Clinton's Foreign Policy: Solid and Consistent

By Howell, Llewellyn D. | USA TODAY, July 1998 | Go to article overview

Clinton's Foreign Policy: Solid and Consistent


Howell, Llewellyn D., USA TODAY


Consistency in Bill Clinton's foreign policy agenda has resulted in a more than credible recovery from difficult beginnings. Not every move has been successful, but successes far outnumber failures. More importantly, there is policy continuity that runs throughout his efforts and reflects planning and strategy. Let's count just a few of the high points in the major foreign policy sectors:

The big powers. China: The U.S. is on an even keel, with some positive movement in such critical areas as human rights and intellectual property rights policy. Russia: Timely and clearly spoken support for Pres. Boris Yeltsin has made a difference in bringing Russian democracy through its toughest period of growing pains.

International institutions. NATO: A reasonably paced expansion is under way, with enthusiasm all around and without antagonizing Russia. The UN: The U.S.-supported candidate for Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has proven to be a competent, confident, and aggressive leader. NAFTA is far more successful than even proponents thought would be the case, and the World Trade Organization is on a firm and respectable footing after a hotly contested birth.

Internal disputes and other hot spots. Bosnia: The fighting has stopped and the sides are separated, but talking. A multilateral effort was successful in bringing about the result. Haiti shows at least an improved situation, with rudiments of democracy in a country where there has been none. Iran and the U.S. are starting to talk as well as wrestle (ping-pong/wrestling diplomacy works). Iraq: The U.S. can rattle sabers well enough, but stop at the brink when appropriate--machismo doesn't have to rule. Cuba: Some openings finally have been established that make both strategic and economic sense. India-Pakistan: This deeply felt religious issue is not controllable, but the U.S. can talk to both sides and has taken the right position on nuclear proliferation.

U.S. trade and investment abroad. America is booming, achieved in great part due to Clinton support through the State Department, Commerce Department, and the private sector. The U.S. is the major economic actor again, while Japan fades, Europe tries to dot the "i" in "international," and China struggles with internal capitalist demons. In Latin America and Africa, Clinton initiatives to take the lead in developing long dormant, but tremendous, opportunities reflect an effort to get the U.S out ahead of the crowd, especially in Africa.

Operations. Madeleine Albright, Warren Christopher, William Cohen, and Bill Richardson are among the many names in the Clinton foreign policy establishment who have brought respect and accomplishment to the Administration's efforts. George Mitchell's feat in Northern Ireland deserves more than honorable mention.

Principles. Democracy, human rights, and market-driven economies have been consistent foundations across the range of American foreign policy behaviors. …

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