Bill Clinton and the New American Foreign Policy

By Howell, Llewellyn D. | USA TODAY, January 1993 | Go to article overview

Bill Clinton and the New American Foreign Policy


Howell, Llewellyn D., USA TODAY


WHETHER PRESIDENT-ELECT Bill Clinton explicitly alters direction or not, American foreign policy will be significantly different beginning in 1993. The post-cold War period--one that could not begin until the Cold Warriors had left behind the reins of power--will be less ideological and global, by implication, than the years following World War II. The past focus of American and Soviet foreign policies has been on the projection of military might on behalf of a worldwide concept. Whether that concept was democracy or communism, a free market or socialist approach to economic organization, mankind was to be the beneficiary. Each side maintained that it intended to do good for all. In the post-Cold War era, nationalism--and often ethnic nationalism--will be the basis of state agendas.

The new focus of the foreign policies of the major countries will be the projection of economic power that protects the well-being of the nation. Foreign policy will become more defensive than offensive. This by no means implies isolationism, since economies clearly have been internationalized and, if the economic battleground is only on one's own physical turf, the battle already is lost. Here, a good offense will be the best defense. Both necessarily and by inclination, a focus on and expansion of the U.S. economy will be the basis of much foreign policy decision-making.

There are, of course, continuing problems in the world's trouble spots that remain for the Clinton Administration. These are, for the most part, nationalist and ethnic, but all have economic implications. The Somalia situation portends a calamitous circumstance for Clinton. An attempt to bring peace to the country will require the continuation of large U.S. military expenditures and maintenance of a structure to support a policeman's role. Rebuilding the Somalia economy, as well as its political system, will call for expenditures that reach far beyond the restricted role envisioned by the Clinton transition team. The Middle East dilemma won't go away. Religious sympathies and ethnic identities within the U.S. will continue to weigh on a Clinton Administration like they have on others, without the balancing demands of ideological diversions. Russia may prove politically (and ethnically) unstable and revert to authoritarian rule. Economic collapse may be the primary contributing factor. Massive amounts of economic aid from Europe and the U.S. may be essential to survival of what democracy and free enterprise there is in Russia.

Conflicts within and between other states of the former Soviet Union also have their basis in ethnic disputes. The splintering of former national units will have a reductionist effect on economies throughout this vast expanse. Japan may have reached an economic plateau, but the potential in China equals seven Japans. While Malays now fear the economic strength of the Chinese in Malaysia and Indonesia, the entire Southeast Asian world will have much more to worry about from an economically powerful and authoritarian China. India, freed at last from the constraints of British-instigated and Soviet-supported socialism, might equal even more than seven Japans. …

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