- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 2, 2000

PHILADELPHIA.After Philadelphia, it will be hard for anyone to make the case that Republicans are a party of isolationists. Watching Gen. Colin Powell snap a salute to former President George Bush and greet vice presidential candidate Richard B. Cheney in the stands in the convention hall of the First Union Center in Philadelphia on the opening night of the Republican convention, the audience certainly had a bit of deja vu. But it was deja vu in a good sense, a moment that recalled an American victory in the Gulf War supremely well-executed, based on an international coalition put together with skill and diplomacy.
True, we should have gone further to eliminate the root of the evil, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and true the Bush administration has been criticized for this lapse in judgment many times since then, a lapse often blamed on Gen. Powell. However, when you compare the use of American power then with what has followed in the past eight years, there is a universe of difference. Even as Republicans were meeting in Philadelphia, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright was taking it upon herself to lecture the foreign minister of Japan on the evils of whale hunting. That is what passes for foreign policy these days in the Clinton era.
The theme of Tuesday's convention night also reinforced the point that a new Bush administration will be committed internationally. With Sens. John McCain and Bob Dole, both war heroes on the podium, as well as Gen. Norman Schwartzkopf, Republicans are hammering home the point that they are determined to rebuild overextended and underfunded U.S. military forces. If the idea is to reach back to a time, just eight years ago when the adults were running the show, that ought to come as a relief to many Americans. Indeed, with Mr. Bush's lead growing since the selection of Mr. Cheney as his running mate, it appears that this feeling is widespread the Democratic and media assault on the vice presidential candidate's record not withstanding.
Now, there have been concerns among American friends and allies that a Bush administration would be less internationally committed than a Gore administration. Aspiring NATO members are nervous that Republicans are less willing to push for their inclusion. Europeans are concerned that the United States would pull troops out of Kosovo. National Missile Defense continues even if unjustifiably to cause fears of a withdrawal to fortress America. Clamors for protection of American industries causes fears of rising protectionism. By contrast, the woolly Wilsonian idealism of the Clinton administration seems at least outward looking, though many countries also find it unpredictable and disquieting.
The foreign policy and national security sections of the Republican platform adopted here Monday ought to go further in reassuring the world that a Bush White House will be engaged in the world. While the document calls for the pursuit of vital American national interests, this will focus on robust military forces, strong alliances, expanding trade and resolute diplomacy. It may be the most internationalist Republican platform since World War II.
Bruce Jackson, president of the American Committee to Expand NATO and a platform team member, calls the foreign policy platform Reaganesque in many respects. There is a firm commitment to free trade, with particular emphasis on Mexico and Latin America, as opposed to "free and fair trade," a favored Democratic code word for protectionism. There is a tough and more realistic view of relations with China and Russia, commitment to NATO expansion, tough language on the pursuit of war criminals in the Balkans, a commitment making it a legal and moral obligation to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, tough language on Balkan war criminals. Cuba receives special attention, following closely the policy line set by Sen. Jesse Helms among others, which includes new support measures for Cuban democracy fighters and unrelenting sanctions (somewhat in contradiction with the overall free trade commitment one might add).
Says Stephen Biegun, chief of staff for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who was on the platform drafting committee, "It is an excellent document that captures the spirit of Republican foreign policy." According to Mr. Biegun, in cases of dispute among the platform committee members, it was often Mr. Bush's own words that became the deciding factor, being culled from his speeches and public statements. In other words, this very much bears Mr. Bush's own imprint. It demonstrates a commitment to make foreign policy an issue in this campaign, says Mr. Biegun, and confirms the quality of Mr. Bush's political advisers.
Needless to say, Gore advisers look at this differently, and claim to relish the prospect of a foreign policy debate between the two candidates. However, where Mr. Bush has a team on his side that includes numerous experienced top foreign policy thinkers, Mr. Gore seems content to take his own counsel, without much outside advice. Also by contrast, Mr. Gore's new security agenda includes everything under the sun from fighting disease to global warming and religious intolerance. As we head into the fall presidential debates, the Republican platform should help Mr. Bush add to the lead he already enjoys.
E-mail: helle.bering@washtimes.com

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