- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2000

After eight years of a feckless foreign policy, where friends challenged our leadership and potential

adversaries doubted our resolve, President-elect George W. Bush and his Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell have an opportunity to renew U.S. predominance in world affairs.

Instead of promoting real change in Russia, the outgoing administration showered corrupt leaders with U.S. and international aid, and crafted secret agreements designed to cover up dangerous arms dealing with Iran by Russian leaders.

In the Caspian Sea, the United States failed to seize a dramatic opportunity to unleash vast new supplies of oil and natural gas because our political leaders were too distracted to focus on the thorny political and economic problems involving pipelines and energy-export routes.

For eight years in the Middle East, President Clinton engaged in tinsel-town diplomacy and endless late-night policy-wonking with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, while failing to comprehend the basics of Mr. Arafat's vision for the region's future: a vision that saw a Middle East judenfrei, without Jews.

Mr. Bush has the opportunity to reassert U.S. leadership around the world by focusing once again on the guiding principles of American genius: freedom and the rule of law. An activist foreign policy can also bring domestic benefits, by again cementing the political alliance that President Reagan so skillfully crafted and that has fallen victim to partisanship, cynicism and the politics of personal gain.

Certainly the next president must pick and chose his fights. The causes must be just. They must be winnable. And they must be supported by broad-based coalitions here at home. Here are three areas where the Bush administration can score big:

• Iraq. In 1997, Congress passed legislation signed into law by President Clinton that authorized our government to spend $97 million per year to train and equip an army of resistance in Iraq to fight for freedom against Saddam Hussein. Until now, that money has gone unspent, except for paltry sums wasted at the State Department's bidding on office equipment, press releases and conferences.

Saddam has been emboldened by Washington's lack of resolve. It is time for a new president to help Iraqi freedom-fighters rid the world of Saddam once and for all. A win in Iraq would reassure U.S. allies in the region, bring stability, and break the spoiler's drive by France, Russia and China to legitimize Saddam.

• Iran. Twenty-one years ago, Islamic militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took our diplomats hostage. Today, young people in Iran are rising in revolt against an oppressive clerical regime. And yet, under Mr. Clinton, the United States has made gestures of appeasement and offered commercial concessions that have bolstered the resolve of Iran's oppressive leaders to hang onto power, whatever the cost.

The situation in Iran differs in many ways from that of Iraq. Iran's leaders, while strong militarily and in full possession of all the means of oppression of a police state, are yet fragile and vulnerable to popular pressure. Military assistance is not required to help bring freedom to Iran, but a clear U.S. voice in defense of freedom could be decisive in emboldening the Iranian people to throw off tyranny. We can do this through broadcasting, public diplomacy and the judicious use of trade sanctions.

• Afghanistan. Under President Reagan's leadership, the United States helped Afghan patriots expel an occupying Soviet army, thereby hastening the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War. In recent years, the Taleban militia led by fundamentalist zealots has seized control of most of the country, destroying the secular system and driving Afghan women to suicide and despair. And yet the Taleban has won a measure of international recognition, arguing that it has brought stability.

Here again, the next U.S. president stands at a crossroads. He can seek an accommodation with the Taleban, perhaps even persuade them through commercial incentives to expel the renegade Osama Bin Laden and his terrorist horde. Or he can assert U.S. principles and leadership and advance U.S. by helping freedom fighters in Afghanistan return that country to secular rule.

The stakes in Afghanistan are larger than generally thought. A stable, free Afghanistan presents an ideal export route for the landlocked petroleum resources of Turkmenistan, which has more than 1 trillion cubic meters of proven natural gas reserves. Until now, Turkmenistan has been blocked by Russia and frustrated by Iran. Its only option today is to build an expensive 4,000 mile-long pipeline to China and return its vast petroleum reserves to communist control. A better alternative is a pipeline through Afghanistan. But it cannot be built until that country has a stable government that guarantees basic freedoms to its people.

Winston Churchill once said that great nations have no permanent friends: They have permanent interests. The United States is the only nation whose permanent interest is the rule of law and freedom. It has made our nation thrive where other democracies have fallen or "reinvented" themselves to accommodate more virile neighbors.

Instead of policies driven by personal profit and greed, the United States must once again reassert its genius. Only by building a world where freedom can assert herself without fear, and where the rule of law trumps dictators or the tyranny of mob rule, is the U.S. interest served. All three cases cited here meet that test.

Kenneth R. Timmerman is the author of four books on foreign policy and was a candidate in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in Maryland.

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