- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 4, 2000

As the presidential race runs down, a desperate Al Gore is emphasizing his experience. But his policy is more important. And the Clinton-Gore foreign policy is a disaster.Vice President Gore has extolled the mission of nation-building. He reacted with typical disdain when one of George W. Bush's leading foreign policy advisers, Condoleezza Rice, suggested turning Balkans peacekeeping over to the Europeans.Yet the Clinton-Gore attempt at nation-building has failed. First was Somalia, where an attempt to capture warlord Mohamed Farah Aideed led to a destructive urban firefight, killing 18 Americans and hundreds of civilians. Washington gave up its misguided attempt to reconstruct that country.Then came Haiti. In the name of democracy the administration replaced a military regime with demagogue Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who promoted violence against his opponents.Today Haiti is a democracy in name only. After the last election, which was marred by irregularities, the president of the Provisional Election Council fled to America because government forces threatened his life.Even worse is the Balkans. The West accelerated the break-up of Yugoslavia, without demanding that seceding groups protect their Serb minorities.When Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia said they, too, wanted their freedom, the United States said no. Washington then trained the Croatian military, which in 1995 launched an offensive that kicked as many as 250,000 Serbs out of the Krajina region until 1999 the region's largest instance of ethnic cleansing.The U.S. also used air strikes to press Bosnian Serbs to give up their independence quest. The Dayton agreement established the artificial state of Bosnia, which survives only through Western military occupation. Today a so-called high representative rules a faux nation supported by none of its three constituent groups.Finally, there was Kosovo, a minor conflict in a world full of civil wars. The administration presented to Yugoslavia a diktat, the Rambouillet accord, which the U.S. would never have accepted. Washington demanded free passage for NATO forces throughout Yugoslavia, as if that proud nation was a conquered province.Then the Clinton-Gore team launched an unconstitutional war in contravention of international law, which killed hundreds or thousands of civilians. The attack also triggered the provincewide Serb assault that displaced hundreds of thousands of Kosovars.After having allegedly fought the war in the name of a multiethnic Kosovo, the West presided over massive ethnic cleansing. More than a quarter-million Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and non-Albanian Muslims have fled.The province is riven with crime and violence. Neither ethnic-Albanians nor the few remaining Serbs believe in autonomy within Serbia, the official Western goal. Already NATO peacekeepers have been injured by civilian mobs; more violence is inevitable.The result is yet another commitment that could go on for a generation or more. And the Balkans doesn't absorb only the commonly cited 11,400 soldiers. If one includes back-up forces in Hungary and Italy, the number approaches 15,000. Another 30,000 are being trained or retrained for Balkans duty at any one time.In view of the administration's wasteful commitment, Miss Rice made an exceedingly modest proposal: Let the Europeans take over garrison duty.Naturally, her comments generated anguished whining abroad. "Once you allow NATO members to pick and choose their operations, then where does it all end," one European official asked The Washington Post.But current duties are not being shared equally. The U.S. almost alone fought the Kosovo war. Even the Europeans acknowledge that their practical combat power runs barely 10 percent to 15 percent that of America.Nor do the Europeans do much of anything anywhere else in the world. Washington continues to garrison the Mideast and Asia. Virtually every friendly state expects America to take the lead in solving every problem everywhere.But the Cold War is over. The world is dramatically less dangerous for the U.S. Its international welfare clients should take over responsibility for their own security.A South Korea with 30 times the GDP and twice the population of the North can well afford to defend itself. A Japan with the second-largest economy on Earth should be deterring a potentially aggressive China and patrolling Asian sealanes.The Europeans should handle tragic but irrelevant civil wars at the periphery of the continent. At the very least, they should take over occupation duty once Washington has won the war, as in Kosovo.Although George W. Bush has yet to indicate any broad rethinking of U.S. foreign policy, he has suggested that Washington exhibit humility overseas. Humility is not, alas, a word one can apply to Al Gore in any circumstance.The vice president may have the experience. But his policy is feckless and foolish.

Doug Bandow, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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