CLINTON'S WORLD ORDER
SEPTEMBER 18, 1996
With U.S. troops both moving into Kuwait and protecting the tenative peace in Bosnia, the President's foreign policy has become controversial. President Clinton points to peace talks in Bosnia, the Middle East and Northern Ireland as successes while many Republicans charge that the policy has been haphazard and inconsistent. Following a background report on Clinton's foreign policy, Margaret Warner leads a discussion with two campaign surrogates and two international policy analysts.
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MARGARET WARNER: Now to our discussion. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He's here representing the Clinton campaign. Paul Wolfowitz is a foreign policy adviser to the Dole campaign. He was Undersecretary of Defense for President Bush. Charles Kupchan, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was on the National Security Council staff in the Clinton administration's first year. And Robert Zoellick was State Department counselor and a top adviser to Sec. Baker in the Bush administration. Welcome, all of you. Paul Wolfowitz, how well would you say President Clinton has done in advancing U.S. interests abroad?
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, Dole Foreign Policy Adviser: I think we're doing very badly. And if you take the problem of the week, which is Iraq, it also is an area of enormous vital interest to the United States. We have a serious problem not just because Saddam Hussein has gained control of Northern Iraq, because people can't trust the promises that the United States has made or the claims the President makes of success. People are dead in Iraq now because they believed our promises that we would protect them. And that's a serious loss for American credibility. It squanders the leverage that we should be using to shape a more secure world in the future. And it's not just Iraq. Sen. Lieberman had the experience with Sen. Dole of trying to get the President to live up to his promise to arm the Bosnians, which he never did and which, as a result, we are now committed with 25,000 American troops in a situation where I don't think people believe the claims that are being made now by Sec. Christopher about the great success of these elections.
MARGARET WARNER: Sen. Lieberman, how do you respond to that?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, (D) Connecticut: Well, needless to say, I differ. I believe that America is stronger and Americans are safer today as a result of President Clinton's leadership in the world. He's kept our military strong, which is the--which is the foundation of our international security, and he has projected American moral leadership throughout the world. Most importantly, I think, under his leadership we have reaped the benefits of the end of the Cold War. There are no Soviet or Russian nuclear missiles pointed at the United States today. In fact, we're destroying missiles and bombers and nuclear warheads there. We have increased and deepened our relations with our most critical allies in the Americas and Europe, in Asia. We are extending NATO into Central Europe, thereby fulfilling our promise to some of the nations of Central Europe that lived under the yolk of Soviet Communism. We're battling international terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and the President has played an extraordinary leadership role in bringing peace and stability to some regions of the world which have yearned for it so long, notably the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian peace agreement, so I think America is stronger and safer than it was when President Clinton took office.
MARGARET WARNER: Bob Zoellick, where do you come down on this?
ROBERT ZOELLICK, Former Bush State Department Official: Well, I think your starting clip used an interesting word, which was “disconnected,” and that's the word that I would use for the Clinton foreign policy, because I think the problem throughout his whole effort is, is that he's tended to use an approach of trying to patch over the problems. There's been no overriding strategy. And while I have great respect for the Senator, I'm afraid what I've seen around the world is while many people like Mr. Clinton, they don't really respect him. And just as we see in domestic issues, they don't really know what he stands for. And that's hurting us on some of the issues that Paul talked about, particularly in developing coalitions.
MARGARET WARNER: Charles Kupchan, you, of course, worked for the Clinton administration. Give us your view on this broad question of the advance of U.S. interests abroad.
CHARLES KUPCHAN, Council on Foreign Relations: I think that the Clinton administration has increasingly over time found its bearings in foreign policy and the last two years have really been one solid success after another. And I would disagree with Bob Zoellick. I think there are core values and a core vision that's informing policy today, and one component of it is prosperity through GATT, through linking up together the regional groupings portrayed. Another is to try to create a world community, not just in the sense of American power unadorned, but community in the same way as Hillary Clinton says it takes a village--well, it also takes a village globally to try to build community values, and finally on the use of force--and here I would disagree with Paul Wolfowitz--I think that President Clinton has followed through with the policy that Mr. Wolfowitz put in place under Bush, and that is to rein in Saddam Hussein. And when he steps over the limits put in place, he gets slapped back, and that's exactly what happened in the last two weeks. So I think the policy in Iraq has been a smashing success.
MARGARET WARNER: Very briefly, Sen. Lieberman, I want to now look at this question of whether there is an overall vision. If you had to sum up very succinctly, maybe not a bumper stick, but pretty close, what is the Clinton administration's overall strategic vision?
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, the first point of it, and sometimes we take this for granted, is that President Clinton has rejected the appeals from those on the left and those on the right to become an isolationist leader, make America isolationist again. He has been aggressively and appropriately internationalist, both diplomatically, militarily, and, in fact, economically to the benefit of our security and our well-being, millions of jobs created as a result of trade. I'd say that internationalism is the first part of it. The second part of it: in a world that is not as simple as it was during the Cold War, when we may not be at a point where we can find an overarching, easy formula to describe foreign policy, he has projected America's principles, which is mostly democracy, supporting the spread of democracy, places like Haiti and Central Europe, Eastern Europe, and he has been willing to protect American interest in a muscular way and Iraq is the best example of that. When Saddam moved toward the Kuwaiti border, the President pushed him back with our troops; when we found that plot on President Bush, we sent missiles into Baghdad. So I think the President has protected American interests and advanced American principles throughout the world.
MARGARET WARNER: Paul Wolfowitz, weigh in on this question about a strategic vision. Does the Senator have a point when he says essentially now with the Cold War over, there is no single threat, it's pretty hard to have a single strategic vision.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: But I think the words may sound good but it's terribly important for people to believe that when the President says something, it can be counted on that when he makes a promise, it can be counted on, and I think these claims of success in Iraq are a joke. Saddam controls the ground. We control additional 60 miles of Iraqi air space. That isn't what matters. People who trusted in us have been killed, wiped out. He continues with his nuclear weapons program and his biological and chemical programs, which are a serious threat to us, and we're not doing anything about enforcement.
MR. KUPCHAN: But we left Saddam Hussein on the ground during the Bush administration, and the fact that he is there is an explicit choice, and we are now reining him in. That is successfully being carried out.
MR. ZOELLICK: If you think that he's being reined in in the region, I think you ought to really take a close look at how people in the Gulf look at this because what this is about is power, pure and simple. And in this one, the view in the region is that Saddam Hussein wanted hands down. So you can describe this as some big complex formula, and that's how they've tried to approach it in the Clinton administration, but don't fool oneself. We're going to--
MARGARET WARNER: I don't want let this just turn into a discussion of Iraq. Let me just get back to you, Paul Wolfowitz. Give me what Bob Dole simply--what Bob Dole's alternative strategic vision would be. How different would it be in its overall concept?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I think the most important thing is to concentrate on those areas that are of major vital interest to the United States, making sure--
MARGARET WARNER: And you don't think President Clinton has done that?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: I think we've tended to take things randomly, case by case, to do a little bit here and not enough in another place, but to understand what's going on in Asia, what's going on in Europe is of major importance to the United States, the Persian Gulf with its vital oil resources is critical to us, and that we have got to be a leader, and the leader's got to be somebody that people can count on. That's absolutely central to constructing the kind of world that will be safer in the next century.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Sen. Lieberman, address this question which now both Mr. Wolfowitz and Zoellick have raised a couple of times about credibility. They're essentially saying that the President does not have credibility internationally.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I don't know what the basis for that is. It seems to me that he is not only well liked, as either Paul or Bob said, he is respected. I mean, the truth is that our critical alliances with our allies in Western Europe and Asia, particularly Japan and South Korea, are better than they've been in a long time, that he has managed our relationship with Russia to a point that we have much better relations with Russia than most people imagined we would after the Cold War was over, and in the most difficult conflict areas, most difficult other countries such as China, where everyone has a problem knowing exactly what to do, I think we're back on track in building a relationship that is a combination of engagement, uh, and pressure on them to respect human rights, and, and to not spread weapons of mass destruction. So I find in the Middle East our allies are with us very strongly there in the Arab world and, and throughout that region. So I think the President has great credibility and it is part of why America is stronger and safer than we've been in quite a while.
MR. ZOELLICK: I just wanted to follow up on a point that Charlie's made, because I think it's an important observation. I think that Bill Clinton actually did pretty well when he followed up on the momentum of some of the things that he was handed off--the NAFTA, the Uruguay Round, the Mideast process. Where I think we've seen a real gap is that when events change, when something is new, the elections of a totally different government in Israel with Likud, trying to deal with the ongoing problem in Bosnia, when Russia starts to move more towards authoritarianism, he doesn't have the groundings, and I think part of it is he's still not really comfortable with foreign policy. We know he's been involved with domestic policy for a long time, but this is not a field where he really feels he has his groundings, and that is observed abroad because when you see the sort of things you see in the United States where people say, well, he takes different positions on different issues, so on and so forth, that plays out in our domestic politics. But internationally, the word of the United States President is critical. He has to recognize that.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Again, I'd challenge anybody to give me a case where, where you can cite that he has broken his word. I think he is--his extraordinary personal skills have helped him build very strong relationships with the key leaders of the world, particularly among our allies, and in Eastern and Central Europe and, you know, he's got--he's already made some threats to Saddam, and he's followed up on them, and he's kept his word to our allies, including the controversial decision to send the 20,000 troops to be part of the peacekeeping in Bosnia.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Look, one of the reasons we have a problem in Bosnia is because he never kept the promise he made that he was going to arm the Bosnians, and Sen. Lieberman joined with Sen. Dole in getting 2/3 of the Senate to vote to force him to do it, and that's why we've ended up having to protect people who had relied on promises that couldn't be kept. The people in Srebrenica and Zeppa are dead because those safe havens weren't protected.
MR. ZOELLICK: Or the case in China.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: But it's dangerous. In the case of China, we just had the worst crisis in the Taiwan Strait in almost 30 years, and I think it's clear, it's because the Chinese didn't think we would do anything serious.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Yeah, but, Paul, look what he did. He sent the fleet there, and it was a very, very strong show of force, which I think had the right effect on the Chinese and on the Taiwanese, our allies there, because they went ahead and held a very free election.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: But the point is he should never have been tested in the first place. If people took him seriously, that wouldn't have happened at all.
MARGARET WARNER: You've been trying to get in here.
MR. KUPCHAN: I think that on the Bosnian case, the simple fact is that in the last week Bosnians went to the polls and put pieces of paper in the ballot box, rather than killing each other, and that is because NATO went up, finally stood up to the plate under American leadership and stopped the fighting. And on the broader issue of, of whether American forces have been squandered, I have to agree with Sen. Lieberman here, in the three critical areas, I think that things are going very well. One is the economy, which is the basis of America's strength abroad. Two, key allies; we have a stronger relationship with Japan now than ever before. The President's recent trip was very strong with Germany, with France, with key European allies, and finally the military is not only strong but I think President Clinton has moved us away from this notion of overwhelming force and has helped us adapt to a world in which threats are no longer black and white and which we need to apply limited force to limited threats, as he's done both in Bosnia and in Iraq recently.
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Well, in Iraq, we had a pin prick, and that's why no one wanted to join us. In Bosnia, we have another make-believe success, a pretense that this election, which you just said in both Serbia and Croatian areas, elected the most nationalistic leaders, that this was somehow a move forward. This fighting will start as soon as our troops leave and Sec. Christopher has said they'll leave at the end of the year.
MR. KUPCHAN: But the killing has stopped, and we are now buying time for Bosnia to try to rebuild itself as a multi--
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Bob Zoellick's been trying to get in here.
MR. ZOELLICK: I just wanted to say, I mean, in a way, the whole issue of the coalition in Iraq is a striking example of what Paul and I were talking about. I mean, we had a situation where Kuwait, of all countries, basically didn't back us. I mean, that's a far cry from where we were four or five years ago, and I think we're paying the price for a President who people may like but they don't know whether they can rely on his world, and people around America have seen that too.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I really have to respond to that. I mean, the coalition we had in 1990 and ‘91, which I strongly supported in the Senate, supported President Bush, was not a coalition to defend the Kurds. In fact, we probably care more about the plight of the Kurds than any of the nations and peoples around the Middle East, and it was this--the situation here was that a political leader of the Kurds invited Saddam in. I don't know what anybody has to offer, other than what President Clinton did, that would have changed that reality unless we were prepared to send in another 500,000 troops on the ground and get ‘em out of there, and no one wanted to do that. So I think the President has sent a clear message to Saddam not to misunderstand what happened in the North, not to move South, not to threaten Kuwait. Kuwait's with us. They took about--there was a miscommunication but never a doubt that Kuwait would want those 5,000 American troops there. The Saudis are letting us fly from their territory to enforce the no-fly zone. I think our alliances are in strong--
MR. KUPCHAN: The coalition would be even weaker if the U.S. had done nothing. Some--the French, the Russians grumbled, but at least the United States has, has kept together the, the force on Saddam Hussein, rather than doing nothing--
MARGARET WARNER: We're just about out of time, and I just want to ask Paul Wolfowitz this question. Given everything that's been said here, still if you look at polls, it now shows that the American people trust actually Bill Clinton more than Bob Dole, despite all his experience in foreign affairs, to conduct, I think the phrase is wise conduct of foreign policy. How do you explain that?
MR. WOLFOWITZ: Well, I think we have a lot of make-believe successes, and I think we have a lot of pretense that the elections in Bosnia were a great success. I don't think people in Bosnia believe that they've changed the situation on the ground at all. They're just--
MARGARET WARNER: But you're saying the American people are--
MR. WOLFOWITZ: They believe it until six months from now after our elections when our troops come home and the fighting starts all over again. They believe it until they find that Saddam is breaking out with serious nuclear weapons programs or biological programs.
MARGARET WARNER: Sen. Lieberman.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Well, I think the President, you know, came in as a governor but he's an extraordinarily worker and learner, and he has been a great international leader, and as a result, people in this country trust him; they feel safer; and they feel better off economically as a result of the policies and leadership that he's given internationally.
MARGARET WARNER: Bob Zoellick, do you think foreign policy though--polls also show most people don't care that much about it, it's not much of a political issue. How do you explain that?
MR. ZOELLICK: Well, I mean, I think that obviously people are always preoccupied on pocket book issues, but I think the question we've been debating here about whether you really can trust him with these serious life and death issues is one that people will think about long and hard before they step in the ballot booth, and that's something you just don't know from polls. That's what you know on voting day.
MR. KUPCHAN: One comment follow-up, and that's that I think the most interesting poll of the last few years was the one that said that Americans disapprove of sending troops to Bosnia but they approve of Clinton's handling of the crisis in Bosnia. Why? Because I think they began to feel that he had the stuff that it takes to be a President and to lead. And where some of your criticisms may have been justified one or two years ago, I think at this point, they're not because the last two years have really shown a very impressive learning curve and a very strong leading President.
MARGARET WARNER: Okay, gentlemen, we have to leave it there. Thank you all very much. Senator and three of you.