||« Back to Does Clinton Have a Foreign Policy? main page
Does Clinton Have a Foreign Policy?
Think Tank Transcripts: Foreign Policy
ANNOUNCER: 'Think Tank' has been made possible by Amgen, unlockingthe secrets of life through cellular and molecular biology. At Amgen,we produce medicines that improve people's lives today and bring hopefor tomorrow.
Additional funding is provided by the John M. Olin Foundation, theWilliam H. Donner Foundation, the Randolph Foundation, and the JMFoundation.
MR. WATTENBERG: Hello. I'm Ben Wattenberg. The Evil Empire isdead. But North Korea is building nuclear bombs, Bosnia is in flames,a military dictator flouts America with impunity in Haiti.
What principles should guide the United States in our dealingswith dictators and democrats, with enemies and allies?
Here today to sort through the conflict and the consensus are:Richard Perle, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute;Professor Stephen Solarz, former chairman of the House Subcommitteeon Asian and Pacific Affairs; Richard Barnet, senior fellow at theInstitute for Policy Studies; and Ted Galen Carpenter, director offoreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.
The question before the house: Does President Clinton have aforeign policy? This week on 'Think Tank.'
For the last 40 years, America had a foreign policy that couldjust about be explained on a one word bumper sticker: Containment.Most Americans rallied to the view that a hostile, nuclear armedSoviet Union should be stopped from expanding its power.
Well, now the Cold War is over, and U.S. foreign policy seems tobe adrift. A lot of new and different labels are in play. Listen:interventionism, cultural declinism, cultural imperialism, exportingdemocracy, free trade, protectionism, realism, America first,ectopia, imperial overstretch, enlargement, new mercantilism,unilateralism, multilateralism, economic nationalism, ad hocracy,pragmatism, triumphalism, idealism, and of course, the new worldorder.
My own label of choice is triumphant non coercive culturalimperialism, or for short, neo manifest destinarianism.
But the bumper stickers don't seem to stick these days. They offerno consensus about what to do in Somalia, nor do they tell us whetheror not America should try to restore democracy in Haiti or whatcourse of action we should take in Bosnia or North Korea.
Moreover, the United Nations peacekeepers, the Blue Helmets, havebeen deployed all over the world, and some of them are Americans.
Isn't it strange? America is the number one military, cultural,political, geopolitical, educational, scientific, and demographicpower in the world; here we are the most powerful, influential,emulated nation in history, and we don't know what to do with it.Alexander the Great, where are you now that we need you?
We do not have Alexander the Great with us, alas. We haveProfessor Stephen Solarz of George Washington University. Steve, whatis your label?
MR. SOLARZ: I don't think, Ben, any label can adequately describewhat we ought to do in every conceivable contingency. But for want ofanything better, I would suggest enlightened internationalism.
MR. WATTENBERG: All right, let's just hold it there. We're goingto come back to that. Richard Barnet, what is your label?
MR. BARNET: At the risk of adding one more to your long list ofsilly labels (laughter) let me suggest
MR. WATTENBERG: Another silly one.
MR. BARNET: pragmatic globalism, which in the details I think isnot silly.
MR. WATTENBERG: Pragmatic globalism. All right, Ted GalenCarpenter, where are you in the label game?
MR. CARPENTER: Recognizing the great difficulty in summarizing acomplex concept, my label would be strategic independence.
MR. WATTENBERG: Okay. Richard Perle?
MR. PERLE: It's a long label.
MR. WATTENBERG: You're entitled to a long label.
MR. PERLE: If there is only one superpower, let it be us. Let'smake sure that we are not again threatened in the way we were whenthere was a rival superpower capable of destroying us.
MR. WATTENBERG: You represented voters for 18 years. How do theybenefit if we are a superpower and we are the strongest and you know,I'm this is a devil's advocate question, but if we are the greatesteconomic power in the world, and if we are the greatest militarypower in the world, how does that help the people from your formerdistrict?
MR. SOLARZ: Well, I'd give you just one or two examples. If thereis any hope of preventing North Korea from joining the nuclear cluband acquiring a sufficient amount of fissile material to providenuclear weapons to rogue regimes like those in Iran and Libya and toterrorist groups like Abu Nidal, it depends on forceful Americanleadership which we're potentially in a position to exert preciselybecause of our superpower status.
MR. BARNET: I think 'superpower' is an absolutely obsolete termand that it's a dangerous one to use because it really suggests thatwe are special because of nuclear weapons, and I think we shouldforget that because that's not the basis of our real power toinfluence the world today.
I'm starting really from exactly your vantage point: what doesthis mean to the people of this country? We talk about being asuperpower. Look at the cities in this country. Compare us withEurope. Look at our education system. Look at now increasingly theincreasing health problems, the scandalous crime problems.
MR. WATTENBERG: Hold on. Richard, why don't you deal with that?
MR. PERLE: Well, I think you have to ask the question, what didSteve's constituents have to pay for during the long night of theCold War? And the answer is, we were enormously burdened by the needto protect ourselves from what could have been devastation.
There is now not a rival superpower in the world, and if we playour cards right, if we're adroit, if we marshal our strength and it'snot principally nuclear strength, I agree with Steve
MR. BARNET: Oh, I agree with that, too. It's the symbolism ofnuclear weapons that's so important.
MR. PERLE: it's a combination of conventional strength andeconomic power but if we play our cards right, we can inhibit andmaybe even block the emergence of a successor superpower that couldagain threaten us. And there is a tremendous advantage in doing that.
MR. BARNET: I agree with that, but that's why the economic issuesare so important and why it makes no sense for the United States nowto maintain a military budget which is greater than the 10 nextcountries in the world.
MR. PERLE: But it's a trivial fraction of our gross nationalproduct.
MR. BARNET: It's not trivial as far as the budget.
MR. CARPENTER: It's beside the point. Richard, that is utterlybeside the point.
MR. PERLE: Three and a half percent.
MR. BARNET: That's not the point because the issue
MR. PERLE: The other 96 1/2 percent to repair the cities andcrime.
MR. BARNET: It's not 96 Richard, we're talking about the budget,and we are starving our cities, we are starving our policedepartments, our fire departments.
MR. CARPENTER: I would strongly disagree with Richard that we havea problem with a cash starved welfare state in the United States.That's not the source of our problems.
MR. WATTENBERG: But you would cut the defense budget nonetheless?
MR. CARPENTER: Certainly. We can afford to cut our defense budgetsubstantially. We can't justify continuing to spend $260 billion ayear on the military when Japan is currently spending $39 billion andGermany is proposing spending $28 billion this next year.
And as far as the many problems in the world, I think we have toask, if the situation in Eastern Europe is so threatening and soterrible to us, it must be far more so to the major powers in theEuropean Union, and particularly to Germany as a frontline state. MR.PERLE: Oh, this is a
MR. CARPENTER: Why are they cutting back their forces?
MR. WATTENBERG: Ted, let Richard get in there.
MR. PERLE: Ted, we heard this argument for years, that we can'tpossibly be right in our apprehensions because there is somebody elsewho doesn't share them.
MR. CARPENTER: But they're more immediately threatened, far moreimmediately.
MR. PERLE: It doesn't follow that they're right and we're wrong,and indeed, the Europeans you're talking about have a history ofmyopia that has twice in this century embroiled them in desperatewars from which they emerged only with our help. On the whole, we'vebeen closer to right, and I think we're closer to right now aboutthose threats.
MR. WATTENBERG: Let's do a quick one on some applications of theseprinciples. Bosnia what do we do?
MR. PERLE: Well, I think we're in terrible situation in Bosniabecause we are MR. WATTENBERG: Stipulated. What do we do?
MR. PERLE: we are enforcing an embargo that is preventing theMuslims of Bosnia from defending themselves. It's a scandaloussituation. We should end that embargo immediately. We should call forthe withdrawal of the U.N. forces who are there so they get out ofharm's way and let the Bosnians defend themselves.
MR. WATTENBERG: What do we do about Bosnia?
MR. CARPENTER: Let the parties fight it out, accept the verdict onthe battlefield. If the Europeans feel that their interests aresufficiently at stake in the turmoil that they wish to intervene,they have the capability to do that. I think for them it's a closecall. I can understand why they might not want to take the costs andrisks of intervention. But Bosnia poses no threat to us whatsoever.
MR. PERLE: Yeah, but you are creating a climate in the world inwhich anybody who wants to grab territory, dismember an independentU.N. member state can do so and get away with it, and nobody does adamn thing, and in that climate, there will be others. I can't tellyou who they'll be, but there will be others.
MR. BARNET: I agree with Richard on this.
MR. WATTENBERG: Aah Richard Barnet and Richard Perle agree.
MR. BARNET: I think it's a serious very serious problem. At themoment, because of the history, I think the options are very limited.Ending the embargo I think is not a major issue or a major solution.I think it will increase the bloodshed. It might be a good thing todo. I don't think it's important one way or the other particularlyfor the solution.
The main thing, I think, is to redouble the diplomatic efforts toget some solution alternative to carving up the country. And it seemsthat the administration is embarking on that now, and I think that'sto be encouraged.
MR. SOLARZ: I think it's important for both moral as well asstrategic reasons to lift the embargo, although I would very muchhope it could be done through a resolution on the part of theSecurity Council.
I think it's important morally because, in my view, it isinherently immoral to deny a people who are the victims of a cryptogenocidal assault the means by which to defend themselves. I don'tthink we ought to be sending American troops there, but for us to bepart of an embargo which prevents the Bosnian Muslims from defendingthemselves I think is just wrong.
And from a strategic point of view, I think it's in our interestto lift the embargo because if the Serbs get away with thedismemberment of Bosnia, it will simply encourage them to engagesubsequently in the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo, the historic homelandof the Serbian people, where 90 percent of those who live there areAlbanian. If there is any hope, I think, of getting a politicalsettlement to the conflict in Bosnia, and that's the only way this isgoing to be brought to an end, it lies in giving the Bosnian Muslimsa greater capacity to defend themselves on the battlefield so thatwith a more level playing field, the Serbs come to the conclusionthey can't achieve their maximum objectives through the force ofarms. Then you have the possibility of a settlement which might last.
MR. BARNET: There's another thing I think you could do, which isnow make much clearer what our policy will be with respect to theexpansion of the war. In other words, do the kinds of things that wedid too late in Bosnia much earlier with respect to Kosovo.
MR. SOLARZ: But who's going to believe it, Richard? That's theproblem.
MR. BARNET: Well, I think
MR. WATTENBERG: Hold on.
MR. SOLARZ: I mean we've made a whole series of declarations
MR. WATTENBERG: Hold on. Stop.
MR. BARNET: You go through you have an ultimatum through NATO now.
MR. WATTENBERG: Cease. Cease. I want to give this is a differentkind of show
MR. SOLARZ: We're like the Bosnians and the Serbs.
MR. WATTENBERG: I want to give Ted a fast comment and Richard afast comment, and then I want to do a fast, double loop, three caromreal fast comment on Korea and Haiti, just to give a sense of wherethese philosophies lead us to, and then I want to talk aboutPresident Clinton and what he's doing.
MR. CARPENTER: Steve, I would agree with you that the embargoshould never have been imposed; it should now be lifted. However,even if that conflict did spread southward into the Balkans, there isno reason, unless we were foolish enough to put our prestige on theline and put our troops at risk, that such a conflict would affectour security any more than did the Balkan war of 1912, which involvedmany of the same parties.
This is still a parochial, regional conflict even if it spreadsbeyond the current boundaries.
MR. WATTENBERG: Richard, we'll give you a fast comment, and thenwe're going to move
MR. PERLE: And in any case, it's highly likely that thisadministration, which seems devoted to elevating the United Nations,will get us into this situation on the ground as peacekeepers afterit comes to an end. I think that will turn out to be a tragicmistake, because we'll be right in the middle of a Lebanon sort ofsituation since there won't be a satisfactory peace unless it is apeace that the Bosnians themselves can defend, and that isn't goingto happen unless we lift the embargo and give them a decent chance toreestablish their country.
MR. WATTENBERG: I want to go on to President Clinton, but I wantto get, again just to sort of flesh out these principles, real fastanswers, going around the clock this way, on two questions, Haiti andNorth Korea.
Given your general philosophy, which you have all articulated sobrilliantly, what would you do about Haiti? What would you do aboutNorth Korea? And do it quickly.
MR. SOLARZ: On North Korea, I think the only hope of asatisfactory solution lies in a combination of credible carrots andsticks. I think we have to confront the North Koreans with the threatof comprehensive sanctions, which would involve necessarily thecooperation of China, coupled with offers of diplomatic, politicaland economic normalization if they agree to give up their nuclearweapons program.
With respect to Haiti, I think that we're in a situation wherewe're destroying the country in order to save it. I think we have aninterest in restoring democracy there, and in my view, probably theonly way to achieve that objective would be through the introductionof a multinational force which would restore President Aristide topower, dismantle the Haitian military and create conditions for theestablishment, hopefully, of an enduring democracy in that country.
MR. WATTENBERG: You mean a Desert Storm where we get SaddamHussein?
MR. SOLARZ: Unlike Desert Storm, which took seven weeks tosucceed, such an operation in Haiti would take seven hours.
MR. WATTENBERG: Richard Barnet, you got Haiti and you got NorthKorea I just made you president. Now that you're president, tell mewhat you will do.
MR. BARNET: Haiti, I would toughen the sanctions; I would put aban on goods from Haiti, where the money is basically flowing intothe hands of the thugs and military who are running the country. AndI would do what the president said he was going to do in thecampaign. I think it's a scandal that we are closing our country torefugees when we have taken such responsibility for the country andwe haven't can't deal with the humanitarian tragedy that's resulting.
On North Korea, I would agree with much of what Steve said. Ithink the basic problem is the larger proliferation question, which Ithink we have to deal with in an entirely new way. I think we have toMR. WATTENBERG: Is it sort of the number one vital interest of theUnited States?
MR. BARNET: Absolutely vital interest of the United States. Ithink we need to think about gun control internationally in a muchmore serious way arms trade. And I think for once now we have thefive major powers at least more open to making proliferation aserious national security objective.
MR. WATTENBERG: Right. Ted, let's get your two answers in.
MR. CARPENTER: With respect to Haiti, I would end our currentpolicy, which seems to be based on the proposition that we're goingto restore democracy to Haiti if we have to kill every Haitian to doit. I would lift the embargo, which is causing massive suffering, andI would end the policy of sending refugees back. I think if we liftedthe embargo most of the refugees are fleeing the suffering that thatis causing, we would not have a flood of refugees.
With respect to North Korea, North Korea is obviously a worrisomethreat, but it is much more of a threat to the immediate region. Ibelieve that Japan, South Korea, China, and other immediatelyaffected powers ought to be developing the primary policy for dealingwith that threat. We ought to be as helpful as we can in trying tocarry out that policy.
But Richard is correct, it highlights a larger issue. We're goingto be facing the problem of nuclear weapons proliferation worldwide.
MR. WATTENBERG: But you are saying, let somebody else take care ofit.
MR. CARPENTER: Well, I think in this case, for the first stage atleast, they are more immediately threatened; they need to take theprimary risk and the primary initiative. But we have to reexamine ourentire policy, and unfortunately, gun control internationally isprobably going to work about as well as gun control doesdomestically. That's to say not at all.
MR. WATTENBERG: Richard. MR. PERLE: I don't have a view on Haiti,but I do have a view on North Korea. And it is, unhappily, that theyare going to persist in their nuclear weapons program. We are notgoing to talk them out of it, we are not going to block them fromgaining nuclear weapons by sanctions. And the sooner we face thatunpleasant reality, the better.
At the end of the day, I think we have to be prepared to do whatthe Israelis did at Osirak when they took out the Iraqi reactor in1981. Had they not done so, it would have been an entirely differentstory in the Gulf war against Saddam Hussein. And if we allow theNorth Koreans to develop a significant nuclear capability, as theywill, and if we allow them to sell those weapons on the open market,as they will, the dangers to our security are far greater than therisks that we would run if we were to take a limited action.
MR. WATTENBERG: So in this peaceful assemblage here, we have onedistinguished thinker who wants to commit an act of war against Haitiand a second distinguished thinker who wants to commit an act of waragainst North Korea.
Now we have a president who has done neither of those things,although he sounded in the campaign as if he would do some sorts ofthose things. Steve, how is President Clinton doing? And better yet,what's he doing?
MR. SOLARZ: Well, I would say he hasn't done them yet. Certainlyin terms of Haiti, there are growing indications that theadministration is moving in precisely that direction. I think they'regoing to want to see if toughened sanctions do the job. But if theydon't, and I know few people who think they will, the clearimplication of the president's statements in the last few days isthat we have not ruled out the use of force, presumably on amultinational basis, hopefully with U.N. or OAS support if we were todo so.
And insofar as North Korea is concerned, I think theadministration recognizes that any hope of solving that problem liesin the cooperation of China, which so far has not been willing togive it to us. And I think they believe that we have to firstdemonstrate to the Chinese and probably also to the Japanese andSouth Koreans that we've tried the negotiations route, and only afterit's absolutely clear that hasn't worked will they consider toughermeasures.
MR. WATTENBERG: But aside from that and aside from the normalbungling that you get in the first year or two of an administration,Richard, has Clinton been just flip flopping? I mean, he says onething, says the other thing, says one thing, says the other thing. Imean, what does he stand for? We had all those labels. What label dowe give Clinton?
MR. PERLE: Well, when I think of the Clinton foreign policy, Ithink of a scene in one of Groucho Marx's movies, where he's playinga politician and he gives a stem winding speech that concludes withthe phrase, 'And those are my principles. And if you don't like them,I have others.' (Laughter.)
Of course he's flip flopping. He has flip flopped on practicallyeverything, and on most things more than once. And I think this isterribly dangerous because in addition to the inconstancy of thepresident, we have a secretary of state who proudly proclaims that hethinks the foreign policy of the United States should be conducted ona case by case basis, which gives no indication to the rest of theworld of what we stand for. It prevents enemies from knowing wherelines are drawn, and it denies friends the confidence of knowing thatwe're with them in the situations they face. So I think we're leftwithout a policy and it's very dangerous.
MR. CARPENTER: The administration's policy so far seems to be oneof determined incoherence.
MR. WATTENBERG: Is that another label we can use? MR. CARPENTER: Ithink that would be one we could add to the list. The administrationobviously has blundered badly in Somalia, it's dipping its toe intothe Bosnian quicksand, it seems utterly confused on Haiti. But I willgive it credit. At least it's avoided doing anything really stupid inthe case of the Korean crisis.
MR. WATTENBERG: From your point of view, the fact that BillClinton has not got us into the two conflicts that Mr. Perle andProfessor Solarz have talked about, that's he's done something goodby doing nothing.
MR. CARPENTER: Well, particularly in the case of North Korea. Theone thing we don't want to do is to start a general war on the Koreanpeninsula. That's obviously in no one's best interest. And those whocite the Osirak model better remember that Iraq did not have 1.1million troops amassed on the Israeli border when Israel launched itsattack.
So the administration at least has proceeded cautiously. I willcriticize it in that it seems to be determined to get an agreement,any kind of agreement, without a realistic assessment of whether thatagreement will be meaningful.
MR. BARNET: I guess my biggest concern is that one whole area hasbeen left out, and that is the sources of the anarchy and confusionthat we see around the world, which I think are rooted in economicchanges, so that the gap between the rich and poor within countriesand between nations is growing, and hopelessness is growing, andthat's a breeding ground for violence, as we know.
MR. SOLARZ: And I would say that when it comes to foreign policy,it is important to keep in mind the wisdom of a remark I thinkEmerson once made to the effect that 'foolish consistency is thehobgoblin of little minds.'
I don't think it is possible in foreign policy to be absolutelyconsistent in the application of policy everywhere in the world. Atthe same time, in a number of areas, particularly in the Balkans, weseem to have reversed Teddy Roosevelt's wise aphorism by speakingloudly, but carrying a small stick. And you can't constantly threatento take actions and then refrain from taking them without atremendous price in terms of your credibility not only there, butelsewhere.
MR. CARPENTER: What we have to avoid is falling into the trap ofadopting the light switch theory of U.S. engagement in the world,that there are only two possible positions on or off. There aredifferent forms of engagement diplomatic, cultural and economic, aswell as military, and there is no reason why we have to have the samelevel of engagement in all four areas. We can have a very prudent,very restrained military policy and still be heavily engagedculturally, diplomatically, economically in the world, and that'sreally the policy we ought to have.
MR. WATTENBERG: Richard, what do you think of that?
MR. PERLE: Well, I think there is a clear and vital relationshipbetween our well being at home as Americans and the extent to whichthe rest of the world is Americanized, if you will, by which I meanthe extent to which the rest of the world is democratic, operatesfree markets and accords fundamental human rights to its people,because in a world populated with American style nations, we will notface the kind of threat that we faced during the Cold War. These arenot the states that make wars and that threaten us.
MR. WATTENBERG: Thank you, Mr. Perle, Dr. Carpenter, Dr. Barnet,and Professor Solarz.
And thank you. We enjoy hearing from our audience very much.Please send your comments to: New River Media, 1150 17th Street,N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036. Or we can be reached via E-mail email@example.com.
For 'Think Tank,' I'm Ben Wattenberg.
ANNOUNCER: This has been a production of BJW, Incorporated, inassociation with New River Media, which are solely responsible forits content.
'Think Tank' has been made possible by Amgen, bringing better,healthier lives to people worldwide through biotechnology.
Additional funding is provided by the John M. Olin Foundation, theWilliam H. Donner Foundation, the Randolph Foundation, and the JMFoundation.
Return toThinkTank Online Home Page
Think Tank ® is a Registered Trademark of BJW, Inc. All Content © Copyright 1995 New River Media, Inc.
Back to top
Think Tank is made possible by generous support from the Smith Richardson Foundation, the Bernard and Irene Schwartz Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Donner Canadian Foundation, the Dodge Jones Foundation, and Pfizer, Inc.
Think Tank. All rights reserved.
Web development by Bean Creative.