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Policy, not policing

In the post–Cold War world, U.S. policy has been to police the globe; it must change

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In the post–Cold War world, U.S. policy has been to police the globe; it must change: The next president must enunciate a clear set of policy goals that affirmatively pursues U.S. interests—rather than merely reacts to crises—and promotes human rights abroad. He should focus on protecting religious liberty where it’s threatened and stopping the international sex-slave trade. He also needs to change the way we do business in Russia, China, South and Central Asia, and Iraq.

Whichever candidate wins in November will have a lot of mopping up to do in the foreign-affairs arena.

In the last eight years, the Clinton-Gore administration's foreign policy has evolved from confused and passive to confused and reactive. Our foreign-policy goals and guidelines remain vague and arbitrary, but our involvement in world policing steadily grows. Instead of leading, the administration has simply floundered from one crisis to the next—undermining American credibility and weakening the U.S. military in the process. Developing and implementing a coherent, principled foreign-policy vision, and devising effective foreign-policy strategies, should be the first order of business for the next administration.

The first step must be the development and articulation of a guiding vision for U. S. foreign policy. The Clinton-Gore administration has yet to develop clear foreign-policy goals, much less to communicate to the American people why U.S. resources and soldiers are being scattered across the globe. America cannot lead if her leaders don’t know where she is going. The next president must have a principled vision of America's role as the only remaining world superpower, and communicate this understanding clearly to the American people.

This vision must be guided by our national interests, as well as by a commitment to promoting religious liberty and opposing genocide and the international sexual slave trade. By trying to react everywhere, almost indiscriminately, the current administration has spread our resources thin and weakened our ability to defend ourselves. It has missed opportunities to prevent threats from arising in the first place. We need to radically and immediately restructure our conduct of foreign policy.

A principled and successful foreign policy would encompass many elements that are altogether missing in the current conduct of foreign affairs. The new administration must change direction in our dealings with Russia, China, Central Asia, and Iraq, as well as make significant changes in our approach to advancing human rights across the globe.

RUSSIA ... U.S. policy toward Russia should be based on a clear understanding that Russia's priorities and national interests are quite different from ours. Russia is still far from being our “partner.” Certainly, we should do what we can to promote any trend toward democracy there. But we should not close our eyes to the ways it systematically promotes and defends the interests of hostile countries like Iraq and North Korea, and also provides Iran with technology for weapons of mass destruction.

We must scrutinize Russia at least as closely as we do other nations, and expect the same accountability. This administration seems to operate on the naive assumption that if we “play nice” and dole out aid money, Russia will come around to our way of thinking—a dubious hope and a destructive practice. It is not in our interest to transfer our taxpayers’ money into the pockets of the corrupt elements that still exercise so much influence in that country.

CHINA ... Our China policy should take a more realistic view of Beijing’s nuclear-weapons policy and its hostility toward independence and democracy in Taiwan. Beijing is modernizing its weapons, avoiding negotiated constraints on its nuclear arsenal, and possibly shifting from its traditional posture of minimum defense. China is paying little attention to non-proliferation agreements.

Its buildup, along with our own cutbacks with the Russians, may help China to prevail in any dispute over Taiwan.

Vigorous debate has surrounded Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) for China. PNTR and human rights must go hand in hand. I support PNTR because it gives me a door to walk through to raise a number of human-rights issues with the Chinese government, including religious liberty and the development of the rule of law. We must have a relationship where we can give some and take some, and genuinely raise these issues in a serious, sustained dialogue. Our goal should be freedom for religious prisoners and the creation of an independent judiciary not ruled by communist dogma.

Ultimately, globalization will have a profound effect on China. It will force upon China the infrastructure necessary for greater political liberalization and will require China to respect property rights and adhere more closely to the rule of law. Globalization will create a stronger middle class in China that will demand greater freedom to enjoy new wealth. Globalization will bring the Internet into tens of millions of Chinese homes, exposing the Chinese people to Western standards of political and religious freedom and human rights.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA ... It is also time to change our policy toward South Asia in general and India in particular. The United States imposed sweeping sanctions on trade, aid, and technology transfers on India after that country tested nuclear weapons in 1998. The administration has the authority to waive these sanctions but has chosen not to do so until India signs the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This has left us in the ludicrous position of imposing economic sanctions on the largest democracy in the world for its refusal to sign a treaty that the United States itself will not ratify. We should recognize that our interests in India stretch far beyond our desire to have it sign the CTBT. Holding the entire relationship hostage to this one issue is bad policy.

In Central Asia and the South Caucasus we have missed vital opportunities to increase stability in the region. These nations have been trying to build closer ties with the West since their independence, but for the last eight years this administration has deferred to Russia, hesitating to pursue U.S. national interests for fear of offending Moscow. The United States must give this region the attention it deserves and treat these nations as the sovereign governments they are, rather than as subordinates of Moscow.

All the countries of the region share some basic problems. The dilapidated economic and physical infrastructures of failed economic systems make the transition to a market economy very difficult. The threat of instability due to Islamic extremism and terrorism, the arms and narcotics trade emanating from Afghanistan, and international crime also cause problems. These problems have no simple solutions, but the United States needs to be actively involved in trying to help solve them. The regional security of the Caucasus and Central Asia is important to world stability and U.S. security.

IRAQ ... The new administration will also have to review our policy toward Iraq. A decade has come and gone since Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, yet he still poses a significant danger to the United States and our allies throughout the Middle East. In eight years this administration frittered away countless opportunities to rein in or remove altogether this evil regime. That task will be left for the next administration.

The United States must develop a robust policy of enforcing UN Security Council resolutions, including returning weapons inspectors to Iraq by any and all means necessary, enforcing resolutions relating to human rights in Iraq, and ensuring the return of Kuwaiti POWs. At the same time, we must bring credibility to our support of the democratic Iraqi opposition. A united Iraqi opposition, backed by the United States, will pose a significant threat to the dictatorship in Baghdad, and can do much to advance freedom, as well as our interests, in the region.

HUMAN RIGHTS ... At the same time, we must reinvigorate our foreign policy in the area of human rights by concentrating on international religious liberty, anti-genocide efforts in countries like Sudan, and an end to the sexual slave trade worldwide.

Researchers estimate that some 27 million people around the world are presently imprisoned for their faith. The statistics describe a modern-day assault on peaceful religious expression worldwide, which deserves a serious and systematic advocacy response. Typically, persecuted religious minorities lack advocates in their own country, while suffering an extraordinary range of abuses including incarceration, torture, and even execution.

The example of Sudan may be one of the most extreme cases of religious persecution in modern times. For the last 16 years, the radical National Islamic Front in the North has waged a ferocious civil war against the Christians, animists, and moderate Muslims in the South. More than 2 million people have died for resisting the North’s imposition of Shariah (Koranic law), while another 4.5 million have been displaced from ancient homelands. The Southern Sudanese have suffered from slavery, civilian bombing, and government-induced famine. The Clinton-Gore administration has responded to these atrocities with a disappointing lack of vigor and leadership.

Additionally, we must improve our human-rights advocacy against sex slavery. Every year, at least 700,000 women and children worldwide (50,000 in the United States) are forced into the sex trade. This is the worst manifestation of modern-day slavery and cannot be ignored by the next administration. We must increase pressure on other countries to enforce local and international laws to prevent this unacceptable practice. The next administration must speak up more clearly and assume a leadership role in the international community by declaring that such practices will be rooted out and punished.

Despite the pressing need to address these and other potential crises, the Clinton-Gore administration has frittered away U.S. resources around the globe. According to the Congressional Research Service, half of the United Nations’ 54 peacekeeping missions since 1948 have taken place within the past eight years. New crises keep arising in the Balkans, Haiti, Iraq, and many countries in Africa and Asia. As former Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney recently noted, in the same eight years, while U.S. military commitments have risen 300 percent, our force structure has been cut by 40 percent-a much deeper cut than the 25 percent reduction in force structure recommended by Secretary Cheney and General Colin Powell after the Gulf War.

The next administration should take its cue from Presidents Reagan and Bush. They identified limited objectives in their interventions and achieved them without leaving our military permanently posted in combat zones, conducting civilian police duties with no clear exit strategy.

The new administration should provide the American people with a clearer and more realistic foreign policy. This will take serious reexamination of our goals, capabilities, and long-range interests. The bottom line: It’s time for a change.

—Sen. Sam Brownback is a Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs


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