Gaston Visit is 12th for President During Tenure
By Tim Sullivan Hoya Staff Writer
President Clinton (SFS ’68) speaking in front of a capacity Gaston Hall audience last week, said he would not authorize the immediate deployment of a national missile defense system in light of recent developments that led him to believe the system was not ready for use.
“I simply cannot conclude with the information I have today that we have enough confidence in the technology, and the operational effectiveness of the entire NMD system, to move forward with deployment,” Clinton said in the speech in Gaston Hall last Friday.
He said that the U.S. should still pursue testing of the system, which has failed in several recent tests. “For me, the bottom line on this decision is this: because the emerging missile threat is real, we have an obligation to pursue a missile defense system that could enhance our security,” he said.
Clinton said he had a particular reason for making the policy speech at Georgetown. “I was thinking when we came out here and [SFS Dean Robert] Bob [L. Galluci] talked about the beginning of the school year that it was 35 years ago when, as a sophomore, I was in charge of freshman orientation,” he said. “So I thought I would come and help this year’s orientation of freshman get off to a good start.”
The speech marked Clinton’s 12th visit to Georgetown’s campus in his eight years as president. He appeared twice last year, delivering a foreign policy speech on European security and attending the memorial service for labor leader Lane Kirkland.
Clinton added that his decision, which leaves the ultimate decision about NMD in the hands of the next president, will not affect the date at which the system will be ready for deployment. He also cautioned that the United States should not ever rely entirely on NMD as its national defense policy, saying, “an effective NMD could play an important part of our national security strategy, but it could not be the sum total of that strategy.”
The president said that although traditional methods of arms control and diplomacy have been effective in preserving American security, “the question is, can deterrence protect us against all those who might wish us harm in the future? Can we make America even more secure?”
He said that the nation needs to continue to maintain its previous policies that remain from the Cold War era, particularly deterrence. “Strategic stability, based on mutual deterrence, is still important, despite the end of the Cold War,” he said, referring primarily to Russia, which still has a considerable nuclear arsenal. Clinton said that America still needs to be cautious in dealings with Russia, because, “while we are no longer adversaries, we are not yet real allies.”
Clinton said that in order for the United States to adopt a missile defense system, previous treaties, including the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty of 1972, would have to be amended because they include provisions that specifically ban national missile defense systems. It does so because the development by one nation of a missile defense system would limit the deterrent power of the other nation’s nuclear arms. He said that the development of a national missile defense would not threaten the deterrence outlined by the ABM, but would still require an amendment to the 1972 agreement.
Russian officials, Clinton said, have yet to embrace the idea of an American missile defense system because they fear such a system would be a threat to their deterrent power.
Clinton said that although Russian, Chinese and other countries’ opposition to the NMD is strong, in the long run, the U.S. will pursue the policy which is best for America. “Let me be clear: no nation can ever have a veto over American security,” he said.
The president also said that the U.S. now faces new dangers from rogue states and terrorist groups that it has never faced before, and for this reason, a missile defense system will go beyond previous arms control policies.
Clinton emphasized that the U.S. is not abandoning its commitment to an NMD, but instead ensuring its viability in the long run. “We have made progress, but we should not move forward until we have absolute confidence that the system will work . and maximize the benefit . not only to America’s security, but to the security of law abiding nations everywhere subject to the same threat,” Clinton said.
The speech was attended primarily by students, who rushed to the Leavey Center on Thursday night when news of the speech spread across campus. Four-hundred eighty tickets for the speech were distributed after a last-minute announcement by the White House. embers of the press were only informed of the speech Friday morning.
Also in attendance at the speech were National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Henry Shelton and White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart (COL ’81).
Clinton in Gaston Today (9/1)