ON Oct. 19, I called publicly for the resignation of Warren Christopher as United States Secretary of State. As a loyal Democrat and firm supporter of President Clinton, I was reluctant to take such a controversial step. Ultimately, however, I concluded that the best way to help the president and to salvage a coherent foreign policy from the current wreckage would be to seek a stronger, more articulate, and more effective secretary of state.
In calling for Mr. Christopher to resign, I cited his obfuscation over Bosnia, his support for a personality (President Boris Yeltsin) rather than the democratic process in Russia, and his about-faces in Somalia and Haiti.
Perhaps the most disturbing trend in Christopher's conduct of American foreign policy has been his vacillation in defining US interests abroad. In February, Christopher warned that the violence and ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia could rebound throughout Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union: ``Bold tyrants and fearful minorities are watching to see whether `ethnic cleansing' is a policy the world will tolerate. If we hope to promote the spread of freedom or if we hope to encourage the emergence of peaceful multi-ethnic democracies, our answer must be a resounding no.''
Unfortunately, by June, in addition to changing our answer to a resounding ``yes,'' Christopher had completely reframed the question to suggest that we have no vital interests at stake - earlier warning of a greater European war to the contrary - and that our primary goal was to stop the killing in Bosnia. More outrageously, he tried to launch a moral-equivalency argument, in essence equally blaming Serbs, Croats, and Muslims for a tragedy whose overwhelming cause has been Serb aggression.
Similarly, while I and many other members of Congress still have no idea how Christopher is defining our goals and objectives in Somalia, it is at least clear that he allowed the US to be dragged into United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's dubious goals of ``nation-building'' and hunting Gen. Mohamed Farah Aideed in Mogadishu. After a disastrous foray into offensive action, we are doing an about-face and returning ignominiously to President Bush's policy of providing only humanitarian assistance.
In Haiti, the about-face was even starker: US troops retreated from a theatrical display by a group of several hundred Haitian protesters on the docks in Port-au-Prince. Some of the protesters carried placards that noted our fiasco in Somalia. Bosnian Serb officials recently offered their own humiliation by explaining that they had renewed attacks on Sarajevo after calculating - correctly - that US debacles in Somalia and Haiti made it less likely that we would respond in Bosnia.
Christopher seems oblivious to the fact that his foreign policy retreats and equivocations, designed to pacify a domestic audience, are watched far more carefully overseas, where they reverberate and resonate to the tune of new outrages and lives lost. Perhaps the most pointed and tragic example is the Serbs' massive artillery attack on Sarajevo in July the day after Christopher blithely announced that the US was doing all it could in Bosnia.
Ultimately, what Mr. Clinton's foreign policy team needs more than anything else is the courage of its convictions. At the moment, it has neither courage nor convictions. In such an atmosphere of moral and political bankruptcy, it is only reasonable to change the central foreign policy figure, the secretary of state.