Two Wars? US Debates Its Reach with NATO near to an Attack on Yugoslavia, US Foreign Policy Moves Tothe Partisan Foreground

Article excerpt

If NATO launches a bombing attack on Yugoslavia, the United States will be fighting two simultaneous conflicts for the first time since World War II.

In addition to the low-level air war the US has been waging for months over Iraq, US ships and planes have been awaiting only the last-ditch mission to Belgrade yesterday by US envoy Richard Holbrooke before launching strikes on Serb forces.

As if emerging from the fog of distractions, from the impeachment scandal to the soaring Dow, international security is now dominating political attention as at no other time since the end of the cold war. NATO intervention in Kosovo, building a missile-defense system, and alleged Chinese nuclear espionage have become the most intense political debates in town. They don't connect directly to the workaday lives of most Americans, but they are controversial and taking on an increasingly partisan edge. "We've had a fairly steady stream of foreign policy problems that are serious and difficult to deal with," notes Lee Hamilton, a former congressman from Indiana who served as chairman of the House International Relations Committee. "They have captured the attention of the administration." These issues have also cap-tured the attention of the GOP majority on Capitol Hill. Having failed to convict Clinton and hard put to assail his fiscal policies, Republicans are taking aim at his handling of foreign and security policies in a bid to find chinks in Democratic defenses in the run-up to next year's elections. Says a GOP congressional staffer: "We will continue to pursue policy issues that need to be pursued because we believe that good policy makes good politics." What bothers the GOP At the core of the GOP's attacks are contentions that Clinton is inattentive to foreign affairs and has compromised the nation's security by pursuing policies that overaccommodate other states at the expense of those of the United States. They criticize as insufficient his approach to developing defenses against missile attacks, his policies toward the dictatorships in Iraq and North Korea as weak, and they blame him for the military's readiness and recruitment problems. They also take aim at what they say are a lack of an "exit strategy" in the Balkans and Clinton's refusal to get tough with Moscow over alleged aid to Iranian nuclear and conventional weapons programs. And they question whether illicit contributions to his 1996 campaign allegedly funneled by Beijing influenced his decision to loosen controls on technologies sought by the Chinese military. Most recently, Republicans have seized on China's alleged theft of nuclear weapons secrets from the Los Alamos atomic weapons laboratory in the 1980s. …

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