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Uncle Sam's spiel

Professorial lectures and sanctions replace diplomacy

By Nicholas Berry / May 10, 2000


Anyone who listens to foreign diplomats hears a common theme: They're tired of being lectured to by American officials. They see little reason for Uncle Sam to act as the world's only tenured full professor of moral philosophy.

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Within the last few months, President Clinton has lectured Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf on the virtues of democracy, the vices of terrorism, and the immorality of attacking civilians in India-controlled Kashmir. On the latter issue, Mr. Clinton in a public address in Islamabad chastised Pakistan for supporting terrorists who kill Indians in Kashmir: "No matter how great the grievance, it is wrong to support attacks against civilians across the Line of Control." He warned that Pakistan faces further international isolation if it continues to support Islamic fundamentalists in Kashmir and Afghanistan.

Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers has lectured the Japanese government on the virtues of the American model for the New Economy.

Sen. Jesse Helms (R) of North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has lectured members of the UN Security Council on the UN's anti-US bias, its bureaucratic inefficiencies, and its unfair (to the US) dues structure.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has lectured China on its human rights record, Russia on its devastation of Chechnya, various African states on the necessity for reform, and many other countries who fail to live up to American standards. She seems compelled to fill out a report card for her hosts on every overseas visit.

Perhaps all this arises from having too many ex-professors in the administration. Nonetheless, when the world's only superpower publicly sets standards and others fall short when tested, it is virtually certain that its leaders are placed in a situation of either putting up or shutting up. Shutting up is not the American way. This explains why the US imposes sanctions on more foreign states than do all other nations combined. It's why Clinton so far has levied more sanctions than all other American presidents before him, combined.

An April 3 Monitor article by Scott Peterson, reported that Clinton, "for whom sanctions have all but replaced diplomacy," has "along with Congress ... been responsible for imposing more than half of the 125 or so cases of sanctions ever imposed by the US."

The percentage of the world's population under US sanctions is staggering: Seventy-five nations with more than half the world's people - including such international outlaws as Canada, Japan, and Italy - are subject to a range of penalties.

Mr. Peterson traced the roots of the US reliance on sanctions to President Woodrow Wilson (like Clinton, another lecturing ex-professor). Wilson at times penalized Mexico and various Caribbean countries for their misbehavior.

Something besides established research findings must compel the Clinton administration to employ the wholesale use of sanctions, because researchers generally agree that:

*Foreign leaders who are the targets of sanctions - whether Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein, or Slobodan Milosevic - blame the country imposing the sanctions for their country's economic misery and avert being blamed for their own poor performance. Sanctions let incompetent dictators off the hook.