Personalization of Foreign Relations Is in the Worst National Tradition

Article excerpt

The United States enters the New Year with a justified confidence in the domestic prospect but no reason at all to believe that a good year is ahead in its international relations. The Somalian and Haitian fiascoes have been evidence of an administration's ineptitude in foreign policy, which its approach to the forthcoming NATO summit confirms.

The Clinton administration refuses to contemplate the horrors of the Bosnian affair, resorting to the hypocrisy that leadership in the matter has been ceded to Western Europe. Western Europe is itself mired in what one French diplomat calls "the sinister circus" of providing humanitarian aid that facilitates conquest and atrocity.

Washington's policy for the rest of ex-communist Europe consists of an act of faith in Boris Yeltsin. This personalization of American foreign relations is in the worst national tradition. Franklin Roosevelt's foreign policy was defined by his admiration for Winston Churchill, his misplaced confidence that he would "handle" Josef Stalin, his avuncular patronage of Chiang Kai-shek and his dislike of Gen. Charles de Gaulle, who declined to be patronized.

Richard Nixon called his relationship with Leonid Brezhnev a membership in "the most exclusive club in the world." Henry Kissinger became fascinated with the "gracious and brilliant" Chou En-lai. Hence China's subsequent success in playing the Nixon administration against the Soviet Union.

The Clinton administration's policy is based upon the anticipated re-creation of an essentially bipolar Europe in which a future Russia will play a stabilizing role. It conceives itself to be collaborating with Yeltsin to create this Russia.

This is extremely dangerous. Yeltsin is unquestionably an impressive figure, but so was Mikhail Gorbachev before him, and Gorbachev changed the history of his country for the better, which Yeltsin has yet to do. He is not the only potential leader of Russia today, nor do we know that he is the best one. Even if he is, he is not helped by America's sponsorship when the nationalists' charge against him is that he is selling his country to American imperialists, German revanchists and "cosmopolitan" capitalism. …