- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2000

I wouldn't want to be the poor soul responsible for President Clinton's foreign travel schedule. Here he is making his "historic" trip to India, his "historic" trip to Pakistan, his "historic" half-day detour to Bangladesh, and, wouldn't you know it it's the same darn week that Pope John Paul II is visiting the Holy Land for the first, and probably last, time in his life. A multitude of Jews, Muslims and Christians (along with 2,000 international journalists) are streaming in from around the world to be in the presence of this great religious leader as he applies his singular moral force to the rising hope for reconciliation in the lands once trod by Moses, Muhammed and Jesus.

Meanwhile in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Mr. Clinton confined to the airport tarmac and the American Embassy for security reasons had a few dozen of the local villagers trucked in so that he could have a colorful backdrop for a speech that was largely ignored by the network news Monday night. There were rumors that Osama bin Laden the terrorist whom Mr. Clinton tried to bomb during the Lewinsky scandal had men in the bush ready to shoot at the president's helicopter.

According to the Pew Research Center, "the public is indifferent to what is happening in the rest of the world." This is obviously good news for Mr. Clinton, because rarely has an American president seemed so inconsequential and been so routinely snubbed or ignored abroad as Bill Clinton. The last fortnight has been conspicuous in that regard.

Usually, an ineffective American president in the foreign policy arena is called a bull in a china shop. But Mr. Clinton's efforts don't rise to the dignity of the bull. He should more aptly be called a gnat in a china shop. When he bangs into a delicate tea cup, the cup remains securely on its shelf, while Mr. Clinton lies battered and fluttering on the floor.

For example, a few weeks ago the president sent members of a high-level delegation to Beijing to meet with their senior counterparts in that regime. No sooner had our diplomats arrived back in Washington, but Beijing issues an inflammatory white paper which lays out a policy potentially pointing to war with Taiwan. Yet the Chinese did not show the simple courtesy of giving our senior delegation the slightest foreshadowing of such a dramatic change. Such behavior, from a country that Mr. Clinton persists in calling a strategic partner, is openly contemptuous of our president.

Again this week, Mr. Clinton's admired U.N. ambassador Richard Holbrooke along with the State Department's top Asia official Stanley Roth, were in Beijing urging President Jiang Zemin to "say little in public and reach out to Mr. Chen (the newly elected president of Taiwan)." Mr. Chen had already, in a conciliatory manner, asked for a "peace summit" with Beijing.

Mr. Clinton's national security adviser backed them up with a Monday morning statement that: "We would encourage a resumption of dialogue." By Monday afternoon, according to CNN, "The Chinese president spurned conciliatory overtures from Taiwan's president-elect Monday, in Beijing's first official reaction to the result of the island's election."

But it's not just giant China that disdains our president. Last Friday Secretary of State Madeleine Albright announced the president's decision to lift embargoes on Iranian products as a goodwill gesture to help move toward "a new relationship." In that speech, Mrs. Albright went the extra mile, regretting our support of Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war and regretting our support of a coup in Iran almost a half-century ago. Within 72 hours Iran's ambassador to the U.N. blasted Mr. Clinton for what he called his "insolent and domineering spirit." The ambassador went on to instruct the United States that, as the Wall Street Journal reported: "the U.S. must do more before an official dialogue can begin."

Mr. Clinton has earned the contempt of the world's diplomats because too often his international comments, while appealing to naive American ears, are correctly seen as not serious. For instance, last week the ever loquacious Mrs. Albright instructed Pakistan to make no more incursions into the contested Kashmir province because "nations must not attempt to change borders or zones of occupation through armed force."

Aside from the sanctimonious hypocrisy of giving Pakistan such advice while we do precisely that in Kosovo, this is the same advice that Mr. Clinton gave to Pakistan's previous leader, Nawaz Sharif. Mr. Sharif followed that advice, and was promptly overthrown by the military because he followed that advice.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Clinton is going to give exactly the same advice to Mr. Sharif's successor Gen. Parvez Musharraf. I suppose American soccer moms react positively in focus group when they hear Mr. Clinton oppose the use of force. If only Mr. Clinton had taken his own words more seriously, he might have made a good president.

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