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Transcript: Governor Michael Dukakis speech at Meiji University about Creating a Framework for Peace and Security

(March 31,2015) – During the trip to Tokyo to organize the Boston Global Forum’s first conference about its Young Leaders Network, Governor Michael Dukakis, Co-founder and Chairman of the Boston Global Forum made a  speech at Meiji University about Creating a Framework for Peace and Security in the Pacific.

Read his full speech here. 


Meiji University, Tokyo- March 30, 2015

     It is a real pleasure for Kitty and me to join you in this historic city  for a conference that is dealing with one of the great challenges we face as we seek to create what the first President Bush called “ a new world order.”

When he and Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to end the Cold War, many of us looked forward to an era which would be radically different from what we had experienced during the decades following World War II. We believed that it was possible to develop new institutions and rules of conduct that would not only reject war as an acceptable solution to the world’s problems but would make it possible for us to take the billions we were pouring into weapons of wars and use them to make this world a much better place.

Our thanks to Meiji University for inviting Kitty and me and making it possible for all of us to stop, take stock, and ask ourselves how well we are achieving the goals that Presidents Bush and Gorbachev set for us and for the world some twenty-five years ago.

I say this as somebody for whom Japan is not a new place. I served in the U.S. Army in Munsan, Korea from 1955 to 1957 about seven miles from the demilitarized zone. Fortunately for me, an uneasy truce was in effect, and those of us who were serving in Korea could take a week of leave in Japan every four months during our sixteen month tour of duty. That meant that I had three weeks in addition to whatever leave time I chose to take to spend in Japan, and, believe me, I made full use of it. I covered the country; explored its cities and its countryside; tried the best I could to study its history and its efforts to rebuild after World War II both physically and politically; and was impressed with the fact that Japan for the most part had accepted the Allies’ insistence that it forego  rearmament and do in the Pacific what we hoped Germany would do in Europe— play the role of peacemaker in their respective regions.

At the same time an emerging Communist China had defeated the Nationalists and was advocating a tough and belligerent approach to foreign affairs allied with what we then called the Soviet Union. The Cold War that emerged engulfed everyone everywhere.  The U.S. and the Soviet Union began to intervene in virtually every part of the globe. That included Vietnam—and another war which took thousands of American and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese lives before it ended in defeat for the U.S.

By contrast, Japan’s recovery was remarkable. It began building an impressive, modern economy; found itself competing effectively with the U.S. and other advanced industrialized nations, In fact, many of you will remember that my friend, Ezra Vogel, wrote a popular book called “ Japan as Number One” that stirred up a lot of interest in the U.S. and around the globe. I always thought that the fact that Japan did not have to devote billions for its defense was one of the reasons it was able to develop its peacetime economy so effectively; give us remarkable technological advances like high speed rail; and establish itself as a serious international player in the world economy.

My own view of the subject of this conference has been influenced by two things: a strongly internationalist view of the world and the lessons one learns from a long and active life of public service over many decades.

I just celebrated my eighty-first birthday this past November. Kitty and I were children during World War II and remember it well. Almost within months after it ended, the Cold War began and engulfed us all for nearly fifty years. So most of our adult lives until the Cold War ended were defined by the struggle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union; communism and capitalism; east and west.

Fortunately, all of that is—or should be—behind us.  India and China are emerging as growing economic players in a new world economic order. Japan, while it has had its economic struggles lately, continues to be an important force in Asia and the world.

I say “ should be” because there are increasingly troubling signs that some elements of the international community are beginning to accept the inevitability of a new Cold War in which Asia and the Pacific will be one of its battlegrounds. Clearly, in a world of imperfect human beings, there will be pressures and conflicts. That is why we have the United Nations and the various regional organizations under it that seek to create a framework for peace and security within their regions and try to resolve their differences peacefully and constructively.

In the Western Hemisphere, for example, we now have the Organization of American States that has done much to end the constant conflict that plagued the region for centuries and the military dictatorships that ruled much of it. In fact, when I was a student at the University of San Marcos in Lima, Peru in 1954, there were no more than three genuinely democratic governments in all of Latin America.

These days virtually all of Latin America is governed by democratic governments, and those that aren’t are under strong regional pressure to move in that direction. That includes Cuba which at long last will finally be able to function without the crushing effect of a U.S. imposed and enforced embargo and will have at long last the opportunity to evolve into a healthy and genuine democracy.

I cite the OAS as one example of the regional institutions under the aegis of the United Nations which can serve as models- however imperfectly- for the kind of permanent Asian regional organization that in my judgment is absolutely essential if we are going to achieve the goals that are reflected in this conference. Moreover,  the OAS has not limited itself simply to reducing and eliminating conflict.  When I spent that summer in Peru in 1954, one out of every two Peruvian babies never lived to see its first birthday. Today, infant mortality in Peru is about where it is in the rest of advanced industrialized world—a victory for the kind of international public health effort under the UN  that most recently ended the Ebola epidemic remarkably quickly and effectively.

But I find the current situation in Asia and the Pacific particularly troubling. After decades of turmoil and conflict, the region has now achieved a remarkable level of growth and confidence and relative peace.

The China of Mao has now become a very different and, I would argue, better place. It has essentially adopted a market economy, and while it has not embraced democracy, I believe that will be inevitable over time as it grows in economic strength and influence and reaches out, as it is now doing, to nations all over the world. Welcoming and not rejecting China into the family of nations will encourage that development, which is why the U.S. effort to stymie China’s proposed international development bank and keep its key allies from joining it seems so short sighted.

The developing world, and particularly Asia, need the trillions in foreign exchange that China can help to pour into the new bank. For the life of me, I can’t understand why the U.S. or others would object to it. In fact, by participating in it and encouraging others to do so, we can ensure that it meets high standards of fiscal and banking responsibility and include China and others even more fully in an increasingly collaborative world that shares its resources.

South Korea is a marvel. The country I left as a young GI in 1957 with a per capita annual income of $50 is now a remarkable example of economic and political transformation. The dictatorship of Sygman Rhee is a distant memory as are the military dictatorships that followed it. Genuinely democratic institutions exist and thrive. Only the continued instability that North Korea creates casts a shadow over a prosperous and successful Korean future—an important priority for the kind of regional organization that I think is essential to the region’s future.

There are, as all of you here know, other critical issues that cry out for regional collaboration and resolution.

1. Political developments in Thailand are troubling and must be resolved if the Thais are going to get back on course with the peaceful and successful evolution of their democracy. Military dictatorships, as we all know, get into trouble sooner or later. A genuine effort to return Thailand on the road to democracy is essential– the sooner, the better.

2. You are now trying to deal with a series of disputes over islands, many of which are relatively worthless but seem to carry with them historic significance for certain countries and some of which do include resources that could be helpful to region as a whole. China has been particularly aggressive in establishing its presence and pursuing its claims, but Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and others have not been shrinking violets on the subject. These claims will never be resolved unless they are taken to an international dispute resolution tribunal like the World Court or the Law of the Sea tribunals or, conceivably, new machinery covering the region itself to be created by the proposed regional organization.  China seems to prefer bilateral negotiations on the island questions, but there are too many countries and too many interests to be resolved bilaterally in most of these cases. A regional organization that either creates its own approach to resolving these issues or uses existing international machinery is the only way they can be resolved peacefully and effectively, and it is important that all of the nations involved, including China, recognize this.

3. The remilitarization of Japan is a particularly troubling issue. Frankly, I don’t see how the renunciation of the post-World War II Japanese constitution contributes to the creation of a framework for peace and security in the Pacific. In fact, I believe that Japan should play a unique role in the region as a peacemaker

4. The way Germany has conducted itself and continues to conduct itself since World War II is a good model to follow. It has certainly played a very constructive role in post-World War II Europe. It has been particularly important in attempting to deal with the current problems in Eastern Europe.  Japan has exactly that same opportunity in the Pacific, and I believe it should use it; save itself a lot of money that it can use far more constructively for other priorities both at home and throughout the region; and continue to rely on the U.S. guarantee of its security which nobody I know in the U.S. questions.

5. Terrorism is the one issue on which virtually all established governments agree, and those that don’t are or will be quickly isolated. We all feel terrible about the victims of ISIS or the Taliban or other terrorist attacks and the various armed assaults that are taking place frequently throughout the world and take human lives. I don’t for a minute, however, believe that they are an existential threat to world order or democracy and freedom. They will be crushed quite simply because established governments won’t tolerate them. If one of those established governments in the Middle East happens to be Iran, so be it.

6. The U.S. may have its issues with China and Russia, but the active participation of both of them and the progress made so far in the ongoing negotiations with Iran over its nuclear energy policy would have been impossible without them. If the dispute with Iran is resolved, that would be a good starting point for similar negotiations with North Korea. Progress begets progress in this world. This might well be one good example of it.

7. Climate change is, however, an existential threat that must be taken seriously. While a majority of the members of the U.S. Congress apparently don’t share that view and the new Senate majority leader is actively trying to mobilize some of the states in the U.S. in opposition to what he calls President Obama’s “War on Coal,” anybody with half a brain who looks at the evidence has to conclude that human activity is creating a very serious long term threat to the viability of the planet. In this respect the recently concluded agreement between the U.S. and China is good news indeed. Let’s see if we can build on that. Let’s see if we can persuade the new Indian prime minister that mining and burning all the coal in India is not the way to go. China should play a major role in that effort.

8. It’s time for an international conference on cyber warfare. China and the U.S. in particular have been engaging in a cyber cold war that certainly isn’t contributing to peace and security in the region or, for that matter, the world, and I am sure we are not alone. Why isn’t the international community doing something about it? Why aren’t we trying to create the cyber warfare equivalent of the International Atomic Energy Commission? Why aren’t we pushing hard for international standards and enforcement machinery that can stop this madness before it spirals out of control? The head the U.S. National Security Agency recently argued that the U.S. had to begin spending billions more on offensive cyber weapons at a time when my country needs those billions to invest in its own public infrastructure

9. Finally, and most troubling, is the past and current situation with North Korea. Clearly, it is a dangerously isolated country. Its people are starving while it spends millions on nuclear weapons development. Several months ago, the Chinese president visited South Korea, and his visit immediately produced comments in the west that the visit was designed to drive a wedge between South Korea and the U.S. Rather than an effort to damage U.S. ties with South Korea, his visit seemed to me to be a strong message from him to North Korea that China was getting fed up with the North and looked forward to a constructive relationship with the South. Isn’t that a good thing?

Clearly, there are powerful forces in the region and the world, including the UN Security Council, that are committed to stopping nuclear proliferation and prepared to work together to do so. We don’t know at this point if the negotiations with Iran are going to be successful, although certainly much progress has been made.

In the meantime, why not begin to work on a similar process that focuses on North Korea? Why not seriously explore the same kind of serious, science based effort that has for the most part characterized the Iranian negotiations despite the active opposition of right wing Iranian, Israeli and U.S. political forces?

What better time to launch this effort, especially if it comes on the heels of a successful conclusion to the negotiations with Iran? The Iran model doesn’t have to be followed to the letter. Other nations in the region like Japan and South Korea should be involved as Germany has been in the Iranian negotiations, but having the permanent members of the Security Council driving the process has been critically important in the case of Iran and will be equally important if we are to bring the North Koreans to the table and make them a part of the solution and not the problem.

Here I think the Secretary-General of the UN can and should play a major role. He carries with him the prestige of the office. He is Korean with long experience in international affairs. He is a patient and skilled negotiator. He will have the broad support of the international community. He should be a key participant in this effort.

That’s a heady agenda for those who believe, as I do, that creating the kind of framework that we will be discussing at this conference is not only important but eminently doable. Does it require a high degree of optimism? Of course it does, but my experience teaches me that pessimists don’t succeed in public life. If you don’t believe that good people, working together, can make a difference in this world, then you should try something else.

Fortunately, there are a lot of optimists in this world. Many of them, I hope,  are here with us at this conference, and I am looking forward to our discussion and to what I hope will be concrete proposals for change and institution building that can set the stage for real progress..

What kind of regional organization would make sense? Can it build on existing ones or should it be created as a new entity? What kind of a charter should it have? What rules of conduct for its members should it seek to enforce? What will be its relationship to the UN itself? Should it have new dispute resolution authority? And what role, if any, should the United States play in it?

Of course, we want a Pacific and an Asia that is open to all countries and all kinds of economic and maritime activity. We want a Pacific and an Asia which are forces for peace and progress—peace and progress that are broadly shared and help to build the kind of world we want for our children and grandchildren. But that vision must be primarily the product of regional leadership and regional cooperation.

In doing so, it would be wise to heed the words of another son of Massachusetts who was born just minutes from where Kitty and I have lived and raised a family in our native town of Brookline.

“What kind of peace do we seek, “John Kennedy asked. “ Not a PAX Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave, but a genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life worth living. Not merely peace in our time but peace in all time.

“The pursuit of peace,” he said, “is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war. But we have no more urgent task. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it is unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief…No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.

“History teaches us,” he said, “that enmities between nations, as between individuals, do not last forever. The tide of time and events will often bring surprising changes in the relations between nations.  {We should not} see conflict as inevitable, accommodation as impossible, and communication as nothing more than an exchange of threats.”

“For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

Governor Michael Dukakis