A Change in Style But Not Substance?

Clinton's foreign policy team implies continuity

When it comes to promoting the interests of the United States in the court of world opinion, Secretary of State-designate Madeleine Albright has a simple rule of thumb.

"I have found that when we go public big time ... it is done in a way that is compelling," she said in an interview last year.

Should she be confirmed as America's top diplomat and its highest-ever woman public servant, Mrs. Albright's penchant for passionate advocacy - some say grandstanding - will be a glaring contrast to the pin-striped rigidity and quiet reserve of Warren Christopher.

But whether she will force major changes in Clinton administration foreign policy remains to be seen. Albright and the other members of the president's new national security lineup are only part of a larger policy process. In this case, the policy whole cannot necessarily be predicted by examining the identity of its parts.

"The foreign policy of any administration is not simply made by a secretary of state or secretary of defense. There is the president and the interaction of the whole team and this team has more continuity than change," says Jeanne Kirkpatrick, a former US ambassador to the UN.

Some experts do predict that Albright might shift the administration in some different directions. Albright has been a forceful policy implementer as US ambassador to the United Nations. But she is not seen as a deep geopolitical thinker who will set the US on a firmer footing in the unpredictable post-cold war world.

As in Albright's case, domestic politics, not policymaking abilities, are considered a key reason behind naming retiring Sen. William Cohen, a Republican from Maine, defense secretary. President Clinton, analysts say, is seeking to make good on a post-election vow to safeguard the "vital center" by cooperating with the GOP congressional majority.

Those predicting continuity also point out that Mr. Cohen is the only newcomer.

The others - Albright, Anthony Lake, and Sanford Berger - served on Mr. Clinton's first-term team and have merely changed hats.

"Senator Cohen is a new member of the team, but the others have shared, tolerated, and articulated the president's very cautious and limited foreign policy stands," points out Sen. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana.

The taciturn Mr. Lake is to move from national security adviser to chief of the Central Intelligence Agency, where the appointment of the fifth director in just over five years has dealt a new blow to morale already sapped by scandals. Lake's White House job goes to Mr. Berger, who has been his deputy.

The bottom line, however, is that Clinton remains the paramount foreign policy shot-caller.

Despite the continuity of the team, some experts do expect to see some significant policy shifts, although they disagree on how sweeping. Allan Goodman, a dean at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service who taught there with Albright, says the new lineup promises broad moves.

"These people are very close to [Clinton]," says Dr. Goodman. "They are going to be writing the chapter of our text books that remember Bill Clinton as the most internationalist president in history."

That means, Goodman says, Clinton's team will likely focus greater attention on Balkan peace efforts, accelerate moves to close the door on the cold war, such as expanding the NATO alliance into former Communist Eastern Europe, and reinvigorate the stalled Middle East peace process. He also predicts they will make near-total US-Russian nuclear disarmament a top priority.

Others say Albright, who fled at age 12 with her family to the US to escape oppression in her native Czechoslovakia, may try to give greater weight to policies that promote human rights and democracy. If so, she risks clashes with her colleagues over relations with states like Indonesia and China, where trade and US corporate interests are now the main priorities.

It was her strong belief in human rights and the selective use of military force that led Albright to call for tough action against the Bosnian Serbs, including US military intervention, before any other US official. At first spurned, her ideas later led to the US-brokered 1995 Dayton peace accords.

Although she led the US effort to block the reelection of UN Secretary-General Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali, Albright's nomination was warmly greeted at the UN. She is an outspoken advocate of the world body and diplomats there hope she will be more forceful than Mr. Christopher in lobbying congressional Republicans to halt their attacks on the UN and to approve in excess of $1 billion in unpaid dues owed by the US.

Cohen, too, may be a change agent. Putting the moderate Republican in charge of the Pentagon could make it easier for Clinton to win GOP congressional support for budget cuts and military force restructuring.

Cohen has been a critic of what he considers costly cold-war-era defense programs but he did back a GOP plan to construct an antiballistic missile defense system - a plan opposed by the Clinton administration. The issue could create some frictions should Cohen decide to press it.

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