Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gop Ready to Step on World Stage

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gop Ready to Step on World Stage

Article excerpt

Sen. Jesse Helms has fired the opening shots in the coming war over American foreign policy. He has raised an interesting question: To what degree will Congress, under Republican leadership, reassert its authority and influence over the formulation and conduct of foreign policy?

Do the Republicans have a foreign policy? Unfortunately, they do not; they have several different policies. Nor do they have any single, recognized foreign policy spokesman. For the past two years, they have had it easy, counterpunching against President Bill Clinton. He is no longer such an easy target in foreign affairs, as Sen. Bob Dole recently acknowledged. Moreover, the presidency remains the pre-eminent institution in conducting foreign policy.

For almost 50 years, Republican foreign policy was relatively simple: Oppose communism, contain Soviet imperialism and support communism's foes. Now Republicans have the chance to return to some of the party's conservative principles.

Arthur Vandenberg saved the Republican Party in the 1940s by casting off his isolationist legacy and supporting the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and NATO. So did Robert Taft, but more grudgingly. In doing so, however, they warned against turning Cold War expediency into permanent policy. They feared heavy defense spending, entangling alliances, foreign aid, ideological crusades and a national security bureaucracy. Much of what they feared came to pass, and their warnings are worth re-examining.

Republicans should concentrate their energies on major issues: The United Nations

Republicans have to confront the new internationalism that has grown so rapidly since the end of the Cold War. Taft and Vandenberg voted for the U.N. Charter, but Taft balked at the implicit power granted to the president to commit the country to war without regard to Congress. Clinton has come close to abdicating his foreign policy in favor of the U.N. Security Council. Republicans should challenge this drift. They might, for example, insist that any U.N. action that involves punitive measures, whether economic sanctions or the use of troops, be approved in some fashion by the Senate and House. National Defense

Republicans are invariably for a "strong" defense, but major increases in defense cannot be justified by any new security threats. Republicans should concentrate in the near term on maintaining the readiness of all the military forces, even if further reductions are necessary to do so. For Republicans, the main long-term issue is strategic defense (Star Wars). Perhaps the time has come to defend the United States, at least against the smaller attacks that pariah nations could mount. If so, the program ought to be related to a broad national defense and non-proliferation strategy, and not used to fight old ideological battles. Geopolitics

NATO remains the core of our foreign policy, because it is our main link to Europe. And NATO's main problem is Russia. Despite some loose talk about the Asian-Pacific frontier, we remain a European nation. But Europe is changing, obviously. Many Republicans favor NATO's eastward expansion as a counter to the anticipated revival of Russian imperialism. …

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