YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Where the U.S. Should Stand in the New World Order : Effective foreign policy requires a clear understanding of our national interests and the will to act on them, a strong defense capability and constancy to our friends.

POINTS OF VIEW: 24th District congressional candidates discuss the issues. One in an occasional series. The Times has invited the two leading candidates in the hotly contested race for Congress in the 24th District, which includes the southwest San Fernando Valley, to write on several issues before the election. Incumbent Democrat Anthony Beilenson has been a congressman since 1977. Republican Rich Sybert was state director of planning and research from 1991 to 1993. For this last article they were asked: When should the United States use force to intervene or help intervene in other countries? Do you support our government's recent choices?

October 23, 1994|RICH SYBERT | Republican Rich Sybert was state director of planning and research from 1991 to 1993

As the Cold War recedes into history, the result of our having stood tall in the 1980s, the outlines of future foreign policy are emerging:

First, the new world order is in some respects more violent and unpredictable than the old, because regional conflicts and conventional warfare both have become more likely without the restraining hand of superpower rivalry and the threat of nuclear annihilation.

Second, global conflicts increasingly will take a North-South cast rather than East-West, on issues ranging from resource consumption to environmental protection to immigration and population.

Most of all, as we move rapidly into a global economy, international trade will increasingly dominate foreign affairs.

Effective U.S. foreign policy in this changing world, in turn, will require three things: (1) a clear understanding of our national interests and the will to act on them; (2) a strong and effective defense capability to make sure we can; (3) constancy to friends and those with whom we share values and ties.

* Determine our national interests.

The United States should act decisively where our interests are at stake. Those interests may be economic (access to resources), social (the war on drugs, illegal immigration) or cultural. For example, I strongly support the U.S.-Israel relationship and expanding our ties with Armenia. These are Western outposts with whom we share ties of blood and kinship.

This requires making judgments. The Persian Gulf, with half the world's oil supplies, and the Panama Canal, through which America's Navy and commerce flow, are vital to U.S. interests. Haiti, which has no strategic value and which produces nothing, is not.

Similarly, we have no compelling national interest in either Somalia or Rwanda, and we should not have sent U.S. troops in. Certainly we can contribute to United Nations humanitarian missions (although never put U.S. troops under U.N. command), but it is not our responsibility to get in the middle of 1,000-year-old tribal conflicts halfway around the globe.

Unfortunately, the Clinton Administration seems incapable of making such judgments. In fact, this Administration seems to have no idea what it is doing. Haiti is only the latest example. Our policy there seemed to change daily, and when we did go in, the explanations of our national interest seemed wholly unconvincing.

In North Korea, the "deal" we got was a bad one, and dangerous: It leaves North Korea's nuclear program frozen at status quo, when the status quo is unacceptable: We cannot permit small and irresponsible terrorist nations to possess nuclear weapons. Fighting nuclear proliferation and the spread of chemical and biological weapons must be a key aim of U.S. foreign policy.

* Maintain a strong defense.

A strong U.S. foreign policy requires a strong defense capability to back it up. I am proud to have served both as an intelligence officer in the United States Naval Reserve, and as special assistant to the secretary of defense, working closely with Gen. Colin Powell.

Unfortunately, we are busy dismantling this nation's defense infrastructure, particularly here in California. It is no accident that Saddam Hussein took his chances when U.S. forces were stretched thin in Haiti. While I support President Clinton's response, we should not have been put in that position in the first place. Base closures and defense cuts have gone too far; they are decimating our defense capability and devastating Southern California's economy. I will vote to reverse this trend and restore a strong defense.

* Push for more free and fair trade.

Our foreign policy must include an aggressive component of allowing Americans and U.S. companies to compete strongly around the world. Many Southern California businesses will prosper from recent trade treaties, but some--particularly the critical entertainment industry, with more than $4 billion in net export earnings--have not been treated fairly. We should also carefully review trade in leading-edge technology and know-how, so that we do not give away the store, and we should insist that any international trade tribunals reflect U.S. weight.

* Needed: a changing of the guard.

Unfortunately, we have seen no such rational approach to our foreign policy interests. Congress and the Administration have ignored or punted on the real threats to our national security: illegal immigration, drugs and barriers to U.S. trade and jobs.

My opponent, Congressman Anthony Beilenson, is a neo-isolationist who has called the nuclear threat in North Korea "none of our business," and an anti-defense ideologue who, like the President, has never done military service himself. He has dismissed the threat of nuclear proliferation in North Korea as an "affair between neighbors" at the same time he has called for $40 billion more in defense cuts.

This is not only uninformed, it is dangerously irresponsible.

On Israel, Beilenson was among only a handful of representatives who voted against the use of force in the Persian Gulf, and he recently tried to divert more than $20 million in U.S. aid to Israel for population control programs (certainly a serious problem, but not there). He has consistently supported Clinton, and most recently used his position on the powerful Rules Committee to prevent Haiti even coming up for a vote on the floor. This is not the kind of leadership we need or deserve.

As someone who has lived all over the world with substantial experience both in foreign trade and defense, I will not have to be educated on the job. I know that the United States is not just another country. We are the only country in the world founded on ideals--freedom--and we have a special responsibility to provide leadership.

I will do my best to make sure we live up to that responsibility.

Los Angeles Times Articles