The Ten Commandments of Foreign Policy

Wednesday, April 30, 1997

Our style will be governed by ten commandments. We will be

I. Credible

No more baseless threats. It is vital for our friends and foes alike to understand that they must listen carefully to what we say because we act on our words.

II. Accountable

The United States must stop blaming others-the United Nations in particular-for the shortcomings of its own diplomacy. We must define our interests and make the necessary decisions. Then we must stand behind those decisions.

III. Responsible

America cannot call itself a superpower unless it has a universal outlook. We cannot and should not solve every problem. But when problems have global implications, we must take action.

IV. Constructive

Today's network of international law and international organizations is largely the creation of the United States. We must, of course, protect our sovereignty, but we should use that network to advance our interests. Where the network needs to be changed, we should change it, not abuse it.

V. Cooperative

Put our friends and allies at the top of our list. The president of the United States should never engage in an action as insulting to our Allies as flying over Britain on the way to Moscow to celebrate V-E-day, when fifty years ago Britain and Britain alone stood against the Soviets and the Nazis. We must constantly work to widen the circle of responsible partners for America. When others play by the rules, they can count on our goodwill; when they do not, they will hear from us.

VI. Prepared

To exert our influence, we must conduct an active diplomacy. No more closing of embassies. We will not draw in our horns.

VII. Global (in our thinking)

Interconnections are everywhere. It is insufficient to focus on a few major issues while ignoring great problems and key countries. In today's interconnected world, in which crises can spread almost as fast as information travels, everything counts.

VIII. Swift (but sensible)

Many problems require attention early to prevent them from growing out of control. When that is the case, do not hesitate. Other problems may not be ready for solutions. When that is the case, exercise forbearance. Know when to act. Know when to wait.

IX. Vigilant

Know that freedom is essential to all our purposes. Prosperity in this information age can only be achieved by a people living in freedom, and only a free people can ensure that their leaders act justly. We must never take our own freedom for granted-or neglect the importance of freedom to those still struggling to achieve it. Remember: Democracy is freedom's system.

X. Strong (in support of our diplomacy)

Recognize that strength and diplomacy go together and that the basis of our strength is our confident spirit, our creative economy, and, yes, our military might. The United States must be able to project power on a large scale, which means a substantial airlift capability and a global naval presence. We must have armed forces sizable enough to deal with more than two crises at once so that opportunistic powers cannot take advantage of us in one region because all our forces are tied down in other regions. And we will maintain an energetic research and development program so that our armed forces are always equipped with the best. Strength, strength, strength. Never let it leave your mind.