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Does Clinton have a foreign policy? (1994) | THINK TANK

Does Clinton have a foreign policy? (1994) | THINK TANK

Ben Wattenberg: Hello. I’m Ben Wattenberg. The “evil empire” is dead. But North Korea is building nuclear bombs,
Bosnia is in flames, a military dictator flouts America with impunity in Haiti. What principles should guide the United States
in our dealings with dictators and democrats, with enemies and allies? Here today to sort through the conflict and
the consensus are Richard Perle, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute;
Professor Stephen Solarz, former chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific
Affairs; Richard Barnet, senior fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies; and Ted
Galen Carpenter, director of foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute. The question before the house: Does President
Clinton have a foreign policy? This week on “Think Tank.” For the last 40 years, America had a foreign
policy that could just about be explained on a one-word bumper sticker: containment. Most Americans rallied to the view that a
hostile, nuclear-armed Soviet Union should be stopped from expanding its power. Well, now the Cold War is over, and US foreign
policy seems to be adrift. A lot of new and different labels are in play. Listen: interventionism, cultural declinism,
cultural imperialism, exporting democracy, free trade, protectionism, realism, America
First, ectopia, imperial overstretch, enlargement, new mercantilism, unilateralism, multilateralism,
economic nationalism, adhocracy, pragmatism, triumphalism, idealism, and of course, the
New World Order. My own label of choice is triumphant noncoercive
cultural imperialism, or for short, neo-manifest destinarianism. But the bumper stickers don’t seem to stick
these days. They offer no consensus about what to do in
Somalia, nor do they tell us whether or not America should try to restore democracy in
Haiti or what course of action we should take in Bosnia or North Korea. Moreover, the United Nations peacekeepers,
the Blue Helmets, have been deployed all over the world, and some of them are Americans. Isn’t it strange? America is the number-one military, cultural,
political, geopolitical, educational, scientific, and demographic power in the world; here we
are the most powerful, influential, emulated nation in history, and we don’t know what
to do with it. Alexander the Great, where are you now that
we need you? We do not have Alexander the Great with us,
alas. We have Professor Stephen Solarz of George
Washington University. Steve, what is your label? Stephen Solarz: I don’t think, Ben, any
label can adequately describe what we ought to do in every conceivable contingency. But for want of anything better, I would suggest
enlightened internationalism. Ben Wattenberg: All right, let’s just hold
it there. We’re going to come back to that. Richard Barnet, what is your label? Richard Barnet: At the risk of adding one
more to your long list of silly labels (laughter), let me suggest — Ben Wattenberg: Another silly one. Richard Barnet: — pragmatic globalism, which
in the details I think is not silly. Ben Wattenberg: Pragmatic globalism. All right, Ted Galen Carpenter, where are
you in the label game? Ted Galen Carpenter: Recognizing the great
difficulty in summarizing a complex concept, my label would be strategic independence. Ben Wattenberg: Okay. Richard Perle? Richard Perle: It’s a long label. Ben Wattenberg: You’re entitled to a long
label. Richard Perle: If there is only one superpower,
let it be us. Let’s make sure that we are not again threatened
in the way we were when there was a rival superpower capable of destroying us. Ben Wattenberg: You represented voters for
18 years. How do they benefit if we are a superpower
and we are the strongest? And you know, I’m — this is a devil’s
advocate question, but if we are the greatest economic power in the world, and if we are
the greatest military power in the world, how does that help the people from your former
district? Stephen Solarz: Well, I’d give you just
one or two examples. If there is any hope of preventing North Korea
from joining the nuclear club and acquiring a sufficient amount of fissile material to
provide nuclear weapons to rogue regimes like those in Iran and Libya and to terrorist groups
like Abu Nidal, it depends on forceful American leadership. Which we’re potentially in a position to
exert precisely because of our superpower status. Richard Barnet: I think “superpower” is
an absolutely obsolete term and that it’s a dangerous one to use because it really suggests
that we are special because of nuclear weapons. And I think we should forget that because
that’s not the basis of our real power to influence the world today. I’m starting really from exactly your vantage
point: What does this mean to the people of this country? We talk about being a superpower. Look at the cities in this country. Compare us with Europe. Look at our education system. Look at now increasingly the increasing health
problems, the scandalous crime problems. Ben Wattenberg: Hold on. Richard, why don’t you deal with that? Richard Perle: Well, I think you have to ask
the question, what did Steve’s constituents have to pay for during the long night of the
Cold War? And the answer is we were enormously burdened
by the need to protect ourselves from what could have been devastation. There is now not a rival superpower in the
world, and if we play our cards right, if we’re adroit, if we marshal our strength
— and it’s not principally nuclear strength. I agree with Steve. Richard Barnet: Oh, I agree with that, too. It’s the symbolism of nuclear weapons that’s
so important. Richard Perle: It’s a combination of conventional
strength and economic power, but if we play our cards right, we can inhibit and maybe
even block the emergence of a successor superpower that could again threaten us. And there is a tremendous advantage in doing
that. Richard Barnet: I agree with that. But that’s why the economic issues are so
important and why it makes no sense for the United States now to maintain a military budget
which is greater than the 10 next countries in the world. Richard Perle: But it’s a trivial fraction
of our gross national product. Richard Barnet: It’s not trivial as far
as the budget. Ted Galen Carpenter: It’s beside the point. Richard, that is utterly beside the point. Richard Perle: Three and a half percent. Richard Barnet: That’s not the point because
the issue — Richard Perle: The other 96.5 percent to repair
the cities and crime. Richard Barnet: It’s not 96, Richard. We’re talking about the budget, and we are
starving our cities. We are starving our police departments, our
fire departments. Ted Galen Carpenter: I would strongly disagree
with Richard that we have a problem with a cash-starved welfare state in the United States. That’s not the source of our problems. Ben Wattenberg: But you would cut the defense
budget nonetheless? Ted Galen Carpenter: Certainly. We can afford to cut our defense budget substantially. We can’t justify continuing to spend $260
billion a year on the military when Japan is currently spending $39 billion and Germany
is proposing spending $28 billion this next year. And as far as the many problems in the world,
I think we have to ask: If the situation in Eastern Europe is so threatening and so terrible
to us, it must be far more so to the major powers in the European Union, and particularly
to Germany as a frontline state. Richard Perle: Oh, this is a — Ted Galen Carpenter: Why are they cutting
back their forces? Ben Wattenberg: Ted, let Richard get in there. Richard Perle: Ted, we heard this argument
for years, that we can’t possibly be right in our apprehensions because there is somebody
else who doesn’t share them. Ted Galen Carpenter: But they’re more immediately
threatened — far more immediately. Richard Perle: It doesn’t follow that they’re
right and we’re wrong. And indeed, the Europeans you’re talking
about have a history of myopia that has twice in this century embroiled them in desperate
wars from which they emerged only with our help. On the whole, we’ve been closer to right,
and I think we’re closer to right now about those threats. Ben Wattenberg: Let’s do a quick one on
some applications of these principles. Bosnia — what do we do? Richard Perle: Well, I think we’re in terrible
situation in Bosnia because we are — Ben Wattenberg: Stipulated. What do we do? Richard Perle: We are enforcing an embargo
that is preventing the Muslims of Bosnia from defending themselves. It’s a scandalous situation. We should end that embargo immediately. We should call for the withdrawal of the UN
forces who are there so they get out of harm’s way and let the Bosnians defend themselves. Ben Wattenberg: What do we do about Bosnia? Ted Galen Carpenter: Let the parties fight
it out. Accept the verdict on the battlefield. If the Europeans feel that their interests
are sufficiently at stake in the turmoil that they wish to intervene, they have the capability
to do that. I think for them it’s a close call. I can understand why they might not want to
take the costs and risks of intervention, but Bosnia poses no threat to us whatsoever. Richard Perle: Yeah, but you are creating
a climate in the world in which anybody who wants to grab territory, dismember an independent
UN member state, can do so and get away with it. And nobody does a damn thing, and in that
climate, there will be others. I can’t tell you who they’ll be, but there
will be others. Richard Barnet: I agree with Richard on this. Ben Wattenberg: Ah — Richard Barnet and
Richard Perle agree. Richard Barnet: I think it’s a serious — very
serious problem. At the moment, because of the history, I think
the options are very limited. Ending the embargo I think is not a major
issue or a major solution. I think it will increase the bloodshed. It might be a good thing to do. I don’t think it’s important one way or
the other particularly for the solution. The main thing, I think, is to redouble the
diplomatic efforts to get some solution alternative to carving up the country. And it seems that the administration is embarking
on that now, and I think that’s to be encouraged. Stephen Solarz: I think it’s important for
both moral as well as strategic reasons to lift the embargo. Although, I would very much hope it could
be done through a resolution on the part of the Security Council. I think it’s important morally because,
in my view, it is inherently immoral to deny a people who are the victims of a crypto-genocidal
assault the means by which to defend themselves. I don’t think we ought to be sending American
troops there, but for us to be part of an embargo which prevents the Bosnian Muslims
from defending themselves I think is just wrong. And from a strategic point of view, I think
it’s in our interest to lift the embargo because if the Serbs get away with the dismemberment
of Bosnia, it will simply encourage them to engage subsequently in the ethnic cleansing
of Kosovo, the historic homeland of the Serbian people, where 90 percent of those who live
there are Albanian. If there is any hope, I think, of getting
a political settlement to the conflict in Bosnia — and that’s the only way this
is going to be brought to an end — it lies in giving the Bosnian Muslims a greater capacity
to defend themselves on the battlefield so that with a more level playing field, the
Serbs come to the conclusion they can’t achieve their maximum objectives through the
force of arms. Then you have the possibility of a settlement,
which might last. Richard Barnet: There’s another thing I
think you could do, which is now make much clearer what our policy will be with respect
to the expansion of the war. In other words, do the kinds of things that
we did too late in Bosnia much earlier with respect to Kosovo. Stephen Solarz: But who’s going to believe
it, Richard? That’s the problem. Richard Barnet: Well, I think — Ben Wattenberg: Hold on. Stephen Solarz: I mean we’ve made a whole
series of declarations — Ben Wattenberg: Hold on. Stop. Richard Barnet: You go through — you have
an ultimatum through NATO now. Ben Wattenberg: Cease. Cease. I want to give this is a different kind of
show — Stephen Solarz: We’re like the Bosnians
and the Serbs. Ben Wattenberg: I want to give Ted a fast
comment and Richard a fast comment, and then I want to do a fast, double loop, three carom
real fast comment on Korea and Haiti, just to give a sense of where these philosophies
lead us to. And then I want to talk about President Clinton
and what he’s doing. Ted Galen Carpenter: Steve, I would agree
with you that the embargo should never have been imposed; it should now be lifted. However, even if that conflict did spread
southward into the Balkans, there is no reason, unless we were foolish enough to put our prestige
on the line and put our troops at risk, that such a conflict would affect our security
any more than did the Balkan War of 1912, which involved many of the same parties. This is still a parochial, regional conflict
even if it spreads beyond the current boundaries. Ben Wattenberg: Richard, we’ll give you
a fast comment, and then we’re going to move. Richard Perle: And in any case, it’s highly
likely that this administration, which seems devoted to elevating the United Nations, will
get us into this situation on the ground as peacekeepers after it comes to an end. I think that will turn out to be a tragic
mistake, because we’ll be right in the middle of a Lebanon sort of situation since there
won’t be a satisfactory peace unless it is a peace that the Bosnians themselves can
defend. And that isn’t going to happen unless we
lift the embargo and give them a decent chance to reestablish their country. Ben Wattenberg: I want to go on to President
Clinton, but I want to get, again just to sort of flesh out these principles, real fast
answers, going around the clock this way, on two questions, Haiti and North Korea. Given your general philosophy, which you have
all articulated so brilliantly, what would you do about Haiti? What would you do about North Korea? And do it quickly. Stephen Solarz: On North Korea, I think the
only hope of a satisfactory solution lies in a combination of credible carrots and sticks. I think we have to confront the North Koreans
with the threat of comprehensive sanctions, which would involve necessarily the cooperation
of China, coupled with offers of diplomatic, political, and economic normalization if they
agree to give up their nuclear weapons program. With respect to Haiti, I think that we’re
in a situation where we’re destroying the country in order to save it. I think we have an interest in restoring democracy
there, and in my view, probably the only way to achieve that objective would be through
the introduction of a multinational force, which would restore President Aristide to
power, dismantle the Haitian military, and create conditions for the establishment, hopefully,
of an enduring democracy in that country. Ben Wattenberg: You mean a Desert Storm where
we get Saddam Hussein. Stephen Solarz: Unlike Desert Storm, which
took seven weeks to succeed, such an operation in Haiti would take seven hours. Ben Wattenberg: Richard Barnet, you got Haiti
and you got North Korea I just made you president. Now that you’re president, tell me what
you will do. Richard Barnet: Haiti, I would toughen the
sanctions. I would put a ban on goods from Haiti, where
the money is basically flowing into the hands of the thugs and military who are running
the country. And I would do what the president said he
was going to do in the campaign. I think it’s a scandal that we are closing
our country to refugees when we have taken such responsibility for the country and we
haven’t — can’t deal with the humanitarian tragedy that’s resulting. On North Korea, I would agree with much of
what Steve said. I think the basic problem is the larger proliferation
question, which I think we have to deal with in an entirely new way. I think we have to — Ben Wattenberg: Is it sort of the number one
vital interest of the United States? Richard Barnet: Absolutely vital interest
of the United States. I think we need to think about gun control
internationally in a much more serious way arms trade. And I think for once now we have the five
major powers at least more open to making proliferation a serious national security
objective. Ben Wattenberg: Right. Ted, let’s get your two answers in. Ted Galen Carpenter: With respect to Haiti,
I would end our current policy, which seems to be based on the proposition that we’re
going to restore democracy to Haiti if we have to kill every Haitian to do it. I would lift the embargo, which is causing
massive suffering, and I would end the policy of sending refugees back. I think if we lifted the embargo, most of
the refugees are fleeing the suffering that that is causing, we would not have a flood
of refugees. With respect to North Korea, North Korea is
obviously a worrisome threat, but it is much more of a threat to the immediate region. I believe that Japan, South Korea, China,
and other immediately affected powers ought to be developing the primary policy for dealing
with that threat. We ought to be as helpful as we can in trying
to carry out that policy. But Richard is correct; it highlights a larger
issue. We’re going to be facing the problem of
nuclear weapons proliferation worldwide. Ben Wattenberg: But you are saying, let somebody
else take care of it. Ted Galen Carpenter: Well, I think in this
case, for the first stage at least, they are more immediately threatened; they need to
take the primary risk and the primary initiative. But we have to reexamine our entire policy,
and unfortunately, gun control internationally is probably going to work about as well as
gun control does domestically. That’s to say not at all. Ben Wattenberg: Richard. Richard Perle: I don’t have a view on Haiti,
but I do have a view on North Korea. And it is, unhappily, that they are going
to persist in their nuclear weapons program. We are not going to talk them out of it; we
are not going to block them from gaining nuclear weapons by sanctions. And the sooner we face that unpleasant reality,
the better. At the end of the day, I think we have to
be prepared to do what the Israelis did at Osirak when they took out the Iraqi reactor
in 1981. Had they not done so, it would have been an
entirely different story in the Gulf War against Saddam Hussein. And if we allow the North Koreans to develop
a significant nuclear capability — as they will — and if we allow them to sell those
weapons on the open market — as they will — the dangers to our security are far greater
than the risks that we would run if we were to take a limited action. Ben Wattenberg: So in this peaceful assemblage
here, we have one distinguished thinker who wants to commit an act of war against Haiti
and a second distinguished thinker who wants to commit an act of war against North Korea. Now we have a president who has done neither
of those things, although he sounded in the campaign as if he would do some sorts of those
things. Steve, how is President Clinton doing? And better yet, what’s he doing? Stephen Solarz: Well, I would say he hasn’t
done them yet. Certainly in terms of Haiti, there are growing
indications that the administration is moving in precisely that direction. I think they’re going to want to see if
toughened sanctions do the job. But if they don’t, and I know few people
who think they will, the clear implication of the president’s statements in the last
few days is that we have not ruled out the use of force, presumably on a multinational
basis, hopefully with UN or OAS support if we were to do so. And insofar as North Korea is concerned, I
think the administration recognizes that any hope of solving that problem lies in the cooperation
of China, which so far has not been willing to give it to us. And I think they believe that we have to first
demonstrate to the Chinese — and probably also to the Japanese and South Koreans — that
we’ve tried the negotiations route, and only after it’s absolutely clear that hasn’t
worked will they consider tougher measures. Ben Wattenberg: But aside from that and aside
from the normal bungling that you get in the first year or two of an administration, Richard,
has Clinton been just flip-flopping? I mean, he says one thing, says the other
thing, says one thing, says the other thing. I mean, what does he stand for? We had all those labels. What label do we give Clinton? Richard Perle: Well, when I think of the Clinton
foreign policy, I think of a scene in one of Groucho Marx’s movies where he’s playing
a politician and he gives a stem winding speech that concludes with the phrase, “And those
are my principles. And if you don’t like them, I have others.” (Laughter.) Of course he’s flip-flopping. He has flip-flopped on practically everything
and on most things more than once. And I think this is terribly dangerous because,
in addition to the inconstancy of the president, we have a secretary of state who proudly proclaims
that he thinks the foreign policy of the United States should be conducted on a case-by-case
basis, which gives no indication to the rest of the world of what we stand for. It prevents enemies from knowing where lines
are drawn, and it denies friends the confidence of knowing that we’re with them in the situations
they face. So I think we’re left without a policy,
and it’s very dangerous. Ted Galen Carpenter: The administration’s
policy so far seems to be one of determined incoherence. Ben Wattenberg: Is that another label we can
use? Ted Galen Carpenter: I think that would be
one we could add to the list. The administration obviously has blundered
badly in Somalia. It’s dipping its toe into the Bosnian quicksand;
it seems utterly confused on Haiti. But I will give it credit. At least it’s avoided doing anything really
stupid in the case of the Korean crisis. Ben Wattenberg: From your point of view, the
fact that Bill Clinton has not got us into the two conflicts that Mr. Perle and Professor
Solarz have talked about, that’s he’s done something good by doing nothing. Ted Galen Carpenter: Well, particularly in
the case of North Korea. The one thing we don’t want to do is to
start a general war on the Korean Peninsula. That’s obviously in no one’s best interest. And those who cite the Osirak model better
remember that Iraq did not have 1.1million troops amassed on the Israeli border when
Israel launched its attack. So the administration at least has proceeded
cautiously. I will criticize it in that it seems to be
determined to get an agreement — any kind of agreement — without a realistic assessment
of whether that agreement will be meaningful. Richard Barnet: I guess my biggest concern
is that one whole area has been left out, and that is the sources of the anarchy and
confusion that we see around the world, which I think are rooted in economic changes, so
that the gap between the rich and poor within countries and between nations is growing,
and hopelessness is growing. And that’s a breeding ground for violence,
as we know. Stephen Solarz: And I would say that when
it comes to foreign policy, it is important to keep in mind the wisdom of a remark I think
Emerson once made to the effect that “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” I don’t think it is possible in foreign
policy to be absolutely consistent in the application of policy everywhere in the world. At the same time, in a number of areas, particularly
in the Balkans, we seem to have reversed Teddy Roosevelt’s wise aphorism by speaking loudly,
but carrying a small stick. And you can’t constantly threaten to take
actions and then refrain from taking them without a tremendous price in terms of your
credibility not only there, but elsewhere. Ted Galen Carpenter: What we have to avoid
is falling into the trap of adopting the light switch theory of US engagement in the world,
that there are only two possible positions on or off. There are different forms of engagement diplomatic,
cultural and economic, as well as military, and there is no reason why we have to have
the same level of engagement in all four areas. We can have a very prudent, very restrained
military policy and still be heavily engaged culturally, diplomatically, economically in
the world, and that’s really the policy we ought to have. Ben Wattenberg: Richard, what do you think
of that? Richard Perle: Well, I think there is a clear
and vital relationship between our well-being at home as Americans and the extent to which
the rest of the world is Americanized, if you will. By which I mean the extent to which the rest
of the world is democratic, operates free markets, and accords fundamental human rights
to its people, because in a world populated with American-style nations, we will not face
the kind of threat that we faced during the Cold War. These are not the states that make wars and
that threaten us. Ben Wattenberg: Thank you, Mr. Perle, Dr.
Carpenter, Dr. Barnet, and Professor Solarz. And thank you. You know, this is a new show, and we’d like to hear from you. Please send your comments to the address on the screen. Until next week, for Think Tank, I’m Ben Wattenberg. Announcer: This has been a production of BJW
Inc., in association with New River Media, which are solely responsible for its content.

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