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Perry Outlines U.S. Defense Strategies

By Matthew S. Mchale

Secretary of Defense William F. Perry stressed the importance of "preventive defense" in a speech at the Institute of Politics Monday night, comparing the "revolutionary era" in which we now live to similar conditions after World War II.

Just as America had the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe then, Perry said, the nation now needs a comprehensive plan for defense which can actively "prevent conditions of conflict and create conditions of peace."

Perry outlined three key components of "preventive defense": "fewer weapons of mass destruction in fewer hands," an increase in democratic forms of government around the world and the realization that "defense establishments have a role to play."

To deal with the dispersal of nuclear weapons following the demise of the Soviet Union, Perry said the United States has initiated the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.

By the end of the year, this program should ensure that Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Byelorussia will have eliminated their nuclear weapons, Perry said.

Perry himself traveled to a ballistic missile base in the former Soviet Union to oversee its destruction.

"I can think of few more satisfying moments in my life than when I turned the key to blow up the silo," he said.

One reason the U.S. must carefully watch the world's nuclear arsenals is that the policy of detente that defined its relationship with the former Soviet Union may prove ineffective against newly-armed, independent countries.

"The threat of retaliation may not work against rogue nations," Perry said.

Perry related a conversation he had with a defense minister from one of the former Soviet Republics in which he emphasized the importance of democracy, the second key component to "preventative defense."

"Nuclear weapons are what makes our country great," Perry reported the minister as saying.

"And I said, 'No, that is not right. Nuclear weapons are what makes your country powerful. Building a democracy is what makes your country great.'"

Perry cited democratic governments as a long-term safeguard of national security, but acknowledged the difficulties of encouraging democracy in nations which have no such tradition.

"Democracy is learned behavior. Many countries have democracies that exist on paper," Perry said, but more importantly, they need "democratic values embedded in public institutions."

Perry concluded by emphasizing the need for military participation in the peace process.

"Some have said that war is too important to be left to the generals," he said. "I say that peace is too important to be left to the politicians."

In many nations just making the transition to independence, the military is an important factor which can "either support democracy or subvert it."

It is our duty, Perry said, to teach other nations' military leaders the American style of military leadership, though it might seem counter-intuitive to share our knowledge with other armed forces.

"Openness is an unusual concept when it comes to defense," he said. "The art of war involves secrecy and surprise, while the art of peace involves honesty and trust."

Nevertheless, Perry added, building such trust with other nations requires a willingness on our part to demonstrate good faith.

Most important to the success of "preventive defense," Perry said, is the enthusiasm of the American people.

Drawing an analogy to the Marshall Plan, which was unveiled at Harvard's 1947 Commencement, Perry said Marshall's proposal succeeded because he "spent the next year going to the public."

To support "preventive defense," Perry said, a similar campaign must be undertaken today.

"The American people are, by nature, an impatient people and look for quick fixes," he said. "There are no quick fixes in international politics, and we have to convince the American people that preventive defense is good.

Perry concluded by emphasizing the need for military participation in the peace process.

"Some have said that war is too important to be left to the generals," he said. "I say that peace is too important to be left to the politicians."

In many nations just making the transition to independence, the military is an important factor which can "either support democracy or subvert it."

It is our duty, Perry said, to teach other nations' military leaders the American style of military leadership, though it might seem counter-intuitive to share our knowledge with other armed forces.

"Openness is an unusual concept when it comes to defense," he said. "The art of war involves secrecy and surprise, while the art of peace involves honesty and trust."

Nevertheless, Perry added, building such trust with other nations requires a willingness on our part to demonstrate good faith.

Most important to the success of "preventive defense," Perry said, is the enthusiasm of the American people.

Drawing an analogy to the Marshall Plan, which was unveiled at Harvard's 1947 Commencement, Perry said Marshall's proposal succeeded because he "spent the next year going to the public."

To support "preventive defense," Perry said, a similar campaign must be undertaken today.

"The American people are, by nature, an impatient people and look for quick fixes," he said. "There are no quick fixes in international politics, and we have to convince the American people that preventive defense is good.

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