Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

An Urge to Isolationism Leaves U.S. Foreign Policy Precarious

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

An Urge to Isolationism Leaves U.S. Foreign Policy Precarious

Article excerpt

The confusion as to what the incoming Congress will do about U.S. foreign policy reflects the profound ambivalence on this topic in the American soul. Little consensus has emerged since the Cold War ended in 1989.

The "Contract with America" sponsored by the House Republicans would bar U.S. troops from participating under U.N. or any "foreign command." It would also limit the presence of U.S. personnel in "unstable regimes such as Haiti, Iraq, Bosnia, Macedonia ... Rwanda and the Caribbean."

Is this a new isolationism? In part, yes. The ban on humanitarian intervention is accompanied by a recommendation that the "Star Wars" system be revived so that America could be a fortress unassailable by any foreign power.

The inadequacy of this scenario is almost self-evident. The United States has a role in the world that cannot be avoided. That role, however, is very unclear.

Mistakes in the development of a new foreign policy seem almost inevitable. For almost 50 years the United States has sought to stabilize the world by foreign aid. In 1994, such aid was $12.3 billion. Half of that was military aid -- an indirect subsidy for U.S. weapon makers -- so actual development aid was only $6.5 billion, down 20 percent from 1993.

The incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Jesse Helms, has always been opposed to almost all forms of nonmilitary aid. This extends to America's contribution to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the development banks for Europe, Asia and Africa. Aid to Russia and the 15 newly independent nations that emerged from the old U. …

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