- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2000

Foreign policy successes have been, well, foreign to Al Gore during his days in the Clinton administration. Among other things, he has been the U.S. point man aiding and overseeing Russia's transition from one corrupt regime to the next. So it was hardly surprising that when the vice president talked about foreign policy recently, he talked a lot about someone else's.
Declaring he would pursue a national security agenda based on "forward engagement" a concept undoubtedly the product of intensive poll testing Mr. Gore accused presumptive Republican nominee George W. Bush of "fixat[ing] on the Cold War past" and being "stuck in a Cold War mindset." Mr. Gore chastised his likely opponent for viewing China and Russia as "present or future enemies." Condoleeza Rice, Mr. Bush's principal foreign policy adviser, denied the accusation, telling the New York Times later that Mr. Bush believes that U.S. interests are "served by engagement with Russia and China" an engagement, however, that must be conducted in "a realistic way, not a romantic one."
Nothing could be more romantic or more hopelessly naive than Mr. Gore's unshakable belief over the years that Russia's kleptomaniacal oligarchs were liberal reformers. The evidence has been in for a long time. These oligarchs plundered Russian economic assets and stole billions of dollars in loans from the International Monetary Fund, funneling the booty into foreign bank accounts. Indeed, when the CIA confronted Mr. Gore in 1995 with evidence that then-Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, Mr. Gore's co-chairman of a U.S.-Russian commission overseeing bilateral relations, was himself utterly corrupt, Mr. Gore disdainfully dismissed the CIA report by scrawling a barnyard epithet on it. Despite the fact that no less an authority than the Russian Interior Ministry has estimated that organized crime controls 40 percent of Russia's economy, Mr. Gore audaciously bragged in his speech that he has "helped Russia privatize its economy and build a civil society."
Oblivious to what has happened on his watch, Mr. Gore used the occasion of his remarks to set up a straw man by postulating an argument being made by others, an argument with which he supposedly disagrees: "Some believe that with the fall of the Soviet empire we have nothing more to fear in the world and should dramatically cut our defense budget."
Where has he been? Inflation-adjusted defense spending, which is now at its lowest level as a percentage of the nation's economic output since the year before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, would have to increase by more than 20 percent to compensate for the dramatic decline since 1992. Indeed, since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, which Mr. Gore bragged in his speech about supporting as a U.S. senator, inflation-adjusted defense procurement spending has plunged more than 50 percent. These facts did not stop Mr. Gore from making the outrageous charge that it is Mr. Bush who would leave the United States unprepared to meet battlefield needs over the next two or three decades.
Having eviscerated the nation's defense budget, the Clinton-Gore administration continues to make costly, opened-ended military-deployment commitments in the Balkans. Making an implicit argument for increasing defense spending, Mr. Gore neglected to mention in his speech that the Clinton-Gore administration's fiscal 2001 budget proposed earlier this year would continue to allow inflation-adjusted defense spending to decline next year. Mr. Gore calls his agenda "forward engagement," but a policy of defunding the nation's defense budget and misspending what relatively little remains will only guarantee that long-term U.S. national security will continue to move backward.

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