Berger discusses post-Cold War era
National Security Advisor Sandy Berger said Friday the United States is "at a second turning point in the post-Cold War world" and needs to ensure that the world's new democracies and free markets actually work.
Berger, who addressed over 250 people in 105 Dartmouth Hall and in an overflow room in Thornton Hall on closed-circuit television, advises the president on foreign policy matters and works with the National Security Council, the group responsible for dealing with foreign policy.
Berger said the country's obligation today is "less dramatic but in some ways more challenging" than during the Cold War.
Berger said that today, for the first time in the world's history, most of the world's people choose their own leaders. This does not, however, mean that those countries holding elections are established democracies -- simply holding elections does not create a true democracy, he said.
The United States must aid democracies with developing economies or they will be "swept away in the tide of economic turmoil," he said.
The United States currently spends $500 million each year on programs that educate new democracies, Berger said. The programs include supporting independent media and opposition parties, fostering individual human rights, encouraging women's rights and collecting taxes fairly.
Berger said he believes the United States should lead in efforts to promote democracy and a global economy since the world looks to America for leadership and support.
And, he said, part of America's tradition is to promote the principles on which this country was founded -- democracy and a free market system.
Not only does globalism depend on America, but America's own prosperity depends on globalism as the United States is "not immune to global economic crisis," he said.
The United States needs "stable, prosperous partners to work with as we shape the next generation," he said, which means inspiring shared values in our global neighbors.
The current trend toward democracies and free markets is "neither inevitable nor irreversible," Berger said. Countries will not be able to return to closed markets. If they try, they will discover "the roads behind them have disappeared."
Berger said as the number of democracies increases, so will peace. There will always be conflict, but a world of democracies will be more peaceful, he said.
Berger also called on the United States to help strengthen security alliances, fight terrorism, control drug trafficking and save the environment. All of these are global responsibilities the United States cannot undertake alone, according to Berger.
After the half-hour speech, Berger spent an hour answering audience questions. He fielded questions on the current problems in Kosovo, China's economy, the United Nations weapons inspections in Iraq, Russia and Afghanistan, information warfare and even the current personal problems of President Bill Clinton.
Berger said Kosovo is now "more of a NATO problem," and the United States supports this decision so NATO can prevent Kosovo from being solely a U.S. worry.
He said the United States is fully prepared to back all of its threats with force. "One should not issue threats one won't carry through with," he said.
Berger said "Clinton is still prepared to lead and still can lead." Both Berger and Clinton believe that foreign policy should be above politics, and that Clinton's personal problems do not leave the United States vulnerable to outside hostility, Berger said.
But the United States is highly vulnerable when it comes to information warfare, he said. Since America has quickly become a computer-dependent society, it is essential to create a greater awareness of information warfare. Right now, America is ill-prepared for an attack on our information systems, he said.
Before working for Clinton, Berger served as special assistant to John Lindsay, former mayor of New York City. Berger was also a legislative assistant to Harold Hughes, a former Senator from Iowa, and Joseph Resnick, a former House member from New York.
From 1977 to 1980, Berger was deputy director of the Policy Planning Staff, part of the U.S. Department of State, where he was involved in many facets of foreign policy. Berger was also a partner with the Washington law firm of Hogan & Hartson, where he headed the firm's international trade group.
Berger received his bachelor's degree from Cornell University and his law degree from Harvard Law School. In 1971 he published his book "Dollar Harvest" about rural American politics.
Berger's speech was sponsored by the John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding.