Clinton Team Forges Foreign-Policy 'Vision'
'Integration' is the new twist on last term's agenda
WASHINGTON — When President Clinton unveiled his second-term national-security team three months ago, it was unclear whether the appointments augured change or continuity in United States foreign policy.
The answer now appears to be both.
The new team seems to be trying to put its own stamp on what will largely be a continuation of first-term policy. They are defining an overarching theme of "integration" - political, economic, and technological - with nations that share America's common vision of a 21st-century world order.
In so doing, National Security adviser Samuel Berger, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and Defense Secretary William Cohen appear to be trying to distinguish themselves from what many critics saw as the indecisive and error-marred management of international relations that marked much of Mr. Clinton's first term.
Ms. Albright and Mr. Berger were members of the first team, and they may be seeking to silence charges, especially from GOP conservatives, that Clinton's foreign policy has been reactive, short-sighted, and lacking an underpinning idea.
But in recent speeches, Albright and Berger have reaffirmed Clinton's first-term priorities: preserving a reunited, democratic Europe; boosting ties with Russia; bolstering security in the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East; containing the trans-border threats of terrorism and crime; encouraging free trade; and preserving US military and diplomatic might.
"We have a new team in there. So they are putting their own spin on [foreign policy]. But ... a lot of the elements are the same," says Ryan Henry, foreign-policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank. "What they have done is come up with a different way to conceptualize it."
That concept is the idea that the US approach to the world can no longer be defined by the uncertainty wrought by the end of the US-Soviet rivalry.
Says Mr. Henry: "What I hear them saying is that there is real work to be done. The statement is that we are much closer to the 21st century than the cold war, so let's get over it."
Berger spelled out the new thinking in a March 27 speech at CSIS, saying, "the dialogue of foreign policy has for too long been frozen in the rhetoric of the past." Adapting a line from William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," he said: "I have come here today not only to praise the post-cold-war era, but to bury it."
Berger stressed that the US must work for the economic, technological, and political "integration" of states that share the values of free trade, the rule of law, and controls on weapons of mass destruction.
But, he said, the integration will "not eliminate all the dangers and despots of the world," and the US must be prepared to use its diplomatic and military muscle "when important values and interests ... are at stake and we can make a difference."
While he outlined no major shifts in foreign policy, Berger's speech did contain some important nuances.
Reinforcing the theme of Vice President Al Gore's visit to Beijing last week, Berger said the administration will seek to "deepen" ties with China. The US can help wean that emerging superpower into "a secure international order," he said.
Still, Berger noted the two nations are divided by "significant differences," and he stressed that "appropriate action will be taken" should the allegations of Chinese influence-buying in 1996 US elections be proven.
On another topic, Berger indicated growing US anxiety over frictions between the ruling Islamic party and secular military in Turkey, a key NATO ally and a strategic bridge between Europe and the oil-rich Middle East. "It is profoundly in our interest to help Turkey, at a strategic and cultural crossroads, remain anchored in the West," Berger said.
For her part, Albright reaffirmed in a March 26 speech at Georgetown University in Washington that the US will maintain its policy of keeping Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein "in a box" of no-fly zones and economic sanctions.
But for the first time, she laid down conditions under which the US would deal with a successor to Saddam.
The US wants to ensure the new regime is "free from undue external influence, for example, Iran," she said. The new rulers would have to comply with the conditions set for the lifting of UN sanctions that were imposed after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
"If our concerns were addressed satisfactorily, Iraq would no longer threaten regional security," she said. "Its isolation would end."