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Shultz calls for 'new doctrine of containment' at conference
STANFORD -- Far from turning inward during the post-Soviet era, the United States and its allies should adopt a "new doctrine of containment" that will keep regional conflicts in check, former secretary of state George Shultz told a Stanford audience Feb. 1.
"The old doctrine of containment said we had to have the capability to see that communism, Soviet-style, did not spread," the Stanford business school professor emeritus and distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution told about 500 people attending the ninth annual You Can Make a Difference conference. This year's theme was "Redefining National Security: National Priorities, Community Action."
"Now," Shultz said, "I think we have a different problem. Conflict - in a diverse world of people feeling so strongly about their diversity - is inevitable. There are going to be differences that go deep and, at least for periods of time, seem absolutely irreconcilable."
Shultz called for a new system, in partnership with the United Nations, "that not only has the capacity to try to mediate and to lessen the killing and wounding that goes with conflict, but also contains it. A system that says, we've tried to mediate as best we can, but if people are going to fight, let's try to avoid having those fights spread.
"It's very easy for those to spread," he added, "because a lot of the tensions that cause these conflicts have counterparts all around - ethnic groups are not restricted to a particular area. So containment is not going to be necessarily easy, but it's very important, so that we don't have wider conflagrations."
In a subsequent panel discussion, Stanford political scientist Condoleezza Rice, former special assistant to President Bush for national security affairs, echoed many of Shultz's concerns.
"I think we have to avoid the pitfall that only proximate physical threats really matter to this country," she said. "Had that been the case, the last proximate physical threat was really in 1815, with the defeat the European powers, and perhaps in 1941-45, with the defeat of Japan, when many felt there might actually be an attack on the American mainland."
Threats from farther offshore - the violent fragmentation of European countries or the unchecked proliferation of nuclear weapons, for example - could be equally damaging to American national security, Rice said.
"Had we not recognized other kinds of threats, we would not have taken on leadership in the international coalition against Baghdad. And whatever you think about the outcome of that war, I'm very glad that Saddam Hussein has had to accept United Nations inspectors - inspectors who have let us know that this was a country that probably by this time next year would have had a nuclear device."
Nor should American intervention be limited to military means, Rice said. "We have to avoid the notion that because we have problems at home, other people's problems are the other people's problems," she said. "If I hear one more time, 'Why can't we send food aid to Texas instead of the Soviet Union?' I'm going to wonder what kind of selfish people we've become.
"This is a very, very wealthy country. That is not to deny that there are tremendously large pockets of poverty in this country, but we are really very lucky in comparison to much of the world.
"To turn inward and say that everyone must solve their own problems would be particularly bad at a time when so much of the world - particularly that part of the world that has just thrown off communism in East Central Europe and the former Soviet Union - looks to us for leadership."
And, she said, "it would be a choice for which we would pay dearly, because isolationism never pays off, and it especially never pays off in a period of globalization, when the world is completely interdependent."
Other panelists, however, expressed hope that the United States would spend far less time and money worrying about foreign threats in the 1990s and focus more attention on domestic concerns, such as education, poverty and the environment.
"I think there is this real concern about meeting an 'enemy' that is somehow imbued in a lot of our psyches - I think particularly in men - in our society," said Michael Closson, executive director of the Center for Economic Conversion, which assists in planning the conversion of military bases and defense plants to peaceful use.
"For example, I have a quote here from (Congresswoman) Patricia Schoreder: 'You mention families, and people in Washington think you've got lace on your shorts. They're in a power projectile - the MX, the D-5, the Midgetman. That's what's considered serious in Washington.'
"Well, I think that this is the time to reassess what's serious in our society," Closson said, "and to be in touch with some of the more basic critical needs that we've been ignoring for so many years."
Cynthia Hamilton, political scientist at California State University, Los Angeles, issued a similar appeal.
"It is time that we reassess the role of the state, but it is important that we reassess it, in this post-Cold War era, in terms of what the citizenry needs from the state and wants from the state," she said.
For example, Hamilton said she was "very concerned" about the opening remarks of the President Bush's recent State of the Union address, which indicated a moratorium on regulation and the damaging effect she said that would have on things like the Environmental Protection Agency.
"I think that we're going to have to ask whether or not we can expect, and in fact demand, a more interventionist role from the federal government," she said.
The annual You Can Make a Difference conference was organized by student volunteers through the Haas Center, the campus focal point for local, national and international public service opportunities.
In addition to panel discussions, the conference featured a keynote speech by Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford, small group workshops and an Opportunities Fair with representatives of local and national public service organizations.
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