Address to Faculty and Students at Seton Hall University
Thank. you. As always, I am happy to once again talk with the student body of an outstanding American university-I did so last month at DePauw. As Vice President, I do a lot of international travel. Nothing makes me more proud than to hear the international community rave about America's colleges and universities.
Our finest schools have kept firmly in mind what Dr. Samuel Johnson, the great eighteenth-century British man of letters, termed the "supreme end of education: expert discernment in all things-the power to tell the good from the bad, the genuine from the counterfeit, and to prefer the good and the genuine to the bad and the counterfeit."
I am honored to have the opportunity to address the Seton Hall community-a community. which truly strives to promote "expert discernment in all things," Since your founding in 1856 by Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley, you have understood that questions of good and bad, right and wrong, are not just minor add-ons to the serious business of life. Rather, they constitute its very core. As the eighth largest Catholic university in the U.S., you have drawn on a rich tradition to promote a greater sense of moral discernment throughout your community and Your country. Your motto puts it in perspective: "Advance despite difficulties."
As all of you know, our country, along w;it~ the rest of the international community, currently faces a grave crisis in the Persian Gulf. This crisis carries with it the risk of war. Some in this country have questioned whether the U.S. has any interest in the Gulf that is worth fighting for. Today, I would like to step back a bit from the current debate. I'd like to speak to the larger perspectives of the subject that is too often presented in ten second sound bites on television. Why is the region so important? What have the strategic goals of the U.S. Middle East policy been over the last forty years? And how do these goals apply in the current crisis?
The Middle East, as everyone knows, is the source of much of the oil on which the industrialized world and developing nations depend. It is a . region of striking contrasts: vast wealth and grinding poverty; secular radicalism and religious fundamentalism; hatred of the West and emulation of the West. Most importantly. perhaps, the Middle. East is caught up in a vast process of change, as ancient societies and cultures strive to adapt to the modem world. This process of adaptation, which entails much turmoil and instability is what makes the Middle East such an interesting place. Unfortunately, it also makes the Middle East a dangerous place.
Since the onset of the Cold War, the United States has had three strategic objectives in the region. The first objective Was to contain Soviet expansionism. In 1947; the Soviet threat to one regional state, Turkey, played a role in President Truman's decision to issue the doctrine that bears his name. Thirty-three years later, the threat of Soviet encroachment on another region of the Middle East - the Persian Gulf - led President Carter to proclaim the equivalent of the Truman Doctrine for the Gulf. The Carter Doctrine, which was also reinforced by President Reagan, warned that, "Any attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian, Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force."
But the Cold War is over. And because it is over, because one of America's strategic objectives has been realized, some commentators have ,assumed that all of our objectives have been realized. They could not be more mistaken. For in addition to containing the Soviets, American foreign policy has traditionally pursued two other strategic objectives in the Middle East. It has sought to prevent any local Middle East power from , achieving hegemony over its neighbors; and it has sought to secure the uninterrupted supply of oil at a reasonable price. Let me describe both of these objectives in greater detail.
Today, all the states of the Middle East face a major threat in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Saddam's ambitions are not confined to Kuwait. Rather, his goal is to dominate the Persian Gulf region and use its vast wealth to become the greatest Arab hero of modem times, the leader of a new Arab superpower. To that end, he spent some fifty billion dollars on arms imports during the. 1980s alone. He has launched two wars of aggression during this period, against Iran and against Kuwait, at a cost of some one million lives - thus far. He has built the sixth largest military force in the world. He has acquired a sizeable stockpile of both chemical and biological weapons, and is estimated to have employed several thousand tons of chemical agents against Iranians and against his own people - Iraqi Kurds - in the 1980s. And he has launched a massive program to acquire nuclear weapons.
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