Beyond the Water's Edge: Military and Foreign Policy Issues for the '96 Campaign

By Weigel, George; Wallop, Malcolm et al. | Policy Review, Fall 1995 | Go to article overview
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Beyond the Water's Edge: Military and Foreign Policy Issues for the '96 Campaign

Weigel, George, Wallop, Malcolm, Inhofe, James M., Moore, Thomas, Donnelly, Elaine, Dobriansky, Paula J., Abrams, Elliott, Cropsey, Seth, Policy Review

While the Congress is primarily responsible for national domestic policy, the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces and is chiefly responsible for America's foreign policy. Next year's presidential race is therefore an important abortunity for Americans to debate the direction of America's military and our country's role in the world. In late September, Policy Review asked eight leading conservatives to define the most important defense and foreign-policy issues of the 1996 elections.


The United States has not had a foreign policy since January 20, 1993. Before then, with the exception of the Gulf War, the foreign and defense policies of the Bush administration were geared not to shaping the post-Cold War future, but to managing the Cold War's endgame. The Republican president inaugurated on january 20, 1997, will thus have an immense responsibility: creating the first post-cold War foreign policy worthy of the name.

If the candidates in the 1996 GOP presidential primaries could forge agreement on the following six points, presidential leadership in 1997 and beyond will prove much easier:

(1) The United States needs a foreign policy. With the end of thc Cold War, time, energy, and resources can and must be directed toward reconstructing civil society in America. But disengagement is not an option for the world's leading democracy and leading military power. The proliferation of ballistic-missile technology and weapons of mass destruction, hostile ideologies, and international terrorism place America always at risk. The risks are manageable, but not unless they are acknowledged and dealt with.

(2) The completion and preservation of freedom's victory in the Cold War requires the expansion of NATO before the end of the century. Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia should be admitted as full members, and Ukraine and the Baltic states engaged in some form of associate membership en route to full participation. As even Strobe Talbott now concedes, NATO expansion is a mortal threat neither to Russia nor to the evolution of Russian democracy. An appropriate security relationship can be defined between the new NATO and the Russian Federation while the former democracy evolves. If the history of Europe in the 20th century teaches us anything, it is that an ounce of preventive diplomacy and collective security is worth a ton of terrible cure.

(3) Preventing the spread of ballistic-missile technology and weapons of mass destruction ought to be one of the highest priorities of U.S. national-security policy. This means clamping down on regimes that import or export such weapons, as well as improving counter-terrorist measures. The new president should confer quietly with Congress and America's principal allies on the conditions under which preemptive military action will be used to counter weapons proliferation against rogue states or terrorist organizations. The president should appoint a national coordinator of counter-terrorism, and he should instruct the relevant intelligence agencies and the FBI that a coordinated counter-terrorism program is essenyial to national security and that institutional roadblocks put in its way will be swiftly removed.

(4) The essential technological complement to an assertive policy of nonproliferation and counter-terrorism is missile defense. It is criminally irresponsible to deny the American people and America's allies the benefits of missile-defense systems just because of Cold War shibboleths. Early in his term, the new president, in consultation with the Congress, should announce America's withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, while pledging to share appropriate defense technologies with its allies.

(5) For tens of millions of people around the world, the United States remains a beacon of freedom. U.S. human-rights policy must be reinvigorated, stressing the universality of such basic human rights as religious freedom, free speech, freedom of association, and freedom of the press.

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Beyond the Water's Edge: Military and Foreign Policy Issues for the '96 Campaign


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