Meese sees Reagan foreign policy gains
Top White House aide Edwin A. Meese III contends that the United States is now ''in a better position in virtually every capital of the world than we were 10 months ago.''Skip to next paragraph
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His comments came in an exclusive interview with the Monitor in his White House office, in which he answered criticism that the administration's foreign policy lacks direction. Mr. Meese was also quick to affirm ''we would never do anything that would in any way engage in nuclear war at the expense of Europe'' - this in response to what he called a ''misinterpretation'' of a Reagan remark about the possibility about limiting nuclear war to a tactical exchange in Europe.
(The President himself has since issued a statement emphasizing the ongoing US commitment to defend Western Europe and asserting that ''no aggressor should believe that the use of nuclear weapons in Europe could reasonably be limited to Europe.'')
He also said the President is ''cautiously optimistic'' about winning next week's Senate vote on the sale of Airborne Warning and Command Systems (AWACS) to Saudi Arabia. He confirmed the White House had drafted a letter attempting to provide assurances that some senators have requested before they would be willing to support the sale. But he emphasized that a decision to send the letter hadn't been made yet. (Recent developments, particularly Senate minority leader Robert C. Byrd's opposition to the AWACS sale, now seem to indicate another shift of momentum in the AWACS battle.)
The presidential counselor also touched on a number of other foreign policy issues. Excerpts from the interview, highlighting Mr. Meese's comments on key issues, follow: Reagan foreign policy
Some of your critics are saying that the President isn't doing a very good job in shaping foreign policy and that the organizational processes involved in dealing with that policy are not running at all smoothly. What do you say to that?
Well, let me answer the second one first. You examine process to see what it results in. And that goes to your first question, too. If you look around the world you will see that we are in a better position in virtually every capital of the world than we were 10 months ago.
We have made major strides in advancing the opportunities for peace in the Middle East. We have enhanced human rights through quiet diplomacy in several places throughout the world. We have improved the unity and solidity of the NATO alliance. And we have been dealing realistically with the Soviets and have actually brought them into arms-limitation negotiations.
So by any criterion you can name the President has been successful in both the development and the implementation of foreign policy. On the AWACS sale to Saudi Arabia
Is this resistance in Congress to the AWACS sale indication, as you see it, that the Congress is involving itself too much in the handling of foreign affairs - that it is, in fact, encroaching on the presidency?
I think there is a problem, or potential problem, of the Congress being involved in foreign affairs that puts them in an awkward position, as well as the President. I think a lot of this legislation that started this was enacted in a period of time in our history when there was a real concern about the powers of the President.
I think it is perhaps time to reassess whether the involvement in things like foreign-military sales doesn't put both the Congress in a bad light and hinder the President in his ability to conduct foreign policy.