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After Boris and Bill: a back-to-basics policy?

International | Foreign affairs over the past two years have received far less American attention than domestic ones. But some questions should be addressed: As the unrivaled superpower of the world, can America steer between hegemony and humiliation? Are national interests relevant in a unipolar world? What strategic challenges should engage the strongest nation in the world at the dawn of a new century? As a thought-provoker for voters, and as a compass for our own foreign-policy coverage, WORLD editors boiled down many conflicting tendencies to seven bare but far-reaching principles. The first three concern preservation: provide for the common defense, define the enemy, maintain U.S. independence. The next looks at one of today's major bones of contention and concludes that trade should be free, but not our god. The final three statements concern the purpose of American prosperity and power: remain a place of refuge, care for the weak, spread good news.

Issue: "The Morning After," Jan. 15, 2000

The world ended the 20th century with the beast of communism slain and the United States attempting to make the world safe for democratic capitalism. With military might second to none and Gross Domestic Product at $7 trillion, American ambitions are large. But last month the Seattle-hosted world trade meeting was awash in glass shards and mayhem, and the new year began with U.S. embassies under prison-style lockdown and with terrorist threats on the rise. The Seattle riots uncovered a foreign policymaking apparatus paralyzed by special-interest causes, preoccupied with ethnic conflicts in obscure places, and hamstrung by supposed allies on the UN Security Council. The room with a view, in other words, is a good place to get shot. "Our very success is building resentment," says CATO Institute scholar Doug Bandow. "We are not seen as a danger, in the way the Soviets were, but we are seen as an unconstrained superpower." Leaders of France over the last 40 years have warned about American influence, but now other European heads are nodding agreement as French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine attacks "the unilateralism of a single hyperpower." In Mr. Bandow's words, "Short term, the United States faces a world in which it is the reigning superpower; but long term, it will face a variety of alliances formed against its power." Part of the resentment stems from envy, but fear and concern also have a role: The guy with the big shoes has been mucking in a lot of sandboxes. Instead of helping Eastern Europe adjust to the light after its communist darkness, U.S. forces became embroiled in age-old ethnic conflicts in Kosovo. Instead of promoting democracy and development in Africa, U.S. policy promoted dependence on foreign aid. Instead of revitalizing security in southern Europe, President Clinton jumped into an obscure debate by calling on Britain to return the Elgin marbles to Greece. Countries with ethnic conflicts wonder what the United States will do next-perhaps try to dictate the outcome of fighting in Kashmir, or take sides in an Ivory Coast coup? Here's what, in WORLD's estimation, the United States government should do: 1. Provide for the common defense
At the risk of appearing old-fashioned, the Constitution is a sound place to start. Threats to American borders and well-being come with new names but some old faces. China and the rogue states want nuclear weapons secrets; computer technology and cultural exchange programs make them easy to get. So do federal law enforcers who wait six months to arrest alleged spies, like the Department of Energy's Wen Ho Lee. A protracted Justice Department investigation links Mr. Lee to stealing secret plans but not to handing them to the Chinese. Evidence to that effect was presented to Energy Department officials and the FBI two years ago. Missile shields are the next generation's border patrol. Just as these protection programs are receiving more press, the Defense Department is scaling back. It wants to cut $2.5 billion from the Navy's missile-defense program, a cut that undermines a law passed by Congress last year ordering missile defenses "as soon as is technologically possible." While Washington fiddles, North Korea and others are revving their missile programs. North Korea tested a long-range missile over Japan. China test-fired its armed rockets near Taiwan. These are good reasons to move from a Cold War military structure to something distinctly super-tech. 2. Define the enemy
Recent conflicts suggest that the threats to U.S. security are Serbs, Somalians, Haitians, and East Timorese. While "peacekeeping" missions occupy the major media, more serious face-offs await in other places: Iraq; Afghanistan and its bin Laden camps; China in the midst of military buildup. If the United States were to articulate a strong policy on the Persian Gulf, moderate Muslims who want to resist tyranny would thank us and take heart. If the United States stood up to the Chinese government's hegemonic tendencies, Asian allies would feel more secure. Efforts to curb terrorist and drug threats in the most violent nation in the world, Colombia, are repeatedly breaking down. The rebel threat is growing. Two days before the United States handed over Panama, a once strategic drug interdiction post, Colombian rebels stormed a naval base near the Panamanian border, killing 45 Colombian marines. 3. Maintain U.S. independence
In a speech during a visit to Yugoslavia, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan asserted: "Unless the [UN] Security Council is restored to its preeminent position as the sole source of legitimacy on the use of force, we are on a dangerous path to anarchy." Mr. Annan expanded on the statement in his annual report to UN members last year. "Only the [UN] Charter provides a universally legal basis for the use of force." The Clinton administration has supported this type of thinking. But most of the nations that make up the UN do not have a heritage of liberty, law, and democracy, and it is dangerous indeed for Americans to depend on dictators. Besides, UN peacekeeping has often brought a perpetual need for peacekeeping forces and little real peace. Witness Cyprus, a divided nation 25 years later (and also a place where the UN imprisons Iraqi refugees or sends them back to Saddam Hussein). Or Bosnia, four years after Dayton and 35,000 peacekeepers later. Where peace has broken out and terrorism is waning-Northern Ireland and Peru, for example-the turnabout happened apart from UN "legitimacy." The record of other global bureaucrats is also undistinguished. In the aftermath of the Soviet downfall, Western political leaders ceded the high ground to International Monetary Fund officials, who entrusted millions to former communists with a brief history in crony capitalism. It should have been no surprise they would embezzle their way out of the past, leading Russia and most of its former republics into a financial collapse last year. The devaluation of the ruble led to market crashes across the former Soviet republics, further eroding newfound political freedom. Ironically, global advances in business and technology should make it easier to resist the one-world outlook of the Annan Doctrine and the UN or IMF bureaucracies. Swift economic gains and rises in productivity are the direct result of technology, not the globalists. Look for global bureaucrats (inspired by presidential contender Al Gore) to find ways to regulate and tax the engine of prosperity. 4. Let trade be free, but not our god
The Constitution gives Congress the power "to regulate commerce with foreign nations." That is worth repeating when the executive branch is cutting trade deals with China or proposing a new world banking order in Groups of 7, 8, 10, or 20. Contrary to the latest G-20 plan of action, buying and selling is a pluralistic activity. Corporate giants in the United States, eager for emerging markets abroad, are spending a lot of capital on Capitol Hill in order to convince lawmakers they have no right to impose restrictions on trade. Overseas markets, however, do not see the open market as a two-way street. In Africa, where 22 million people test positive for HIV, U.S. pharmaceuticals have barred the development of affordable AIDS treatments. New drugs that have halted the spread of AIDS in the West are not reaching Africa's victims because of a U.S. trade sanction. Africans must buy the drugs at market prices, well beyond their means, or face penalties engineered by the U.S. pharmaceutical companies, which have prohibited both sale and manufacture of comparable generic formulas. The companies need profits to pay for their huge research costs, but they also need to find new ways to be charitable. As global trade expands, debate increasingly will focus on trade and investment as political tools. Already consumers are becoming more market savvy, both as voters and spenders, in merging consciousness-raising with profitmaking. Last year the Texas Teachers Pension Plan sold 100,000 shares of stock in Talisman Energy, a Canadian oil firm with a pipeline project in Sudan. An Ontario teachers' union also sold its Talisman shares, responding to concern about underwriting Sudan's warring regime. Christian groups and human-rights advocates say Talisman's enterprises are fueling slave raids (to clear oil lands) and hospital bombings. 5. Remain a place of refuge
It does not profit individuals, companies, or nations to gain prosperity but forget purpose. What has been, and should be America's purpose in the world? The case of Elian Gonzalez, the 6-year-old shipwreck survivor from Cuba who launched an international custody battle, (see page 13) reminds us of the immigrant dream: America, land of the free. Only rarely (for example, the unwillingness to accept some Jewish refugees from the Nazis) has America refused refuge. If courts let stand her decision that Elian must return to life under communism, then Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner Doris Meissner will join the rogue's gallery of those who have cozied up to dictators. But Marisleysis Gonzalez, a cousin of Elian, spoke of his survival for two days at sea and said, "There's been a miracle. I still have hope there will be another one." Two weeks after Elian's arrival, a group of 26 Cubans turned up in Miami, probably smuggled to the United States in boat traffic. They will likely get to stay, under a controversial "wet feet/dry feet" policy between the United States and Cuba. Cubans found at sea are returned to Mr. Castro, while those who reach land may apply for asylum. Returning escapees to communism, after a century in which the United States defeated communism, is wrong. And, in a world where Christians are increasingly persecuted, this country should also be a haven for those fleeing religious persecution. The United States also has been for two centuries the country that beckoned enterprising people. We should still welcome those who want to work hard. Immigrants should not be allowed to receive governmental welfare, and their children should be taught to identify with heroes of American history, not only with members of their own ethnic group. But those who want to embrace America should be embraced in turn. 6. Care for the weak
The United States has failed to export the benefits of welfare reform, which is restructuring public charity in this country. Poor countries are floundering under overseas aid projects with dubious results and a crushing weight of foreign debt. Non-governmental organizations with heavy agendas take advantage of their servile state. They use health aid, for instance, as a bullwhip to force liberalized abortion policies. Private organizations, even Christian ones, subject aid to World Bank oversight. Nowhere are these trends more apparent than in Africa, a continent rich in mineral resources and a plentiful, young labor force. In much of the continent, per capita income is lower than in its colonial days. Last year Nigeria, the largest country in Africa, shook off 15 years of corrupt military rule and elected its first president, Olusegun Obasanjo. Shaking off foreign dependence has been harder. Despite enormous oil wealth -the United States buys 8 percent of its oil from Nigeria-the country has more than $30 billion in foreign debt. When President Clinton suggested rescheduling interest payments on the debt, Mr. Obasanjo said that was not enough. He wants total debt forgiveness. Mr. Clinton responded with more failed Great Society initiatives. He said the United States should "triple or quadruple" the amount of foreign aid it sends to Nigeria, which stands currently at $25 million a year. The best way to care for the weak is to help them become strong, spiritually and materially. Here's a place to start: Look to faith-based organizations with a long-lived presence in places like Nigeria, instead of the UN, the IMF, or the World Bank. 7. Spread Good News
In the State Department's annual list of countries engaged in terrorism, all have one subtle thing in common: None (with one possible exception, Colombia) is officially open to the work of Christian missions. Where missionaries have been allowed to freely spread the gospel, economic, cultural, and peacemaking blessings have flowed. When Jesus Hospital in South Korea saw a dramatic rise in cancer cases, Presbyterian missionary doctor and director David Seel went to Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York to find a way to serve Koreans. Today the 560-bed hospital is a cancer treatment center and a transplant facility as well. It is run by Koreans, and the staff of 850 all sign confessions of Christian faith. When science teacher Jerry Layton, a Baptist missionary in the Philippines, saw evolution increasingly taught, he put together a presentation on creation science. It was shown to nearly 2,000 Filipino college faculty and students last year. "Filipino educators are, for the most part, religious people for whom atheism is unthinkable. So once they are shown the atheistic, secular humanistic bias of evolution, many embrace the biblical model of origins," he said. When UNICEF wanted to show journalists what was going right in the war-ridden areas of western Uganda, officials toured a water pipeline project built by World Harvest Mission. Along the way, government workers could also see other ways the mission team is refreshing the community: a Christian school, a medical clinic, and a church. The material riches of the United States can be a great advantage. Exactly a century ago Theodore Roosevelt said, "No country can long endure if its foundations are not laid deep in the material prosperity which comes from thrift, from business energy and enterprise, from hard, unsparing effort in the fields of industrial activity." Then he added, wisely, "but neither was any nation ever yet truly great if it relied upon material prosperity alone." Material prosperity and state power both have their limitations. The most basic security challenge is not ultimately under the domain of governments, even though governments have much to say about the free practice of faith. Freedom comes when all people in all nations-as "far as the curse is found," in the words of the Christmas carol, "Joy to the World"-hear news of lasting peace.

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Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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