Policy -- From the People

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By Edward M. Kennedy
Wednesday, August 26, 2009; 12:15 PM

Editor's Note: On Sept. 21, 1973, Sen. Kennedy delivered an extended version of these remarks in support of Henry Kissinger's confirmation as secretary of state. The Post published excerpts later that week. We republish them today, along with several Kennedy opinions, on the occasion of his death.

In ways we did not expect, the United States is now well and truly involved in the outside world. For many years, the predominance of military security issues, and our deployment of forces abroad, helped to insulate us from the currents of change sweeping the outside world. The dollar was the world's strongest currency, guaranteed never to be devalued. Foreign trade was less important to us -- and had less impact on our own economy -- than in any other country of the Western world. And few Americans learned a language other than their own, because there was no need to do so.

Our military strength remains critical to our security, to that of our allies, and to the prospects for peace. We have provided that strength and shall continue to do so. But today other factors also determine our relations with the outside world. We no longer dominate our alliances with Western Europe and Japan. Decisions taken in London, Paris, Frankfurt, and Tokyo have required us to devalue the dollar. Foreign trade is now far more important for large parts of the American economy. And we are having to cooperate with other nations more diligently than ever before -- cooperate with them in a host of areas, from the shaping of the great institutions of international economic relations, to the sharing of the seas' resources, and the control of pollution.

The new era of our involvement in the outside world may not always be to our liking. As a nation, we are used to self-sufficiency, to controlling our own destiny, and to making the major decisions affecting our relations with others....But now we must accept our greater involvement in the outside world in many other ways, if we are to sustain our progress as a nation at home....

Dr. Kissinger has assured us that the Congress will be more actively consulted and engaged in the making of American foreign and defense policy. After the frustrations of the past few years, this is welcome news, and we must play our part. Yet it is not enough just to reestablish a proper role for the elected representatives of the people. More than ever before, we must find ways to involve the people themselves.

No foreign policy can be any better than the support it receives from the people of the United States. As Secretary Kissinger himself has said:

No foreign policy -- no matter how ingenious -- has any chance of success if it is born in the minds of a few and carried in the hearts of none ....

There are difficult choices to be made in our foreign and defense policies -- choices that imply major adjustments in the structure of our economy and our society. These choices will directly affect the well being of all Americans. They can and must be heard.


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