Foreign Policy Matters

Article excerpt

PRESIDENT Clinton's recent press conference on foreign affairs was a response to attacks that the White House lacks a coherent foreign policy. Yet the president is still in a reactive mode on foreign affairs. Last week it was Haiti. Next week it may be the Dole-Lieberman bill to lift the arms embargo on the Bosnians.

The problem is not communication. Rather, the White House has not decided what principles it will back with power to ensure credibility. The president has a domestic agenda of health care, infrastructure, and crime. Yet the uncertainty felt around the world today, the nascent nationalism and fascism, the corruption and crime that have replaced the superpower standoff, need attention by the world's leading power.

Withdrawing from such issues might be fine if the US were a tiny powerless country. But despite the trauma Mr. Clinton's generation feels because of an unwise US involvement in Vietnam, the US did bring order to the chaos in Europe and Asia after World War II, and in a post-Soviet nuclear age it is much looked to.

Can shared international ideals - human rights, democracy, Helsinki accords, the UN charter - survive?

Such ideals are demeaned when Serbs force United Nations official Yasushi Akashi to allow their tanks in a UN exclusion zone, violating a NATO ultimatum. Or when Haiti's dictator breaks a treaty brokered last summer by the US. Or when North Korea again refuses to allow UN nuclear inspections. …