Madeleine Albright's utopian universalism

National | Secretary of State-designate's faith in multilateralism may provide some direction to Clinton's ad-hoc foreign policy, but will it turn the military into a &quotglobal Salvation Army"?

Issue: "Follow the Greenback Road," Jan. 25, 1997

With the start of President Clinton's second term, one of the most dramatic changes to his administration will be his secretary of state-designate. Madeleine Albright once said of her predecessor, &quotAt times Warren Christopher almost seems lifelike."

Ms. Albright wowed Republican members with her tough rhetoric: &quotWe must be more than an audience, more even than actors. We must be the authors of the history of our age." She told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at confirmation hearings two weeks ago: &quotWe are not a charity or a fire department. We will defend firmly our own vital interests."

Changing the administration's reputation for ad-hoc foreign policy, however, will take more than one-liners. If her comments seemed to put her somewhere between President Clinton and conservatives on the committee like chairman Jesse Helms, the priorities she outlined varied little from those espoused by Mr. Christopher.

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Ms. Albright's appointment will be historic--she becomes the first woman to hold the post--but critics say she is likely to continue a Clinton tradition of diplomacy from behind the skirts of world bodies.

In addition to secretary of state, all other top foreign policy posts will change hands as well. Ms. Albright leaves her post as ambassador to the UN; replacing her there will be former New Mexico congressman Bill Richardson. Former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake is slated to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency, while his deputy, Samuel &quotSandy" Berger, will replace him as national security adviser. Former Republican Senator William Cohen, who has moonlighted as a spy novelist, will become the new secretary of defense.

Experts who criticize the Clinton administration's first-term handling of crises abroad praise the president's changes and say that the new team promises new policy nuances, if not an about-face.

The most thorough charges against Mr. Clinton's foreign policy come from Kim Holmes and Thomas Moore, policy analysts for the Heritage Foundation, in their book, Restoring American Leadership: A U. S. Foreign and Defense Policy Blueprint. They argue that the administration has failed to set &quotclear, meaningful criteria for action, stick to those criteria and effectively communicate them to friends and enemies alike so they can predict how we will respond in a given situation." This has been a grave shortcoming, they say, in a post-Cold War era where clarity was the first casualty.

&quotFriends are left not knowing whether they can count on us, enemies are encouraged to test the waters to see what they can get away with, and we involve our military in matters best handled by other countries or not at all," they write.

One particularly volatile example cited by Mr. Holmes is the Persian Gulf region, where Mr. Clinton reduced the area of the no-fly zone over Iraq to accommodate Saddam Hussein's incursions into it. &quotThe administration has actually redefined U.S. interests to fit with Saddam's latest moves," Mr. Holmes said.

Other issues will put the Clinton foreign-policy team at odds with Republican members of Congress who control the foreign affairs committees in both the House and Senate.

Ms. Albright said she will make passage of a chemical weapons treaty her top priority. But Sen. Helms and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott have opposed its ratification because they say that it cannot be verified and that it places undue restrictions on chemical manufacture unrelated to weapons. The treaty, completed under former President George Bush, bans all production, stockpiling, and use of chemical arms.

Clinton officials will emphasize two summits coming up this year. In April Mr. Clinton plans to meet with Chinese leaders in Beijing, at a time when the UN Human Rights Commission meets in Geneva to take up the issue of sanctions against China, and Christians in the United States are increasingly vocal in protesting China's treatment of fellow believers. Ms. Albright says she will continue the administration's policy of trying to &quotengage" China through economic trade.

In July Mr. Clinton will attend a summit of NATO leaders in Madrid. Questions about NATO expansion and a security arrangement with Russia will dominate his second term as NATO leaders decide which Eastern European nations are ready for membership, which ones will be left out, and how to preserve good feelings with Russia in the process. The seemingly bureaucratic changes will have much impact on future politics in places like Sarajevo, Belgrade, and Bulgaria.

Another important, though little discussed, issue relating to NATO will be the French connection. Historically, France has refused to participate in the military side of NATO. Now it has petitioned for inclusion but with one major stipulation: France is lobbying for command of NATO forces in Southern Europe, based in Naples, Italy, to be given to a European. The post has always been held by an American military officer. Should that decision be resolved in France's favor, it will technically put American forces serving as part of a NATO contingent, including troops now stationed in Bosnia, under foreign command--and that could spark opposition in the Republican Congress.


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