.

Jimmy Carter and Omar Torrijos at the September 7th signing ceremony. (Jimmy Carter Library)

The United States acquired the rights to build and operate the Panama Canal during the first years of the 20th century. The Hay-Herrán Treaty, negotiated with the nation of Colombia in 1903, allowed the United States rights to the land surrounding the planned canal. The Colombian Senate refused to ratify the treaty, but Panama was in the process of seceding from Colombia. President Theodore Roosevelt therefore supported the cause of Panamanian independence with the Canal in mind. His support paid off, and on November 18, 1903, the United States signed the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty, establishing permanent U.S. rights to a Panama Canal Zone that stretched across the isthmus. Phillippe-Jean Bunau-Varilla, the Panamanian representative, entered the negotiations without formal consent from the Panamanian government, and had not lived in Panama for seventeen years. The Canal opened in 1914, but many Panamanians questioned the validity of the treaty.

As the 20th century progressed, tensions between the United States and Panama over U.S. control of the Canal grew. In 1964, a riot between U.S. residents and Panamanians, sparked over the right to fly the Panamanian flag in the Canal Zone, led to a brief interruption of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Within months, ties were re-established and both sides recognized the importance of negotiating a new agreement concerning the Canal. In 1967, the United States and Panama reached agreement on three treaties regarding the status of the Canal, however, Panamanian president Marco Robles was defeated by Arnulfo Arias Madrid in the 1968 Panamanian elections. Eleven days into Arias’s term, a coup led by Colonel Omar Torrijos deposed Arias and established a new government. Because of the political uncertainty, the negotiations suffered a major setback.

Torrijos, like his predecessors, wished to reach an agreement with the United States. U.S. officials wanted a treaty as well. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger set forth his reasoning in a meeting with President Ford in 1975: “If these [Canal] negotiations fail, we will be beaten to death in every international forum and there will be riots all over Latin America.” In 1973, the Nixon administration appointed Ellsworth Bunker, a seasoned U.S. diplomat, to lead the U.S. delegation. Bunker focused on ensuring perpetual U.S. use of the Panama Canal, rather than perpetual U.S. control of the Panama Canal Zone. Between the years of 1973 and 1976, Bunker and his team were able to conclude a series of draft agreements with the government of Panama that formed the foundation of the eventual Torrijos-Carter Treaties.

The 1976 presidential elections proved to be a perilous time for the negotiations. While President Ford supported a Canal treaty, his primary opponent, Ronald Reagan, did not. The Democratic nominee for president, Jimmy Carter, also seemed to oppose a treaty. In an October debate with Ford, Carter vowed that he would not surrender “practical control of the Panama Canal Zone any time in the foreseeable future.”

In the weeks after his electoral victory, President-elect Carter’s views on the Canal began to change. One of his closest advisors, Sol Linowitz, supported a treaty, as did Secretary of State-designate Cyrus Vance. The two men were able to convince Carter of the importance of a new treaty, and when he took office, Carter made concluding negotiations with Panama a priority and named Linowitz co-negotiator with Bunker.

Despite the fact that both Carter and Torrijos were eager to conclude a treaty, many obstacles remained. A treaty must be ratified by the Senate with at least a two-thirds majority in order to take effect. Many Senators were opposed to giving Panama control over the Canal Zone. Most notable of these critics was Strom Thurmond (R–SC). Thurmond, who was born twelve years before the Canal was built, had a different perspective than the Carter administration. “The loss of this canal would contribute to the encirclement of the United States,” he stated in a 1978 debate. Thurmond and other conservatives also distrusted Torrijos, whom they considered to be pro-communist. Because of the strong opposition in the Senate, Carter’s consultations with Congress amounted to a second set of treaty negotiations.

The Carter administration formulated a strategy to conclude debate over the Canal and to gain Senate ratification. Carter officials worked on selling the treaty to the public, holding hundreds of forums where policymakers explained the administration’s rationale for completing a treaty. Torrijos hosted U.S. Senators in Panama, where he stressed that he was neither an enemy of the United States nor a communist. Actor John Wayne, both a conservative and a friend of Torrijos, also endorsed the negotiations. The negotiators decided that their best chance for ratification was to submit two treaties to the U.S. Senate. The first, called The Treaty Concerning the Permanent Neutrality and Operation of the Panama Canal, or the Neutrality Treaty, stated that the United States could use its military to defend the Panama Canal against any threat to its neutrality, thus allowing perpetual U.S. usage of the Canal. The second, called The Panama Canal Treaty, stated that the Panama Canal Zone would cease to exist on October 1, 1979, and the Canal itself would be turned over to the Panamanians on December 31, 1999. These two treaties were signed on September 7, 1977.

It took more than six months before the Senate voted. Many Senators who opposed the treaties tried to add amendments that would make it harder for other Senators to vote in favor of them. In the end, the Carter administration succeeded—but just barely. The Senate ratified the Neutrality Treaty on March 16, 1978 by a vote of 68 to 32. On April 18, they ratified The Panama Canal Treaty by an identical margin. The Carter administration revisited many of these issues with Congress when it negotiated the implementation legislation for the Torrijos-Carter Treaties. Carter signed the implementation legislation into law on September 27, 1979.

The Torrijos-Carter Treaties allowed the United States to defend itself from charges of imperialism made by Soviet-aligned states. While the treaties represented a great moment of cooperation between the United States and Panama, relations between the two countries grew contentious after the death of Torrijos in 1981. In December of 1989, President George H.W. Bush ordered an invasion of Panama to remove Panamanian leader Manuel Noreiga from power. By 1999, however, relations had grown more peaceful and the Canal was turned over to the Panamanians who have administered it ever since.

December 16, 1988: Speech on Foreign Policy

President Ronald Reagan delivered the following speech on December 16, 1988.

Well, thank you very much for that warm welcome. Governor Baliles, Congressman Slaughter, and my very special thanks, too, to Senator Warner and President O’Neil for suggesting this invitation. And you know, as President, I have certain privileges. So, I checked with President O’Neil, and I’m delighted to announce that starting Monday night you all have 4 weeks off.

But here at UVA, we are surrounded with memories of Thomas Jefferson. One of my staff mentioned that Thomas Jefferson’s favorite recreation was horseback riding, and I said he was a wise man. [Laughter] And another member of the staff said that Thomas Jefferson thought the White House was a noble edifice, and I said he was a man of refined taste. [Laughter] And a third staff member noted that, after retiring as President, Thomas Jefferson, in his seventies, didn’t sit back and rest, but founded the University of Virginia; and I said: There’s always an overachiever which makes it hard for the rest of us.

But no speaker can come to these grounds or see the Lawn without appreciating the symmetry not just of the architecture but of the mind that created it. The man to whom that mind belonged is known to you as Mr. Jefferson. And I think the familiarity of that term is justified; his influence here is everywhere. And yet, while those of you at UVA are fortunate to have before you physical reminders of the power of your founder’s intellect and imagination, it should be remembered that all you do here, indeed, all of higher education in America, bears signs, too, of his transforming genius. The pursuit of science, the study of the great works, the value of free inquiry, in short, the very idea of the living the life of the mind — yes, these formative and abiding principles of higher education in America had their first and firmest advocate, and their greatest embodiment, in a tall, fair-headed, friendly man who watched this university take form from the mountainside where he lived, the university whose founding he called a crowning achievement to a long and well-spent life.

Well, you’re not alone in feeling his presence. Presidents know about this, too. You’ve heard many times that during the first year of his Presidency, John F. Kennedy said to a group of Nobel laureates in the State Dining Room of the White House that there had not been such a collection of talent in that place since Jefferson dined there alone. [Laughter] And directly down the lawn and across the Ellipse from the White House are those ordered, classic lines of the Jefferson Memorial and the eyes of the 19-foot statue that gaze directly into the White House, a reminder to any of us who might occupy that mansion of the quality of mind and generosity of heart that once abided there and has been so rarely seen there again.

But it’s not just students and Presidents, it is every American — indeed, every human life ever touched by the daring idea of self-government — that Mr. Jefferson has influenced. Yes, Mr. Jefferson was obliged to admit all previous attempts at popular government had proven themselves failures. But he believed that here on this continent, as one of his commentators put it, “here was virgin soil, an abundance of land, no degrading poverty, a brave and intelligent people which had just vindicated its title to independence after a long struggle with the mightiest of European powers.”

Well, here was another chance, an opportunity for enlightened government, government based on the principles of reason and tolerance, government that left to the people the fruits of their labor and the pursuit of their own definition of happiness in the form of commerce or education or religion. And so, it’s no wonder he asked that his epitaph read simply: “Here was born [buried] Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of [American] Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.”

Well, as that epitaph shows, for all his learning and bookishness, Mr. Jefferson was a practical man, a man who made things, things like a university, a State government, a National Government. In founding and sustaining these institutions, he wanted them to be based on the same symmetry, the same balance of mind and faith in human creativity evidenced in the Lawn. He had known personal tragedy. He knew how disorderly a place the world could be. Indeed, as a leader of a rebellion, he was himself an architect, if you will, of disorder. But he also believed that man had received from God a precious gift of enlightenment — the gift of reason, a gift that could extract from the chaos of life meaning, truth, order.

Just as we see in his architecture, the balancing of circular with linear, of rotunda with pillar, we see in his works of government the same disposition toward balance, toward symmetry and harmony. He knew successful self-government meant bringing together disparate interests and concerns, balancing, for example, on the one hand, the legitimate duties of government — the maintenance of domestic order and protection from foreign menace — with government’s tendency to preempt its citizens’ rights, take the fruits of their labors, and reduce them ultimately to servitude. So he knew that governing meant balance, harmony. And he knew from personal experience the danger posed to such harmony by the voices of unreason, special privilege, partisanship, or intolerance.

And I do mean personal experience. You see, despite all of George Washington’s warnings about the divisiveness of the partisan spirit, Federalists and Republicans were constantly at each other in those days. The Federalists of the Northeast had held power for a long time and were not anxious to relinquish it. Years later, a New York Congressman honored the good old days when, as he put it, “a Federalist could knock a Republican down in the streets of New York and not be questioned about it.” The Federalists referred to Mr. Jefferson as — and here I quote — “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, raised wholly on hotcake made of coarse-ground Southern corn, bacon, and hominy, with an occasional fricasseed bullfrog.” [Laughter] Well, by the way — was the 1800 equivalent of what I believe is known here at UVA as a Gus Burger. [Laughter] And an editorial in the Federalist Connecticut Courant also announced that as soon as Mr. Jefferson was elected, “Murder, robbery, rape, and adultery and incest will be openly taught and practiced.” [Laughter]

Well, that was politics in 1800. So, you see, not all that much has changed. [Laughter] Actually, I’ve taken a moment for these brief reflections on Thomas Jefferson and his time precisely because there are such clear parallels to our own. We too have seen a new populism in America, not at all unlike that of Jefferson’s time. We’ve seen the growth of a Jefferson-like populism that rejects the burden placed on the people by excessive regulation and taxation; that rejects the notion that judgeships should be used to further privately held beliefs not yet approved by the people; and finally, rejects, too, the notion that foreign policy must reflect only the rarefied concerns of Washington rather than the common sense of a people who can frequently see far more plainly dangers to their freedom and to our national well-being.

It is this latter point that brings me to the University of Virginia today. There has been much change in the last 8 years in our foreign relations; and this September, when I spoke to the United Nations, I summarized much of the progress we’ve seen in such matters as the human rights agenda, arms reduction, and resolving those regional conflicts that might lead to wider war. I will not recite all of this here again today, but I do want you to know I found in the delegates afterward a warmth that I had not seen before — let me assure you, not due to any eloquence on my part but just a simple perception on their part that there is a chance for an opening, a new course in human events. I think I detected a sense of excitement, even perhaps like that felt by those who lived in Jefferson’s time: a sense of new possibilities for the idea of popular government. Only this time, it’s not just a single nation at issue: It is the whole world where popular government might flourish and prosper.

Only a few years ago, this would have seemed the most outlandish and dreamiest of prospects. But consider for just a moment the striving for democracy that we have seen in places like the Philippines, Burma, Korea, Chile, Poland, South Africa — even places like China and the Soviet Union. One of the great, unnoticed — and yet most startling — developments of this decade is this: More of the world’s populace is today living in relative freedom than ever before in history; more and more nations are turning to freely elected democratic governments.

The statistics themselves are compelling. According to one organization, Freedom House, in the past 15 years the number of countries called not free declined from 71 to 50. And the countries classified as free or partly free increased from 92 to 117. When you consider that, according to the Freedom House count, 70 percent of those not living in freedom are in China and the Soviet Union — and even in those nations, as I say, we see glimpses of hope — the picture is even brighter. The most dramatic movement of all has taken place: More than 90 percent of the people are now living in countries that are democratic or headed in that direction.

This democratic revolution has been accompanied by a change in economic thinking comparable to the Newtonian revolution in physics, and that is no accident. Free-market economies have worked miracles in several nations of East Asia. A U.N. General Assembly special session on Africa has called for more market-oriented structural reform in that region. In Europe the tide is against state ownership of property. And even in China and the Soviet Union the theoretical underpinnings of Socialist economics are being reexamined.

In this atmosphere, we’ve continued to emphasize prudent but deepening development of economic ties which are critical to our economic health in the conduct of our foreign policy. In our own hemisphere, we’re about to implement an historic free trade agreement between the United States and Canada that could well serve as a model for the world.

These democratic and free-market revolutions are really the same revolution. They are based on the vital nexus between economic and political freedom and on the Jeffersonian idea that freedom is indivisible, that government’s attempts to encroach on that freedom — whether it be through political restrictions on the rights of assembly, speech, or publication, or economic repression through high taxation and excessive bureaucracy — have been the principal institutional barrier to human progress.

But if this remarkable revolution has not been obvious to many, certainly one other eye-opening change has been self-evident. Consider for just a moment the sights we’ve seen this year: an American President with his Soviet counterpart strolling through Red Square and talking to passers-by about war and peace; an American President there in the Lenin Hills of Moscow speaking to the students of Moscow State University, young people like yourselves, about the wonder and splendor of human freedom; an American President, only last week, with a future American President and the President of the Soviet Union standing in New York Harbor, looking up at Lady Liberty, hearing again the prayer on the lips of all those millions who once passed that way in hope of a better life and future — a prayer of peace and freedom for all humanity.

And, yes, even this week in the devastation of Armenia, Americans and Russians making common cause, as we once made common cause against another terrible enemy 44 years ago. But it’s not the visuals and the sound bites that matter. Behind all of this is a record of diplomatic movement and accomplishment.

One of those visuals you’ve seen in the last year is the signing of accords between Mr. Gorbachev and me and the destruction of American and Soviet missiles. It was more than just good television, more than just action news. The INF treaty is the first accord in history to eliminate an entire class of U.S. and Soviet nuclear missiles. And the START treaty, which deals with far larger arsenals of long-range — or what the experts call strategic — weapons, calls for 50-percent reductions in such weapons.

In Geneva, where the portions of the draft treaty disputed by one side or the other are put in brackets, we are slowly seeing those brackets disappear. So, the treaty is coming closer. And so, too, there’s progress on nuclear-testing agreements and chemical weapons, and we’re about to begin new negotiations on the conventional balance in Europe. Mr. Gorbachev’s recent announcement at the U.N. about troop reductions was most welcome and appreciated, but it’s important to remember this is a part of and the result of a larger disarmament process set in motion several years ago.

Another area where the achievements are visible is that of regional conflicts. In Afghanistan, we’ve seen a settlement leading towards Soviet withdrawal. In Cambodia, the first steps have been taken toward withdrawal of Vietnamese troops. In Brazzaville, just this Tuesday,  an American-mediated accord was signed that will send some 50,000 Cuban soldiers home from Angola — the second reversal of Cuban military imperialism after our rescue of Grenada in 1983.

In the matter of human rights, we’ve also seen extraordinary progress: the release of some political prisoners in the Soviet Union, initial steps toward a reduction of state economic controls and more politically representative forms of government, some greater scope to publish and speak critically, an increase in emigration, and visible steps toward greater religious freedom.

And finally, in our bilateral exchanges, we’re seeing more Soviet and American citizens visiting each other’s land and a greater interchange of scientific, cultural, and intellectual traditions. The summits themselves are indications of the progress we’ve made here. I look to the day when the meetings between the leaders of the Soviet Union and the United States will be regular and frequent and maybe not quite so newsworthy.

Where we’re strong, steadfast; we succeed. In the Persian Gulf, the United States made clear its commitment to defend freedom of navigation and free world interests. And this helped hasten an end to the Gulf war. And the country stood firm for years, insisting that the PLO had to accept Israel’s right to exist, sign on to Resolutions 242 and 338, and renounce terrorism. And now that resolve has paid off.

Now the democratic revolution that I talked about earlier and all the change and movement and, yes, breakthroughs that I’ve just cited on the diplomatic front can be directly attributed to the restoration of confidence on the part of democratic nations. There can be little doubt that in the decade of the eighties the cause of freedom and human rights has prospered and the specter of nuclear war has been pushed back because the democracies have recovered their strength — their compass.

Here at home, a national consensus on the importance of strong American leadership is emerging. As I said before the Congress at the start of this year: No legacy would make me more proud than leaving in place such a consensus for the cause of world freedom, a consensus that prevents a paralysis of American power from ever occurring again.

Now, I think much of the reason for all of this has to do with the new coherence and clarity that we’ve brought to our foreign policy, a new coherence based on a strong reaffirmation of values by the allied nations. The same idea that so energized Mr. Jefferson and the other founders of this nation — the idea of popular government — has driven the revival of the West and a renewal of its values and its beliefs in itself.

But now the question: How do we keep the world moving toward the idea of popular government? Well, today I offer three thoughts — reflections and warnings at the same time — on how the Soviet-American relationship can continue to improve and how the cause of peace and freedom can be served.

First, the Soviet-American relationship: Once marked by sterility and confrontation, this relationship is now characterized by dialog — realistic, candid dialog — serious diplomatic progress, and the sights and sounds of summitry. All of this is heady, inspiring. And yet my first reflection for you today is: All of it is still in doubt. And the only way to make it last and grow and become permanent is to remember we’re not there yet.

Serious problems, fundamental differences remain. Our system is one of checks and balances. Theirs, for all its reforms, remains a one-party authoritarian system that institutionalizes the concentration of power. Our foreign relations embrace this expanding world of democracy that I’ve described. Theirs can be known by the company they keep: Cuba, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Libya, Vietnam, North Korea. Yes, we welcome Mr. Gorbachev’s recent announcement of a troop reduction, but let us remember that the Soviet preponderance in military power in Europe remains, an asymmetry that offends our Jeffersonian senses and endangers our future.

So, we must keep our heads, and that means keeping our skepticism. We must realize that what has brought us here has not been easy, not for ourselves nor for all of those who have sacrificed and contributed to the cause of freedom in the postwar era.

So, this means in our treaty negotiations, as I’ve said: Trust, but verify. I’m not a linguist, but I learned to say that much Russian and have used it in frequent meetings with Mr. Gorbachev: “Dovorey no provorey.” It means keeping our military strong. It means remembering no treaty is better than a bad treaty. It means remembering the accords of Moscow and Washington summits followed many years of standing firm on our principles and our interests, and those of our allies.

And finally, we need to recall that in the years of detente we tended to forget the greatest weapon the democracies have in their struggle is public candor: the truth. We must never do that again. It’s not an act of belligerence to speak to the fundamental differences between totalitarianism and democracy; it’s a moral imperative. It doesn’t slow down the pace of negotiations; it moves them forward. Throughout history, we see evidence that adversaries negotiate seriously with democratic nations only when they knew the democracies harbor no illusions about those adversaries.

A second reflection I have on all this concerns some recent speculation that what is happening in the Soviet Union was in its way inevitable, that since the death of Stalin the Soviet state would have to evolve into a more moderate and status quo power in accordance with some vague theory of convergence. I think this is wrong. It’s also dangerous, because what we see in the Soviet Union today is a change of a different order than in the past.

For example, whatever the Khrushchev era may or may not have represented in Soviet internal politics, we know how aspirations for greater freedom were crushed in Poland and Germany and, even more bloodily, in Hungary. We also saw the construction of the Berlin Wall. We saw Cuba become an active client state, a client state spreading subversion throughout Latin America and bringing the entire world to the brink of war with the “missiles of October.”

And let me assure you, Mr. Khrushchev gave no speeches at the U.N. like that recently given by Mr. Gorbachev. As one British U.N. official said about Khrushchev appearances there: “We were never quite sure whether it was, indeed, Mr. Khrushchev’s shoe being used to pound the Soviet desk or whether Mr. Gromyko’s shoe had been borrowed or whether there was an extra shoe kept under the Soviet podium especially for banging purposes.” [Laughter]

Now, all of this was hardly encouraging for the growth of freedom and the path to peace. We know too what happened in the Brezhnev era: greater and greater expansionism; Afghanistan; economic decay and overwhelming corruption; a greater and greater burden on the peoples of the Soviet Union, on all the peoples of the world.

Now this is changing. How much and how fast it will change we do not know. I would like to think that actions by this country, particularly our willingness to make ourselves clear — our expressions of firmness and will evidenced by our plain talk, strong defenses, vibrant alliances, and readiness to use American power when American power was needed — helped to prompt the reappraisal that Soviet leaders have undertaken of their previous policies. Even more, Western resolve demonstrated that the hardline advocated by some within the Soviet Union would be fruitless, just as our economic successes have set a shining example. As I suggested in 1982, if the West maintained its strength, we would see economic needs clash with the political order in the Soviet Union. This has happened. But it could not have happened if the West had not maintained — indeed, strengthened — its will, its commitment to world freedom.

So, there was nothing inevitable about all of this. Human actions made the difference. Mr. Gorbachev has taken some daring steps. As I’ve said before, this is the first Soviet leader not to make world revolution a priority. Well, let us credit those steps. Let us credit him. And let us remember, too, that the democracies, with their strength and resolve and candor, have also made a difference.

And this is the heart of my point: What happens in the next few years, whether all this progress is continued or ended — this is, in large part, up to us. It’s why now, more then ever, we must not falter. American power must be exercised morally, of course, but it must also be exercised, and exercised effectively. For the cause of peace and freedom in the eighties, that power made all the difference. The nineties will prove no different.

And this brings us to my third point: the relationship between the Executive and the Congress. It’s precisely where Congress and the President have worked together — as in Afghanistan and Cambodia, or resolved differences, as in Angola, the Persian Gulf, and many aspects of U.S.-Soviet relations — precisely there, our policies have succeeded, and we see progress. But where Congress and the President have engaged each other as adversaries, as over Central America, U.S. policies have faltered and our common purposes have not been achieved.

Congress’ on-again, off-again indecisiveness on resisting Sandinista tyranny and aggression has left Central America a region of continuing danger. Sometimes congressional actions in foreign affairs have had the effect of institutionalizing that kind of adversarial relationship. We see it in the War Powers Resolution, in the attempted restrictions on the President’s power to implement treaties, and on trade policy. We see it in the attempt to manage complex issues of foreign policy by the blunt instrument of legislation — such as unduly restrictive intelligence oversight, limits on arms transfers, and earmarking of 95 percent of our foreign assistance — denying a President the ability to respond flexibly to rapidly changing conditions. Even in arms reduction, a President’s ability to succeed depends on congressional support for military modernization — sometimes attempts are made to weaken my hand.

The Founding Fathers understood the need for effectiveness, coherence, consistency, and flexibility in the conduct of foreign affairs. As Jefferson himself said: “The transaction of business with foreign nations is Executive altogether. It belongs, then, to the head of that department, except as to such portions of it as are specially submitted to the Senate. Exceptions are to be construed strictly.”

Well, the President and the Vice President are elected by all the people. So, too, is the Congress as a collegial body. All who are elected to serve in these coordinate departments of our National Government have one unmistakable and undeniable mandate: to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. To this — this foremost — they must always be attentive. For a President, it means protecting his office and its place in our constitutional framework. In doing that, the President is accountable to the people in the most direct way, accountable to history and to his own conscience.

The President and Congress, to be sure, share many responsibilities. But their roles are not the same. Congress alone, for example, has the power of the purse. The President is chief executive, chief diplomat, and commander in chief. How these great branches of government perform their legitimate roles is critically important to the Nation’s ability to succeed, nowhere more so than in the field of foreign affairs. They need each other and must work together in common cause with all deference, but within their separate spheres.

Today we live in a world in which America no longer enjoys preponderant power, but must lead by example and persuasion; a world of pressing new challenges to our economic prosperity; a world of new opportunities for peace and of new dangers. In such a world, more than ever, America needs strong and consistent leadership, and the strength and resilience of the Presidency are vital.

I think if we can keep these concerns in mind during the coming years public debate and support will be enhanced and America’s foreign policy will continue to prosper. All of us know the terrible importance of maintaining the progress we’ve made in the decade of the eighties. We’re moving away from war and confrontation toward peace and freedom, and today toward a future beyond the imaginings of the past. These are the stakes. Some may find such prospects daunting. I think you should find them challenging and exciting. And I think you can see that in all of this you and your country will have a special role to play.

The issue before the world is still the same as the one that Jefferson faced so squarely and so memorably: Can human beings manage their own affairs? Is self-determination and popular, representative government possible? Mr. Jefferson’s work and life amounted to a great, mighty assent to that question. So, too, will yours and America’s if we can keep in mind the greatest and last lesson of Jefferson’s life. And it has something to do with what I just spoke to — about the Executive and Congress.

I’m fond of recollecting that in the last years of their lives John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who had worked so hard and well together for the Nation’s independence, both came to regret that they had let partisan differences come between them. For years their estrangement lasted. But then, when both retired, Jefferson at 68 to Monticello and Adams at 76 to Quincy, they began through their letters to speak again to each other, letters that discussed almost every conceivable subject: gardening, horseback riding, even sneezing as a cure for hiccups — [laughter] — but other subjects as well: the loss of loved ones; the mystery of grief and sorrow; the importance of religion; and, of course, the last thoughts, the final hopes of two old men, two great patriarchs, for the country that they had helped to found and loved so deeply.

“It carries me back,” Jefferson wrote about his correspondence with his cosigner of the Declaration of Independence, “to the times when, beset with difficulties and dangers, we were fellow laborers in the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man: his right to self-government. Laboring always at the same oar, with some wave ever ahead threatening to overwhelm us and yet passing harmless we rowed through the storm with heart and hand.”

It was their last gift to us, this lesson in tolerance for each other, in charity, this insight into America’s strength as a nation. And when both died on the same day, within hours of each other, the date was July 4th, 50 years exactly after that first gift to us: the Declaration of Independence.

A great future is ours and the world’s if we but remember the power of those words Mr. Jefferson penned not just for Americans but for all humanity: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Thank you, and God bless you.

Democracy in the Soviet Union

Q. Mr. President — and I think I can speak for everybody — we really do thank you for coming to UVA. But my question is: Considering that Lenin claimed that the Soviets should let Capitalist countries fund the building of communism, I’d like to know what is your position on granting most-favored-nation status to the Soviet Union? And do you think if we do grant this status that it will help promote democracy in the Soviet Union?

The President. Well, we want to help promote this democracy in the Soviet Union, but I believe that we’ve got to proceed by watching whether deeds match the words. Now, in some instances, they certainly have — permitting me, for example, to speak to the students at the University of Moscow. I found out afterward, however, that they couldn’t get all the student body in, only a few hundred. So, they decided that the few hundred would be those who were members of the Young Communist League. [Laughter]

But I think that there are differences between us and with this man. When we had the first summit at Geneva, and I’ll try not to make my answers this long again, people more experienced in this who would be on our team told me that if we could get just the agreement to a second summit that the summit would be worthwhile.

Well, I had an idea of my own in the first meeting. And as we sat, they on their side of the table and my team on ours, I looked across the table at the General Secretary — you know, I don’t know which to call him; he’s got three titles now: General Secretary, President, and Chairman — [laughter] — then he was the General Secretary — and I suggested that why didn’t we leave our teams here to start talking — the subject that was raised was disarmament — and why didn’t he and I go out and get some air?

Well, he jumped up before I even finished speaking. And out we went. And it was planned; there was a fire in the fireplace. It was very cold that day — down in a little house along the lake from below where we were — so we walked down. And for an hour and a half, he and I had a meeting and a discussion. And then we decided we’d better get back up to the regular meeting. [Laughter] And we were just outside the building, and he said something to me about that I had never seen Russia. And I turned to him and said, “And you have never seen the United States. You’ve never been in the United States before.” I said, “We’re having the summit here. Why don’t we have the next summit in the United States, and I hereby invite you?” And he said, “I accept.” And he said, “Then why don’t we have the following one in 1987 in the Soviet Union?” I said, “I accept.”

Well, when I told our people that we were already scheduled for two more summits — [laughter] — in our two countries, they almost fell down. They couldn’t believe it. So, immediately we saw a great difference between this man and the previous leaders of the Soviet Union. You see, I hadn’t had much chance to meet with them. They kept dying on me. [Laughter]

Middle East Peace Efforts

Q. Mr. President, with regard to the recent developments with Yasser Arafat and the PLO, do you feel that this marks a culmination of your policies and your efforts to bring peace to the troubled region of the Middle East?

The President. Well, it is merely a step forward to that because peace, which does not exist there — most people forget that those countries are still technically are in a state of war with each other — it’s only going to come when the principals come together to negotiate. Outside, we have been trying to help, and internationally and so forth, with the other nations. And this has been a great step forward. And again, it was similar to our using strength and sticking to our purpose in other areas that brought it about.

We had said from the very first that there were these main points, the 242 and 338 [U.N. Security Council] resolutions, the recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a nation — which had never been advanced before — and things of this kind that had to be agreed to before we could have a dialog with the PLO, which was the principal opponent. And when that took place, as it just did for the first time, clearly and without fuzzing it up with ambiguous dialog, when they met those terms, we said yes. And already the process is going forward to arrange for that dialog. But the peace must be brought about by the principals in the dispute, and we’re hoping that this now is the main step that will lead us toward that.

Terrorism

Q. Mr. President — and I would like to congratulate you on two completely successful terms as President — my question is: Do you believe that your policies on terrorism have been effective, and will the Bush administration continue these policies or embark on new ones completely on their own?

The President. Well, I think that the next administration — if I’m correct in your question there — yes, will continue the policy. We adopted a policy of complete resistance to terrorism: no recognition of a country that supported it — and there were countries that did. And I think an example, the shortest example that I can give you, was when we had the irrefutable proof that Qadhafi of Libya had been responsible for terrorism that took the lives of a number of people at an airport in Europe, including some Americans — we responded.

And I’m going to knock on wood — just one more line on that. Since that response, there has been no Libyan terrorist move against any —  —

Advice to Youth

Q. Mr. President, to many people my age, you’re the only President we have known, or at least care to remember. [Laughter] I know I speak for many of us when I say your words carry very special significance. What advice do you offer us as we approach a new century in an ever more uncertain future?

The President. Oh! Oh! [Laughter] The age group 18 to 24 among voters is the one that is most definitely in support of the type of things that we’ve been doing in these 8 years. But now, I have to say to you, it is the age group also in which the fewest number, or proportion, vote. So, I would suggest to you — because it’s your world that we’re talking about, and if you haven’t gotten around to registering or bothering to vote, or you know someone that hasn’t, make sure that age group of yours, who are going to have to take over the reins of government pretty soon — that you make your views known in the polling place. I think this is most vital.

And then, oh, I could lobby for an awful lot of things — [laughter] — like a balanced budget amendment and a line-item veto. [Laughter] Your Governor has that. I had it when I was Governor of California — the line-item veto.

Administration Accomplishments

Q. Mr. President, welcome to the University of Virginia. Thank you for coming, and I think you’ve been a great leader, as everyone has said. [Laughter] Thank you for your advice. I’d like to know what you feel are your most significant accomplishments in the areas of, number one, foreign policy, and, number two, domestic policy?

The President. What do I feel was the most important accomplishment? Well, I think in both of those that we have redressed in foreign policy our strength. When I took office, on any given day, half of the military aircraft of the United States couldn’t fly for lack of spare parts. Half of the ships in our Navy couldn’t leave port for much the same reason, or lack of crew. And I immediately met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and wanted to talk to them about restoring a patriotism where the young men and women in uniform wouldn’t feel they had to get into civilian clothes when they left the base, but would be proud to be seen wearing the uniform.

Today a higher percentage of our military are high school graduates — and it’s a volunteer military — than ever in our history. And there are three intelligence brackets used in the military for the assignment of people as to what proper functions and so forth — the highest percentage in the top intelligence bracket that we have ever known before in our military. And of all the things I’m proud of, I’m proud of the young men and women who are wearing our uniform more than anything. But this redressing of that — but also, I came into office thinking that — for some time I was thinking that there was a hunger for a spiritual revival in America, and I think that has taken place. I hear from more and more people talking about the pride they have in country.

On the economic front — I got a degree in economics. I didn’t deserve it, but I got it. [Laughter] But I took away — I remembered something that happened several hundred years ago — [laughter] — and it was a man named ibn-Khaldun in Egypt. I didn’t know they had economists then, but ibn-Khaldun said that at the beginning of the empire the tax rates were low and the revenue was great. At the end of the empire, the rates were great and the revenue was low.

So, I came away with the belief that you didn’t gain revenue by raising taxes. And in fact, our whole national experience proves it. When Coolidge took to tax reductions, the revenue of the Government increased. And the same thing happened to a certain extent with President Kennedy’s tax reduction, which was similar to ours.

So, one of my first goals was to unleash the economy of this country and get government off the backs and out of an adversarial relationship with the private sector so that the people of this country could do with their freedom what they were intended to do. That’s all we really have done in this administration: We got out of your way.

And we have these people that still say that we have a target of 1993 for a balanced budget. And we’re meeting that target on every step now. But these people that still are talking that we’re going to have to raise taxes — they’ll undo the great economic reform. We have created almost 19 million new jobs in these several years of economic reform.

This personal disposable income after taxes has risen higher than it ever was before. And government revenues from the income tax increased by $375 billion since we implemented our tax reform and our tax cut. The trouble is spending increased $450 billion. I haven’t had a budget yet. By law I have to submit a budget every year. I do, and present company excepted, the Congress just puts it on the shelf and sends me a continuing resolution of their own doing. [Laughter]

So, I think the great economic recovery. I have had the pleasure of facing a number of our trading partners, the heads of state of our trading partners — Japan, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and on and on — in a meeting and had them — I was the new kid in school. They’d all been there longer than I had. And they were sitting there silently, and then one of them, a spokesman, said, Tell us about the American miracle. Well, the American miracle was simply the unleashing of resources, and the last point was regulations. George Bush I put in charge of a task force to see how many government regulations he could eliminate. He eliminated so many that our estimate today is that the paperwork imposed upon you and on community governments and on State Governments has been reduced by 600 million man-hours a year. Well, I got too long on that answer. [Laughter]

President’s Future Plans

Q. Mr. President, you are, of course, near the end of your second term. After the inauguration of George Bush, what does the future hold for Ronald Reagan?

The President. Well, you know, in Hollywood if you don’t sing or dance, you wind up as an after-dinner speaker. [Laughter] And so, that was my personal appearance role — was a speaker out there on the mashed-potato circuit. [Laughter] And there are always — I think for everyone who ever leaves this post there are things you didn’t get done.

And I think I’ll be out on the mashed-potato circuit again, extolling the virtues of line-item veto and a balanced budget amendment — [laughter] — and again, defending the right of us to maintain our military defenses and so forth. And I’m very tempted about the idea — somebody’s talking to me about doing a book. And there are some backstage stories that I might enjoy getting out. [Laughter] But I’m going to be active. I’m not going to be up at the ranch any more than — much that I’ve been able to on the visits that I occasionally make there. But I’m going to be active. And I know that Nancy’s going to continue her activity in the antidrug campaign, too.

Were you the last one, or is there a sixth? Did I miscount?

Mr. O’Neil. That was the sixth.

The President. That was the sixth? All right. I miscounted. [Laughter] Thank you very much.

Central America, 1977–1980

The following is article is part of the United States Department of State’s “Milestones in the History of U.S. Foreign Relations” series. It is reproduced here under the public domain.

The Carter administration’s preferred policy toward Latin America—stressing human rights and non-interventionism—was severely tested by events in Central America. In July 1979 the revolutionary Sandinista movement prevailed over Nicaraguan President Anastasio Somoza who had been a close U.S. ally. Facing the possible threat of a Marxist tide sweeping through the region, the Carter White House undertook multiple initiatives to moderate the revolution in Nicaragua.

A statue of Anastasio Somoza is pulled from its base by Sandinista guerrillas on July 10, 1979. (AP Photo)

In a series of speeches in 1977 President Jimmy Carter outlined his vision of a foreign policy based on protecting human rights, pledged to end the tradition of U.S. interventionism in Latin America, and offered to support the development of democracy through multilateral cooperation. Widespread poverty, a growing reform movement, and a corrupt and violent military dictatorship made Nicaragua a clear focus for Carter’s new approach. Somoza controlled Nicaragua’s politics, military, and much of its economy. Following his brother Luis Somoza’s direct and indirect rule of the country from 1956 to 1966, Somoza re-established a military dictatorship in the mold of his father Anastasio Somoza García’s two-decades of control from 1936 to 1956. Public outcry over Somoza’s abuses exploded after a devastating earthquake hit the capital city of Managua in 1972 and Somoza’s businesses, political cronies, and military subordinates embezzled most of the international relief donations.

The geo-politics of the Cold War transformed Carter’s policies toward Nicaragua from what might have been straightforward support for democratic reform to a torturous balancing act. While the middle-class, the business community, and the local Catholic leadership became increasingly critical of Somoza in the mid-1970s, a committed group of revolutionaries had already been fighting for decades to overthrow him. Inspired by the 1959 Cuban revolution and advised by the new Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Nicaraguan revolutionaries joined efforts to found the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). The name honored Augusto Sandino, who had fought against the U.S. Marines in the 1920s and opposed the creation of the Nicaraguan National Guard. In fact the Guard, headed by Somoza’s father, executed Sandino despite a surrender agreement in 1934. The Sandinista guerrillas had limited influence, but the growing public opposition to the Somoza regime in the later 1970s presented the opportunity for a breakthrough. Carter criticized Somoza’s abuses but carefully avoided any encouragement of the FSLN because of its Cuban ties and the Marxist orientation of its leaders. The assassination of Pedro Joaquín Chamorro, the publisher of the opposition newspaper La Prensa, in January 1978 served as a catalyst for civil war. Though Somoza’s role in the crime was unproven, major demonstrations erupted. In August 1978, Sandinista guerrillas captured the National Palace and exchanged several hundred hostages for the release of prisoners, money, and safe passage out of country. The moderate opposition organized a general strike and in September 1978 the Sandinistas launched a series of coordinated attacks in major cities.

Carter sought solutions that would cool the boiling forces of revolution in Nicaragua and establish a path to democratic transition. The 17th Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Organization of American States (OAS) agreed to a U.S. proposal for a political mediation in Nicaragua. Somoza and the moderate opposition accepted the mediation proposal and an International Commission of Friendly Cooperation and Conciliation, comprised of representatives of the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and the United States, arrived in October 1978. William G. Bowdler, the U.S. representative, was ultimately unable to convince Somoza to join with the moderates in a transition to free elections. Carter next opted to explore the possibility of a plebiscite on Somoza’s rule. In January 1979, Somoza rejected the idea of international supervision of a plebiscite vote and the mediation effort ended. That February, Carter terminated military assistance to the National Guard and asked that other countries cease assistance to the Sandinistas.

Events in Nicaragua soon outpaced Carter’s efforts to shape them. The Sandinista leadership joined with selected representatives from the moderate opposition to form a Provisional Government (PG), established in Costa Rica on June 16. On June 21, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance called for the replacement of Somoza with a broadly based transition government of national reconciliation, the negotiation of a cease-fire, humanitarian aid, and an OAS peacekeeping force. Two days later the OAS passed a resolution calling for the replacement of the Somoza regime. In Managua, Ambassador Lawrence Pezzullo pushed for an elaborate plan under which Somoza would resign and the Nicaraguan Congress would elect an interim successor. The successor would appoint a new head of the National Guard, call for a cease-fire, negotiate the gradual merger of the National Guard with FSLN forces, and finally transfer power to the PG within 72 hours. Following the script, Pezzullo informed Somoza on July 12 that his departure would minimize bloodshed and help to salvage the National Guard. Somoza departed for the United States on July 17. The Nicaraguan Congress then elected Francisco Urcuyo. Pezzullo’s plan collapsed when Urcuyo announced his intention to remain in power until the end of Somoza’s presidential term in 1981 and obstructed the cease-fire negotiations. On July 18 Pezzullo departed, the National Guard evaporated, and the PG declared itself the legitimate government of Nicaragua. Sandinista forces entered Managua on July 19 and oversaw the installment of the PG, renamed the Government of National Reconstruction (GNR), the next day.

Still aiming for influence, President Carter met with members of the GNR in the White House in September 1979 and encouraged moderation and respect for democratic values and human rights. That November, Carter asked Congress for $80 million in new supplemental aid funds ($75 million for Nicaragua and $5 million for other Central American states), in addition to the $50 to $70 million of fiscal year 1980 funds that he requested be reprogrammed for Nicaragua. A heated and lengthy congressional debate ended in May 1980 with an act authorizing $80 million in assistance to Central America for fiscal year 1980. The act required reports every six months from the Secretary of State on the status of human rights in Nicaragua and stipulated that the aid would be terminated if foreign forces in Nicaragua threatened the security of the United States or any of its Latin American allies.

The Nicaraguan revolution threatened to worsen an already unstable and violent situation in neighboring El Salvador. Autocratic military governments had prevailed in disputed elections in 1972 and 1977, and by 1979 the President, retired General Carlos Humberto Romero, had increased the repression against the leftist opposition. Convinced that Romero’s rejection of reform strengthened the prospects for revolution and the destruction of their institution, as had transpired in Nicaragua, a group of young military officers overthrew Romero in October 1979. The group established a five-man civilian military junta that was committed to reform and free elections but faced a violent landscape with frequent attacks by both left and right wing terror groups. The United States recognized the new government and provided security assistance and advisers, but the junta collapsed in January 1980 when the civilian members resigned after the junta failed to stem violence by the military and right wing groups. The Christian Democrats, the major reformist political party led by Jose Napoleon Duarte, joined with the military in a new junta government. By March 1980, with Duarte assuming a leadership role, the new junta undertook wide-ranging agrarian and financial reform and received increased U.S. security and economic assistance. Yet, the violence spiked with the murder of the archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, who had lamented the abuses of the military and criticized U.S. military aid to El Salvador. In December 1980, the abduction and murder of four U.S. churchwomen in El Salvador convinced President Carter to suspended assistance to the country. A Presidential mission sent by Carter to investigate the crime found complicity of the Salvadoran security forces either in the crime or in evading the investigation. In January 1981 guerrillas of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), named to honor the executed communist leader of the 1932 peasant uprising, launched a major offensive. The United States responded by providing military aid to the junta, citing progress in the investigation of the murders of the churchwomen and concern about external support for the guerrillas.

The North-South Dialogue and Economic Diplomacy

The following is article is part of the United States Department of State’s “Milestones in the History of U.S. Foreign Relations” series. It is reproduced here under the public domain.

The North-South Dialogue refers to the process through which the developing and newly independent nations of the “third world,” predominantly in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, engaged the industrialized countries of North America and Western Europe in negotiations over changes to the international economic system during the 1970s.

After World War II, many nations of Latin America became increasingly frustrated with U.S. trade and tariff policies. At the same time, nationalist movements in Asia and Africa helped lead to widespread decolonization. Membership in the United Nations had risen from 51 countries in 1945 to 100 in 1960 and 150 by 1979. The sudden influx of new countries changed the balance of power in the General Assembly and made possible the establishment of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, or UNCTAD, in 1964. UNCTAD created a forum through which the “southern” or “third world” nations could propose economic policies, engaging industrial democracies of the “north.” The term “North-South Dialogue” was used to distinguish this dynamic from the East-West conflict of the Cold War, and to stress the point that development issues were just as pressing as the ideological conflict between communists and capitalists.

Several factors increased the willingness of the industrialized nations to negotiate. One was the rising power of oil-producing countries in the Arab world, and another was the U.S. loss in the war in Vietnam, which demonstrated to both the world and the industrialized North that not even wealth and power were enough to guarantee military victory. Both of these issues drew Western attention toward the global balance of economic power. Additionally, the dialogue began in a period of relaxed East-West tensions, which meant that the industrialized world could give more attention to issues like development. The Newly Industrializing Economies, meanwhile, believed the entrenched international economic system benefited developed countries at the expense of the developing world. They hoped to facilitate a reorganization of the international economic system to rectify this imbalance.

The North-South Dialogue addressed issues pertaining to trade and tariffs, international finance, foreign aid, and the governance of multinational companies and institutions. During the era of détente in the 1970s, when East-West tensions were more relaxed, there was a willingness among industrialized nations to cooperate. Even as détente began to falter in the mid-1970s, the parties to the North-South Dialogue continued their discussions.

U.S. policies and relations with the other Northern powers inevitably served to help or hinder progress in the dialogue. For example, changes in trade policies between the United States and Western Europe could serve to distract these countries from their negotiations with the industrializing countries or cause them to extend new levels of control over their interactions within their respective spheres of influence in the developing world. Late in the 1970s, the increasing conflicts between the United States and the Soviet Union finally served to sour the prospects for continuing North-South discussions, as the industrialized nations renewed their focus and redirected their resources to the Cold War and paid less attention to development issues. By September of 1980, the discussions in the United Nations that had characterized this dialogue had lost their momentum. Although some dialogue on these issues continued, it remained a series of discussions on economic issues and never presented the workable solution that its proponents had hoped it would.

There are many ways to interpret the high point of the North-South Dialogue in the 1970s. Some economists have reviewed the southern proposals for broad changes in world economic policy and concluded that they were either fundamentally unworkable or designed to benefit only certain segments of the Third World; others counter that the proposals were necessarily extreme in order to establish a firm position from which to open negotiations with the industrialized North. Either way, the exact implementation of the proposals presented through UNCTAD was always unlikely, because they centered on the Southern ideal and would have required the economically-powerful North to concede every point. The North-South Dialogue can also be viewed as a political struggle between the world’s “haves” and “have-nots.” In this view, the discussions became a vehicle through which the South could unite and assert power within the United Nations and other international organizations to counter the ability of the North to dictate the course of world affairs.