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Commentary | COLUMN RIGHT / DAN QUAYLE

Clinton Foreign Policy: the New Amateur Hour

While embracing U.N. overtures to Iraq, he brushes off longtime allies like Israel.

June 21, 1998|DAN QUAYLE | Dan Quayle was vice president from 1989-1993

The pollsters and pundits tell us that foreign policy is low on the list of concerns of the American people. That certainly seemed to be the case in 1992 and 1996. There was a good reason for this: Over the 12-year period ending in 1992, the United States won the Cold War and defeated Saddam Hussein in perhaps the most lopsided victory in the modern era. American ideals were sweeping Eastern and Central Europe and South America. It is understandable that Americans became a bit complacent. Presidents Reagan and Bush had taken care of business on their watch, and the sense of security and order even carried over to the election of 1996.

Now that complacency must end. Americans need to wake up to the sad reality of the late 1990s: President Clinton's foreign policy is a shambles. Our national interests are not well served. Instead of projecting confidence and resolve, America has stumbled into a series of failures that can only be described as appeasement, amateurism and apology.

Consider: In 1992, Clinton taunted President Bush for engaging "the butchers of Beijing." But Bush pursued his policies with firmness and in the steady light of our national interest. It is now clear to everyone--most of all the Chinese--that Clinton's China policy is driven by every consideration except U.S. national security. So China continues to act in ways inimical to our interests with no fear of the consequences: Witness Clinton's summit, replete with the "honor guard" in Tiananmen Square later this month.

The same holds true with regard to Iraq. In the past two years, Saddam Hussein has run circles around the Clinton administration and is on the verge of achieving exactly what he has wanted since the end of Desert Storm. Iraq is now authorized to export nearly as much oil as it did before the war, and the international system is dismantling the inspections that were designed to prevent Saddam from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. In 1997, while Clinton rattled his letter opener, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was "summoned" by the Russian foreign minister to Geneva to sign off on capitulating to Iraq. Earlier this year, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan brushed Clinton aside to provide new concessions to Iraq, which Clinton then pathetically embraced.

In 1994, when North Korea threatened to withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Clinton's response was to help provide North Korea with oil and nuclear reactors. States contemplating the acquisition of nuclear weapons heard the message loud and clear. Four years later, both India and Pakistan tested nuclear weapons and the nonproliferation regime now lies in tatters. Clinton bears a significant responsibility for this mess and for systematically undermining efforts to protect against this situation with an effective missile defense.

Clinton administration officials had in the past stated that the 1992 "Christmas warning" Bush gave to Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was still valid. That warning made clear that if Serbia attacked Kosovo, America would respond with force. Last month, however, despite little or no progress in curbing Serbian aggression, the administration lifted the minimal sanctions we had in place. Serbia's response was to launch a new round of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

This is appeasement and it is an abdication of leadership. The thugs of the world have figured out that sales, not security, are the bottom line. The entire charade fits Churchill's description of the allies before World War II: "Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last."

It is apparently not enough simply to cave in to the demands of tyrants. We have to grovel. Thus, in just the past year, we have witnessed the spectacle of an American president "apologizing" for genocide in Rwanda and chastising a faithful ally, Israel, when it is Yasser Arafat who has yet to carry out his promises made in the peace process begun in Oslo.

America is still a strong nation, with a weak president. But the perception of American weakness and inconstancy has made the world a more dangerous place. So, will Clinton lead the effort to build a missile defense system; will he prevent the final hollowing out or the American armed forces; will he sign legislation to sanction those who help Iran acquire weapons of mass destruction? No in each case.

How is it possible to have reached this point? Because for the past six years, foreign policy has been put on the back burner. It seems almost unbelievable that after repeated failures, Clinton is unwilling to protect America from his mistakes.

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