- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 21, 2000

Only toward the end of his second term did President Clinton pay greater attention to the issues of foreign policy. During the presidential debates, the candidates touched superficially on the issues of foreign policy. The Bush and Gore foreign policy advisors, nevertheless, have articulated their respective candidate's foreign policy programs in various articles in foreign policy magazines and opinion pages of major U.S. papers.

The most significant function of a U.S. president in his role as commander in chief are in the areas of foreign and military affairs. The United States, the world's only hegemon, has responsibility for the stability of the international system, mediation of major international disputes, sustaining both Atlantic and Pacific alliances, and a military that is modernized, professional and meets the requirements of war making and peacekeeping not peacemaking or nation building of failed states and corrupt regimes. The United States in fact sets the agenda for the international system. The fact that it is a single, benign hegemon with no imperial or colonial goals, makes the United States especially ready to guide, advise and support allies in peace and war, and pre-empt rogue and aggressive regimes' aspirations to destabilize the international system.

Supporting allies, however, must be carefully re-examined by a new president. A policy of support must reflect the present international system. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a sea change has taken place in the international system. The Cold War is over, and we no longer live in a bipolar world. The former two hegemons, the United States and the Soviet Union, stabilized the system in order to share power and influence over their respective friends and allies.

The present multipolar world is inherently more complicated. We live in an anarchic international system that is not predictable. Despite the dangers inherent in a multipolar world, it is certainly preferable to the previous bipolar nuclear balance of terror. The previous bipolar system was more ominous.

Yet, on the whole, the two nuclear superpowers, with the exception of the Cuban missile crisis (1962) and missiles to Egypt (1973), acted with considerable restraint. The regime of arms control was installed to verify the limits set by the 1972 ABM Treaty, which was the most significant achievement of arms control. It was not effective, but it acted as psychological restraint over aggressive aspirations. The multipolar system is manifest by the inequality of states that is produced in an anarchic system, which is unpredictable. Here non-state players, such as terrorists and ethnically armed groups, are independent of any authority and destabilize the international system. Note the case of Yugoslavia. A multipolar international system is not as ominous as was the U.S.-USSR balance-of-terror era.

Mr. Clinton's failure to articulate a foreign policy strategy can no longer be tolerated. We cannot be reactive to conflicts and events. We have to be ready with a reasonable conceptual framework. It is the function of U.S. foreign policy to design a vision of the international system. Otherwise, we are caught up in events and react to them rather than operating from a strategic framework.

American international responsibilities are multiple. To keep the peace, to support our allies in Europe and the Pacific, and to realize the limits of power and of interventionism. When we deal with rogue states (Iran, Iraq, or the Taleban movement), aggressive players in the international system, we have to design different methods and types of warfare.

Iran and Iraq are potentially rising nuclear powers. Their arsenals are full of weapons of mass destruction strategic missiles and other aggressive weaponry. A low intensity war must be conducted to deter the aggressive Saddam Hussein and Iranian clergy.

When it comes to Europe and the Pacific, we must convince our allies that they should play a major role in conflicts that are within their geographical vicinity. Our NATO allies must shoulder the onus of military responsibility. We should not substitute for them as policemen and troubleshooters. The case of Yugoslavia is the most recent example of where, in the absence of a clear U.S. policy on its role in so-called humanitarian wars, the United States and NATO were left divided. The scars of the Kosovo war will be apparent once another such conflict takes place far from the United States.

As to the Pacific, China is the most threatening, aggressive power. U.S. policy must be strategic support of our Japanese allies and an imperative U.S.-India alliance. We must restrain the Pakistani regime, which is gradually being Talebanized, from more aggression in the unresolved Kashmir dispute.

Thus, when it comes to the Middle East, we must make our Persian Gulf allies pay more than they do now for our involvement in their defense. In the Arab-Israeli conflict we must establish for good that Israel is our major strategic ally. The creation of a mini-Palestinian state will contribute to the destabilization of Jordan and low intensity war against Israel.

The greatest U.S. strategic error in the Middle East was that instead of concentrating its effort on the important Iraq-Iran issues, the United States unfortunately paid more attention to the peace process that led to a failed Palestinian state.

A U.S. foreign policy in the age of multipolarity must be more sophisticated and more elaborate than when there was only one enemy to mobilize the American people in support of future policies.

Amos Perlmutter is a professor of political science and sociology at American University and editor of the Journal of Strategic Studies.

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