Magazine article Insight on the News

Nixon's Foreign Policy Is Clinton's Leadership Lesson

Magazine article Insight on the News

Nixon's Foreign Policy Is Clinton's Leadership Lesson

Article excerpt

Henry Kissinger's eulogy at Richard Nixon's funeral correctly stated that leadership must be earned. Nixon certainly deserved that praise. Leadership was the defining trait of this man who never quit. The atmosphere at his funeral was respectful and admiring in a way that would have pleased him greatly

President Clinton also acknowledged Nixon's skills as a world leader, saying "Nixon would not allow America to quit the world." In the weeks before Nixon's death, Clinton was fond of letting people know how much he valued Nixon's views, especially in foreign policy.

However, in excerpts from his posthumous book Beyond Peace in the May 2 issue of Time magazine, Nixon was harshly critical of abdicating U.S. leadership to bodies like the United Nations, as the Clinton administration has done in Bosnia and elsewhere. "The concept of |assertive multilateralism' being advanced by some supporters of the United Nations can only be described as naive diplomatic gobbledygook " Nixon wrote. "Can anyone seriously suggest that a collective body such as the U.N., nearly one-third of whose members have populations smaller than that of the state of Arkansas, could be |assertive'?"

In foreign policy, Nixon knew, there is no substitute for leadership by an American president. This is a lesson Bill Clinton needs to grasp.

A skilled politician at home, Clinton appreciates the virtue of achieving one's goals. But he is too quick to yield to consensus rather than sticking to principle. This may be appropriate in developing a health care bill, but it doesn't always work in foreign policy. Trying to achieve consensus in foreign affairs leads to hesitation and ultimately to the lack of any coherent policy.

The back and forth of U.S. policy in Bosnia is ample evidence of this. Of course consultation with our allies is necessary But there are times when the allies need to be led. Lack of leadership has proved disastrous in the past and will prove so again in the future. We traveled this road under Jimmy Carter, and now it is being followed by Clinton. This policy ultimately will weaken America, an regional wars will proliferate.

The intellectual underpinnings of Clintons's foreign policy are found in the so-called Tarnoff doctrine. …

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