Historic Documents of 1993


Edited by: CQ Press

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    Domestic and international issues shared the spotlight in 1993 as the first Democratic president since 1976 took office. Bill Clinton had promised change during his campaign, and in the new year he set about trying to accomplish that by finding a home for his ideas on health care, the economy, and the military. Some changes on the domestic front were unanticipated, however, with several familiar Washington faces disappearing from the scene during the year. After the president was plagued for months with problems in appointing several cabinet nominees, Washington seemed to settle down only to then witness the resignation of several public figures, Clinton was called on in 1993 to appoint a new FBI director and a new secretary of defense, and he placed the second-ever female justice on the Supreme Court.

    Two nonpolitical faces also gained household recognition in 1993. Both caused anguish in the hearts of the nation. In July the adoption case of two-year-old Jessica DeBoer captured the attention of the media; millions followed her journey on television as her biological parents, who had given her up for adoption at birth, fought for custody in a bitter court battle and won. Months before, cult leader David Koresh had made the nation witness to a different kind of pain when he led his followers to a mass suicide in Waco, Texas, after a fifty-one-day standoff with Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) and FBI officials. In the months following the disaster, the government was battered by harsh criticism suggesting that the end result would have been different had officials handled the situation more appropriately.

    Another government institution, the U.S. military, found itself in the public eye during the year as it undertook controversial measures for change. Normally a bastion of tradition, the armed forces demonstrated an unprecedented flexibility in 1993. In January the president announced a “don't ask, don't tell” policy for homosexuals in the military, and eventually made it illegal for military personnel to be dismissed because of their sexual preferences as long as they remained discreet. In late April Secretary of Defense Les Aspin announced that women would be allowed to fly combat aircraft. However great these changes were for the military establishment, they represented only a fraction of what was expected by gay rights and women's rights advocates.

    The attitude of the military toward women had been publicly explored during 1992 and 1993 as the Defense Department investigated the controversial behavior that had occurred at the Tailhook convention. The final report on Tailhook, released at the end of April 1993, revealed a record of sexual assault and harassment by thousands of Navy and Marine Corps personnel. Many senior-level officials were implicated, and several were discharged.

    The military establishment was further scrutinized when Aspin announced in late 1993 the results of the “Bottom-Up Review,” which reevaluated the military's structure and programs and made recommendations for improvements. The initiative was intended to shape the reorganization of the military in light of the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991. In the post-cold war era, the capacity for the production of nuclear weapons had spread to smaller countries, many with extremely volatile leadership and unstable governments. The review recommended a shift in focus from the former Soviet Union to the dangers posed by regional conflicts with the potential for escalation into full-scale wars.

    In this new world order the United States took an active role in 1993. The year began with the signing of the second Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START II), calling for sweeping arms reductions between Russia and the United States. It ended with the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of negotiations for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), opening the door to the possibility of the largest expansion of international trading rules ever implemented.

    Between these bookends fell two other significant treaties. The United States signed a landmark international chemical weapons agreement that banned the production, assimilation, and use of chemical weapons throughout the world, the first time that an entire class of weapons had been eliminated. By August 147 nations had signed the treaty, which was scheduled to be implemented in January 1995. In November Congress approved passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect January 1, 1994, and eliminated trade barriers between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. The debate over NAFTA divided the country: environmental groups allied themselves with organized labor; Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, and consumer advocate Ralph Nader joined forces in opposition; Democrats and Republicans fell on both sides. The public was equally split between protectionists who feared a loss of American jobs and those who saw benefits from the competition created by an expanded economy.

    Outside the United States, the year brought a mix of developments. Most striking was the international triumph in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which resulted in the signing on U.S. soil of a “Declaration of Principles” and a resolution to settle differences peacefully. In contrast was the attempted coup in Russia in late September and early October that shocked the world with its violence and bloodshed. When Russian president Boris Yeltsin dissolved the Congress of People's Deputies in the face of continued opposition from antireform conservatives, the legislature voted to depose him. Setting up barricades outside the legislative building, the rebels set off a chain of events that led Yeltsin to declare a state of emergency and place a temporary ban on free speech and expression. After several days, pro-Yeltsin forces subdued the insurrection, and two months later, in December, Russia held the first open elections in its history and adopted a new constitution.

    These are but some of the topics of national and. international interest chosen by the editors for Historic Documents of 1993. This edition marks the twenty-second year of a Congressional Quarterly project that began with Historic Documents of 1972. The purpose of this continuing series is to give students, librarians, journalists, scholars, and others convenient access to important documents on a range of World issues. In our judgment, the official statements, news conferences, speeches, special studies, and court decisions presented here will be of lasting interest.

    Each document is preceded by an introduction that provides background information and, when relevant, an account of continuing developments during the year. We believe that these introductions will become increasingly useful as memories of current times fade.

    Laura M.Carter Production and Assistant Editor

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