Beyond the Starr Report: Clinton's Foreign Policy

Ken Starr has issued his report and the country will now focus its attention on whether the President's actions warrant impeachment. The question rests less on legal than political judgements. If one is to focus on political indictments of the President, however, his foreign policy may merit greater scrutiny than the Starr report. I voted for Bill Clinton, so it pains me to present this Top 10 list of foreign policy offenses that critics have raised against the President.

10) Foreign Economic Policy. The world economy is in a free fall, led by collapses in Russia and Asia. This is a difficult, if not impossible problem for an American president to solve, which is why it’s ranked 10 instead of 1 or 2.Treasury Secretary in Robert Rubin is highly regarded, but the Administration has no discernible foreign economic policy. The recent decline in the stock market points to the possibility that the weakness of these economies abroad will drag America down with them. Clinton has to find a way to stop the hemorrhaging. Remember, the Clinton campaign theme, “It's the economy, stupid.” If the U.S. economy follows those of other nations down the tubes, Al Gore's presidential hopes in 2000 will sink faster than you can say Monica Lewinsky.

9) The weakening of NATO. The United States has shown no leadership beyond pushing for the expansion of NATO. The Administration’s unwillingness to use NATO against aggressors has effectively made it more of a doomsday force to be reserved for use only in a world war.

8) North Korea. The Administration made an ill-advised deal with North Korea that was expected to curtail its nuclear weapons program. The rogue regime was also supposed to stop building and exporting missiles. Only the most gullible diplomats could have believed this would happen and we now know the nuclear program continued unabated and North Korea has developed a new long-range missile that will likely end up in the arsenals of fellow rogues in the Middle East.

7) Terrorism. The recent missile attack notwithstanding (which looked like a case of wagging the dog), this Administration has not given the impression that it is tough on terrorism. For example, an executive order was issued to seize terrorist assets in the United States, but little effort has been made to do this. The Administration is also siding with the Iranians (!) against the Flatow family’s efforts to collect a court judgement for Iran’s role in the murder of their daughter. The Administration’s decision to veto the Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act and failure to take effective action against India and Pakistan after their nuclear weapons tests has sent the message that this President is not serious about preventing the spread of nuclear and missile technology.

6) China. The most populous nation in the world, and one of the most militarily powerful warrants far more attention than this Administration has given it. Like prior administrations, this one has sacrificed human rights issues on the altar of trade. Politicians should just admit the U.S. is more interested in making money from foreign countries than freeing their people from tyranny.

5) Russia. During the Cold War, our policies were clear, but now? We support economic and political reform, but we’ve hitched our wagon to Boris Yeltsin, who has shown little ability to deliver on either and Russia is now on the verge of chaos. This is a very tough foreign policy issue and has not gotten the attention it deserves. The Administration has also done a poor job in preventing Russia from aiding the nuclear and ballistic missile programs of Iran.

4) Iraq. George Bush is largely to blame for the fact that we are still saddled with Saddam Hussein, but this Administration’s policy has not moved us any closer to deposing him. We seem to vacillate between supporting opposition forces and undermining them. We talk tough about weapons inspections and sanctions, but now we learn from one UN inspector that the Administration has sabotaged the effort to force Saddam to fully account for and destroy his weapons.

3) Israel. President Clinton was regarded as Israel’s best friend ever in the White House after his first term. Much of this acclaim was due more to what he didn’t do, namely publicly criticize Israel, than for what he did do. In his second term, it’s hard to justify this opinion as he has resorted to the type of strong-arm tactics that made Bush an anathema to the Jews. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s ultimatum to Israel was the worst example of this negative trend. The peace process has also foundered on Clinton’s watch (though Arafat and Netanyahu deserve most of the blame). The most serious long-term mistake the Administration has made has been the failure to carry out the law calling for moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. This undermines Israel’s claim to its capital and raises Palestinian expectations that Jerusalem may be divided.

2) Bosnia. I rate this even higher than Clinton’s Middle East policies because it is the least defensible. During the period of ethnic cleansing my only thought was, “What if the people being murdered were Jews?” This administration stood by and watched while people were slaughtered. The mistake is now being repeated while the Serbs “cleanse” Kosovo.

1) What foreign policy? No one in this Administration, not the Secretary of State, the National Security Adviser, or the President has ever outlined a foreign policy. Is it promoting human rights like Jimmy Carter? Is it promoting democracy and capitalism like Ronald Reagan? From the campaign on, Clinton’s focus has been on domestic affairs and our status as the leader of the Free World has suffered.

The White House will respond to the indictments in the Starr report. I wish they’d respond to these 10 as well.