VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS CONVENTION, Chicago, Illinois
PEACE: Restoring the Margin of Safety
Thank you Commander Vanderclute.
Four weeks ago, I was
deeply honored to go before a national convention of my party and accept the greatest
honor they can bestow: their nomination
for the Presidency of the
What a wonderful pleasure it is now to come before you and accept your endorsement for that same high office.
I know you have broken a 80-year precedent to make this endorsement, and I only hope that four years from now you will be as happy with me as I am with you today. Because, my friends, nothing would mean more to me as President than to live up to your trust.
I also know full well
today that the last four commanders of the VFW have all been Democrats. But this endorsement sends a message ringing
across the land: when it comes to
And that is what I
intend to do in this campaign and in the next four years: to unite people of every background and faith
in a great crusade to restore the
The high and noble purpose of your great organization, to “honor the dead by helping the living,” is personified by your gratuitous representation of veterans, their widows and orphans in claims with the Veteran Administration through your nationwide network of skilled service officers and, also, before the various discharge review and correction boards within the Department of Defense.
With respect to your
legislative efforts to assist veterans, my colleagues inform me that your
representatives in your
--to me it is unconscionable that veterans in need are denied hospital and medical care because of inadequate funding which has closed hospital beds and cut health-care personnel within the VA.
--to me it is a breach of faith that compensation for those with service-connected disabilities has not kept abreast of inflation and that the administration rammed through Congress a pension program admittedly designed to deny such to World War II and subsequent veterans and their survivors.
--to me it is the height of hypocrisy for the administration in high sounding words to repeatedly tell us how much we owe our Vietnam veterans and, then, only in this election year recommend a stingy 10 percent increase in the GI bill when these veterans have not had an increase since 1977 and the Congressional Budget Office has stated they now need a 30 percent increase to catch-up.
--to me the cruelest betrayal of all was the administration’s proposed national health plan which, if passed, would have made the VA hospital and medical care system the nucleus of national health insurance. This, following repeated statements by the President that he supported the continued presence of an independent, progressive system of VA hospitals.
--to me it is regrettable and insensitive of the administration to drag its feet in providing open national cemeteries in which veterans can be interred near their survivors. And finally today let me personally pledge to uphold veteran’s preference in Federal employment and to see it is strictly enforced in all federally funded programs.
These are matters of great concern to your great organization. Let us turn now to a matter which vitally concerns our nation—“PEACE.”
It has always struck me as odd that you who have known at firsthand the ugliness and agony of war are so often blamed for war by those who parade for peace.
The truth is exactly the
reverse. Having known war, you are in
the forefront of those who know that peace is not obtained or preserved by
wishing and weakness. You have
consistently urged maintenance of a defense capability that provides a margin
of safety for
But because of your support for military preparedness, there are those who equate that with being militant and desirous of war. The great American humorist, Will Rogers, has an answer for those who believed that strength invited war. He said, “I’ve never seen anyone insult Jack Dempsey.”
About 10 days ago, our new Secretary of State addressed a gathering on the West Coast. He took me to task about American military strength. Indeed, he denounced the Republican Party for pledging to restore that margin of safety which the Carter Administration had allowed to evaporate. Actually, I’ve called for whatever it takes to be strong enough that no other nation will dare violate the peace. This is what we mean by superiority—nothing more, nothing less. The American people expect that the nation will remain secure; they have a right to security and we have an obligation to provide it. But Mr. Muskie was downright angry. He charged that such a policy would lead to an all-out arms race. Well, I have a message for him-one which he ignored for years as a Senator when he consistently voted against a strong national defense-we’re already in an arms race, but only the Soviets are racing. They are outspending us in the military field by 50 percent and more than double, sometimes triple, on their strategic forces.
One wonders why the
Carter Administration fails to see any threatening pattern in the Soviet
presence, by way of Cuban proxies, in so much of
Then there is the
Soviet, Cuban and East German presence in
Clearly, world peace must
be our number one priority. It is the
first task of statecraft to preserve peace so that brave men need not die in
battle. But it must not be peace at any
price; it must not be a peace of humiliation and gradual surrender. Nor can it be the kind of peace imposed on
Peace must be such that
freedom can flourish and justice prevail. Tens of thousands of boat people have shown
us there is no freedom in the so-called peace in
For too long, we have
lived with the “Vietnam Syndrome.” Much
of that syndrome has been created by the North Vietnamese aggressors who now
threaten the peaceful people of
It is time we recognized that ours was, in truth, a noble cause. A small country newly free from colonial rule sought our help in establishing self-rule and the means of self-defense against a totalitarian neighbor bent on conquest. We dishonor the memory of 50,000 young Americans who died in that cause when we give way to feelings of guilt as if we were doing something shameful, and we have been shabby in our treatment of those who returned. They fought as well and as bravely as any Americans have ever fought in any war. They deserve our gratitude, our respect, and our continuing concern.
There is a lesson for
all of us in
Shouldn’t it be obvious to even the staunchest believer in unilateral disarmament as the sure road to peace that peace never more certain than in the years following World War II when we had a margin of safety in our military power which was so unmistakable that others would not dare to challenge us?
The Korean tragedy was
really not an exception to what I am saying, but a clear example of it.
When John F. Kennedy
demanded the withdrawal of Soviet missiles from
But, then, in the face
of such evidence that the cause of peace is best served by strength not
bluster, an odd thing happened. Those
responsible for our defense policy ignored the fact that some evidence of
aggressive intent on the part of the Soviets was surely indicated by the
placement of missiles in
however, decided the
Fifteen years have
passed since that exercise in self-delusion.
At that time we led the
Soviet leaders talk
arrogantly of a so-called “correlation of forces” that has moved in their
favor, opening up opportunities for them to extend their influence. The response from the administration in
Is it only Jimmy Carter’s lack of coherent policy that is the source of our difficulty? It is his vacillation and indecision? Or is there another, more frightening possibility—the possibility that this administration is being very consistent, that it is still guided by that same old doctrine that we have nothing to fear from the Soviets—if we just don’t provoke them.
Well, World War II came about without provocation. It came because nations were weak, not strong, in the face of aggression. Those same lessons of the past surely apply today. Firmness based on a strong defense capability is not provocative. But weakness can be provocative simply because it is tempting to a nation whose imperialist ambitions are virtually unlimited.
We find ourselves increasingly in a position of dangerous isolation. Our allies are losing confidence in us, and our adversaries no longer respect us.
There is an alternative
The last Republican defense budget, proposed by President Ford, would have maintained the margin.
But the Carter
Administration came to power on a promise of slashing
Our program to restore the margin of safety must be prudent and measured. We must take a stand against terrorism in the world and combat it with firmness, for it is a most cowardly and savage violation of peace. We must regain that margin of safety I spoke of both in conventional arms and the deployment of troops. And we must allow no weakness in our strategic deterrent.
We do not stand alone in
the world. We have Allies who are with
us, who look to
When we ignore our friends, when we do not lead, we weaken the unity and strength that binds our alliances. We must now reverse this dangerous trend and restore the confidence and cohesion of the alliance system on which our security ultimately rests.
There is something else. We must remember our heritage, who we are and what we are, and how this nation, this island of freedom, came into being. And we must make it unmistakably plain to all the world that we have no intention of compromising our principles, our beliefs or our freedom. Our reward will be world peace; there is no other way to have it.
For more than a decade, we have sought a détente. The world means relaxation. We don’t talk about a detente with our allies; there is no tension there that needs relaxing. We seek to relax tensions where there are tensions—with potential enemies. And if those potential enemies are well armed and have shown a willingness to use armed force to gain their ends (for ends that are different from ours) then relaxing tensions is a delicate and dangerous but necessary business.
Détente has meaning only if both sides take positive actions to relax the tension. When one side relaxes while the other carries out the greatest military buildup in the history of mankind, the cause of peace has not been advanced.
Arms control negotiation can often help to improve stability but not when the negotiations are one-sided. And they obviously have been one-sided and will continue to be so if we lack steadiness and determination in keeping up our defense.
I think continued
negotiation with the
I have repeatedly stated that I would be willing to negotiate an honest, verifiable reduction in nuclear weapons by both our countries to the point that neither of us represented a threat to the other. I cannot, however, agree to any treaty, including the SALT II treaty, which, in effect, legitimizes the continuation of a one-sided nuclear arms buildup.
We have an example in
recent history of our ability to negotiate properly by keeping our objective
clearly in mind until an agreement is reached.
Back in the mid ‘50’s, at the very height of the “cold war,” Allied and
Soviet military forces were still occupying
The American people must be given a better understanding of the challenge to our security and of the need for effort and, yes, sacrifice to turn the situation around.
Our government must stop pretending that it has a choice between promoting the general welfare and providing for the common defense. Today they are one and the same.
Let our people be aware
of the several objectives of Soviet strategy in this decade and the threat they
represent to continued world peace. An
attempt will be made to divide the NATO alliance and to separate, one at a
time, our Allies and friends from the
A central concern of the Kremlin will always be the Soviet ability to handle a direct confrontation with our military forces. In a recent address, Paul Nitze said; “The Kremlin leaders do not want war; they want the world.” For that reason, they have put much of their military effort into strategic nuclear programs. Here the balance has been moving against us and will continue to do so if we follow the course set by this administration.
The Soviets want peace
and victory. We must understand this and
what it means to us. They seek a superiority in military strength that, in the event of a
confrontation, would leave us with an unacceptable choice between submission or
conflict. Submission would give us peace
alright—the peace of a
Indeed, the men in the Kremlin could in the face of such determination decide that true arms limitation makes sense.
Our best hope of persuading them to live in peace is to convince them they cannot win at war.
For a nation such as ours, arms are important only to prevent others from conquering us or our allies. We are not a belligerent people. Our purpose is not to prepare for war or wish harm to others. When we had great strength in the years following World War II, we used that strength not for territorial gain but to defend others.
Our foreign policy should be to show by example the greatness of our system and the strength of American ideals. The truth is we would like nothing better than to see the Russian people living in freedom and dignity instead of being trapped in a backwash of history as they are. The greatest fallacy of the Lenin-Marxist philosophy is that it is the “wave of the future.” Everything about it is primitive: compulsion in place of free initiative; coercion in place of law; militarism in place of trade; and empire-building in place of self-determination; and luxury for a chosen few at the expense of the many. We have seen nothing like it since the Age of Feudalism.
When people have had a free choice, where have they chosen Communism? What other system in the world has to build walls to keep its people in?
Andrei Sakharov, one of
He is right. We have strayed off course many times and we
have been careless with machinery of freedom bequeathed to us by the Founding
Fathers, but, somehow, it has managed to survive our frailties. One of those Founding Fathers spoke the truth
when he said “God intended
We have been a refuge
for the persecuted and down-trodden from every corner of the world for 200
years. Today some of us are concerned by
the latest influx of refugees, that boat people from
But let’s do a better job of exporting Americanism. Let’s meet our responsibility to keep the peace at the same time we maintain without compromise our principles and ideals. Let’s help the world eliminate the conditions which cause citizens to become refugees.
I believe it is our pre-ordained destiny to show all mankind that they, too, can be free without having to leave their native shore.