Pat Moynihan’s Legacy in International Affairs

Note: The following are excerpts from a tribute to Daniel Patrick Moynihan delivered on May 8th, 2008, at the presentation of the Inaugural Daniel Patrick Moynihan prize.

[Our visit to Sarajevo] had a very profound impact on Senator Moynihan, who went there because of his outrage at the violation of international law that was taking place. That, in a European city, aggression launched by a neighboring country on the internationally recognized state of Bosnia-Herzegovina was taking place, and that the UN charter was not being invoked or used. That the violation was being tolerated, and in fact that officials of the first Bush administration tried very hard to prevent us from going at all. It was really extremely courageous, and he came back and he wrote a long memo to President-elect Bill Clinton…not much happened on the Moynihan memo until 1995 when it became more or less US policy. But it did have one consequence, which is that I ended up becoming the first US Ambassador to Croatia…We didn’t have an Ambassador in Bosnia, so it was the center of the operation in the region and I ended up spending five years there…

There’s always a certain amount of confusion about what Senator Moynihan stood for in international affairs, particularly for those who remember back to the 1970s, who might even have ignorantly described him as a neo-conservative, partly because of the strong stance he took at the United Nations, the book he wrote. But the fact is that he was a strong believer in the United Nations, he was a strong believer in international law… He was a critic of [some of the] countries in the United Nations because he saw them as undermining the institution and as undermining international law, and he went to Sarajevo…to stand up for international law. He wrote a book about it, he took the lead in 1990 to impose sanctions on Iraq for its violations of international law…he considered that to be central and to be central to the concept of standing up to tyranny, whether it’s left or right.

And that turns then to his view of the Soviet Union…Pat Moynihan was a realist. He saw the Soviet Union as tyrannical, but not powerful, and in 1980 he wrote an article in which he said the Soviet Union will disappear in the next 10 years. Of course, it was totally dismissed, but in that 10 years we spent a fortune defeating an adversary that had already lost. And what he liked to say about the CIA is they told us everything we needed to know about the Soviet Union except it wasn’t going to be there. And that, too, was the reason for his trip to Sarajevo, was to see things on the ground. So realism and law seem to be Pat Moynihan’s legacy in international affairs, which was huge.

Peter W. Galbraith, a former US Ambassador to Croatia, is Senior Diplomatic Fellow at the Center for Arms Control and a principal at the Windham Resources Group.

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are solely the opinions of the individuals and not those of the Academy.

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