U.S. FOREIGN POLICY:
From the stalled Middle East peace process to the collapse of the Asian economies, the Clinton administration faced many global challenges in 1997. Following a background report, Margaret Warner and guests discuss the success, failure and future of U.S. foreign policy.
MARGARET WARNER: Joining us now to assess all this are three foreign affairs columnists: Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post; Trudy Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer; and Fareed Zakaria, managing editor of Foreign Affairs Magazine and contributing editor of Newsweek.
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December 23, 1997:
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U.S. State Department
And Mr. Zakaria, just yesterday, President Clinton was in Bosnia telling the troops, U.S. troops, why he's made a commitment essentially for them to stay on indefinitely. What does that say, do you think, about how the Clinton administration now sees America's role in the world?
America's role in the world.
FAREED ZAKARIA, Foreign Affairs: Well, Margaret, in a way it perfectly illustrates the American dilemma at the close of the 20th century. On the one hand, we stride the world like a Colossus. Only we can bring peace to Bosnia. Only we can stabilize the situation. On the other hand, there's a powerful temptation to get involved all over the world because there is instability. Wherever we see a crisis, wherever we see instability, a voice somewhere within us says, don't just stand there, do something. And as a result, we get drawn into places like Haiti, Somalia, Liberia, Northern Iraq, and now Bosnia, some of which have varying levels of vital interests at stake. But in each case we go in there because it seems like we're the only ones who could do it.
MARGARET WARNER: And are you saying you think the administration has given into that temptation too much?
FAREED ZAKARIA: I think in general the administration has placed too much emphasis on the sort of crisis du jour, on the televised crisis that cries out for some attention over the longer-term, much more important issues like the rise of China, the collapse of Russian power, the stabilization of the global economy. I think these broader trends require an enormous amount of work, even though they are less sexy. On the economic issues I think the administration has done, by and large, superbly. On these political issues they don't keep their eyes on the prize.
MARGARET WARNER: Jim Hoagland, how do you assess the administration's sense of itself in the United States and the world? Do you they keep their eyes on the prize?
President Clinton's vision for Bosnia.
JIM HOAGLAND, Washington Post: Well, I suppose I would take a slightly more positive view than my colleague would on that. I think you started off by asking about Bosnia and what it tells us. I think it tells us a lot about Bill Clinton's view of his own legacy, of what he wants to leave behind when he leaves the White House. He has consistently I think applied a vision to Bosnia, and he's pursued a policy there that I think can be a real accomplishment, and he's very interesting in protecting that. That's why he's agreed, or he's trying to get Congress to agree to an open-ended extension of a military presence there. I think the way in which President Clinton described America's role in Bosnia on his recent trip also tells us a lot about his view toward the rest of the world. He described it almost entirely in very defensive terms, in static terms. We have to protect what we've done there; we have to give these people a chance to rebuild their lives, to live together. The Clinton administration has, in fact, been very hesitant in approaching the rest of the world. It's been a hesitant superpower, and I think with some wisdom because I think the rest of the world resent it if we tried to intrude more than we do, if we tried to show our power more directly. I think there is a tendency now of other countries to begin to try to form united fronts against the United States on a variety of issues, to Gulliverize the United States by tying down this huge power with little ropes, as the Lilliputians did to Gulliver.
MARGARET WARNER: So are you saying you think that in general the administration has chosen the right issues and areas to get involved in?
JIM HOAGLAND: I think it's been, by and large, a judicious use of power. There have been occasions where I think it could have used power and more effectively. I think particularly of Iraq and of Bosnia.
MARGARET WARNER: Trudy Rubin, how do you see this? Connect the decision in Bosnia with the administration's sense of this country and the world today.
TRUDY RUBIN, Philadelphia Inquirer: I think that the decision in Bosnia is a very important one because I think that it indicates that at last the administration is beginning to think strategically and connect up the dots. After all, how can you talk about NATO expansion in order to stabilize Europe if you're not willing to stabilize Southeastern Europe by keeping the troops in Bosnia? Then the whole purpose of NATO expansion seems rather mystifying since we're certainly not waiting for the Russians to invade Germany. Beyond that, I think that it shows--at least I hope it shows--that the administration is beginning to think long term. I think the administration has given the impression of very short-term attention span, and in Bosnia, by making a long-term commitment that's going to be judged by benchmarks, then I think the administration is saying, and it will be tested on this, that it is going to stay until it achieves what it hopes to achieve in Bosnia, which is some kind of stability that means troops can leave.
MARGARET WARNER: And where do you come down on this difference between your two colleagues, Mr. Zakaria saying he thinks the administration has tended maybe to jump into a few too many issues, Jim Hoagland saying, if anything, occasionally, it has not acted forcefully enough soon enough?
TRUDY RUBIN: I think this is a triage era, and I think that the administration does have to make choices. It can't go into every troubled area. I think that Somalia was a mistake. Haiti was done for domestic reasons, to stop refugee flows; this was not really a foreign policy operation. But Bosnia, I think, is a strategic operation, because I think that it says very much about whether we are going to work to continue to try to have a strategic alliance with our European allies. I think what happens in Bosnia is going to say a lot about whether we work out a new way of burden sharing with the Europeans. The Europeans still look to us but they resent us. We talk a lot about wanting a European pillar of NATO but don't do much about it, and I think that Bosnia is going to be a testing grounds for working out a new kind of strategic cooperation in Europe. So I think that Bosnia is the right place to make a choice. I think that in the past the administration's choices have been too fragmented and haven't fit into a picture as a whole.
MARGARET WARNER: Mr. Zakaria, how do you--how well do you think the administration has dealt with the down sides of the superpower status that your colleagues referred to, which is the occasional resentment of the United States--you hear the phrase hegemony and so on--and arrogance--how well has the administration dealt with that?
An arrogance of power?
FAREED ZAKARIA: Well, I think part of it comes with the job. You have to recognize people are going to resent a country with this kind of enormous power, enormous influence all over the world. But I would differ somewhat from Jim Hoagland in that I think in some ways that we've gotten the worst of both worlds. We're constantly bullying our allies on issues that are of no importance to us--Helms Burton sanctions.
MARGARET WARNER: Dealings with Cuba.
FAREED ZAKARIA: Dealings with Cuba, essentially penalizing companies entirely to satisfy domestic constituents, penalizing European companies, that is, and then when we need their cooperation on really important things like Iraq, we're surprised that the French are not that cooperative. So in an odd way I find that we have been annoying our allies on issues that we don't really care about and not bullying them enough on issues that we really do care about.
MARGARET WARNER: Fair criticism, Jim?
JIM HOAGLAND: Well, again, I think I see it slightly differently.
MARGARET WARNER: I'm glad.
JIM HOAGLAND: It does matter to the United States what Iran does, what Iraq does. I agree that these are ill-considered and ill-advised attempts to punish the Europeans and the Russians now for investing in Iran. This is one of the crisis in the coming year, I think, if Congress pursues it. I think the administration has not done a good job in trying to spend what capital it's accumulated particularly through Madeleine Albright's efforts with Jesse Helms on Capitol Hill to try to get Congress to be much more engaged in international affairs. Fareed Zakaria is right, that we're now in the embarrassing and ridiculous position of holding back--back dues from the United Nations at a time when we're saying to the United Nations, okay, you take care of Saddam Hussein. We're not prepared to do it. The UN inspectors are the key issue there. At the same time also that we're asking the Europeans to take a different attitude on Iran, on a whole series of things, where Congress is simply undercutting the United States' ability to play the role of not just a superpower but really a reasonable power in the world; I think the administration has to do more to both try to cajole, persuade, and, if necessary, confront the congressional leadership than it is doing now.
MARGARET WARNER: And, Trudy Rubin, how do you see how the administration's handled this, the down sides of being a superpower including a Congress that often doesn't seem to interested in it?
Trudy Rubin: "You don't create alliances with McDonald's hamburgers and cultural influence overseas."
TRUDY RUBIN: I think that certainly the Congress and sometimes the administration seem to be having a hard time coming to grips with exactly what it means to be the only superpower. After all, in the old days, not so long ago, to be a superpower meant that the rest of the world needed you either to shelter under your nuclear umbrella or because they were getting lots of foreign aid. Those days are gone. We're not protecting people, and some cases the nuclear umbrella might still be relevant in Asia with North Korea, but generally, it's not the same as it was in Soviet days, and as far as foreign aid, ours keeps dropping. And so when you have less to give as a superpower, you have to be more conscious of how you use your chips, and there I would agree with Fareed Zakaria, I think that we have squandered our influence by pursuing silly vendettas with an oomph from Congress. I find it very sad that the administration plays along with the Cuba policy, which just loses us points, and it certainly is absurd to be refusing to pay dues at the UN, as Jim Hoagland said, when we need cooperation through the UN in our Iraq policy. I think all this requires us to look at what exactly is the source of our power. You don't create alliances with McDonald's hamburgers and cultural influence overseas.
MARGARET WARNER: Jim Hoagland, if the Cold War isn't the organizing principle in the world and Fareed Zakaria talked about keeping the eyes on the prize, what do you think--and it's a little unfair, but what do you think is perhaps the most important overall global trend we're seeing, and how well is the administration dealing with that, aside from all the crises?
Exploring global trends.
JIM HOAGLAND: Well, I think the most dangerous, most urgent global trend, of course, is the proliferation of the weapons of mass destruction, biological, chemical, nuclear weapons, and the dangers that the proliferation represents for all mankind and for the United States. I think the administration is doing a fairly good job in calling attention to this and the announcement in recent--last week really that U.S. military personnel will now be vaccinated against anthrax attacks is a beginning of an effort to explain not only to the military but to the nation at large that we live in an era of new dangers. Crime, the spreading international crime, spreading drug trafficking, all of this pose new threats to the U.S. security that we have to begin to re-define, as does, and in a very different and still contested way global warming. I think the administration has done a fairly good job of thinking about the future, thinking about the new trends, and beginning to address them. I think it is still inconsistent in terms of whether or not the most important agendas--items on the agenda on any given day are kind of the old threats or the new threats, and how do we deal with it, and they go back and forth, rather than having a consistency you'd like to see. But at the same time I think we have to acknowledge they've recognized these new dangers; they've begun to address the problems.
MARGARET WARNER: Fareed Zakaria, what would you nominate as the most significant worldwide trend, sort of new trend we're seeing and how well the administration is dealing with it?
FAREED ZAKARIA: You ask small questions, Margaret. I would say to take it at an equally broad level that what we've seen this year has been the continuing triumph of democracy and capitalism around the world, the collapse of any other alternatives. And what I mean by this is the triumph of a kind of raw people power and raw market power. Think of two seminal events: the death of Princess Diana and the collapse of East Asia. What the death of Diana demonstrated was the enormous ability of just raw public opinion to shape even an ancient institution like the English monarchy, not to mention the English government. And the collapse of East Asia just showed the brutal, raw power of global capitalism for good and bad, and I think these two trends, the continuing spread of a particular kind of democracy and a particular kind of capitalism around the world, will be the two great challenges. The administration has done very well, by and large, with stabilizing the international economy and stabilizing, if you will, the down sides of global capitalism, which have, by and large, in my opinion, mostly up sides. On democracy I think they have not been as good, particularly on the peculiar rise of what I've called illiberal democracy, the rise of democratically elected regimes that are perverted, that systematically abuse rights, suppress their citizens, et cetera.
MARGARET WARNER: Let me let Trudy Rubin--last point to you. That same question.
TRUDY RUBIN: I think that the most interesting and the most dramatic trend is globalization as a whole, meaning the immense changes that are taking place in economies around the world. And I don't think that anyone--the United States, the Europeans, certainly not the Asians--have come to grips with how to deal with this trend. In the United States you see increasing disparities of income and nobody can even agree on how to address the social safety net question. In Europe you have enormous unemployment. The rapid flows of capital have contributed to this economic debacle in Asia, and nobody is quite sure how to treat it. The administration had been successful up until recently in pushing free trade but the offset, the opposite side of free trade, the political upsets caused by popular perceptions that free trade might be doing them badly, these are issues that are going to come home in America in the next elections, that are going to affect Europe dramatically over the next few years, and that are causing Asians to blame America for their troubles. And so I nominate globalization of the economy as a whole big broad area whose down side no one has yet come to grips with.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you all three very much.
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