Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Investing in US Leadership Budget Cuts Are Threatening America's Ability to Make a Difference in the World

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Investing in US Leadership Budget Cuts Are Threatening America's Ability to Make a Difference in the World

Article excerpt

When our administration took office in 1993, we faced an array of challenges that required urgent attention. Russia's democracy was in crisis; its economy was near collapse. The nuclear arsenal of the former Soviet Union was scattered among four new countries with few safeguards. The war in Bosnia was at the peak of its brutality and threatening to spread. North Korea was developing nuclear weapons. The Middle East peace process was stalemated. Repression in Haiti was pushing refugees to our shores. NAFTA's passage was in serious doubt, threatening our relations with the entire hemisphere.

Step by step we have resolved these pressing questions and built an enduring basis for our engagement in a more secure and prosperous world. Because of our military and economic might, because we are trusted to uphold universal values, there are times when only the United States can lead. We must lead not because the exercise of leadership is an end in itself but because it is necessary to advance the interest and ideals of our great nation.

This is the central lesson of our era. Because the US led, a century that was never safe for democracy is ending with peace and freedom ascendant. The end of the cold war has only strengthened the imperative of US leadership. The need for US leadership is rarely questioned in our country. Yet today our ability to lead is in question. The biggest crisis facing our foreign policy today is whether we will spend what we must. Since 1985 our spending on international affairs has been slashed by 50 percent in real terms. Our budget for foreign affairs is now just over 1 percent of the overall federal budget. The amazing thing is these cuts have not been accompanied by any serious congressional debate. They have not been motivated by any reassessment of our interests in the world. Everyone is for US leadership in principle. Some people just think we can have it without paying the price. As a result, we are endangered by a new form of isolationism that demands American leadership but deprives America of the capacity to lead. A voice in every nation One casualty of inadequate resources will be the principle of universality in our representation abroad - the principle that there should be a US mission in virtually every country. Budget cuts have forced us to close more than two dozen consulates and several embassies. In the last few years we have seen over and over again how vital our presence can be, often at unexpected times in unexpected places. More than 170 nations, from Albania to Zambia, had an equal say in extending the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and approving the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty - and an equal need to be persuaded by on-the-spot American diplomacy. We could not have negotiated the Dayton peace agreement if we had not had embassies in each of the former Yugoslav republics. …

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