Date: 01-31-2001

Adm. Dennis C. Blair, Commander of U.S. Pacific Forces (USCINCPAC)
Remarks at Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders
Jan. 31, 2001
East-West Center, Honolulu

Good morning. I am honored to be invited to speak among such a distinguished audience of key leaders and friends from the Pacific neighborhood. I commend you at this, your Sixth Conference of Leaders, dealing with your and our common concerns in this era of Globalization.

Before I begin talking to you about the U.S. Pacific Command, which I have the good fortune to command, let me tell you an island story.

On a recent trip to one of your beautiful islands, I won't say which, I had the opportunity to take a break and go fishing, and I overheard a conversation between a Harvard businessman on vacation, and one of the local fisherman.

The fisherman had a small boat with several large yellowfin tuna, or ahi as we call them around here. The American complimented the man on the quality of his fish, and asked how long it took to catch them. The fisherman replied only a little while.

The American asked, then why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish? The fisherman said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.

The American then asked, but what do you do with the rest of your time?

The fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a nap with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I drink a beer and play the ukelele with my friends. I have a full and wonderful life."

The American scoffed, "I'm a Harvard MBA, and I could help you. You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds, you could buy a bigger boat. With the money from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats. Eventually, you'd own a fleet of fishing boats.

And instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You'd control the product, processing and distribution. You'd need to leave this little island fishing village, of course, and move to Honolulu, then Los Angeles, and eventually New York, where you'd run your expanding business."

The fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?"

To which the American replied, "15 to 20 years."

"But what then?" asked the fisherman.

The American laughed and said, "That's the best part. When the time is right, you'll announce an initial public offering and sell your private company stock to the public, and become very rich. You'd make millions of dollars!"

"Millions? Then what?" asked the fisherman.

The American said, "Then you could retire – move to a small fishing village where you could sleep late … fish a little … play with your kids … take a nap with your wife … stroll down to the village in the evenings … where you could drink a beer … and play the ukelele with your friends!"

This story illustrates the challenge many island states face – to pursue economic development while maintaining cultural identity.

The strategic environment in the Pacific has changed several times in the past half century. We look back nearly 60 years to realize how fortunate we are that no nation is seeking to occupy and subjugate the nations in the region. At that time, the United States mobilized over a million men and women to defeat armed aggression. Tens of thousands of Americans died alongside of your people in this effort. Indeed, your islands and their adjacent seas are also hallowed ground to Americans, particularly my generation of Americans, whose fathers were a part of that effort.

Only a decade ago, Americans were concerned with Soviet advances into the South Pacific. America had a policy of strategic denial to limit the expansion of Soviet ties and influence in the area. This is no longer so. The Soviet Union is gone.

As island states work to bring prosperity to their peoples and surmount environmental challenges, they will do so in a relatively peaceful region, which has great advantages, but also means that the world's attention will not be drawn to Polynesia and Micronesia, nor will additional resources which competition and conflict command.

Let me explain why I see the Pacific future as peaceful:

- PACOM AOR – Capable and Diverse - Mission - Regional Engagement – summary of interactions of Pacific Command with Island Nations - Security challenges to the Pacific Islands are of two types

- Future Challenges - Encouraged by the Island response - Increasing efforts to develop Information Technology (IT) capabilities and programs

- Regional establishment of norms and expectations – assistance to other states to create fair solutions – good, and can set an example

- Different forms of governance

In summary, you can be sure that US has interests in Oceania region

- Pacific Command is committed to helping create security and peaceful development in the region
This is an East-West Wire, copyright East-West Center